THE AGE OF SCIENCE AND RELIGION—PART II
Development of scientific knowledge has made it possible for religious beliefs to be established at exactly the same level of certainty at which other things of this material world are established. Science has now replaced the miracles of ancient times as evidence to prove the veracity of religion.
SEVERAL examples show how modern science has replaced miracles of ancient times. Religious beliefs and theological facts presented before people (the prophets' contemporaries) through miracles, may now be presented through established human knowledge. Today a dayee (one who calls people towards God) is not required to perform miracles to verify his message. Rather he has to provide proofs for his message in terms of established scientific knowledge.
The Existence of God
The first question relates to the proof of God’s existence. Earlier, belief in God was a matter of conviction. Modern science provides proof of the existence of God, at least potentially, if not actually.
The existence of design in this world proves the existence of a designer
—this is as valid an argument as other scientific arguments of the material world
The focus of science is not God or the existence of the Creator. Its focus is the study of nature or creation. In the initial stage, it was held that all things had known causes and that is why there was no reason to study the Creator (the Cause of the causes). But detailed scientific study has shown that innumerable events are taking place in the universe every moment. There are numerous options before nature at every stage. Nature, on each occasion, selects only the most appropriate one.
This has compelled scientists to believe that there is an intelligent mathematical mind behind this universe. Such appropriate functioning of nature cannot be explained without believing in the existence of a superior intelligence behind nature. To quote a scientist: “The stuff of the world is mind-stuff.”
The Big Bang Theory
It was commonly held that belief in God meant the acceptance of the eternity of God whereas we have no direct knowledge of this. The universe is a known and observable thing. Why should we not regard the universe as eternal instead of regarding God as eternal? The Big Bang theory has shown that the hypothesis of an eternal universe is no longer credible.
The Nobel Prize for physics was jointly awarded to two American Professors, John C. Mather and George F. Smoot. Both worked on the theory of the Big Bang (formulated initially in the first quarter of the 20th century) and published a book based on their researches. NASA had sent the rocket Cosmic Background Explorer into space in 1989 to study cosmic background radiation emitted at the time of the Big Bang and to send its photos back to earth. The information received has thrown fresh light on the theory of the Big Bang, lending strong support. It has helped pinpoint the age of the universe and supported the Big Bang being the cause of its birth. The Big Bang took place 13 billion years ago and shows that the universe had its beginning in a great explosion. Scientists have continued to work on this theory, firmly establishing it in the scientific world.
The theory of the Big Bang is of great significance to theology. It proves that the universe is not eternal, that it was created at a certain point in time through a big explosion. All this could not have happened accidentally and proves that some external factor was required to cause it. It provides strong logical support to the theory that this universe has been created by a Creator.
Freedom and Predestination
The universe has been so constructed that it offers a physical demonstration of truth. To a deep thinker, all the invisible truths become understandable at the visible level. Black Holes are such examples. The concept of the Black Hole makes the delicate relationship of the preordaining of destiny and human freedom quite understandable.
The German astronomer, Karl Schwarzschild predicted by inference in 1916 that there might exist huge stars in space whose gravity might be so strong that it even prevents their light from escaping. Such huge stars in space remain invisible to man, since man can see objects only through the medium of light. Astronomers agreed on the possible existence of such stars, calling them ‘Black Holes.’
Whether man’s actions are predestined or he has freedom of choice, apparently man finds himself free in this world. But when God is allPowerful, it seems unthinkable that man could have total freedom.
This objection is illogical. If God is the Possessor of all Power He surely possesses the power to set a limit on His Power at certain points. God might stop His power temporarily for some reason. This inference is apparently a theoretical one. But the discovery of black holes has confirmed this inference through demonstration.
At an international conference of physicists, James Watson Cronin, a Nobel prize winning physicist, presented a paper in which he discussed how 96 per cent of our universe is composed of dark matter. Dark matter cannot be detected directly, because it does not emit radiation or reflect light. James Watson further said that we think we understand the universe, but we only understand four per cent of it.
The Quran—Word of God
The Quran is a preserved divine book. The very first verses of the Quran include these words: “There is no doubt in it” (2: 2). Which means that it is a Divine book and there is no doubt about it. The Quran declared that it was a book of guidance for all mankind and for all time.
To support this claim, it was essential that the events of later times continued to testify to it. No such event should take place in later times as might refute this statement. This claim has astonishingly lived up to this standard.
Modern science provides proof of the existence of God,
at least potentially, if not actually.
One example of the above claim is in the chapter 10 of the Quran which states that God drowned Ramasses II of Egypt in the 15th century BC, for he had denied Moses, the Prophet of God. At that time God said to him: “We shall save your body this day, so that you may serve as a sign for those who come after you” (10: 92). This verse of the Quran was revealed in the first quarter of the 7th century, referring to an event which took place two thousand years before that. There was no printing press, no communications, and no record in known history of Pharaoh’s body. People had even forgotten this event. No one knew at that time that the Pharaoh’s body was going to come to light one day and would testify to the authenticity of this verse of the Quran. A thousand years after this revelation, scientists in the latter half of the 19th century figured a way to determine the period to which ancient objects belonged. Further progress encouraged a great spirit of inquiry among the people. In every field people became active in discovering things that had remained hidden for centuries.
