Research

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Making sense of Islamic creationism in Europe

Islamic creationism has been noted as a serious concern in Europe. There have been reports of boycotts of university evolution lectures and, in one extreme case, even a threat of violence. While religious objections are indeed at play in some cases, our understanding of the rise of Islamic creationism should also take into account socioeconomic disparities and its impact on education for Muslim minorities in Europe. Furthermore, the broader narrative of rejection of evolution in Europe, for some Muslims, may be bound up in reactions to the secular culture and in the formation of their own minority religious identity. On the other hand, the stories of Muslim rejection of evolution in media end up reinforcing the stereotype of Muslims as “outsiders” and a threat to the European education system. A nuanced understanding of this dynamic may benefit those who support both the propagation of good science and favor cultural pluralism.

Keywords: biology/evolution, creationism in Europe, Harun Yahya, Islamic creationism, Muslims in Europe, public understanding of science, religious identity, science and religion, science education, science in schools

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Asghar-Hameed-Farahani

Evolution in Biology Textbooks: A Comparative Analysis of 5 Muslim Countries

This study seeks to explore the status and treatment of evolutionary science in secondary education in 5 Muslim countries, including Egypt, Malaysia, Syria, Turkey, and Pakistan. Evolutionary concepts, including natural selection, are presented in the curricula in all these locations. An explicit discussion of human evolution, however, is missing in these curricula. With the exception of Pakistan, though, religious references are not common in evolutionary science curricula. Pakistani biology curriculum presents scientific models and religious perspectives on the origin and evolution of life and presents interpretations of the scripture as compatible with evolutionary science. The current comparative analysis informs our growing understanding of the diversity of scientific and religious perspectives that Muslim students and teachers are exposed to in formal science education.

KEYWORDS: evolution, Islam, modern science, science education, science curricula

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everhart-hameed

Muslims and Evolution: A Study of Pakistani Physicians in the United States

This study investigated the views of Pakistani-American medical doctors regarding biological evolution. We used a mixed-methods approach, chiefly consisting of a short interview that presented evolution in the contexts of microbial, animal, and human evolution; evolution’s acceptability or unacceptability to Muslims; and evolution’s relevance to medicine. The participants were 23 doctors attending a convention in the United States. Fourteen participants accepted evolution, three rejected evolution, and six held other views. While a majority of participants indicated that they accepted evolution, a slightly smaller plurality accepted human evolution. A majority of participants, including some who did not wholly accept or reject evolution, thought that one could mutually accept evolution and also believe in Allah. Nearly every participant, including two who rejected evolution, thought that evolution was relevant to medicine. We find that participants assigned a plurality of meanings to the theory that depended on interactions between a participant’s perception of religion, science, medicine, and a host of other cultural influences. This study is the first of a collection of studies carried out by the authors, who collected data with the same instrument in five other countries with significant populations of Muslim doctors and medical students.

Keywords: Muslims; Culture; Evolution and religion; Evolution and medicine; Evolution acceptance; Evolution rejection

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Walking the Tightrope of the Science and Religion Boundary

Islam’s Quantum Question by Nidhal Guessoum offers a sophisticated approach to reconciling the results of modern science with Islamic tradition. The book provides a valuable critique of existing literature on Islam and science and advocates the promotion of good science and science education in the Muslim world. A central tension in the book revolves around Guessoum’s efforts to promote a version of theistic science, while at the same establishing a clear boundary for science and scientific methodology. Although the latter works very well, the project of theistic science presented in the book is, at the very least, contentious. However, Islam’s Quantum Question is a milestone in the literature on Islam and science and should be valuable for anyone interested in the search for meaning in both science and religion.

Keywords: cosmology, science, religion, Nidhal Guessoum, Islam, Islamic science, science and religion, theistic science

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Evolution and Creationism in the Islamic world

In the Muslim world Islam and modern science are often seen as compatible. It is common for people to cite verses in the Qur’an or the achievements of medieval Muslim philosophers to support this view. Furthermore, there is widespread recognition that science (usually in its applied form) is essential for progress. In fact the dominant narrative in the Muslim world sees Islam as a rational religion in harmony with modern science. At the same time many Muslims see the theory of biological evolution as a challenge to the Islamic account of creation. Thus, when a well-established scientific idea, such as biological evolution, clashes with the religious beliefs of many Muslims, we find complex reactions, ranging from selectively rejecting the relevant science to ignoring the troublesome idea, without harming the outwardly harmonious framework.

It is quite possible, nonetheless, that the Muslim world will become the focal point of evolution–creation controversies in the coming years. Low educational standards in combination with widespread misinformation about evolutionary ideas make many countries in the Muslim world fertile ground for anti-evolutionary movements. In addition there already exists a growing and highly influential Islamic creationist movement, which made headlines in Europe in 2007 when French public schools received an unsolicited gift of an 850-page colour Atlas of creation, produced by a Muslim creationist from Turkey known by the name of Harun Yahya.

