Many Islamic apologists claim that the Quran contains scientifically accurate information regarding embryology, can you comment on this?
Muslims have a problem in the intellectual realm. This problem is that on the apologetic level they cannot compete with Christianity. They do not have fulfilled prophecy. They do not have miracles confirming the message. They have relatively little in the way of accurate historical information. In fact, they have a large number of rather obviously bogus historical statements (see my power point at the web site on Islam for examples). At a recent debate sponsored by us (ARS) Muslim scholar Shabir Ally debated my good friend Douglas Jacoby and Shmuley Boteach, a Jewish scholar. Imam Ally really struggled to find real evidence supporting the inspiration of the Qu’ran. He used evidence from numerology to support his claim that the Qu’ran is inspired by God.
Given the slim evidence for inspiration of the Qu’ran, especially in comparison to the Bible, Muslim scholars try to claim that there is good evidence from the Qu’ran and science for inspiration. Yes, I have heard this claim that the Qu’ran has surprisingly accurate information about human embryology. The problem with this is that it does not hold up well to investigation by an unbiased student of science and the Qu’ran. Let me explain. The passage Muslim apologists use to claim scientific wisdom is Sura 23:12-14. Below is the Authorized English Translation:
[23:14] Then we developed the drop into a hanging (embryo), then developed the hanging (embryo) into a bite-size (fetus), then created the bite-size (fetus) into bones, then covered the bones with flesh. We thus produce a new creature. Most blessed is GOD, the best Creator.
Is this accurate embryology? It seems that Muhammed believed that the man placed the embryo into the womb. There is no evidence of male and female seed here. This is not good science. Then the embryo(?) develops, presumably in the uterus. It becomes "bite sized," then bones are created, then the bones become covered with flesh. The order is all wrong here. If this is supposed to be accurate, and if it is supposed to be evidence for the inspiration of the Qu’ran, then Muslims ought to be nervous about claims of inspiration.
No, the Qu’ran does not have evidence of inspiration in its description of embryology. In fact, it reflects the false but common human idea that the man deposits the embryo into the woman.
John Oakes, PhD