Ideas & Philosophy — 19 September 2011
Paxman and Dawkins – Evangelising Militant Atheism

On 13th September 2011, BBC Newsnight aired a conversation between Jeremy Paxman and Professor Richard Dawkins discussing Dawkins’ new book, ‘The Magic of Reality’. The programme seemed to offer Dawkins an almost unchallenged platform to proselytise his position whilst holding the semblance of a debate. When Paxman did ‘challenge’ Dawkins it was on the very weak propositions that religious narratives offered more comfort than scientific ones and better stories.

Throughout the interview both guest and host smirked at each other’s derisory comments about “religious hogwash”, even going as far as to say on national television that Christians who believed literally in the Bible were “stupid”. Sadly, this barely concealed mockery did very little to enlighten viewers on what should have been a stimulating topic about the roles of myth, allegory and rationality in the beliefs people carry.

But apart from showing that atheists are capable of being every bit as intolerant as religious people are usually accused of being, it was also interesting insofar as it contained some examples that illustrate that Dawkins’ brand of ‘militant atheism’ bears the same hall mark of ‘blind faith’ that he and Paxman derided during the programme.

Most striking was the use of the word ‘science’, which was frequently interchanged with the word ‘fact’ and ‘truth’ without any critical challenge and remained ill defined during the conversation.

The term ‘science’ can reasonably be used to refer to observations of the natural universe – sometimes using the most sophisticated technology – and it may be that these observations are indeed held to be indisputable fact.

But in its most generic sense, ‘science’ also includes theories about the natural universe that are subjected to empirical testing, which then form a matter for critical analysis and debate. For the most part the conclusions of these debates are not considered indisputable facts but matters of opinion or speculation, depending upon the strength of the evidence of the testing – as well as the strength of competing ideas.

Dawkins used the two interchangeably, so presenting ‘opinions’ and ‘theories’ as ‘truth’ and ‘fact’, which is something objective scientists do not usually do. And Paxman seemed to suspend critical reasoning and accept the views put to him by one of secular atheisms foremost ‘high priests’ (though thankfully he didn’t fawn quite as much he did during an interview with that other famous militant atheist Christopher Hitchens).

Lay people often back away from challenging any form of ‘high priest’ – religious or scientific – for fear of appearing foolish, heretical and ignorant of the mysteries they propound. Which might explain why hidden irony often slips past most observers: Dawkins’ views on the origins of life on earth are themselves based on blind faith.

Scientific theories about the origins of the Universe, life on earth and humanity all have varying degrees of evidence to support them. But none of these theories can claim indisputable proofs – and few scientists would be so bold as to claim this.

But, importantly, when evidence to support different aspects of the various theoretical propositions does emerge, it invariably leads to further questions that require evidential proof in order to be answered.

Dawkins et al would not only have us believe that theories of evolution are ‘fact’ and ‘the truth’. They also believe that whilst all the answers have not yet emerged, they will eventually be answered by science over in time.

This may or may not be true. But they prophesise that there will come one greater than them – whose test tubes they are not fit to wash – who will answer these unanswered questions. In other words, they have ‘faith’ in science akin to faith they criticise in the religious people who accept what their priests tell them without concrete proof.

Paxman introduced the discussion by saying that religions have tried for years to impress myths, fables and fairy stories upon the minds of children; and Professor Dawkins was offering a ‘counterblast of fact’. His book is aimed at the over-12s. But less than two weeks before the Newsnight programme the media reported that he wanted 5 year olds to be taught the basics of evolution. Of course, he might not consider ‘indoctrination’ to present theories as facts to young minds incapable of differentiating between the two – but many others might differ.

Science has undoubtedly led to us understanding uncounted things that were misunderstood in the past; and no doubt in future it will continue to do the same. But to present a discussion in such a manner that suggests scientific proof is the only proof is false; just as it would be to suggest no religious beliefs are established in rational proofs.

The programme confined itself to a criticism of Judeo-Christian beliefs, which was unsurprising since western European societies have much to owe to this tradition – a fact acknowledged by both men. Yet it seemed clear that both presenter and guest had a general view of religious teachings as myth – equating them with fairy stories and tales of Father Christmas.

