Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's Scientific Errors

If there is one thing that distinguishes the Ahmadiyya from mainstream Islam (other than the fact that they believe in a prophet who came after Muhammad), it is their emphasis upon what they consider to be the rational and scientific. This tendency towards rationalism will sometimes cause Ahmadis to become much less inclined towards supernatural explanations than orthodox Muslims (as seen for example by their attempts to naturalize the virgin birth, among other miracles). It is somewhat ironic then that as I was reading Mirza Ghulam Ahmad's The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam, I noticed that he makes some rather glaring scientific errors in the first chapter of the book. For example, he makes the following statement regarding the effect of one's diet on one's disposition:
Experience also shows that different types of food affect the intellect and the mind in different ways. For instance, careful observation would disclose that people who refrain altogether from eating meat gradually suffer a decline of the faculty of bravery; they lose courage and thus suffer the loss of a divinely bestowed praiseworthy faculty. This is reinforced by the evidence of the divine law of nature that the herbivorous animals do not possess the same degree of courage as do carnivorous ones. The same applies to birds. Thus there is no doubt that morals are affected by food. Conversely those who are given to a diet consisting mainly of meat and eat very little of greens suffer a decline of meekness or humility. Those who adopt the middle course develop both types of moral qualities.[1]
Now, this is an obviously false assertion that is regularly proved by those who run into vegetarians who possess plenty of bravery and/or lack humility. I don't think any dietician or physiologist would ever accept a statement such as this as having any kind of scientific validity. In addition to this, we find another glaring scientific error two and a half pages later, where Mirza Ghulam Ahmad attempts to base his belief in the development of the soul inside the body on the theory of spontaneous generation. Here, we read:
The Book of God does not mean that the soul descends from heaven as a separate entity or falls upon the earth from the atmosphere and then by chance gets mixed with the sperm and enters the womb with it. There is no basis for such a notion. The law of nature rejects it. We observe daily that thousands of insects infect impure and stale foods and are generated in unwashed wounds. Dirty linen secretes hundreds of lice and all sorts of worms are generated inside a person's stomach. It cannot be said that all these come from outside or can be observed as descending from heaven. The truth is that the soul is developed in the body and this also proves that it is created and is not self-existent.[2]
While I would certainly agree that God creates the human soul in the body and does not zap it into the body from heaven, I do not base such a belief on an outdated scientific concept. French chemist Louis Pasteur already laid the theory of spontaneous generation to rest back in 1859.[3] That is nearly four decades before Mirza Ghulam Ahmad wrote down the essay in question. Glaring factual errors such as these serve to show that the Ahmadiyya's brightest minds aren't nearly as rational and scientific as they make themselves out to be.

End Notes
  1. Ahmad, Mirza Ghulam. The Philosophy of the Teachings of Islam. Tilford: Islam International Publications, Ltd., 1996. p. 5.
  2. Ibid., pp. 7-8.
  3. Evers, Chris and Russell Levine. "The Slow Death of Spontaneous Generation (1668-1859)." The National Health Museum.

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