Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’


Here are two reasons high schools should support teaching philosophy.

1. It looks great on college applications. Colleges are looking for mature students who will buckle down and focus intensely four years—rather than 1.5, maybe 2 rustling together credits and a senior thesis. A (good) philosophy class offers students a kind of birds’-eye view on the whole of human knowledge, allowing them to carefully consider the overwhelming number of majors available to them in college, rather than haphazardly falling into one because the deadline is approaching.

2. Many, not all, philosophers claim to have been that student in high school who drastically underperformed and was always bored. Philosophy is boredom’s consolation. With the right teacher, truly bored students may find that intellectual excitement they need to reach their academic potential.

Universities and philosophy programs should also be embracing and promoting this movement. If more students in high school take philosophy, more will enroll in philosophy classes in college—and maybe even enjoy them, rather than commenting in their later years, “Yeah, I took a philosophy class; it was really interesting.” Furthermore, if more high schools taught philosophy, there would be more jobs for philosophers, who may steer undergraduates to philosophy courses in college, which in turn stimulates the applicant pool to graduate programs. This makes philosophy financially viable, encouraging bureaucratic university administrators to fund philosophy—another example of the grand circle of life.

Many high schools are already doing a wonderful job of integrating nuance and variety into the curriculum. They are teaching bioethics in science classes, CSI forensics, economics, and capital-investment classes, none of which I saw or could have imagined happening even a decade ago. However, something is still missing. We are showing our students how cool math and science can be, but at the heart of learning is a passion for knowledge, not simply a bag of tricks to impress our friends.  Let the kids into that world: teach them philosophy, or, even better, learn about philosophy with them!

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The word Jihad has been frequently used by politicians, publications [1] and media outlets. Its uses have mostly, if not always, been associated with terrorism and wanton destruction.[2] Even during the aftermath of the tragic events of 9/11, 7/7 and the recent Mumbai Attacks, many western commentators labeled them as acts of Jihad. However, is Jihad terrorism? Does it involve wanton destruction and the killing of innocents en masse? Significantly, answers are required to the oft repeated question: what is Jihad?

This article aims to show that terrorist attacks and indiscriminate killing are antithetical to the Islamic concept of Jihad.

Fighting: A Human Reality

There have been many anthropological studies on war and fighting, and the conclusions are very similar. Not only have humans been fighting and killing for millennia, the act of fighting and killing is a human reality. The reasons for fighting and war differ. Some of these reasons include land, fame, fortune, religion, independence and resources. Humans have also fought to defend themselves and others, or to attack their enemies. In summary, war and fighting are human phenomena that are not specific to any particular race, ideology or religion.

In the modern world there are many wars, and they are mostly over resources. An example is the US and UK fighting for oil and strategic dominance in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fighting & Islam

Islam, being a practical way of life, realises that humans fight and engage in war. Islam sets down rules for war, which are to be followed if Muslims go to war, examples include fighting for just reasons, no killing of innocent people, no killing of women and children, no burning of crops or trees, only fight those that fight you, and no wanton destruction. Abu Bakr who was the Prophet Muhammad’s first successor and is considered to have been his closest companion said:

“Stop, O people, that I may give you ten rules for your guidance in the battlefield. Do not commit treachery or deviate from the right path. You must not mutilate dead bodies. Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic (or humanitarian) services; leave them alone.”

Many would argue that this is in contrast to certain Western nations when they invade countries; they tend to destroy the infrastructure of the countries causing more deaths than bullets and bombs (even the BBC reports that so called ‘smart bombs’ are not so smart, with only 40% hitting targets.[3] Civilian deaths in the US/UK invasions are evidence of this). Then contractual awards are given to western companies to rebuild the infrastructure, making the invaded country pay for it – Iraq is a striking example.

Whilst certain western powers wage war and invade for what everyone knows to be for resources and places of strategic value, in Islam war is not waged for these reasons; it does not invade to rob, steal and make lands poor – quite the opposite.

Jihad

The term most commonly used to describe Muslims fighting is Jihad, but it has been used politically to create fear of Islam and Muslims. Jihad has been linked to terrorism, however when the corpus of Islamic reference material is analysed, this cannot be further from the truth.

