by Zafar Bangash (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 10, Rabi' al-Thani, 1443)
While Darwin’s theory of evolution is firmly planted in the minds of most people in the West, its effects have also seeped into the Muslim world. Faith communities are ridiculed if they state that we are not descendants of monkeys (chimpanzees, according to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution) but that God created us as human beings.
The Qur’an states that Allah created Adam (as) and appointed him as His vicegerent (representative) on earth (2:30). Darwinists reject this understanding of creation. In order to point fallacies in Darwin’s theory, we need to marshal scientific rather than scriptural evidence because Darwin’s followers refuse to accept what the scriptures say.
Let us first consider what Darwin took as the principal factors in propounding his theory of evolution. There are two overriding factors: homology (similarity) and natural selection. Darwin took the concept of homology (similarity) between chimpanzees and humans to propound the theory that humans evolved from chimpanzees. Human beings by nature are social beings. They form families, communities, societies and ultimately states.
Chimpanzees also have social formations but there is no evidence to show that chimpanzees establish communities larger than 100. Nor have they come down from the trees. Presumably, they are less endowed with wisdom than Darwin’s smarter chimpanzees were to become humans through the natural selection process.
Let us look a little deeper into Darwin’s homology theory. If we accept its validity, then let us apply it to bats and whales. Both are mammals; are we to assume that bats evolved from whales, or they could also be considered as our ancestors except that they did not make it through the natural process?
Let us go further. In social formation, ants are much closer to humans than any other species. They form very large colonies running into millions. They have a hierarchy. Like humans, ants are also extremely hard working. They do not forget their enemies and if an ant falls sick, he isolates himself in order not to infect other ants (think COVID). Would we, therefore, say, based on Darwin’s theory of homology, that we evolved from ants? Can anything be more absurd than that?
The theory of evolution’s real challenge comes from how language evolved. In his seminal work, Why Chimpanzees Can’t Learn Language and Only Humans Can, Herbert S. Terrace discusses the question of evolution as an explanation for human language in the installation of his series on the origins of language.
Originally published in PsychologyToday.com, Terrace says that language has been an embarrassment for the theory of evolution for more than 150 years. In The Descent of Man in Relation to Sex (1871), Darwin speculated that language evolved from animal communication. For him “The difference in mind between man and the higher animals, great as it is, is certainly one of degree and not of kind” (p.105).
Max Müller, the well-known linguist, however, rejected this view asserting that “The one great barrier between man and brute is Language. Man speaks, and no brute has ever uttered a word. Language is our Rubicon, and no brute will dare to cross it” (Müller, Max: The Science of Language, 1862, p.354).
Alfred Wallace, co-founder with Darwin of the theory of evolution (Wallace is not so well-known outside the circle of experts), also rejected the idea that evolution can explain language. Wallace asked how man’s “superior intelligence” could result from natural selection, the basic principle of evolution, that would expand a creature’s powers only to the point at which it has an advantage over the competition in the struggle for existence.
Specifically, Wallace wondered why humans have “a large and well-developed brain quite disproportionate to his actual requirement” (Wallace, A. R: Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection: A Series of Essays, 1870). He could see no problem solved by language that could not be solved without it; that is why language would have been naturally selected.
Darwin was greatly distraught by Wallace’s arguments. He could see his theory crashing over his head if one of his co-founders also rejected it on grounds of language. Darwin wrote to Wallace, complaining, “I hope that you have not murdered too completely your own and my child” (Darwin, Charles: Letter to Alfred Russell Wallace, March 27, 1869. Darwin correspondence).
Discerning readers would notice that far from using scientific arguments, Darwin resorted to emotional appeal to his colleague, Alfred Wallace. Darwin was never able to specify how language evolved.
Thus, Darwin’s theory of evolution is not so clear-cut as its proponents make it to be. Even Darwin was not entirely satisfied with his theory. In chapter 6 of his book, On the Origin of Species, he raises a number of issues that bring into question his own theory. Yet, his followers are adamant that they descended from monkeys—sorry chimpanzees—because Darwin said so!