Does common ancestry with animals and monkey contradict human dignity? | Prof. Caner Taslaman

Does common ancestry with animals and monkey contradict human dignity? | Prof. Caner Taslaman


Another common reason behind the rejection
of the theory of evolution from Muslim societies is the theory’s claim of common ancestry
between humans and animals, particularly with apes. However, when asked to specify which verses
of the Quran speak against common ancestry with primates, critics seldom offer much of
an answer. However, some claim that common descent with
apish animals would be against human dignity. Here, I will consider objections related to
human dignity. The establishment of an ancestral relationship
between humans and apish animals does not contradict human dignity. In the Quran, Satan is censured for his arrogance,
when he claimed his origins superior to that of man, thereby rising against God. From such narrations about Satan we understand
that ancestral arrogance is condemned in the Quran. Therefore, rooting human dignity in ancestry
lacks Quranic foundation. Consider Pharoah and Abu Leheb: as humans
we share ancestors with them, yet sharing ancestors with such wicked people is no argument
against human dignity! If the existence of such wicked people among
our species does not diminish our dignity, why would a shared ancestry with animal species? Indeed, the enemies of the Prophet Muhammad,
Abu Lahab and Abu Cehil, were his relatives. If being related to a bad person affected
dignity, we would be forced to believe that the Prophet Muhammad thereby lacked dignity. No Muslim would accept such a claim. Ancestry has nothing to do with dignity. Is the claim of common ancestry of humans
with cats or fish or apes worse than the claim of shared ancestry with Pharoah or Abu Lahab? And while Pharoah or Abu Lahab are censured
in the Quran, cats, fish and apes are not. Indeed, the Quran states that some oppressors
are in a worse state than animals: I sometimes hear arguments against the theory
of evolution related to this issue, which I call “the charm of the grandpa argument”. It is typically expressed as follows: “My
grandfather is not an ape, but yours is!”. The user of this argument implies that he
and his grandfather are charming, yet his opponent’s is not charming at all and is
therefore likely to have descended from apes! Such rhetoric might be entertaining, but it
is scientifically misguided and theologically misinformed. Theologically, why should one feel uncomfortable
about sharing common ancestry with animals which are not scorned in the Quran, yet does
not feel any discomfort about being a member of a species (humans) some of whom are declared
by the Quran as worse than animals? Indeed, a theory that unites all living beings
in a common root is both philosophically and theologically appealing. “The “charm of the grandpa argument”
is deeply mistaken in terms of biology. Many Muslim philosophers, including Ibni Miskewey
(d. 1030) classified humans and apes on the adjacent
rung of the ladder of life, hundreds of years prior to the emergence of the theory of evolution. (Such a hierarchical classification of the
“great chain of being” should not be confused with the idea of descent from apes.) If there is an evolutionary relationship between
humans and other species, it is natural to consider the first candidates among apes as
our nearest neighbors on the chain. However, according to the theory of evolution,
we did not descend from the apes, apes and hominoids split off from a common ancestor. Our bodies host trillions of bacteria, much
more numerous than our cells. Our bodies are like planets of bacteria; these
creatures are parts of our bodies, just like our organs. Yet being bacterial hosts does not diminish
our dignity. Being a planet of bacteria, in other words
hosting trillions of living things much inferior to multi-celled animals, and even being vitally
dependent on these creatures, does not hurt our feelings. Why should our ancestral proximity to apes? Our bodies are continuously refurbished by
the nutrients we consume. I, then, come from the digested and reconstructed
molecules of potatoes, rice, chicken and lamb that I eat. If the conversion of potatoes, rice, chicken
and lamb into our body parts does not diminish our dignity, claims about the first humans
being converted forms of primates shouldn’t diminish our dignity, either. Some question the compatibility of evolution
with Islam on the basis of the creation of humans “in the best conformation” (ahseni
taqwim): Since “the best conformation” concerns the
state of humanity, attaining to the state of humanity via evolution would not conflict
with this verse. Before gaining the shape of a human, “the
best conformation,” we all went through the embryonic stages starting from sperm,
egg and zygote; yet none of these stages opposes creation “in the best conformation”. Moreover, sperm cells and zygotes are much
less similar to a human than apes. The statement “the best conformation” refers
to the final state of the human being, not to its prior stages. In addition, when taken together, the two
verses above are more about the moral status of humans than their bodily shape. After all, a human being, originally created
in “the best conformation,” can convert into the “lowest of low” (esfele safilin). Yet idolatry and oppression, making us the
lowest of the low, do not alter one’s physical appearance. Since the statement the “lowest of low” (asfala
safileen) does not refer to physical deterioration, “the best conformation” (ahseni taqwim) doesn’t
refer to physical shape; rather, it refers to humanity’s moral character. In conclusion, arguments based on “human dignity”
and creation in “the best conformation” do not constitute Islamic evidence against the
theory of evolution.

3 thoughts on “Does common ancestry with animals and monkey contradict human dignity? | Prof. Caner Taslaman

  1. Caner hocam selamlar, videolarınız harika, ingilizce olması extra harika çünkü yabancı arkadaşlara da tavsiye edebiliyoruz. Daha fazla çalışma bekliyoruz,

  2. Thanks fir your video, but i think you are missing many points and collectjng Ayats from here and there to make an idea, for Example when Iblys says that i am better than him, here Allah says what Iblys said not a standard for our classification, in orher example when Fyraun in Surah Yusuf Says about women they have so much Maker, this does not mean Allah saying that and mean it 🙂
    Other thing Hucam, you are mixing Ayat so much and they are not in same topic, for example the Ayah Allah s.w.t says ' We creat man in best stature' here talks about all human as whole since the word خلقنا 'Creat', but later after when they have their Judgments they will be humiliate as the word عملوا الصالحات except who did the righteousness. So its clear first for creating and other for deeds 🙂

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