This one-dimensional presentation of religion does little to generate an enlightened discussion. Some religious people, for example Muslims, will argue their beliefs are based on rational proofs – a matter that will be addressed later. Some Christians will also argue rational proofs to aspects of their faith, and may hold their Bible to contain true messages, whilst not taking every word to be literally true. Other Christians do hold a literal belief in what is mentioned in their Bible. This acceptance of faith without proof is for them a devout pillar of their faith, and something rationalists might understandably question. The programme made no differentiation between these differing views between and within religions. Indeed they all ‘religion’ per se with disrespect, bordering on contempt.

Rational thought is based on an observation of facts and realities – whether or not they are derived from empirical methods – as distinct to a scientific approach that relies on the testing of hypotheses.

The beliefs of Muslims are built upon observations of numerous realities that provoke thought and lead to rational conclusions. This is the way that countless people have embarked upon a path to belief in the Islamic creed for centuries. Indeed, it is extremely uncommon to hear of ‘supernatural’ or spiritual events – like the ‘Damascene conversion’ – that lead to people embracing Islam. It is usually belief based upon conviction in the Islamic creed – i.e. people become convinced through a process of thinking – and not infrequently against their own emotional bias.

Even those born into Muslim households ultimately find themselves convinced by a rational approach, because the Quran repeatedly enjoins human beings to look, reflect, and think: about the Sun, Moon and stars; about the earth, skies and seas; about animals and plants; about the rain, thunder and lightning; about complexity of our hands and fingers; about the diversity on the planet; about mountains and earthquakes; about embryonic and foetal development, and sexual reproduction generally; about the mystery of sleep; about time. There are specific Quranic verses that mention all these matters in ways that have provoked thought.

Observation about these things and many others can lead to a few definitive conclusions. All material things have limits: they cannot emerge from nothing, they do not last indefinitely, and nothing is entirely independent of everything else. These are matters that apply as much to a grape as they do to a star. To subsequently conclude that all matter must is therefore created by something other than itself is not irrational but completely rational.

Indeed, to deny this and suppose that matter can emerge from nothing – that is, not even an empty space – would be irrational and nonsensical without some compelling proof – for which none exists.

This is the most basic point of rational inquiry that underpins Islamic belief, but by no means the only one. Many people of other faiths, who do not know or accept other aspects of Islam’s rational creed, share this understanding; which is why many scientists over the centuries have had no problem reconciling belief in a creator with their scientific understanding of the universe.

Yet, this is such a fundamental issue in Islam that a Muslim who does not undertake rational inquiry at some level would have neglected a much-repeated Quran command. It is this process of thinking used by the Bedouin who concludes that footprints in the sand indicate that someone or something had been there before; just as it is the same process explained great Muslim thinkers in the past who wrote long treatise on the subject – or indeed by Aristotle, Aquinas and others.

Much of the debate about evolution, the big bang and other origin theories distract from – but do not contradict – this most basic point. The most arrogant of critics of religion even seem to deliberately obfuscate the issue – which if it were understood more clearly would lead to the questions being about process and not about creation and origination.

It is true that when people try to deduce more about the nature of that which created matter – or about other aspects of religious doctrine – without the sufficient information and proofs, it can lead to (at best) speculation or (at worse) nonsensical conclusions. But this does cannot take away from the fundamental and extremely rational idea that things cannot just come into existence from nothing.

The observation of the universe and all it contains – using scientific methods, the latest technology or just by using the senses alone – can lead one to sense the real magic of reality. It can deepen faith and belief in a creator – and instill a profound awe and humility when one contemplates one’s place in existence.

 

Dr. Abdul Wahid is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy and Prospect magazine. He can be followed on Twitter @abdulwahidht or emailed at abdulwahid@newcivilisation.com

 

For further reading on this subject please see:

Rationality, religion and atheism – By Uthman Badar http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/42672.html

Life: So Much to Lose – By Dr A Robin  http://www.newcivilisation.com/index.php/main/newciv/back_issue/spring_04/full_article/27/P0/0

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(12) Readers Comments

  1. A proof of The Creator’s existance that makes sense to me:
    —————————————————————–

    Angels and horses with wings seemed a bit far fetched for me.

    Therefore i looked for an explanation of reality that would
    satisfy my mind.

    The Theory of Evolution claimed to be that explanation.

    The problem is the Theory of Evolution also seemed a bit far
    fetched to my mind.

    A hurricane blows through a junkyard and creates a Boeing 747?

    I think not.

    The idea of life occuring by accident just didn’t make sense.

