Most Pakistani doctors in US accept evolutionary theory: Survey

Published: July 3, 2011
More than 80 per cent of Pakistani doctors in the United States accepted the theory of evolution

More than 80 per cent of Pakistani doctors in the United States accepted the theory of evolution

The Muslim world stands at a unique moment in its relation to evolutionary theory, stated the co-author of a major survey into attitudes towards evolution among Muslims globally.

According to a report by T. V. Padma on the Science and Development Network website, acceptance of evolution varies widely across the Islamic world, demonstrating that stereotypical ideas about Islam and evolution are wrong, said Salman Hameed, director of the Centre for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies (SSiMS) at Hampshire College, United Sates.

But ideas are being moulded now, he said, because of new phenomena such as mass education, migration and access to the Internet.

“This is a unique moment,” Hameed told the 7th World Conference of Science Journalists (27–29 June) in Qatar.

According to the report, Hameed presented initial results from a survey that examines the attempts of educated Muslims to reconcile their religion with the evolutionary science.

The survey is being conducted among doctors and medical students in five Muslim countries — Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey — and also in three countries hosting Muslim diaspora — Turkish doctors in Germany; Pakistani doctors in the United Kingdom; and Arab, Pakistani and Turkish doctors in the United States.

Hameed told SciDev.Net they picked doctors as they would be scientifically literate and share similar educational and social backgrounds. The questions included whether the respondents accepted or rejected the general theory of evolution and, more specifically, whether microbial, animal and human forms of evolution are possible.

He presented the results of just two groups — Pakistanis in the United States and Malaysians in their home country.


More than 80 per cent of Pakistani doctors in the United States accepted the theory of evolution, including microbial, animal and human evolution.

The majority also believed that one could accept the theory of evolution and hold religious beliefs at the same time.

But most Malaysian doctors (in Malaysia) rejected the theory of evolution, especially with regard to humans.

Negotiating Modernity

While Hameed is optimistic that the basic principles of evolution will eventually become accepted, he said that Muslim countries are still “negotiating modernity” and many replies demonstrated the resulting confusion.

For example, a Turkish doctor said: “It is complicated … I accept evolution scientifically, but reject it religiously”. And a Pakistani medical student said: “I accept it when I am in a hospital and reject it when I go home”.

Young earth creationism, which holds that Earth was created around 6,000 years ago literally as described in the Bible, and is held by some, mainly US Christian groups, who reject evolution, was absent, demonstrating that media coverage of evolutionary debate needed to be more nuanced.

“Muslim contexts are different from the battles in the United States,” Hameed warned. Presenting Muslim attitudes as a controversy was premature and could be damaging, as the “dominant narrative is yet to emerge in the Muslim world”, where religion plays an important role in forming people’s worldviews.

“If evolution gets conflated with atheism, then a vast rejection, even of the basic principles, is quite possible,” he said. Human evolution, though, will likely continue to be a controversial subject — and perhaps be rejected by the majority of Muslims.

Link to audio file of Hameed discussing his research

Link to summary of Hameed’s talk on ‘The Future of Acceptance of Evolution in the Muslim World’

Link to Hameed’s talk presentation slides

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Reader Comments (30)

  • Jul 3, 2011 - 5:26PM

    The debate is useless … Quran openly states that Allah created all creatures through evolution … There is a clear ayat that all animals on earth right now evolved from the fish which is in accordance with science … so why the debate?

    Yes, the debate is about Humans. Islam says Allah sent the human to earth from the heavens while science disagrees.Recommend

  • Abhi
    Jul 3, 2011 - 5:50PM

    80% pakistani doctor in USA accept evolution theory ! surprising find.Recommend

  • Henna Javed
    Jul 3, 2011 - 6:16PM

    20 per cent dont? And remaining who dont… How are they doctors :| that’s like not understanding basic biology…
    Example: how can they understand how viruses and bacteria become immune to medicines if they reject the theory of evolution? How can humans become immune to illnesses? HOW do they understand how immunisations work????? That’s bloody absurd!