Jihad is when Muslims go to war, and it has its rules relating to it. Primarily there are two types of Jihad, defensive and progressive. Defensive is when Muslims rally to fight and expel armies from their lands which have been invaded. This concept is similar to article 51 of the UN Charter which states:

“Nothing in the present charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs….”[4]

Examples include when the Crusaders invaded Palestine in 11th/12th century, and when the Mongols invaded Central Asia, Persia, Iraq and Syria in the 13th century. This defensive Jihad is to push the occupiers out and has nothing to do with terrorism; in reality it is a basic human right.[5]

Progressive Jihad is practically undertaken by a legitimate Islamic State (no such state exists today) and is initiated for three main reasons. The reasons include removing oppression, defending the weak and implementing the justice of Islam. This is evident in Islamic history, John of Nikiou in 690 CE, who was a Coptic Bishop in Nikiu (Egypt), states,

“When Muslims saw the…hostility of the people to the emperor Heraclius because of the persecution wherewith he had visited all the land of Egypt…people began to help the Muslims.”[6]

Additionally, oppression and all forms of genocide would justify progressive Jihad.

Progressive Jihad has three parts to it. It first invites the people to accept Islam by explaining the Islamic belief and what Islam has to offer them. This is done by dialogue and discussion and can take some time. After this, the Islamic State then invites the people to live within the state and enjoy peace, justice, security and protection. Historically many non-Muslim peoples have opted for this option. This is in exchange for a small yearly tax.[7] The famous letter from a Rabbi, after Europe’s persecution of the Jews, found in Phillip Mansel’s book “Constantinople ”, reflect this reality,

“Here in the land of the Turks we have nothing to complain of. We possess great fortunes; much gold and silver are in our hands. We are not oppressed with heavy taxes and our commerce is free and unhindered. Rich are the fruits of the earth. Everything is cheap and every one of us lives in peace and freedom…”[8]

The third and final course of action after the first two have been followed is war. This war is called Jihad and in cases of genocide and extreme oppression it may be the first and only part of the process. It is the final part of a foreign policy used by the Islamic State, and as mentioned it has its rules, like no wanton destruction and killing of innocent people. When an Islamic State goes to war, it is not for money, land, or riches, but to show people the justice and security of Islam. Heinrich Graetz, a 19th century Jewish historian expressed the ‘favourable circumstances’ under Islamic rule,

“It was in these favourable circumstances that the Spanish Jews came under the rule of Mahometans, as whose allies they esteemed themselves the equals of their co-religionists in Babylonia and Persia. They were kindly treated, obtained religious liberty, of which they had so long been deprived, were permitted to exercise jurisdiction over their co-religionists…”[9]

This is unlike some western states, where Politicians claim they are fighting for so-called universal values, but in reality are fighting for resources and areas of strategic value. For example David Milliband, the British Foreign Secretary, said,

“Our party was created to fight for democracy and equal rights in our own country. We know we have further to go. But if we want to protect ourselves from terrorism at home, we need to defend and advance democracy and human rights abroad.”[10]

Judging by the current reality of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, nothing can be further from the truth. Islamic foreign policy however is truthful about its goals and history bears testimony to this. This is why Jews fled Spain in the Inquisition and ran to the Muslims of Istanbul who welcomed them, because they knew justice lived in Islamic lands. Zion Zohar, a Jewish Historian, expressed similar sentiments in his book ‘Sephardic & Mizrahi Jewry’:

“Thus, when Muslims crossed the straits of Gibraltar from North Africa in 711 CE and invaded the Iberian Peninsula, Jews welcomed them as liberators from Christian Persecution.”[11]

Jihad is seen by western peoples and nations as barbaric and this is propagated to the masses, by politicians and the media, to portray Muslims as bloodthirsty killers. An Islamic State would commit to progressive Jihad, and will use war as a last resort – when diplomacy fails – to really liberate people from oppression. In addition to remove the tyranny of injustice and to show the people what Islam really is and how Islam can truly make their lives and society better – even if they do not become Muslim.

The Islamic belief is not forced upon people once land is taken, 1400 years of history bears testament to this [12]. This is evident in the early testimonies of Christian leadership. Ishoyabth who was patriarch from AD 647 to 657, writes,

“The Arabs, to who God gave the dominion over the world, behave to us as you know. They are not hostile to Christianity, but praise our religion, honour priests and saints, and help the Churches and Monastries.”[13]

The Qur’an & Fighting

The Qur’an discusses fighting and Jihad, the language used is emotive and can be seen as aggressive. However, the intended effect of these verses in the Qur’an are meant to evoke action, therefore in the context of fighting and war, the Qur’an would not say “Tickle their toes” or “Give them flowers”. What must also be realised is that the language is couched in restraining expressions such as “…and God does not love the transgressors” and “…be mindful of God”[14] thus instilling an awareness of God in such actions and to remind that the essence of Jihad is to remove oppression.

