PZ Myers vs Islamists on Embryology

Last weekend was the International Atheist Convention in Dublin, and it was great! I saw old friends, met tons of new friends, and enjoyed this pleasant interaction between PZ Myers and a group of Muslim men, in which they attempt to convince him that the science in the Qu’ran is accurate:

This conversation was in progress for at least 10 minutes before I pulled out my camera, but here are the final 15 minutes before we all went back inside to watch the amazing Maryam Namazie, who told one of these Islamists to “sit down and shut up because I’m not finished speaking.” Later at lunch she told me that she always tells Muslim Islamist [ED: Maryam clarifies this distinction in the comments below!] men at her talks to shut up, even if they’re not talking, because many have no idea how to respond to a woman being that aggressive toward them.

In this conversation, the Muslim men are arguing that the Qu’ran contains accurate scientific information that could only have been known via revelation. Note that at the beginning of the conversation, they do not know that PZ Myers is an embryologist.

YouTuber AronRa jumps in near the middle of the video.

Here’s the Islamic explanation of how embryos form (bones first, then flesh).

Here’s a substantial refutation to Professor Moore and comparison to Aristotle’s explanation on embryo formation.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. Ow, that’s hurty.

    On the plus side, I’m bookmarking this for the next time someone accuses PZ of insulting his opponents and attacking individuals. Look at him while dealing with this nonsense. He is calm, pleasant and respectful the whole time when I think most people would be getting quite upset. Even Aron Ra who is using strong language and is acting stridently yet the whole time he’s being respectful and avoiding any personal insults.

    Frankly I think many people wouldn’t be so patient.

  2. I actually think this is a totally reasoned debate, and I think that the Muslim debaters are being very respectful and engaging. Obviously, the Muslims are wrong, but they are following the basic rules of debate. This is also a difficult debate because it relies on textual evidence which neither sides actually has at their disposal.

    PZ should have just pointed out that for the Quran to be “right” it would need to make falsifiable predictions.

    Aron Ra is being kind of annoying, from an intellectual standpoint.

  3. Good video. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never seen PZ in action. I think it’s brave and perhaps a little brash for two Muslims to approach an Atheist at an Atheist convention. Their whole debate against PZ (who didn’t seem to even break a sweat when faced with two people sometimes talking over eachother to try to get the last word) lacked critical thinking, although it didn’t lack persistence. It seemed to me a string of informantion about the Qur’an, which they tried to twist to prove (after the fact) that their religion is correct. Is that some kind of religious confirmation bias?

  4. You just gotta love how they give one interpretation of the Qur’an, you demonstrate that they are wrong, and they change their interpretation!

    Here, let me save you some time. I have invented a new language I will call Q (for 10 points, why is it called Q?). This language has only one word (??) which has ALL meanings AND it can be read recursively! (so “??” also reads “?? ??”, and “?? ?? ??”, etc). For notational convenience you can also use an integer. 42, HAHAHAHA! Man that was a funny joke [see how powerful this language is? I bet most of you even GOT the joke]

    This document “ ?? ”, now has ALL MEANINGS and therefore contains ALL Truths. WOW, isn’t that amazing! Now, if ONLY you knew how to interpret it!

    For 15 points, what are the two symbols used?

    1. I had a friend in college who was an ex-surfer from San Pedro. He taught me the language Surfer, which has one word: Really. That’s it. Really.

  5. I think there was an attempt to be respectful and engaging in this debate. However, the gloating and constant interruption on the part of the two Muslims was off-putting.

    Thank you for the links, I found them interesting reading.

  6. The debate was ok but like what was said before it had a lot of text book info that is really hard to refute in a setting like that. It is better to debate in a form for that kind of thing to get any real traction. Unless you have biblical or in this case Koranic knowledge it is hard to pull this off and I think PZ did an admirable job considering. I don’t mind arguing my point to theist but it is hard to steer the debate away from this type of debate. At least I have a hard time doing it.

  7. What Hamza Tzortzis and Adnan Rashid are doing there has absolutely nothing to do with respect. They are trying to *appear* respectful while in fact they do not have the slightest bit of respect for their opponents and their arguments. They engage aggressively behind a smile, destroy every approach of a reasonable discussion by arbitrarily switching semantic levels and have the only intent to get something they can exploit for their own agenda. My biggest respects to PZ Meyers and Aron Ra for not getting provoked here and demonstrating that “you cannot reason people out of a position they have not reasoned themselves into” – I think this was the absolute maximum to get out of that situation.

  8. I am in awe of how ‘strident’ PZ was during this ‘debate’.
    Oh, wait! It was the OTHER side that was strident. I would have lost my patience long before the end of this conversation.

  9. Hi Rebecca, good meeting you at the conference. It was brilliant. For those who may be interested, here is my speech and a video of my discussions with the audience including Islamists there: BTW what I said was that I like to tell Islamists to stop interrupting me and to sit down (you can see that on the video here: That is because they are used to silencing opponents and women in particular. I never said that I like to do that to ‘Muslim’ men. A lot of what I do and say tries to distinguish between Muslims and Islamists. I am opposed to Islamists and the Islamic movement and also despise identification by religion and ethnicity and so on so would never label people in that way. Anyway thought it best to clarify. warmest wishes, MAryam

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