    Pakistani one said the dumbest thing…dont believe in it at home…wtfRecommend

  • Khurram
    Jul 3, 2011 - 6:38PM

    “If evolution gets conflated with atheism, then a vast rejection, even of the basic principles, is quite possible,” he said. Human evolution, though, will likely continue to be a controversial subject — and perhaps be rejected by the majority of Muslims.”

    The above quoted lines quite expressly convey the picture of our mind set, how we in the Muslim World give way more significance to the Science Fiction than to Science.Recommend

  • dr sabk
    Jul 3, 2011 - 6:39PM

    salam to all“`how human evolution is possible?any one any scientist had ever observed it by him self ????????????no no no no……its been quite of years as humanity exists..why we not evolved again to monkeys or some flying species……as evolution says from micoorganism to some cell to some thing bigger…..blah blah blah..then monkeys then eventually humans.according that theory we are supposed to fly as evolution continues……what a none sense……..Recommend

  • Moderate
    Jul 3, 2011 - 8:29PM

    Negotiating Modernity? There is clear cut mentioning that human race started with the creation of Adam and then Eve, those who have doubt can consult Quran and Hadith books!Recommend

  • Atheist, India
    Jul 3, 2011 - 8:38PM

    Evolution is not a theory, it’s a fact. A fact backed by tonnes of evidence. Any person who studies about evolution and cares to go through the evidences will find really hard to not believe in it. Now if the evolution is true, where does it put the religions who claim that life “was created by God” around 5000 / 6000 years ago? After all every religion was made up on the GOD’s word wasn’t it?
    Also the people who are trying to somehow find a “religious science”, let me tell you that isn’t possible. Science doesn’t accept anything until it is backed by solid evidence unlike religion which can produce none. Religion believes in a God who can make 1 + 1 = 3 but if that happens whole science just fails. Choose one: science or religion.?Recommend

  • anoop
    Jul 3, 2011 - 8:47PM

    we indians believe in reincarnationRecommend

  • Sonia
    Jul 3, 2011 - 8:58PM


    Y does religion have to confirm/reconcile to scientific ideas- mind boggling always
    A certainity has to confirm to an uncertain and usually changeable concepts- is that even right when u read it???? I wonder if Mr. Hameed has ever thought along this line.

    Science should come upto to religion – if at all needed- which is very rare.
    This is the reason y most young doctors have diverging views in daily lives and medical practice- especially concerning evolution.Recommend

  • Khurram
    Jul 3, 2011 - 10:04PM

    I think the Theory of Evolution is nothing but a big Hog-Wash to distract us Faithfuls from the Path of Righteousness. There are all kind of proofs available if one sincerely try to look for them which prove beyond a shadow of doubt that Baba Aadam(ra) and Mai Hawaa(ra) lived as a couple about five thousand years ago and we ( I cannot say about others) are their direct descendants.Recommend

  • Jul 3, 2011 - 10:18PM

    Science and Religious beliefs never go in the same direction. We, the educated intelligents while enjoying the fruits of science, unable to come out of the religious shackles because we are brainwashed by our parents, teachers and society right from our birth.Recommend

  • Hedgefunder
    Jul 3, 2011 - 10:39PM

    Well at least if these guys are really doctors, than they should have some basic biology knowhow!!
    We knoiw they were not educated in Madrassas by the enlightened Mullahs!!! that’s progress, in Pakistan!!Recommend

  • Khalid Ahmed
    Jul 3, 2011 - 11:18PM

    Seriously, how can a doctor believe that human babies fell from clouds like rain drops? Shameful and pathetic.Recommend

  • Rehman
    Jul 3, 2011 - 11:49PM

    @Mustafa: The Quran never speaks about evolution. The fact that you don’t know this shows just how much us Muslims don’t even know about our own religion. Also, you don’t need to defend the Quran even when it’s wrong. It’s childish to do so. Evolution is a scientific FACT. Denying it, or saying that it was mentioned in the Quran first, is fooling yourself. Quran also says that we must kill anybody who converts from Islam, but do you think that’s the right thing to do? No. But there are also good parts to Islam, like respect for elders, like devotion to cleanliness, like respect for other cultures and religions. But Quran is also wrong in many places, and profoundly imperfect. The sooner us Muslims accept this fact, the better off we will be. :)Recommend

  • Olgr
    Jul 3, 2011 - 11:56PM

    @Atheist, India: One can very well prove that 1+1=3 or even 4 or what ever I like by simply changing the conditions around the equation so its kind of a bad example.

