But thanks to a few conferences he attended back in the 1980s, he is known in parts of the Muslim world as a champion of the doctrine that the Quran, Islam’s holy book, is historically and scientifically correct in every detail. Dr. Simpson now says he made some comments that sound “silly and embarrassing” taken out of context, but no matter: Mideast television shows, Muslim books and Web sites still quote him as saying the Quran must have been “derived from God,” because it foresaw modern discoveries in embryology and genetics.
Dr. Simpson is just one of several non-Muslim scientists who have found themselves caught up in the publicity machine of a fast-growing branch of Islamic fundamentalism.
Dubbed “Bucailleism,” after the French surgeon Maurice Bucaille, who articulated it in an influential 1976 book, the doctrine is in some ways the Muslim counterpart to Christian creationism. But while creationism rejects much of modern science, Bucailleism embraces it. It holds that the Quran prophesied the Big Bang theory, space travel and other contemporary scientific breakthroughs. By the same token, it argues, the Bible makes lots of scientific errors, and so is less reliable as the word of God. Muslims believe the Quran to be God’s revelations to the prophet Muhammad, as told to him by an angel.
Before the planets and stars, modern science has largely concluded, the universe was probably a cloud of dust and gas. The Quran presaged that conclusion in the seventh century, Bucailleists argue, in a text saying Allah “comprehended in his design the sky, and it had been as smoke.” The discovery of black holes in space? Foreseen in the passage, “Heaven is opened and becomes as gates.”
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