Evolution, “Conservatives”, and Modern Western Society

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

At times and in certain instances, we hear “conservative” politicians from Western countries saying that the “controversy regarding evolution should be taught”. The former President of the United States, George W. Bush was a famous proponent of such a position, and it is still propounded by certain other public figures and politicians. Of course, this is mostly met by ridicule and sarcasm from the formal science field, who outright reject such proposals as quackery.

As a Muslim, I can see why such a request or suggestion would be met with such scorn: These “conservatives” are, at the end of the day, “conservatives” only in their perception of what should be done within the confines of one’s home (i.e. what religion one should adhere to, what standards of morality one should adopt, and so on). When it comes to public allegiance though, both conservatives and their liberal counterparts both pledge allegiance to as secular world order, seen through their shows of patriotism and the like – and in most cases, one sees the “conservative” camp way ahead of the liberals in their outward show of allegiance to their given nation-state.

And here is where the big flaw of such “conservatives” lies: They belong to a Christian tradition that has accepted to be totally subsumed under the secular ethos, an ethos working with the background assumption that revealed religions are false, and that true knowledge is only available as an ever-evolving process within a closed universe. So one can rightfully ask, how can a “conservative Christian” ask for a thesis of their particular religion to be taught publicly, when they themselves have implicitly accepted that their religion is ultimately false and should not be presented as absolute truth in the public sphere?

Of course, the High Middle Ages and its version of Christianity had a lot to do with the adoption of such a worldview, given its position on the efficacy of material causes in bringing about effects in the world. But this is a sentence that would take us to another discussion if pursued further. What we as Muslims need to understand is that these types of requests from the “conservative Christians” are presented within a certain environment, an environment that already places the solicitor in a unenviable position. We also need to understand our own tradition better, especially its views on the nature of reality and existence, and that it differs critically from what Christianity and subsequently the Modern West have developed. If such a point is kept in mind, then Muslims can learn not only the basis of their own religion, but they will also know exactly when and where there are points of convergence with “conservatives” and where we radically disagree.