Biological evolution, however, is still a relatively new concept for the majority of Muslims, and a serious debate over its compatibility with religion has not yet taken place.

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Bracing for Islamic Creationism

To avoid a vast rejection of evolution in the Muslim world, scientists can present the theory as the bedrock of biology and can stress its practical applications.

Keywords: science, islam, religion, creationism

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Discovery, photometry, and astrometry of 49 classical nova candidates in M81 galaxy

Aims. This paper reports on a search for new classical nova candidates in the M 81 galaxy based on archival, as well as recent, new images. Methods. We used images from 1999–2007 to search for optical transients in M 81. The positions of the identified classical nova candidates were used to study their spatial distribution. Kolmogorov-Smirnov test (KS) and bottom-to-top (BTR) ratio diagnostic were used to analyze the nova candidate distribution and differentiate between the disk and the bulge populations. Results. In total, 49 classical nova candidates were discovered. In this study, we present the precise positions and photometry of these objects, plus the photometry of an additional 9 classical nova candidates found by Neill & Shara (2004, AJ, 127, 816). With our large sample, we find a different spatial distribution of classical nova candidates when compared to the results of earlier studies. Also, an extraordinarily bright nova was found and studied in detail.

Keywords: galaxies, M 81, stars, binaries, close stars, novae, cataclysmic variables

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Chandra and XMM-Newton Detection of Large-scale Diffuse X-ray Emission from the Sombrero Galaxy

We present an X-ray study of the massive edge-on Sa galaxy, Sombrero (M 104; NGC 4594), based on XMM-Newton and Chandra observations. A list of 62 XMM-Newton and 175 Chandra discrete X-ray sources is provided, the majority of which are associated with the galaxy. Spectral analysis is carried out for relatively bright individual sources and for an accumulated source spectrum. At energies & 2 keV, the source-subtracted X-ray emission is distributed similarly as the stellar K-band light and is primarily due to the residual emission from discrete sources. At lower energies, however, a substantial fraction of the source-subtracted emission arises from diffuse hot gas extending to ∼ 20 kpc from the galactic center. The galactic disk shows little X-ray emission and instead shadows part of the X-ray radiation from the bulge. The observed diffuse X-ray emission from the galaxy shows a steep spectrum that can be characterized by an optically-thin thermal plasma with temperatures of ∼ 0.6-0.7 keV, varying little with radius. The diffuse emission has a total luminosity of ∼ 3 × 1039 erg s−1 in the 0.2-2 keV energy range. This luminosity is significantly smaller than the prediction by current numerical simulations for galaxies as massive as Sombrero. However, such simulations do not include the effect of quienscent stellar feedback (e.g., ejecta from evolving stars and Type Ia supernovae) against the accretion from intergalactic medium. We argue that the stellar feedback likely plays an essential role in regulating the physical properties of hot gas. Indeed, the observed diffuse X-ray luminosity of Sombrero accounts for at most a few percent of the expected mechanical energy input from Type Ia supernovae. The inferred gas mass and metal content are also substantially less than those expected from stellar ejecta. We speculate that a galactic bulge wind, powered primarily by Type Ia supernovae, has removed much of the “missing” energy and metal-enriched gas from the region revealed by the X-ray observations.

Keywords: galaxies, Sombrero, NGC 4594, spiral, X-rays

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H-alpha Imaging of Early-type (Sa-Sab) Spiral Galaxies II. Global Properties

New results, based on one of the most comprehensive Hα imaging surveys of nearby Sa–Sab spirals completed to date, reveals early-type spirals to be a diverse group of galaxies that span a wide range in massive star formation rates. While the majority of Sa–Sab galaxies in our sample are forming stars at a modest rate, a significant fraction (~29%) exhibit star formation rates greater than 1 M yr-1, rivaling the most prolifically star-forming late-type spirals. A similar diversity is apparent in the star formation history of Sa–Sab spirals as measured by their Hα equivalent widths. Consistent with our preliminary results presented in the first paper in this series, we find giant H II regions [L(Hα) ≥ 1039 ergs s-1] in the disks of ~37% of early-type spirals. We suspect that recent minor mergers or past interactions are responsible for the elevated levels of Hα emission and, perhaps, for the presence of giant H II regions in these galaxies. Our results, however, are not in total agreement with the Hα study of Kennicutt & Kent, who did not find any early-type spirals with Hα equivalent widths >14 Å. A close examination of the morphological classification of galaxies, however, suggests that systematic differences between the Revised Shapley-Ames Catalog and the Second Reference Catalogue may be responsible for the contrasting results.

Keywords: galaxies evolution, ISM, photometry, spiral, HII regions

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