This series addresses, from an Islamic perspective, questions raised by people with doubts or people with an atheistic or agnostic inclination. It begins by addressing the concerns of those who believe that faith must be blind because it contradicts the methods and developments of science.
People of faith in God face the very same questions as those who consider themselves agnostic or atheist. Without a solid foundation and convincing responses to these questions, their faith becomes threatened.
QUESTIONS FOR THE ATHEIST
Q #2: IS SCIENCE ENOUGH?
The problem with putting our complete faith in science is that much of it is in a constant state of flux. New ‘scientific’ discoveries are made every day, which modify or negate the implications of previous discoveries. As a simple practical example, look at the non-stop food/diet research. One day we hear something is very good for us. The next, they tell us it is bad for us. It has gotten to the point where we don’t know what to eat anymore. Another example from ‘hard science’: Newtonian Physics assumes time and space are separate and absolute; Einstein presented them as relative to each other; then came the Quantum theory, String theory, etc.
In Biology, Darwin’s Theory of Evolution has undergone successive modifications and name changes as new science continues to invalidate many of its original assumptions and conclusions. Soon, the only thing that will remain recognizable from Darwin’s original theory will be its name. In the subsequent parts of this series, we look extensively into the developments related to the Theory of Evolution as it has become an important crutch for promoting atheism and rejecting Intelligent Design or ‘creationism.’
Even if we could assume that all science is proven, fixed, and 100% accurate, it would still be incomplete. Why?
- Science focuses on natural processes and phenomena, using the observations at hand.
New data, new methods of observation and/or other sources of information (e.g. trusted testimony, innate knowledge, logic, math, deductive argument) can negate established scientific discoveries.
- Science gives all glory to the discoverer of a law or process, and none to its Originator.
As an example: Adam walks into a room and finds a beautiful painting, very precisely executed, with unbelievable symmetry and a brilliant color scheme. When he walks out to tell people about his discovery, everybody is so impressed with Adam for discovering the painting that nobody asks the most critical question: Who painted it?
We are so fascinated with science for discovering the universal laws —which govern this universe and our existence— that we forget to ask Who created these laws. All science does is to discover the operation of existing laws. Scientists did not formulate these laws. The Originator of this universe did.
Why should all the credit go to the discoverer instead of to the Originator ?
John Lennox, Oxford Professor of Mathematics and Fellow in Mathematics and the Philosophy of Science, writes:
When Newton discovered his Law of Gravitation, he did not say, “Now I have gravity, I don’t need God.” Instead, what he did was to write the Principia Mathematica, arguably the most influential book in the history of science, expressing the hope that it would “persuade the thinking man” to believe in God. [ii]
We marvel at Einstein’s brilliance for discovering that the speed of light is constant when we should tremble in awe and reverence of the One who created light!
- God is not a ‘God of the Gaps.’
Some believe that it is just a matter of time before science fills in the gaps in our knowledge, thus putting the final nail in the coffin for religion. They don’t understand that to explain the existence of a limited, emergent, dependent universe we need something completely independent and eternal.
Science can study only those things which can be detected through the physical senses, which means dependent things with limited physical properties. Thus, the existence of the universe can never be explained with science alone. Even the statement “Science is the only way to truth” is not a scientific statement based on empirical observations and proof. [iii]
It is not that we believe in God because we don’t know. Rather, it is because we know that things don’t just pop into existence without a cause, let alone a massive physical universe obeying non-physical laws of mathematics inhabited by creatures with non-physical consciousness.
It is ironic that, while atheists often accuse theists of adopting a “God of the Gaps” argument, some have no compunction in using their inability or unwillingness to see the signs for God – a gap in perception and logic – as proof that He does not exist.
Isn’t this an Atheism of the Gaps?
According to John Lennox, some scientists such as the famous physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking have an inadequate view of God:
…it would seem that he [Hawking] thinks of God as a “God of the Gaps” put forward as an explanation if we don’t yet have a scientific one—hence his conclusion that physics has no room for God as it has removed the last place where He might be found— for the moment of creation. But this is certainly not what any of the great monotheistic religions believe. For them, God is not only to be found at creation; He is the author of the whole show. God both created the universe and constantly sustains it in existence. Without Him, there would be nothing there for physicists to study. In particular, therefore, God is the creator both of the bits of the universe we don’t understand and the bits we do. And it is, of course, the bits we do understand that give the most evidence of God’s existence and activity. Indeed, just as I can admire the genius behind a work of engineering or art, the more I understand it, so my worship of the Creator increases, the more I understand what He has done. [iv]
- Science and faith are not mutually exclusive.
Science, in modern times, is often presented as an alternative to religion. It is like being asked to choose between Thomas Edison and the lightbulb. They are not independent of one another. Does the discovery of an old book not indicate with certainty the existence of its author?
Einstein famously said:
“Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”
Science is promoted as a substitute for religion, a reason to abandon faith. But, in fact, true religion promotes science, elevates knowledge, and praises people of knowledge. The first word of the Quran is ‘Read.’ Many verses in the Quran exalt knowledge and encourage the pursuit of knowledge.
Read: In the name of thy Lord Who created. [Sûrah Al-‘Alaq, 96:1]
God will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge. [Sûrah Al-Mujâdilah, 58:11]
But those who have in-depth knowledge among them are believers in what is revealed unto you and what was revealed before you. [Sûrah Al-Nisâ’, 4:162]
Travel through Earth and observe how He began creation. [Sûrah Al-Ankabut, 29:20]
How can those who know be equal to those who know not? It is only men of understanding who will remember [this]. [Sûrah Al-Zumar, 39:9]
Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) said:
“The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” (Sunan Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 74)
He (ﷺ) also said:
“Whoever follows a path seeking knowledge, God will make his path to paradise easy.” (Sahih Muslim, Book 42, Hadith 7058)
However, true religion doesn’t view science as a collection of dry abstract theories for academic debate and/or industrial application. Instead, religion links science with the greater basic truths about existence and stresses the impact of the beauty and design in this universe on the human heart and mind.
Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and earth, and [in] the alternation of the night and the day, and [in] the [great] ships which sail through the sea with that which benefits people, and [in] what God has sent down from the heavens of rain, giving life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness and dispersing therein every [kind of] moving creature, and [in] [His] directing of the winds and the clouds controlled between the heaven and the earth, [in all these] are signs for a people who use reason. [Sûrah Al-Baqarah, 2:164]
- Science leaves unanswered the questions most significant to a human being.
Science explains how. Religion is needed to explain why anything at all exists and who has the ability and intention to create it. Finding out how the universe works does not invalidate the quest to discover its Creator or the purpose behind its creation.
Science for all its advances still cannot answer the most basic questions presented by a small child:
Where did I come from?
Where am I going to?
To be continued in Part 3…
[iii] Hamza Andreas Tzortzis (2016) The Divine Reality, Revised Edition, FB Publishing, p.109, Paragraph #3.