Embryology in the Quran, debunked!
After the big bang claim, the second most favourite claim of Muslim apologists is that the Quran explained the whole embryology process 1400 years ago.
This is a terrible claim but like most of the other claims, most Muslims don't understand the context of the verse or have probably never even read the verse themselves. They are likely just to have it simply heard from someone like Zakir Naik.
Before I debunk the infamous Embryology verse, let's look at another verse on the subject of embryology or human reproduction system just to understand how the inventor or inventors of Islam actually thought?
He was created from a fluid, ejected, Emerging from between the backbone and the ribs. Quran 86:6–7
So basically, Allah which is actually Muhammad is saying that a man was created from a fluid which is sperm that emerges from the backbone and the ribs! We know sperm form in the testicles or commonly referred as "balls" in men.
The horrible mistake here Muhammad made is that he didn't copy the Greeks like in many other instances. For example, the ancient Greek anatomist, Herophilus born in 335BC. After dissecting various human samples, detailed digestive system, respiratory system and of course reproductive system, he wrote quite extensively about these processes. He was the first person to say that spermatozoon which is commonly referred as sperm, is produced in the testes of a male. This very word spermatozoon is a Greek word for seed. Just like Muhammad borrowed Greek knowledge when it came to saying the moon is a reflected light (originally discovered by Anaxagoras), Muhammad came up with his own idea that sperm is produced between a backbone and ribs!
According to Muhammad, this is where sperm is produced! Who would have known that we had testicles hidden between our ribs and backbone?
This is absolutely false! Ancient kings have been castrating males for thousands of years just to make sure that they cannot make babies. But Muhammad was probably aware of the function of the testes but he thought this fluid must originate from somewhere else, where could that be? Who knows why not just say between the backbone and the ribs?
Now let's get to another verse
Had he not been a sperm from semen emitted? Then he was a clinging clot, and [Allah] created [his form] and proportioned [him]. And made of him two mates, the male and the female. Quran (75:37–39)
The second verse is claiming that after the ejaculation of semen, it becomes a clinging clot, and then the sex of the baby is determined. Obviously, this is incorrect as the sex of the baby is determined at the very moment of conception, not after the clinging clot or whatever that is. This claim of the Quran is also backed up by this Sahih hadith:
The Prophet said, ‘At every womb, Allah appoints an angel who says, "O Lord! A drop of semen, O Lord! A clot. O Lord! A little lump of flesh." Then if Allah wishes [to complete] its creation, the angel asks, "[O Lord!] Will it be a male or female, a wretched or a blessed, and how much will his provision be? And what will his age be?" So all that is written while the child is still in the mother's womb.' Sahih Bukhari Book 6 Number 315
So basically, this hadith confirms that the sex of the baby is determined after the initial embryological developmental stages. Again, I don't have to say it, it's obviously false! Rest of the hadith just confirms the mythological and nonsensical nature of Islam that once the sex of the baby is determined, Allah decides how long this human will survive, will he be good or bad etc. This also shows how a person who becomes evil doesn't have free will. Allah has already made him evil, how is that his fault? If I make a faulty machine, is it my fault for making a faulty machine or it is the fault of the machine? Think about it.
These simple philosophical questions debunk the claims of Islam very easily and no sane person should take Islam seriously.
Now let's get to the business end of this piece:
And certainly, did We create man from an extract of clay. Then We placed him as a sperm-drop in a firm lodging. Then We made the sperm-drop into a clinging clot, and We made the clot into a lump [of flesh], and We made [from] the lump bones, and We covered the bones with flesh; then We developed him into another creation. So blessed is Allah, the best of creators. (Quran 23:12–14)
So basically Allah is saying he created the first humans (Adam and Eve) with clay but once that process started, he no longer had to keep making humans with clay now that he has introduced the sexual reproduction system. Amazing!
According to the Quran, this is how it goes, sperm goes inside and then finds itself a very nice comfy place to lodge itself. This sperm then turns into a clot, and then it turns into flesh and bones, and boom! You have a human.
A lot of Muslims actually view this as a real process of child development inside the mother's womb. There are two ways of looking at this verse:
As a layperson who doesn't know the details but can observe from the outside, without going into too much detail. Like if I told you this is a mobile phone, you can speak to someone on the other side of the planet thanks to the satellite. You will use it and it would make sense to you but you wouldn't know how the radio waves interact with the satellite and any of the other details unless you are an expert. So yes, just let us look at the embryology as that layperson.
More critical analysis in light of modern knowledge.
Method 1: Layperson Analysis:
As an ordinary person, you can tell, when we have sex, a white liquid comes out of a man that goes inside a woman and 9 months later, a baby comes out. So that white liquid must have something to do with the baby creation, right? Pretty simple!
Now, most people don't know what happens inside the belly, we can see it gradually grows from a flat stomach to a ballooned stomach so baby must be growing inside. So the real question is what forms first when the baby is developing? Is it the heart, the ears, the lungs, the skin or the bones? What is it? If Allah wants to prove to us that he knows everything then he needs to tell us something that we don't know! Pretty fair demand, right?
