0
$\begingroup$

I think most biologists here on this site will not consider my question below to be unfit for posting on Biology SE.

I came across this article about the hadeeth (a hadeeth is a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)) on a fly:

"If a housefly falls in the drink of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the drink), for the one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure of the disease." [Bukhari, vol. 4: 537].

where an attempt is made to show the truthfulness of the hadeeth with an experiment: they dip a fly into water in a petri dish wholly and partially in another petri dish and different kinds of bacteria appear in each petri dish. This experiment is carried out 3 times and results are different in each round. (Please, read that article thoroughly before answering) I want to know biologists' point of view on that experiment, i.e.

Do you believe this hadeeth based on the experiment? (i. e. do you consider it to be pseudoscience or not? If yes, please provide your proofs.)

Can pathogenic bacteria arise in such an impressive quantity in water just by dipping fly into water? If yes, could you explain how?

Do you agree with the notion in the hadeeth 'he should dip it (in the drink)?

Thanks very much for your answers in advance!

$\endgroup$
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ It would be a good idea to summarize the experiment here in the text of your question, rather than just linking to a report of the experiment. $\endgroup$ – De Novo Oct 1 '18 at 22:06
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Please read the guidlines about asking questions on this site. When your question involves asking whether people "believe" in assertions in religious texts (whether or not based on published peer-reviewed work) or agree with notions in religious texts, you are clearly asking a subjective question. Such questions are, I am afraid, most definitely off-topic here. $\endgroup$ – David Oct 2 '18 at 12:02
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think most English speakers would be more likely to understand the spelling "Hadith". That said, it would improve the question if you just explained what the claim in the Hadith is, rather than expecting people to follow links or do research. Even then, I'd expect it to be unsuitable for this site. Perhaps the Skeptics site would accept it? $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Oct 2 '18 at 15:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Martin Klvana: The Hadith aren't really philosophical texts. They are simply people's recollections of the words and actions of Muhammed, collected after his death. See the Wikipedia article as a start: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hadith $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Oct 4 '18 at 17:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Martin Klvana: That is simply not true. There are many, perhaps most, myths which simply aren't true, from the myths about various gods (what we normally think of as myths) to the stories about George Washington and the cherry tree. The Hadith are not myths: the closest modern-day equivalent would be oral history projects. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Oct 6 '18 at 1:45
8
$\begingroup$

Rephrasing your question

Allow me to start by saying that I barely know the term Hadeeth / Hadith mean. Of course I have checked on wikipedia but its definition is vastly unrelated to any concept in science. I think it won't be necessary for me to use this term, I will use a more classical, scientific terminology. As I barely understand the term, I do not really understand your question phrased as

Do you believe this hadeeth based on the experiment?

I can however answer to the questions

Is this document a fair description of a natural phenomenon?

Is this document contribute to our understanding of a scientific phenomenon?

The answer to both of these questions are "absolutely not"!

Lack of methodology and definition of the expectation

The document is extremely unclear, provides a very poor description of the methods and does not provide any suggested interpretation of the results. After reading it several times, I have little idea what the treatments are.

Note that this document is not peer reviewed and does not follow an appropriate format (no introduction, no method section, just a religious quotes, a citation from the Quran and images with a vague legend). It is just a document that someone wrote and uploaded online.

As @BryanKrause perfeclty said in the comment below

[I]n science the burden is on the person making a claim to defend it and provide appropriate support - there is no point in proving a claim true or false if it lacks documentation of the methodology. Being poorly written in terms of lacking adequate description is hardly better than lacking any experiment at all

In short, this document does not make any contribution to our understanding of a natural phenomenon.

The claim is very unlikely to be true

The expectation implicitly suggested to be tested is something like (my own phrasing)

If a fly barely touch (with one wing only) the media, then the media will be full bacteria but if the whole fly (with both wings) touch the media then the media will remain clean.