    Here is how i think of it now:

    I believe the Theory of Evolution can work… in a computer
    simulation or mathematical model.

    However, in the REAL world it cannot work.

    Imagine a group of chimpanzees sat in front of typewriters.
    What are the chances of a chimpanzee “accidently” typing out
    the complete works of Shakespeare?

    Now, in a computer simulation it takes about a

    million, million, million, million, million, million

    years to produce ONE SINGLE LINE of Shakespeare by a fluke.

    That is a timescale so vast that the entire history of the
    Universe “from the Big Bang, until all the stars burn out”

    (at a guestimate about 30 billion years)

    is just 1 second!

    BUT

    That is a computer simulation.

    It is NOT reality.

    In REALITY “how are you going to get the chimpanzees to sit on
    the chairs?”

    My niece is about 1 years old. Her brain is about the same power
    as a chimpanzee brain.

    After 10 minutes sat in front of a keyboard she gets bored.
    She pushes away the keyboard.

    THERE IS NO WAY that a room full of chimpanzees is going to spend
    the hours required to type the complete works of Shakespeare, in
    front of the typewriters.

    The chimpanzees would probably smash the keys in frustration. They
    might throw the typewriters at each other. Other chimps would
    probably do “more interesting stuff” in the corner.

    Chimps have better things to do.

    Human intervention is not allowed. It would contaminate the experiment.

    Also if humans strap down the chimps then animal rights activists
    will say the it is cruelty to animals.

    There would be massive political pressure on the experiment.
    Are chimpenzees not an endangered species?

    Insurance rates would go through the roof.

    Eventually the experiment would be shut down for political reasons.
    Even if it carried on, for how long?

    1 year?

    10 years?

    We need a million, million, million, million, million, million years
    FOR ONE LINE of Shakepeare by accident!

    By that time,

    * the chimpanzees would be extinct
    * life on earth would be extinct
    * the earth would be swallowed up by the sun
    * the sun itself would burn out
    * all the stars in the universe would burn out

    and all of this time would be like a second on our billion quadrillion
    year timescale

    My point is:

    In the REAL world, all sorts of things would “go wrong” or “not work”
    which means that the chance of life occuring by chance is in fact

    ZERO.

    Not just “very unlikely” but actually,

    ZERO.

    NIL.

    So to cut a long story short, if there is no PHYSICAL explanation then
    what?

    That leaves a Super-physical explanation.

    The Creator exists.

    ————————————————-

    Ok, so why the Quran?

    Simply put no human can author anything like it.

    The human brain simply does not have the “production possibility”
    to create a Quran.

    Imagine a car with 1 litre (or 1000cc) engine.

    Now imagine 10 (ten) caravans, linked to this car in a kind of
    road train.

    Imagine all the caravans are filled with heavy furniture, and
    contain about 10 people, each weighing over 100kg.

    The car itself contains 4 people each weighing 100kg or so,
    as well as heavy luggage.

    Now imagine this car tries to ascend a very steep hill, that a
    motorbike can just about manage.

    What are the chances of the car making it to the top of the hill?

    The car won’t even be able to pull that caravan train on an even
    road except with great difficulty.

    A hill? unlikely.

    A steep hill? Forget it.

    The engine would blow up. We’d get smoke everywhere.

    My point?

    The human brain is like that 1 litre engine.
    It CANNOT produce the power required to process the data to create
    a Quran.

    The human brain has neither the memory nor the processing power,
    nor the internal communication bandwidth to produce a Quran.

    It is like musical composition.
    It looks easy once created but it very difficult to CREATE.
    (i mean at the master level)

    That is why for 1400 years nobody has been able to imitate the Quran.

    The assonance, alliteration, metaphora, and about 17 other literary
    devices as well as the CONTENT, grammatical shift,

    AND prose that rhymes irregularly to ENHANCE the meaning of the words.

    This book has layer upon layer of meaning, it is light upon light.

    It is miracle upon miracle.

    The Quran is not of human origin.

    It is from the same being who created life.

    Otherwise our 1 litre car would be sat on top of the hill, complete
    with its 10 caravans-in-a-row.

    Not the case.
    The car is at the bottom of the hill along with the caravan train,
    the bonnet is open and smoke it coming out if it.
    The engine has caught fire.

    People have tried repeatedly and FAILED to imitate the Quran.
    The human brain cannot do it.

    As before, if a physical explanation is impossible.

