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Iran’s Position on Evolution? Not What You Might Expect.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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If you had asked me before yesterday what the official Iranian position on evolution was, I would have shrugged my shoulders and said, “skewed?” As such you can imagine my surprise when I found out that Neil Shubin’s popular book, Your Inner Fish, has been translated into Persian:

Persian translation of Your Inner Fish

Persian translation of Neil Shubin's "Your Inner Fish"

And here I must admit: I’m more than a little ignorant on the topic of science education in Iran. According to these recent papers on the subject (here and here), Iran’s science textbooks are relatively untouched by religion, at least compared to its Muslim neighbors. It would seem that Iranians are getting a fairly accurate explanation of what evolution is and how it works. So perhaps it’s not so surprising to see Your Inner Fish in Persian after all.

Further Reading:
Elise K. Barton, the author of the papers above, was kind enough to point me in the direction of several other researchers studying the state of science education in the Muslim world:

Irtiqa: a blog by Salman Hameed, a professor at Hampshire College, that “tracks and comments on news relevant to the interplay of science & religion – with a focus on scientific debates taking place in the Muslim world.”

A forthcoming book by Jorg Matthias Determann, on networks of biology and evolution in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries

Kalliopi Monoyios About the Author: Kalliopi Monoyios is an independent science illustrator. She has illustrated several popular science books including Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within, and Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Find her at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. ErnestPayne 2:55 pm 08/9/2013

    Thanks. The Iranians I have met and known were very cosmopolitan and well educated.

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  2. 2. edarrell 3:27 pm 08/9/2013

    Shubin’s book in Persian? Does that mean it’s read in Iran?

    Inner Fish Translated to Persian” may not be same thing as “evolution taught in Iranian schools.”

    What’s in the textbooks?

    Consider: Shubin’s book was published in the U.S. first, in English. What is Louisiana’s position on evolution in the classroom? Texas’s?

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  3. 3. Amirastro 2:20 pm 08/10/2013

    Not only this book but also many other books on evolution are translated into Persian, even Dawkins’ Blind Watchmaker!
    The biology of grade 6 of Iranian high schools is completely on evolution.

    it is because that the orthodox Shi’a theologians are not against the evolution of animals. they think it is possible to harmonize it with Quran. they are against the evolution of human. how ever recently we see some books on this very subject too!

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  4. 4. David Cummings 9:40 pm 08/10/2013

    I agree with Ernest. Cosmopolitan and well educated… describes the Iranians I have met.

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  5. 5. be234so 3:15 pm 08/12/2013

    Before the revolution, I had many Iranian students in my college biology classes. Not one problem with the issue of evolution vs. religion, and the ones who studied in Iranian high schools seemed to know more than our native students about evolution. I think of all Middle East countries, even with their political belligerence, the Iranians understand the value of science, and don’t mix in religion (unlike many Americans wish to do). After all, look what that’s done to the Arab countries, once leaders in science and math, now woefully under-educated in those areas. Food for thought…are we headed in the same direction?

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  6. 6. bucketofsquid 10:34 am 08/14/2013

    Just as the Christian world ranges from pro-science to knuckle dragging fanatics, the Muslim world also spans a wide range. This should be obvious to anyone that gives it real thought. The Iranian revolution was started by well educated college students. The conflict between Iran and the west is based primarily on the UK and USA conspiring to overthrow the democratically elected government and replace it with the Shah, a fascist dictator. Had Eisenhower not been so corrupt and evil, Iran would likely have been a major trade partner and ally of the USA.

    The Turks have always been fairly pro-science and with the ugly exception of Ataturk, generally very tolerant of others. United Arab Emirates is also a fairly modern Muslim country. If you want a truly backwards Muslim country you should look at Saudi Arabia or Indonesia.

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  7. 7. Eromanga 7:53 pm 08/26/2013

    I have to agree with Ernest and David. It’s been a pleasure to meet the Iranians I have met.

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