Responses to "It is Truth"

Chapter 5

The Embryonic Phases

This chapter moves beyond the "embryology" of the Qur'an and into the realm of complete absurdity. Our expert in this chapter is Prof. G.C. Goeringer, Course Director and Associate Professor of Medical Embryology at the Department of Cell Biology, School of Medicine, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.

According to an article by Daniel Golden in the WALL STREET JOURNAL, January 23rd, 2002 :

Prof. Gerald Goeringer, an embryologist retired from Georgetown University, says he urged the commission to try some verification: hire an independent scholar to see whether the Quran's statements could have been taken from Aristotle, the Greek philosopher-scientist who preceded the book by nearly 1,000 years. After his request was denied, Prof. Goeringer says, he stopped going to the conferences for fear of being associated with fanaticism.

"It was mutual manipulation," he says. "We got to go places we wouldn't otherwise go to. They wanted to add some respectability to what they were publishing."

This background is helpful to keep in mind when we now look at the claims of "It is the Truth".

He said that the ancient Greeks were concerned with the study of embryology and many of them attempted to describe what happens to the fetus and how it develops. We agreed with him that Aristotle, among others, attempted to expound some theories on the subject, but was there any mention made of these stages?

We know that these stages were [not?] known until the middle of the nineteenth century and were not proven until the beginning of the twentieth century. After a long discussion, Professor Goeringer concurred that there was no mention of these phases.

With apologies for the repetition, Galen formulated his theory of four states in AD 150, long before Muhammed. His stages were almost identical to those described by Muhammed.

"But let us take the account back again to the first conformation of the animal, and in order to make our account orderly and clear, let us divide the creation of the foetus overall into four periods of time. The first is that in which, as is seen both in abortions and in dissection, the form of the semen prevails (Arabic nutfah). At this time, Hippocrates too, the all-marvelous, does not yet call the conformation of the animal a foetus; as we heard just now in the case of semen voided in the sixth day, he still calls it semen. But when it has been filled with blood (Arabic alaqa), and heart, brain and liver are still unarticulated and unshaped yet have by now a certain solidarity and considerable size, this is the second period; the substance of the foetus has the form of flesh and no longer the form of semen. Accordingly you would find that Hippocrates too no longer calls such a form semen but, as was said, foetus. The third period follows on this, when, as was said, it is possible to see the three ruling parts clearly and a kind of outline, a silhouette, as it were, of all the other parts (Arabic mudghah). You will see the conformation of the three ruling parts more clearly, that of the parts of the stomach more dimly, and much more still, that of the limbs. Later on they form "twigs", as Hippocrates expressed it, indicating by the term their similarity to branches. The fourth and final period is at the stage when all the parts in the limbs have been differentiated; and at this part Hippocrates the marvelous no longer calls the foetus an embryo only, but already a child, too when he says that it jerks and moves as an animal now fully formed (Arabic "a new creation")."

The first stage, geniture, corresponds to [nutfah], the drop of semen; the second stage, a bloody vascularised foetus with unshaped brain, liver and heart ("when it has been filled with blood") corresponds to [alaqa], the blood clot; the third stage "has the form of flesh" and corresponds to [mudghah], the morsel of chewed flesh. The fourth and final stage, puer, was when all the organs were well formed, joints were freely moveable, and the foetus began to move. (Source: Corpus Medicorum Graecorum: Galeni de Semine (Galen: On Semen) (English trans. Phillip de Lacy, Akademic Verlag, 1992) section I:9:1-10 pp. 92-95 )

If the reader is in any doubt about the clear link being described here between the Galenic and the Qur'anic stages, it may be pointed out that it was early Muslim doctors, including Ibn-Qayyim, who first spotted the similarity. Basim Musallam writes

"The stages of development which the Qur'an and Hadith established for believers agreed perfectly with Galen's scientific account... There is no doubt that medieval thought appreciated this agreement between the Qur'an and Galen, for Arabic science employed the same Qur'anic terms to describe the Galenic stages". (B. Musallam (Cambridge, 1983), Sex and Society in Islam, p. 54)

Evidently Prof. Goeringer is wrong.

Let us listen to Professor Goeringer as he explains his opinion. "In a relatively few Aayahs (Qur'aanic verses), is contained a rather comprehensive description of human development from the time of the commingling of the gametes through organogenesis."

No, the Qur'an ONLY mentions the male's semen:

Woe to man! What has made him reject Allah? From what stuff has He created him? From a sperm-drop: He has created him, and then molded him in due proportion. (Qur'an 80:17-19)

Since in fact we are formed when a sperm and egg unite, why does male semen get all of the credit in the Qur'an? Perhaps it is because we can see semen, but we cannot see the ovum. Since the Qur'an tells us about semen (or the "sperm drop"), which we can see, but mentions nothing about the egg, we are forced to conclude that this is a simple human observation, and very definitely not a scientific miracle! In any event, it is hardly accurate to describe an ovum as a secretion!

