The Muslim World and Darwinism

Hampshire College has been awarded $50,000 by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a grant-making foundation, to plan and host a conference on Darwin and evolution in the Muslim world.

“By focusing on the Muslim world, we hope this conference will fill in an important gap in our understanding of the reception and influence of Darwin and his theory of evolution,” said conference organizer Salman Hameed, assistant professor of integrated science and humanities at Hampshire.

Dr. Hameed received international attention with the publication in December of an article in “Science” magazine arguing that equating evolution with atheism could lead to rejection of evolution and modern science in the Muslim world.
While most modern-day Muslims hold the view that technology and science are essential for progress and independence, evolutionary theory presents a particular challenge. As the cornerstone of modern biology, it is essential for scientific development. Yet, Hameed said, many view evolutionary theory as being to blame for the spread of secularism and atheism in western societies, and thus as a cultural threat to Muslims.

A group of 35 preeminent scholars across academic disciplines will gather at Hampshire College in early October to examine both the historical reception of Darwin’s ideas and the current dialogue on biological evolution in Muslim communities across the world.

Historians, scientists, sociologists, and educators will map out the interaction of Darwin and evolution in the Muslim world since publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859.

Both days of the conference will include a free public event – an opening night lecture on October 2 by a leading science historian, Ronald Numbers, and a closing panel discussion on October 3 by some of the conference participants.

In addition, conference proceedings and video of the entire conference will be made available online for a wider audience, including in the Muslim world.

The conference is one of several events planned at Hampshire College throughout 2009 in celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin (February 12) and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species (November 24).


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