Scientific Errors in the Qur'an
(From "Muslim Spain and Islamic Science)
The term Qur' anic Science is a misnomer because there is practically no information relating to natural phenomena in the Qur'an - even less than one would expect from an illiterate shepherd or camel-driver. The Sun, Moon and stars receive mention as Allah's "signs" but there is no attempt at a scientific explanation: instead of a cosmogeny, Allah merely issues the command, "Be!"
Qur'an (21:30), Have not the disbelievers seen that the heavens and Earth were one piece and we parted them?", is cited as anticipating the Big Bang theory.
Maurice Bucaille, "The Bible, the Qur'an and Science" correctly points out that the Genesis version of Creation is not in accord with fossil evidence - birds and whales appeared after land vertebrates (reptiles and land mammals respectively.) The Qur'an cannot be so criticized because it is not as ambitious as the Bible for "there appears … only one passage in the Qur'an where a definite sequence is plainly established between events in the Creation. Viz. (79:27/33)
"Are you the harder to create or is it the heaven that (Allah) built? He raised its canopy and fashioned it with harmony. He made dark the night and he brought out the forenoon. And after that He spread it out. Therefrom he drew out its water and its pasture. And the mountains He has fixed firmly. Goods for you and your cattle."
Bucaille quotes (41:11), "Moreover (Allah) turned to the Heaven when it was smoke and said to it and to the earth … " as evidence that the Qur'an contains 20th Century knowledge of interstellar galactic material, pure hydrogen which can hardly be called "smoke". He also uses, "Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds", the plural indicating knowledge of planets other than Earth and, possibly, inhabited planets in other stellar systems.
Bucaille believes these following verses provide information: "the sky (Allah) raised it … (sic) (55:7) and "(Allah) holds back the sky from falling on the Earth except by His leave … " (22:65) (Shades of Henny Penny! The old Arabs undoubtedly knew about meteorites.)
"The sun and the moon (are subjected) to calculations." (55:5) - the ancient Egyptians were thus able to predict accurately the flooding of the Nile, thousands of years before the Qur'an.)
Much is made of the next quote: "(God is) the One Who created the night, the day, the sun and the moon. Each one is travelling in an orbit with its own motion." (21:33) I suggest that, taking the verse as a whole, that night and day are mentioned and that the motions of the Earth are ignored, the old, incorrect notion of the Sun going around the Earth is implied rather than the modern knowledge that the Sun moves elliptically through the Milky Way with a period of roughly 250 million years and that day and night are due to Earth's rotation on its axis. Moreover omniscient Allah does not elaborate on the motion of the Moon. Most of its apparent motion is NOT due to its "orbit with its own motion" around Earth (approx. 28 days) but to Earth's rotation on its axis.
. Further on astronomy, is Qur'an (18:86): "When he (Dhu al Qarnayn) reached the setting of the Sun, he found it in a spring of murky water." (Perhaps this may have been Allah's little attempt at levity, but it does make one wonder how literally one can take Qur'an) authority" to do so. This verse implies that the Sun is very much smaller than Earth whereas the converse is true. Also that the Sun moves across the Earth and "sets" at night, rather than that a spherical Earth turns on its axis.
The location of the Moon and stars in the Qur'an certainly gives the wrong impression: " We have indeed adorned the LOWER heaven with the beauty of the stars." (37:6, similarly (67:3,5) and (41:12)) and "Do you not see that Allah has created the seven heavens one above the other, and made the moon a light in their midst …" (71:15-16).
But the stars are vastly further away than the Moon. (The average distance from Earth to Moon is 384,400 km, while Proxima Centauri, the closest star to us apart from Sun (150,000,000 km) is 40 trillion kilometres.
Bucaille calls on people with a knowledge of Science and Arabic to translate the Qur'an so that it will sound more modern and contain terms such as atoms, the expanding universe, etc. Thus AYA (51:47) "With power and skill did We construct the Firmament: for it is We Who create the vastness of space." This respectable 7th Century statement becomes (Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Cairo), "The Heaven, We have built with power. Verily, We are expanding it." (51:47)
Space travel is said to have been predicted by (55:33)
"O ye assembly of Jinns and men! If it be ye can pass beyond the zones of the heavens and the earth, pass ye! Not without authority shall ye be able to pass! Apparently the Russian and American cosmonauts had "Allah's authority to do so. Seriously, though, there are mentions of space-travel in other "tales of the ancients".
There are a number of verses wherein "Allah" suggests that the father is the sole genetic parent e.g. (6:98) "It is He Who hath produced you from a single person; here is a place of sojourn and a place of departure." And (23:13), "Then We placed him (mankind) as a drop of sperm in a place of rest." Although sperms are mentioned a number of times, ova are not. Moreover, the sperm come not from the testicles but (86:5-7): He (man) is made from a gushing fluid which issues from between the loins and ribs." Also the verses on embryology leave much to be desired. The fertilized egg cell is not a "clot of blood" (confusion with menstrual blood?) (22:12-14 et al) Nor does the "chewed meat" become bones "which are then clothed with flesh" (2:259 et al). By the eighth week there are little muscles working BEFORE ossification has started!
Again on biology, (20:53) "… with it We have produced diverse pairs of plants each separate from others." But the majority of plants do not come in pairs but have male and female organs on the one plant. Another biological blunder is in Qur'an (27:18,19) where Solomon overhears a conversation of ants. In reality, ants communicate by smells rather than sound.
There are a number of verses in the Qur'an regarding rain, springs of water, etc. but unlike Bucaille I do not find them extraordinary e.g. "Have you observed the water you drink? Do you bring it down from the rain clouds? Or do We? If it were Our will, We could make it salty. Then why are you not thankful?" (56:68-70) Again we consider the rain as one of Allah's "signs" rather than the verses contributing information about "the Water Cycle".
Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera! Basta as the Italians say.