    That leaves a super-physical explanation.

    The Creator.
    ———————————————

    The Creator exists.
    This Creator is the author if the Quran.

  2. Ok.

    So if it’s so obvious why don’t people believe (in Islam)?

    I think that it is for two reasons:

    1) They haven’t heard the arguements
    2) prejudice

    The first just needs a debate/discussion.

    The second factor is the real issue through.

    People don’t believe in Islam (or even just The Creator) for
    the same reason that the KKK is racist.

    They have a pre-disposed “Mental Map” that says:

    “White people are superior to black people”

    Therefore it is irrelevant what empirical/rational evidence
    comes to light.

    They will never believe that blacks and whites are equal.

    “All black people look the same” to them (and they do)

    They see what they want to see because of their prejudice,
    it does not matter what the blacks do.

    Only those who seek truth find the answer(s) that conform
    to actual REALITY. The prejudiced don’t.

    This is the reason that people like Dawkins will always remain
    lost (most likely).

    They have a “mental map” that says
    “There MUST always be a physical explanation”

    However,

    “What if there IS NO physical explanation?”

    Is that not a possibility?

    Not for Dawkins.

    For him even the POSSIBILITY of a non-physical or
    “other than natural” explanation cannot exist.

    His “mental map” has already filtered out that possibility
    even before the investigation.

    WHO says that there “always has to be a physical explanation”?

    THAT is philosophy.

    Nobody KNOWS the true nature of reality.

    Someone could even argue that we are all “brains in jars”
    and that what we call REALITY is in fact a computer
    simulation (hooked up to our brains).

    How would we know?

    At the end of the day it boils down to prejudice.

    People believe what they want to believe.

    Dawkins in a physicalist.

    His philosphy is physicalism.
    i.e. “There must always be a physical explanation”

    I am a Physicalist-Rationalist
    i.e. “There should always be a physical explanation BUT THERE
    MIGHT NOT ALWAYS BE!”

    Depending on what “mind filter” or “mental map” a person chooses
    to believe in, that person will come to different conclusion.

    This is why when it is absolutely CLEAR that the Theory of Evolution
    is bogus, Dawkins will not abandon it.

    To him, no matter how ridiculous, there must always be a physical
    explanation.

    Even if it means a hurricane blowing through a junkyard makes a
    Boeing 747.

    Even if it means the chimpanzees produce the complete works of
    Shakespeare (EVEN THOUGH THAT CANNOT HAPPEN IN THE REAL WORLD
    as outlined above, How do you get the chimps to sit on the chairs?)

    For Dawkins the Chimpanzees “just need a little more time”

    even though they smashed all the typewriters to pieces!

    Sometimes a physical explanation is an IMPOSSIBILITY.

    Those who allow for that possiblity in their “mental map”
    will grasp the TRUE reality.

    The Creator exists.

  3. Pingback: Paxman and Dawkins – Evangelising Militant Atheism | New … - Enlightened

  4. Your article was well written, however before you can critique Richard Dawkins in a fair manner, you need to understand his positions.

    Definition of a Scientific Theory
    There is a difference between a mere theory and a scientific theory which is based on facts and peer reviewed; where all the evidence and assumptions are scrutinised in their entirety. Evolution is the consensus view amongst the scientific community, for this reason.

    Richard Dawkins has blind faith
    To imply that Richard Dawkins has blind faith is a straw man argument because he has drawn a rational conclusion on a well established scientific theory – just because he can’t answer every minutiae detail, doesn’t mean he is using blind faith to draw his conclusions. Blind faith implies that he knows absolutely nothing.

    Religious Beliefs
    “The beliefs of Muslims are built upon observations of numerous realities that provoke thought and lead to rational conclusions. ” This statement is not true. Muslims like any believers (of other faiths) are inculcated with their belief. They are taught to believe in the literal word of the Quran and Hadiths and not to question it. Ultimately, this belief is irrational because there is no evidence to support it. It is based on blind faith; for instance, we have to take Muhammad’s word for it, whether he was divinely inspired or not.

    Life cannot come from nothing
    How do you define nothing? If God does exist, he must be extremely complex. How did God come from nothing? Richard Dawkins, opines that there is no evidence that suggests there is a God, but he doesn’t absolutely know whether God exists or not. That is a truly, rational position because it is based on scientific evidence, where as the religious believer relies on anthropomorphism to describe their version of God, without a shred of evidence.

