Dr. Mustansir Mir, Ph.D.
University Professor of Islamic Studies
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Youngstown State University
Thoughts on Human Origins
In the phrase “human origins,” the crucial word is “human” rather than “origins.” A scientific account of human origins is, primarily, biological; a religious account of human origins is, primarily, moral. In Islam, as in the other so-called monotheistic religions, God is the creator of all things—minerals, animals, and humans. From a scientific standpoint, minerals are not immoral, and humans are not more moral than animals—all three being equally worthy subjects of study and investigation. But religion might call a certain type of human being “stone-hearted” or “worse than an animal.” The essential difference between religion and science, then, consists in the different valuation system employed by each. If it can be established beyond a shadow of a doubt that human beings evolved from monkeys, then, Islamically, so be it. But while science might say that monkeys, following a linear and irreversible path of evolutionary development, evolved into humans, who now run no risk of relapsing into monkeyhood, religion might say that human beings may—morally—degenerate back into monkeys, just as, on the flip side, they may—morally—reach sublime heights and become superior to angels. In brief, science looks at human beings with reference to the horizontal axis of history, whereas religion looks at human beings with reference to the vertical axis of morality. If this argument is accepted, then, essentially, no conflict need exist between science and religion on the issue of human origins.