This spirit led scholars of Western Europe to head for Egypt. They began their research on the pyramids situated near Cairo. After concentrated efforts, they discovered that the pyramids contained the earthly remains of ancient Egyptian kings preserved in the form of mummies. With special care these mummies were taken out so that research could be done on them.
During these investigations, astonishingly, the body of the Pharaoh was found inside one of the pyramids. It was identified as the body of the Pharaoh who had been Moses’ contemporary. It was predicted in the Quran 1400 years ago that this will come to the knowledge of man at some future date.
The Big Bang theory has shown that the hypothesis
of an eternal universe is no longer credible.
This is clear proof that the Quran is a book of that God Who has knowledge of all things. In His wisdom, He revealed this verse in the Quran. This discovery is a scientific testimony of the Quran as a divine revelation.
Dr.Maurice Bucaille of France (d. 1998) travelled to Egypt with his companions in 1975 and directly observed this preserved body in the museum of Cairo. After a full verification he wrote a book on this subject in which he stated:
Those who seek among modern data for proof of the veracity of the Holy Scriptures, will find a magnificent illustration of verses of the Quran dealing with the Pharaoh’s body by visiting the Royal Mummies Room of the Egyptian Museum, Cairo!
Prophets—Messengers of God
One of the basic religious beliefs is ‘prophet hood’—that God sent prophets for man’s guidance in every age, the last in the chain of prophets being Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Abdul Muttalib. These prophets were sent because man cannot discover guiding principles for his life from his own mind. That is why man needed to believe in God’s prophets and receive guidance from them.
The guidance Prophet Muhammad received from God has been fully preserved in its original form. The first revelation the Prophet of Islam received, forms part of the chapter titled Al-Alaq (No. 96) of the Quran. God said: “Read! Your Lord is the Most Bountiful One Who taught by the pen, taught man what he did not know.” (96: 3-5)
This is a declaration that man cannot find guidance on his own. In fields like agriculture, horticulture, engineering, etc., man gains knowledge through experience in his daily life. But the superior knowledge required for man’s eternal guidance cannot be attained by man’s own efforts. It is necessary to receive higher learning through prophetic guidance.
Scholars agree that the domain of science is limited only to the knowledge of things.
The knowledge of truth is beyond the sphere of science.
The objective of all the great philosophers of ancient times was to discover guiding principles to govern human life. Despite great efforts made by great minds over several thousand years, philosophy has not produced any guidance of this nature. It is a fact that the efforts of philosophers have created confusion rather than any clear guidance.
Karl Marx’s (d. 1883) book on the failure of philosophy titled The Poverty of Philosophy, was written from this viewpoint. It is generally true that philosophic thinking, based entirely on reason, has failed to provide eternal guiding principles. This ended the age of philosophy after the emergence of modern science. Philosophy is now considered a historical discipline rather than a living discipline.
The same was the case with mysticism. The mystic philosophers believed that they could attain the higher truth through contemplation and love, without the medium of human reason, or recourse to any other external source.
The history of mysticism spans several thousand years. Many have wanted to learn the truth through mysticism, but after long experience found that what man finally attains through mysticism is ecstasy. But in the matter of truth ecstasy has no importance.
The highlight of human existence is consciousness, or the mind. The successful seeker of truth finds it at the level of the mind, or consciousness, and not at the level of ecstasy. Ecstasy is a state of unawareness which is given the beautiful name of ecstasy, a trancelike condition. But Truth is about discovering the higher reality at the level of consciousness.
A material analogy is the electric bulb and the powerhouse. The bulb in its inactivated state is a lightless object. With no inherent light, it lacks the innate ability to give light to others. But when connected to the powerhouse, it immediately lights up, becomes bright, giving light to others. This exemplifies the criterion for discovering truth. Finding the truth is like consciously finding a light. Mysticism does not fulfil this criterion; its pursuit leads to abstraction.
It has to be conceded that man cannot discover the necessary
knowledge of truth through his own efforts and requires external guidance.
For a conscious being like man, an unawakened mind cannot realise the Higher Reality of God. God can be realised only through a developed mind. Science has the last word in this matter. Modern science has undoubtedly given man many things from telecommunication to consumer goods. But in the matter of truth, science has made it clear that the discovery of truth is not its domain.
A Western scholar has rightly said that the field of knowledge is vast, and can be classified as—knowledge of things and knowledge of truth. Scholars agree that the domain of science is limited only to the knowledge of things. The knowledge of truth is beyond the sphere of science. Science is not even a candidate for the position of purveyor of truth.
The study of man tells that deeper knowledge is required to determine how to lead life in this world. This has been dealt with in detail by Alexis Carrel in his book, Man the Unknown. It has to be conceded that man cannot discover this necessary knowledge through his own efforts and requires external guidance. Studying the life of the Prophet, we learn that without doubt, the Prophet is the man who is our real guide and God’s representative. o
This is the concluding part of the article ‘The Age of Science & Religion’. Part I of this article appeared in the September 2015 issue of SPIRIT OF ISLAM.