No mention is made either of organogenesis, the microcsopic process by which groups of cells "decide" to become particular organs and stick to becoming that.

No such distinct and complete record of human development such as classification, terminology, and description existed previously. In most, if not all, instances, this description antedates by many centuries the recording of the various stages of human embryonic and fetal development recorded in the traditional scientific literature.

In fact Galen's analysis of human development, upon which the Qur'an is based, although incorrect by modern standards is actually far more detailed than the account in the Qur'an, which takes up about a couple of dozen words.

But modern science now revealed that many animals and beings in this world are born and reproduced without fertilization from the male of the species. For example, a male bee is no more than an egg which has not been fertilized by the male, whereas the egg which has been fertilized by the male functions as a female. Moreover, male bees are created from the eggs of the queen but without fertilization by a male. There are many other examples such as this in the animal world. Moreover, man today has the scientific means of stimulating the female's egg of some organisms so that this egg develops without fertilization by a male.

Let us read the words of Professor Goeringer: In another type of approach, unfertilized eggs of many species of amphibians and lower mammals can be activated by mechanical (such as pricking with a needle), physical (such as thermal shock), or chemical means by any of a number of different chemical substances, and continue to advance to stages of development. In some species, this type of parthenogenetic development is natural.

This might be true of some lower life forms but what about humans? Can we believe that this is how Jesus came to be? You have a huge scientific problem if this is your argument. The cells of the human body (except for egg and sperm cells) replicate themselves by a process called mitosis. When a cell undergoes mitosis, the cell divides, producing a new cell. This new cell has the same number of chromosomes (46 in humans) as the old cell. Egg cells (as well as sperm cells), by comparison, undergo a process called meiosis. The egg cell also divides, but the difference is that the new and older egg split the number of chromosomes - each now has 23. The sperm cell undergoes the same process and, when they meet, the fertilized egg contains the full compliment of 46 chromosomes and can grow into a fully formed human being.

It is theoretically possible that, in the ovary, a woman's ovum fails to undergo meiosis, and results in her becoming pregnant with a (female) clone of herself. However, would this process produce a male?

However, Jesus could not have been born this way since he was male - there is no debate about the gender of Jesus! To become a male, a fertilized egg must contain an X and Y chromosome (men produce both X and Y chromosomes). The egg contains only X chromosomes, therefore, an egg that did not undergo meiosis would have XX sex chromosomes which can ONLY produce a female.

We doubt that this was the question given to Dr. Goeringer!

Allah has given us the definitive answer and he used Adam, whom they believe in, as an example of a human being who has no father or mother. The Christians regard as deviance the fact that a human being can be born without a father.

Really? It is quite clear in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus was born without a human father ("his mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit" (chapter 1 verse 18). Again in Luke's Gospel we read that Mary questions how she, a virgin, could be pregnnat (chapter 1 verse 34). Why should it be such a problem for Christians to regard this simple Biblical truth as deviance, as is claimed above?

Thus, Allah has shown them an analogy of a human being who had no father and no father, that is, Adam. The Qur'aan says: The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: "Be": and he was. (Qur'aan 3:59).

Jesus was not created from dust, as was Adam, Jesus was born of a woman. There is a considerable difference between dust and a woman.

Allah has willed that there be such scientific advancements and discoveries which provide proof after proof of the truth which has been revealed in the Qur'aan. It is in this way that the verses of this glorious book were revealed with the passage of time. The verses become known to the foremost scholars and scientists of our religion and of generations to come. Science will never deplete the wonders of the Qur'aan.

Contrary to this confident assertion, not only has science demonstrated the contradictions between the Qur'anic version of human creation and the scientific account, but the study of the history of science has demonstrated that the Qur'an is doing no more than reiterating the account of creation first described by Galen.

Of course, if we are to claim that the Qur'an is doing nothing more than repeating the stages already described by Galen it is incumbant upon us to prove a link between the two. That is surprisingly easy to do. Much of his work was translated into Syriac as early as the sixth century AD by Sergios of Resh' Aina, a Christian priest who studied medicine in Alexandria and worked in Mesopotania, dying in about AD 532. He was one of a number of Nestorian (Syriac) Christians who translated the Greek medical corpus into Syriac, before moving to Persia, where they brought their completed translations and founded many schools of learning. The most famous of these by far was the great medical school of Jundishapur in what is now south-east Iran, founded in AD 555.

According to Muslim historians the most celebrated early graduate of Jundishapur was a doctor named al Harith ibn Kalada, who was an older contemporary of Muhammed. He became none other than a companion of the Prophet Muhammed himself, and according to the Muslim medical traditions Muhammed actually sought medical advice from him. He may even have been a relative of the Prophet and his "teachings undoubtedly influenced the latter" [i.e., Muhammed]. (Source: Outline of Arabic Contributions to Medicine, by Amin A. Khairallah, Beirut, 1946)

Is it any wonder, therefore, that the Qur'an should so faithfully repeat Galen's (and Hippocrates') embryological ideas?

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