On the surface, this claim seems to be falsifiable. That is, it seems that Muslims are giving us an argument that we can test by examining Muhammad’s claims and seeing whether they are scientifically accurate. However, just as we learned when we examined the “Argument from Perfect Preservation,” there is usually no real way to falsify Muslim claims, for any evidence that would falsify the claims is either thrown out or radically reinterpreted by Muslims.
The tactic employed by Muslim apologists is (1) to read a simple passage from the Qur’an or Hadith, (2) to twist and stretch the interpretation as far their imaginations will take them, (3) to insert a bunch of scientific terminology into the interpretation, and (4) to proclaim that there is absolutely no way an illiterate, seventh-century leader could have revealed all these scientific insights without the help of God. After hearing such arguments, Muslims typically stand in awe. Others stand there wondering, “Where did the passage say that?”
Consider what happens when a non-Muslim attempts to examine Muhammad’s claims. He opens the Qur’an and reads Surah 86, which declares that semen proceeds from an area between the ribs and the spine. Surely this would falsify the Muslim argument, wouldn’t it? Not at all! Our Muslim friends reply that, since the cells that ultimately form the genitals are a bit higher up during embryological development, there is nothing wrong with Muhammad’s claim (despite the fact that Muhammad clearly wasn’t talking about embryological development). Hence, a passage which is so clear that it should automatically falsify the Muslim claim turns out to be no problem whatsoever.
What does the Qur’an say about embryological development? According to 22:5, 23:12-14, 40:67, and 75:37-39, humans go through a blood clot stage in the womb. Since the developing embryo is never a blood clot, don’t we have a rather obvious scientific error here? “No!” replies the Muslim. “Since the fetus kind of looks like a clot of blood, the Qur’anic description is accurate.” Once again, a clear error presents no problem at all for the Muslim.
We can go on and on with scientific errors in the Muslim sources. For instance, Surah 18:86 tells us that Alexander the Great traveled so far west, he found the place where the sun sets (it sets in a pool of murky water). Surah 67:5 and the Hadith tell us that stars are missiles that God uses to shoot demons when they try to sneak into Heaven (note: when we see shooting stars, it’s because God became angry and hurled a star at a demon). In Sahih al-Bukhari, Number 3320, Muhammad tells his followers that, if a fly falls into their drink, they should dunk the fly in the drink, since one of the fly’s wings has a disease, while the other wing has the cure for the disease.” According to both Sahih al-Bukhari, Number 3326, and Sahih Muslim, Number 6809, Muhammad told his followers that Adam was 90 feet tall, and that people have been shrinking since the time of Adam. In Sunan Abu Dawud, Number 67, we read about a situation in which some Muslims needed water. They asked Muhammad whether it was okay to use water from the well of Buda’ah, which was filled with dead dogs, used menstrual cloths, and human excrement. Muhammad replied, “Truly, water is clean and is not defiled by anything.”
Wouldn’t these and other passages disconfirm the Muslim claim that Muhammad’s miraculous scientific insights prove that Islam is true? Apparently not. Indeed, when we examine Muslim responses to Muhammad’s scientific errors, we find that Muhammad could have said virtually anything, no matter how absurd, and Muslims would accept it without question. I call this the “Miracle of Reinterpretation.”
In order to believe in the scientific accuracy of the Qur’an and the Hadith, we must be willing to reinterpret anything that is scientifically false. But surely it is unreasonable for Muslims to expect us to interpret Muhammad’s statements in the most favorable light imaginable, especially when his reliability as a prophet is what we’re investigating. The Argument from Scientific Accuracy is meant to prove that Muhammad was a true prophet, but in order to prove their point, Muslims have to assume that Muhammad was a true prophet and that he therefore couldn’t have made any errors. This makes the Muslim method of scriptural interpretation a classic example of circular reasoning. A short discussion of the argument might go something like this:
Muslim: “There is only one God, and Muhammad is his prophet!”
Questioner: “I have my doubts about that second part. Why should I accept it?”
Muslim: “You should accept the fact that Muhammad is God’s prophet because Muhammad said that he was God’s prophet!”
Questioner: “You’re assuming that everything Muhammad says was true, but how can I know that?”
Muslim: “You can know it because of the amazing scientific accuracy of the Qur’an!”
Questioner: “But what about stellar missiles that hit demons, the sun setting in the ocean, and man forming from a blood-clot? What about all these passages?”
Muslim: “Those passages have to be reinterpreted!”
Questioner: “But why should we reinterpret them? Muhammad didn’t say that he was using figurative language when he said those things. Indeed, he seems to take them quite literally.”
Muslim: “Muhammad couldn’t have meant those verses to be taken literally.”
Questioner: “Why not?”
Muslim: “Because he’s God’s greatest prophet, and a prophet would never believe such things!”
The problem with the Muslim methodology is that it could be used to prove that any ancient figure was a prophet of God, especially when many ancients made claims which, unlike Muhammad’s, actually were scientifically accurate. For instance, Thales of Miletus was able to predict a solar eclipse in 585 B.C. One could use this to argue that he must have been inspired by God. However, Thales also proclaimed that everything is composed of water, an idea that now seems absurd. Nevertheless, by employing Islam’s Miracle of Reinterpretation, we can justify just about any scientific theory in history. For instance, if I were to use Muslim tactics in defending Thales’ position that everything is made of water, I could make the following argument:
The Prophet Thales claimed that everything is made of water. That’s obviously not true, but Thales was a prophet, so he couldn’t have been wrong. So what could he have meant? Well, consider the composition of water. It is made of hydrogen and oxygen. Most of the mass in the universe is in the form of hydrogen, and all living things use oxygen in some way. Thus, we have in Thales’ statement a full description of the universe--the non-living, predominantly hydrogen part, and the living, oxygen-using part! But how could Thales have known these things unless God revealed them to him? Truly this man must be a prophet!
This sort of reasoning will seem comical to anyone who isn’t a committed Muslim, but for some reason, it is almost universally accepted as valid in the Islamic world.
Here we must ask ourselves: What is the difference between the Qur’an (which contains many scientific errors that can only be avoided by resorting to the most absurd reinterpretations) and any other seventh-century book (which will probably contain many scientific errors that can only be avoided by resorting to the most absurd reinterpretations)? As far as the texts are concerned, there’s no difference at all. They both contain scientific errors. The only reason the texts are viewed differently is that Muslims will do anything to reinterpret the errors in their holy book.
Thus, the claim that the Muslim sources are scientifically accurate (much like the claim that the Qur’an has been perfectly preserved) is completely, utterly, totally meaningless. Since the “scientific accuracy” of the Qur’an is no different from the scientific inaccuracy of any other book, Muslims who say that science confirms Islam are really saying, “If you examine the Qur’an, you'll see that it contains only true scientific statements, provided you’re willing to radically reinterpret all the obviously scientifically false statements.” But isn't this true of any book? Of course it is. Hence, unless Muslims are willing to grant that every book in history that has ever offered a scientifically true or false statement is revealed by God, they should stop offering unfalsifiable claims as evidence for Islam.