This expectation is highly unlikely to be true. If it were to be true, it would probably lead to a major revision of our understanding of microbiology or of the biology of flies (whichever species is considered)! Also, there is no reason to expect that in some petri dish only one bacterial species would have invaded, while in another only another bacterial species. Also, the pictures don't really match what the species described IMO. Hence, if the authors claim that this document report the results of a scientific experiment (I am not saying they make this claim), then I very much think this is a case of scientific dishonesty or at least a case of very poor understanding of how to perform a scientific experiment.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ I used the term 'Hadeeth' meaning a 'saying'. I agree that the document is poorly written (lacks description). $\endgroup$ – Anti-American Anti-Zionist Oct 1 '18 at 19:17
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Tug'Tegin It is not only an issue of the phrasing however. Please consider reading my edited answer. $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Oct 1 '18 at 19:30
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @Tug'Tegin An important part of this answer that isn't made completely explicit is that in science the burden is on the person making a claim to defend it and provide appropriate support - there is no point in proving a claim true or false if it lacks documentation of the methodology. Being poorly written in terms of lacking adequate description is hardly better than lacking any experiment at all. $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Oct 1 '18 at 21:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ While I sometimes wish I could down vote some comments, I would wish I can double upvote @BryanKrause comment! $\endgroup$ – Remi.b Oct 1 '18 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ I wish there were more people like Abdus Salam among Muslims. $\endgroup$ – Anti-American Anti-Zionist Oct 2 '18 at 2:47
2
$\begingroup$

Diseases and infections carried by house flies include, but are not limited to:

  • typhoid
  • cholera
  • dysentery
  • salmonella
  • anthrax
  • transmission of the eggs of parasitic worms

Of these, exactly zero have been shown to be cured or in any way influenced by flies in a positive sense.

And, of these, exactly zero have proposed mechanisms (however outlandish the claim) of treating or curing any one of the above-mentioned diseases.

To paraphrase, there does not exist a hypothesis, nor an experiment, nor evidence for the claim. It is entirely and scientifically unsubstantiated.

$\endgroup$
  • $\begingroup$ On a less scientific note: it's clearly and demonstrably unwise to assume that there is any prescient scientific validity in this claim. It reads and sounds like a metaphor, perhaps somewhat along the lines of what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Taking metaphors literally is a very erroneous mistake to make, and unfortunately this error is a dead giveaway of exactly how shallow and uninspired one's interpretation of a religious text is. I don't think it's unreasonable to say that such an interpretation today would be a bastardization of the text. My two cents! $\endgroup$ – S Pr Oct 5 '18 at 15:39
0
$\begingroup$

"If a housefly falls in the drink of anyone of you, he should dip it (in the drink), for the one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure of the disease."

The quoted text above is not meant literally(!), it is a metaphor, the figure of speech in which a name or descriptive term is transferred to some object different from, but analogous to, that to which it is properly applicable.

Kid-friendly metaphor: "The classroom was a zoo." Does it make sense to perform an experiment aimed at determining number of monkeys, zebras, elephants, dolphins, . . . in the classroom? (No, it doesn't).

Further reading: writings on metaphysics and theory of art by Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy. There one can learn about what "figure of speech" is and why it is used in philosophical/theological texts.

$\endgroup$
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ We do not know, at least without more information which I haven't been able to find (I don't read Classical Arabic, and so must depend on translations posted on the web) whether this was meant as a metaphor, or as a simple statement of fact. I've found two hadith that contain the statement about the fly, Al-Bukhari and Ibn Maj’ah. Both seem to be simple statements, but the translations I've found lack context. It could be something philosophically profound, or as fundamentally ignorant as today's anti-vaxers or the dietary restrictions of Leviticus. Who can tell? $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Oct 4 '18 at 17:14
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf (1) When the information is limited, apply Occam's razor---if applied skillfully, it works instantly and most of the time; (2) yes, the text can be interpreted in both profound (wise) and profane (ignorant) way---which of the two is the primary one if myth is a device for storing and transmitting wisdom? $\endgroup$ – user37894 Oct 5 '18 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ But a myth isn't that. If we apply Occam's razor, the result is rather rude. Muhammed was an Arab tribesman, blessed with charisma and imagination, but woefully ignorant of microbiology and the mechanisms of disease transmission and treatment. So his pronouncement, by Occam's Razor, is on the same level as the many folk remedies for baldness, such as Hippocrates' "cure" rubbing the scalp with a mixture of opium, horseradish, pigeon droppings &c. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Oct 6 '18 at 1:53
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Good luck. $\endgroup$ – user37894 Oct 7 '18 at 12:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.