    As for evolution well its quite complex in mathematics when you don’t find explaination for something you introduce a constant of proportionality to accomodate it so I mean there can be 100 reasons to dis prove relativity and another 100 to support it. It comes down what you want to believe as a person and not drag religion in to everything. Recommend

  • Nadeem Ahmed
    Jul 4, 2011 - 1:31AM

    To be a muslim, You need to accept One God Almighty, Muhammad as Last prophet, Divine Books, all prophets, Angels and Day of Judgement. Once you recite Kalma and become Muslim, you need to observe, Nimaz, Zakat and Hajj. Rest everything is Scientists and Mullahs Fasaad for their Roti Rozi. Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jul 4, 2011 - 2:05AM

    Actually while living in the US, one has to tell the truth otherwise how can you even practice? Not only they have to believe in evolution but they have to tell their patients that moderate drinking is good for general and cardiac health. I know that the doctors (whether Pakistani or Indian) have to recommend “red wine” as a very good thing to decrease bad (LDL) and increase good (HDL) cholesterol. HDL is an important measure of heart risks and the higher it is the better it is. Usually desi people have low values of HDL (should be about 45 plus for men and 55 for women) even if they are vegetarian. I don’t think that a doctor in the US can have a successful practice it he/she does not believe in basic scientific beliefs. Recommend

  • Malay
    Jul 4, 2011 - 2:48AM


    Say, YOU belive in reincarnation. Who gave you the divine right to speak on behalf of the rest of Indians.Recommend

  • Malay
    Jul 4, 2011 - 2:55AM

    @Shubhan Basha
    Very well said. What you said is true for all religious bigots whether they are known as Muslims,Hindus,Christians or whatever.

    The 20% of those doctors who do not belive in the theory of evolutions should be delicenced from practicing medicine. I honestly fear for their patients.Recommend

  • Max
    Jul 4, 2011 - 4:27AM

    What else should they believe? And who do not studied too much “dinyaat.”Recommend

  • Sameer
    Jul 4, 2011 - 4:35AM

    Please inform us who the 20% are so that we can avoid seeing quack doctors.Recommend

  • IronyDetector
    Jul 4, 2011 - 5:38AM

    Actually, the 80% figure is significantly higher than I would have guessed. I am not sure, but I would bet that the percentage for U.S. born and trained physicians is actually lower than 80%.

    I don’t understand those who are “shocked” by the number of people who do not subscribe to the evolution framework; it is actually quite easy to compartmentalize oneself and still be a reasonably competent physician. For instance, doctors back in the day had no clue about microbes, but they treated a lot of diseases well. Moreover, if you think that your physician ponders microbiology and organic chemistry every time he examines you, think again! >90% of their patients present a highly specific set of symptoms which physicians use to label them and treat them accordingly — all they have to know is that drug X works for condition Y; they don’t have to re-acquaint themselves with every little facet.

    Also, a note to “Atheist, India”: I am a biologist, and my concentration is in evolutionary biology. One of my goals is to educate people to understand evolution and natural selection (the difference being paramount) properly so we can move on from politics and focus on the science. I can tell you that the kind of inflammatory statements you are making only serve to incite more trash “debate” which leads to further polarization. Also, it would have sufficed to keep your alias short to “Atheist;” the fact that you added the irrelevant detail of being from India only points to your political motives.Recommend

  • Zaeem
    Jul 4, 2011 - 9:14AM

    @drsabk: You are not meant to fly. Please try to read The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin and hopefully you will get a clue about the theory of evolution.

    Those who don’t agree with evolution, I hope they come around and see the facts for themselves. Richard Dawkins’ “The Greatest Show on Earth” is a fantastic read for anyone seriously interested in exploring the subject.The onus is on religion to reconcile with the scientific facts and not the other way round.Recommend

  • Hassan K Bajwa
    Jul 4, 2011 - 12:54PM

    @ Rehman

    Your opinion is a perfect example of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

    It is not the Quran that is imperfect, nor do muslims need to accept as such. in fact it is fundamentally impossible for any muslim to consider the Quran to be “wrong”.

