Global Darwin: long kept under wraps in Pakistan

Marwa Elshakry's Opinion article (Nature 461, 1200–1201; 2009, and see makes no mention of the conflict of Darwin's ideas with popular religious beliefs in some conservative societies across the eastern world. There, the writings and thoughts of intellectuals, however influential, are no match for traditional religion.

For example, in Pakistan it was not until 2002 that a chapter on evolution was included for the first time in a school textbook, as a result of the federal government's educational reforms. The earlier decades of attempts to suppress scientific ideas were certainly not “enchanting”.

Elshakry makes reference to Muhammad Iqbal, the Muslim thinker and reformer from early last century. Although Iqbal sought to challenge the traditional interpretation of religious beliefs and to understand religious principles in light of modern scientific thought, he avoided any direct mention of evolution or natural selection in his Urdu and Farsi writings. This was not because he was unaware of Darwin's works, but probably because he realized his audience was not yet ready to appreciate the significance of these ideas. Given their background of widespread illiteracy and poverty, deep-rooted social and religious conservatism, and colonial rule, religion was these people's last hope — and it was not the time to take that hope away.

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See also Global Darwin: ideas blurred in early eastern translations

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Kayani, S. Global Darwin: long kept under wraps in Pakistan. Nature 462, 984 (2009).

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