This is what Muhammad tried to do by giving us the step by step points on baby's development.
This is what Muhammad basically said in this verse:
1: Sperm goes inside and secures itself in a place inside a woman's belly (nothing special so far anyone would know that)
2: Now the Quran tells us it turns into a "clinging clot" like some sort of flesh, a dot, there are 100s of different interpretations, the point is, nothing special!
3: Then it becomes a lump of flesh and then bones
4: New baby
Ok, even if you look at this verse, there is absolutely nothing special in it, any person with half a brain could see it or imagine it. People have been observing premature foetuses of humans and other animals for a long time. Where are the details like heart forms first and then the brain or ears or lungs etc.? Nope, no details, just vague steps.
Some Muslims will say, whatever, at least it's correct!
The interesting thing is, even these details are WRONG and we'll look it in our second way which was the "critical analysis in light of modern knowledge".
Method 2: Critical analysis of the verse:
Remember these were the four basic steps that explained the embryology in the Quran:
1: Sperm goes inside and secures itself in a place inside a woman's belly
2: Now the Quran tells us it turns into a "clinging clot"
3: Then it becomes a lump of flesh and then bones
4: New baby
First of all, the first step is wrong, sperm doesn't just go in and finds a nice comfortable seat inside a woman's belly to recline on. Sperm goes inside and then races towards a woman's egg. And there are millions of other sperms that are competing to reach that woman's egg. Then forms a zygote. None of this is mentioned in the Quran. It's like saying a bullet goes inside a person and kills it! Details matter, you have to tell a bullet goes in and ruptures the heart or a liver or lungs or whatever, THAT is what kills a person because a bullet can go in a person and may not kill. Again, details matter and since Muhammad didn't have these details, he just said the obvious.
Secondly, clinging clot, this is another false description, there is no clot, there is no blood at the early stages this is why modern apologists like Zakir Naik and Haroon Yahaya recognised this and changed the whole meaning of this verse. They say Allah meant "leech" by alaqah (which actually means clot according to early scholars). Look at what the early scholars like Ibn Kathir said about it
"(then We made the clot into a little lump of flesh,) which is like a piece of flesh with no shape or features"
Even Ibn Abbas, the cousin of Muhammad, one of the earliest commentators on the Quran, even he called it a clot, not a leech
"(Then fashioned We) then We transformed (the drop) into (a clot) for another forty days. Tafsir Ibn Abbas"
There is no mention of leech anywhere! Because clot is such a silly word, modern Muslim apologists did what they do best, twist and turn the verse, and they said Allah meant "leech".
Ok, you must be a stubborn Muslim and say "no no no", it must be the leech. Ok, let's go with that.
This is what these Muslim apologists show you when they say an embryo looks like a leech
In reality, a 24-25 day embryo actually looks like this
You see what Muslim apologists do there? Not only did they change the meaning of alaqah from clot to a leech, but they also changed the shape of the embryo to make it look like a leech.
On the left, you have the photo of a 24-day embryo and on the right, you have a 24-day embryo according to these Muslim apologists. Can you confidently say both embryos look the same?
They removed the heart, they stretched the embryo, and they straightened it to make it look like a leech.
As a Muslim, you might be getting frustrated and probably now believe that alaqah meant both clot and a leech (even though as I said the embryo looks nothing like a leech), ask yourself, why did God use a word that could be so easily confused with the clot and a leech?
In reality, this 24-day embryo looks more like a kidney rather than a leech. So why did Allah not say it looks like a kidney or a bean?
To be honest, Muhammad didn't mean leech and I have a strong reason to believe that. Did he mean a clot, why? I'll explain it later.
Now let's come to the third point, Muhammad in the Quran says he created flesh and then bones. This is also false, you can ask any embryologist who would tell you that flesh and bones start forming simultaneously. It is not a sequential step, it is a simultaneous step.
As you can see, all three steps mentioned in the Quran are actually false. Now let's look at another remarkable coincidence in this situation.
Meet a Greek Physician, Galen who died in 210AD, some four hundred years before Muhammad. The funny thing is, he said exactly the same things that Muhammad said in the 7th century.
Let's look at some of Galen's steps:
2: Blood (clot)
3: Flesh and bones
The only difference is Galen used the word blood whereas Muhammad used the word clot. A clot is commonly referred to as blood anyway. This is why I earlier said Muhammad probably meant clot rather than a leech. Since Muhammad copied the rest of Galen's work, it is safe to assume he copied this step as well.
What Galen wrote is a little more in detail. You can buy my book, The Curse of God – Why I left Islam to read this in detail along with many other scientific problems in the Quran.
In conclusion of this piece, Muhammad copied Galen to explain embryology. Galen missed out on a lot of details and got a lot of details wrong, just like the original source, the copier also got it wrong. Embryology in the Quran is vague at best but outright false at worst.
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