    However it is not only possible, but in fact proven beyond doubt that the interpretation of the Quran over the past 1400 years has gone from bad to worse. It is not the Quran that fails to stand true in the face of modern knowledge, but rather islamic dogma that fails to reconcile faith with reality.

    The theory of evolution is a perfect example of how medieval islamic dogma is proven faulty. however as i also have stated, the verses in the Quran relating to the genesis of man actually SUPPORT the theory of evolution.

    Muslims certainly need to accept something. But what they need to accept is that the scholars and/or holy personages of the past were not infallible, and their understanding of the Quran is outdated and thus to be reviewed and discarded where it clashes with observable facts and empirical evidence.

    The problem with muslims is not that they stick to the Quran. The problem is that they stick to the outdated dogma and interpretations of their forefathers. THAT is what needs to change.Recommend

  • Atheist, India
    Jul 4, 2011 - 1:10PM

    @IronyDetector Here you go:

    1) You support to “compartmentalize oneself”. In other words you agree with the Pakistani doctor who believes in the evolutionary theory when he is in hospital but not when he is at home. It’s like having the best of both the worlds, like being married and having a side affair too:). Living like this is fun for some time but at some point you do have to make a decision which I am exhorting the readers to do here. Choose one: religion or science because both together are contradictory.

    2) You say I make “inflammatory statements”. Yes I do. A brain made dead by religion has to be provoked to make it think otherwise. In each and every statement I make, I try to be as provocative as possible so that even if the readers may not agree with point I make but may be it will force them to think or discuss about it sometime later. And in case you think this is a “trash debate”, well everyone starts by indulging in trash debates. I am sure you have a much evolved thought process but there are many readers who don’t. Didn’t you and I indulge in trash debates when we were kids?

    3) Regarding my name “Atheist, India’, I am a hindu by birth but ever since I have got the ability to think rationally, I have discarded both Religion and God. The only identity I have is that of being an Indian and so I use it always. If you are a regular reader here you must have seen my various posts all by the same name. It’s not a political agenda of mine, it’s my only identity and I use it always.

    Tribune – Thanks for being so accomodative of me and my ideas. You are the most tolerant of all Pakistani News magazines, even better than Dawn who ban my posts just by seeing the name Atheist in my name.Recommend

  • scientist
    Jul 4, 2011 - 5:30PM

    @Mustafa Hanif
    every religious lolz want to protect their religion, and believes, so we can expect modified versions like this,. and can expect u again accepting Spielberg’s grand design, with proof…. religion is for good if you are taking it as lifestyle, but give more priority to your commonsense than religion,, if you are free minded up to a certain extend, then only u can accept and enjoy the science.Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jul 4, 2011 - 9:00PM

    That’s because most American’s would never consider going to a Doctor who was so indoctrinated in a religion he ignored basic science.Recommend

  • Jul 5, 2011 - 9:10AM

    Great. I think they won’t be joining the other American civilians in upcoming Gulag camps (Source: ).Recommend

  • Sonia
    Jul 8, 2011 - 1:28PM

    @Mustafa Hanif:
    can u please reference the ayat where it is CLEAR that all animals evolved from fish??? thats news really!!!

    @Hassan K Bajwa:
    Amazing- how many translators and tafseer writers have you read!!?????

    u say they are infallible- there is concept of history- if an event occurs now and i note it down within a year – the account will be more authentic than someone’s account written 20 years from now- this u can verify from any writer of history- or better still read books and see for urself- and u DOUBT the Islamic dogma of old times:)

    i wonder if u have read Haroon Yahya- in his book- If Darwin had Known DNA- he will describe clearly y Darwin actually gave his theory about evolution in very deep details- i hope biology will not be a problem. Do read it- InshAllah many people’s doubts will be cleared.Recommend

  • Sonia
    Jul 8, 2011 - 1:30PM

    there are a list of books which are totally supported by medical and biological findings- if anyone is interested

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