    • Dear “Science”

      Thanks for your comment. To respond briefly to your four points:

      1. With regards to your ‘Definition of a Scientific Theory’ – The main point it is still a theory, even it is a consensus theory. One example of a consensus theory that is currently being questioned is that ‘nothing travels faster than light’. The process of questioning the evidence from CERN does not mean the theory has been refuted – but some would argue it’s a more watertight theory than the evolutionary origins of Man.

      2. With regards to your concern of my saying Richard Dawkins has blind faith: The point here is to say that Professor Dawkins still believes that his unanswered questions will be answered. i.e. he has faith in future scientists: unseen, unheard and may be unborn. You will have to forgive the quasi-religious sarcastic tone, but the use of that tone was deliberately meant to suggest an important point – that irreligious people who hold firm convictions can be every bit as dogmatic as anyone else.

      3. You suggest that the beliefs of Muslims are built upon ‘inculcation’ and not rational argument. But you are absolutely incorrect about this and maybe ignorant of the Quranic arguments, Prophetic arguments and the arguments of Islamic scholars for centuries. But all of these can confirm that a) The central tenets of belief in Islam (usually defined in Arabic as Iman) means beliefs in which one has conviction, based on sensed evidence. b) Millions of the world’s Muslims were not born into the religion – rather they became convinced by its core beliefs c) Those Muslims who were born into the faith are commanded numerous times by the Quran to ponder, think and question – and not to accept into their belief matters that are speculative or preponderate.

      4. You ask how do I define ‘nothing’. Nothing means i.e. nothing that shares the properties of all matter: that has a start, an end, a limit in size, mass etc, and that is in someway dependent upon something else. Creator cannot bear the characteristic of created matter. In answer to your last point absence of evidence is not evidence of absence – yet the Professor and others consistently make decisive pronouncements that in their view God is a fiction. They do so without evidence – which undermines their own alleged rationalism and frankly I would have more respect for them if they at least said they didn’t know the answer to this question!

      Your may also wish to look at this article that addresses some of these arguments >>> http://www.newcivilisation.com/home/ideas-philosophy/neutrinos-the-speed-of-light-and-scientific-truths

      Thanks again for your email

      Abdul Wahid

      • Concerning scientific theories:
        It is a common mistake to confuse the English words “theory” in the general sense and “scientific theory”.
        Scientific theories like evolution, gravity or plate tectonics are actually FACTS. Facts are generally accepted to be true because they can be verified repeatedly.
        Scientific theories are frameworks that help us make sense of the world we observe. When someone comes along with an observation that doesn’t fit into the established framework, then the framework has to be reconsidered. That doesn’t mean the previous theory was never correct, it only means it applicability is limited, compared to the superceding theory.

        To put this in more islamic terms: Its similar to the Muslim belief in the validity of the original Torah and Gospel but that the Quran supercedes them. Previous scriptures belong to different people or times. Consider discoveries as “revelations” from God. (the Arabic word “ayah” can mean a Quranic verse or a natural phenomenon). With each revelation our understanding of the world develops further.

        In the last few hundred years the pace of scientific research, technological development and discoveries has been faster than any time in history. This is no reason to dismiss science or its tools of observation and reason as sources of knowledge. Whether a theory is established for centuries or months is irrelevant to its validity; what matters is how well it works.

  5. A scientific theory is still a theory, and a theory is still not fact. It is true that scientific theory is more than just a theory without any substantiation, but unfortunately a theory never get’s out of the ‘theory’ stage to fact. Just a bad starting point for discussing conclusive issues. Once a theory gets highly tested and verified, people almost forget that it is a theory, and take it as fact – only to be shown later that something else was not considered, etc. So the purpose of the article (http://www.newcivilisation.com/home/ideas-philosophy/neutrinos-the-speed-of-light-and-scientific-truths) was to remind people of this assumption.

    Many scientists believe that evolution and big bang makes for elegant theory. Consensus or not does not make any difference, because scientific thinking is speculative by origin (refer to book Thinking for elaborate discussion on types of thinking). Furthermore, it says absolutely nothing about the question of where matter and life came from in the first place. Please let us know how these theories address the question of origin of matter and life in any way – and origin means where it came from in the first place – not an evolution and tranformation story of something that already exists.

    Dawkins is neither making a rational conclusion nor a scientific conclusion. If it is science, then let him state his research question, methodology, analysis, limitations, caveats and conclusions. Submit to peer-reviewed journals, wait for comment, champion ideas in the scientific domain. Instead he is evangelising a view – a belief/religion that there is no God. This is not done in the scientific domain, rather played out on media and best selling books, and taken it as mission upon himself, who in his own words “a fairly militant athiest”. His is not building on other scientific theories that address this topic, and his competitors are outside the scientific domain.

    It certainly seems to be the case that it is a matter of blind faith if we imagine that matter created itself from nothing, and that too with an external force. Effect without cause is a violation of causality.

    It does not take a scientist to discuss origin of matter and life. It only takes a thinking man or rational man to discover without much effort that all things we see must have come from somewhere. The answer to the question “where did everything come from” is a simple “somewhere”. This is where investigation begins. Instead the likely answer of Dawkins et al seems to be “it was always there”, which means it did not exist at one point and began to exist somehow – what an absurdity! The writer appears to say that Dawkins is a bordering agnostic, having the view that he does not know whether God exists or not.

    Nothing can be defined as non-existent or the absence of anything including any parameter we think of such as space, time, etc. It is something that cannot be perceived. When something already exists in time and space, one cannot study “nothing”. So what science are you planning to apply on that. The article aptly discusses the remit of science, and it’s unwarranted foray beyond its scope. This is also echoed by several scientists such as Martin Rees, so much for consensus in the scientific community.

    Finally about where God came from: what is clear is all this was created by an entity which we call God. This is the only rational answer; further questions may arise, as to what God is. This is something we would not be able understand further, as this reality is inaccessible, unless God communicates in some way. Is there such a communication? if there is one, how can we validate it? The answers to this also have to be rational rather than indoctrination. And that would be a more serious discussion.

  6. I’ve just read the linked Badar article and the long list of comments its generated, a few of which actually had good criticism. There are valid objections against the cosmological argument – the possibilty of inifinite regress and the illogical leap from finite creation to infinite creator.
    As I see it reducing the creator to a role similar to that a finger that sets dominoes falling is undignified. Also considering that the created universe requires some interference from outside to move it along implies that creation is imperfect. The creator of a finite and imperfect creation is not a god. The Islamic creed starts by negating such constructs. God is greater than you imagine.
    Would it not be more elegant, more awe-inspiring, and more humbling to consider that God’s universe is formed in such a way that our planet, life, humanity and even the occurance of extremely insightful individuals among human populations are inevitable consequences of the very basic laws that make it up?

    • It is not uncommon for people to become confused if apply as a premise the rational proofs that establish the existence of a Creator and try to apply them to other issues in a logical manner, such as whether or not, or how, that Creator interacts with created matter on an on-going basis.

      Badr’s concerns appear in the main to have concerns about the Kalam cosmological argument. And since it has origins in Greek logic and linked with the likes of Kindi, Ibn Rushd et al, he might also be under the impression that those who use this argument, or a derivative of it, might be persuaded by the thoughts of scholastic theologians. And it is certainly the case that the da’wah of Islam was not carried in the first 100 years AH through arguments of the mutakallimoon.

      The discussion about the proof for existence that was provided is inspired but does not follow the deductive logic of the cosmological argument. It is perhaps an impression that may have been created due to the nature and language of the discussion which was addressing the studies of origin of the universe. There are elements of induction (rather observations) but it does not follow inductive logic either. Instead a rational method of thinking that is proposed to come to the definitive conclusion that the Creator exists and is indispensible for the existence of man, life and universe. The argument presented is discussion is derived entirely from the discussions in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Let us re-quote some of key points that arise in this argument in different language, and the reader can easily find references for it in the Qur’an itself (pls refer to numerous other publications both classic and contemporary that elaborate on this in various ways):

      • A rational approach is ‘necessary’ (easy to find) and ‘sufficient’ (more reading my be required) to believe in the creator

      • All that is out there: man, life and universe are limited and are dependent

      • None of this creates itself.

      • All these must have been created.

      • Creator was not created

      • Creator is beyond our understanding

      So what is the power in this type of argument as opposed to the several other ways that one can talk about the existence of the Creator. These do not include what Badr has mentioned, which is stating the conclusion of a discussion, i.e. does not constitute proof. If one notices, this rational argument is a type what may be called a fundamental argument (not fundamentalist), where the discussion is broken down to its most important elements and addressed in an ‘in principle’ manner. This avoids unnecessary discussions and allows the discussion to stay focussed and productive.

      For example, some may say that scientific discoveries are in correlation with what the Quran says, and since it was said 1400 yrs ago that too by an illiterate man, is testament to the fact that it is from God. Others may cite the intricate design and impossibly low probability of the exquisite combinatorial mix of elements and patterns that may life and universe possible, which means that a Creator must exist and so on. All these have been debate ad infinitum (pun intended) and tend to hinge on the exactly the same rational points raised above. These are different styles to reach different audiences, and often possess some minor flaws, which can be exploited. For example, if one were to use probability arguments, it is inappropriate from the start because the mere consideration of a probability is entertaining a possibility of alternatives, however low it is – unbefitting the clarity that is required to be projected in this discussion. The same is the case with science, as if it is a measure of truth – which is precisely the emphasis of the article. The rational approach is a generic reference for those want to use these styles and means, which they could implicitly or explicitly follow.

      Ironically, there are tendencies of scholastism in Badr’s comment, which should be avoided according to his own advice. This is in the mention of divine dignity, perfection, interference and the like – which is not within the scope of man to define in anyway. Post creation interference/engagement neither indicates lack of perfection nor vice versa and cannot be linked to dignity and the like – unless the mind is used in the logical/kalam sense. We discuss only the existence of the Creator not even begin to discuss His essence or nature – something that is beyond perception. The discussion is about the existence of an entity that created the universe and not the process of creation of the universe – which is something that is not of direct concern in this context. The powerful point being made here is that – no matter what findings emerge about the supposed dynamics of the early universe, it is irrelevant to the sound arguments that underlie the aqeedah of the Muslims.

  7. no matter what findings emerge about the supposed dynamics of the early universe, it is irrelevant to the sound arguments that underlie the aqeedah of the Muslims. This is what I what to reach, but I don’t see how this article gets there. What I see is Muslims claiming that Islam does not contradict science and reason and at the same time claiming that science is wrong because contradicts their faith.
    From my understanding, God’s existence, and a faith based that, are not within the scope of scientific inquiry. The way I see it, unless Muslims understand and make it clear that there really can’t be any contradiction between Islamic faith and science, then they will continue to take the defensive against psychologists, biologists, physicists and mathematicians as they continue on their research front instead of being part of it, and they will continue to be dismissed by them as just another irrational religion instead of taking the side of rationalists against the ignorance and misguidance of others.

  8. Are you saying that for islam to be science friendly, it needs to be prove itself through science? Why would you demand that? Especially when it is well know that scientific thinking has a particular purpose, and that ‘certainty’ is certainly not one of its strengths. The big questions of man requires a method which can produce certainty.

    Broadly speaking one could say there are 4 types of thinking: scientific, literary, juristic and political. Each type has its purpose and method. One could perfectly use all of them in appropriate domains, and be a consistent thinker. Trying to use one method for all domains would a foolish endeavour.

    Islam has provided a system for mankind with which he/she would organise themselves, and not end up experimenting one system after another. Why would one man accept the system of another man, and which man is beyond deficiencies.

    Islam encourages man to find solutions to pragmatic problems facing individual and society. Science flourished under islam, and set the stage for later fascination with science by the Europeans. They unfortunately took the science without the system that brought it alive. As scientific hard work paid off in terms of material advancements, lack of appropriate thought in governance resulted in unabated disasters to this day. They went on to promote science and scientific thinking as the means to answering all questions, thus degrading the value and efficacy of science.

    Why would anyone think islam is against scientific advancement, just because islam says the Creator created man, life and universe. It is like saying I do not like to earn money, because money can’t buy happiness.

    • No. You’ve misunderstood. The role of science in society and politics is not what we’re discussing, nor do I see any disagreement between us there.
      The issue is holding beliefs that contradict science. Saying God created man, life and the universe is not a problem until you start getting into the specifics of what God is and how God created these things.
      What I don’t understand is if all evidence supports that the diversity of life is the result of evolutionary processes then what keeps Muslims from simply accepting that? If someone finds a mathematical model of the universe that is completely self-contained what challenge does that pose to a Muslim’s belief?
      If the Quran that Muslims believe in and the world that scientists study come from the same source then we shouldn’t find any contradictions between them, and yet a conflict exists.

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