In the Qur’an, Jihad is a noble concept that is considered as a mercy from God. Without it there would be no mechanism to protect Muslims and Non-Muslims, remove oppression and implement justice. In today’s reality of death and destruction, due to oppressive western foreign policy, some people argue that this concept needs to be revived to today [15].

The Results of Jihad

U.S. Brig. General William Looney’s following statement is an apt description of Western foreign policy,

“If they turn on the radars we’re going to blow up their goddamn SAMs (surface-to-air missiles).They know we own their country. We own their airspace… We dictate the way they live and talk. And that’s what’s great about America right now. It’s a good thing, especially when there’s a lot of oil out there we need.” [16]

Whereas the Islamic view describes another paradigm,

“And what is the matter with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and for the oppressed among men, women and children who say, ‘Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper’?”[17]

Everyone wants to remove oppression and injustice. Islam does exactly that via Jihad and this can be seen in Islamic history. Contemporary pseudo-Islamic nations can not be used as a reference for Jihad and Islam as they do not implement and manifest the Islamic system. This is evident when their constitutions are analysed. It can only be concluded that Muslim world Governments implement and promote a system that is antithetical to Islam.

What, then, are the results of the Islamic foreign policy?

Reinhart Dozy, an authority on early Islamic Spain, explained the results of Jihad in Islamic Spain,

“…the unbounded tolerance of the Arabs must also be taken into account. In religious matters they put pressure on no man…Christians preferred their rule to that of the Franks.”[18]

Thomas Arnold, commenting on an Islamic source, states that,

“…the Christians called down blessings on the heads of the Muslims, saying, ‘May God give you rule over us again and make you victorious over the Romans; had it been they, they would not have given us back anything, but would have taken all that remained with us.’” [19]

Ulick R. Burke, a prominent historian specializing in the history of Spain, reached a similar conclusion,

“Christians did not suffer in any way, on account of their religion, at the hands of Moors…not only perfect toleration but nominal equality was the rule of the Arabs in Spain.’[20]

Adam Smith, the 18th century founding father of the modern capitalism, explains the impact of Islamic rule,

“The ruin of the empire of the Romans, and, along with it the subversion of all law and order, which happened a few centuries afterwards, produced the entire neglect of that study of the connecting principles of nature, to which leisure and security can alone give occasion. After the fall of those great conquerors and the civilizers of mankind, the empire of the Caliphs seems to have been the first state under which the world enjoyed that degree of tranquility which the cultivation of the sciences requires. It was under the protection of those generous and magnificent princes, that the ancient philosophy and astronomy of the Greeks were restored and established in the East; that tranquility, which their mild, just and religious government diffused over their vast empire, revived the curiosity of mankind, to inquire into the connecting principles of nature.” [21]

Bernard the Wise, a pilgrim monk, visited Egypt and Palestine in the reign of Caliph al-Mu’tazz (866-9 CE). He stated that,

“…the Christians and the Pagans [i.e. Muslims] have this kind of peace between them there that if I was going on a journey, and on the way the camel or donkey which bore my poor luggage were to die, and I was to abandon all my goods without any guardian, and go to the city for another pack animal, when I came back, I would find all my property uninjured: such is the peace there.”[22]

Reading the above, the reader must now ask “Does this sound like terrorism?”

The Cause of Terrorism

The history of terrorism and political violence demonstrates that it is cross-cultural, cross religion and is driven by a number of factors often born out of a sense of political injustice, occupation or invasion. An academic study by Professor Robert Pape, an Associate Professor at Chicago University, published in his book ‘Dying to Win: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism’ [23], demonstrates that the advent of suicide bombing is not unique to Muslims but is rather a generic human issue driven by a number of political factors rather than theological beliefs.

The study included the first complete database of every suicide attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. The study found that:

• The world leader in suicide attacks was the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka – a Marxist, secular group.
• Two thirds of Muslim ‘suicide bombers’ have been from countries where US forces have or are still maintaining military forces.
• The presence of US forces is creating suicide attackers in Iraq which was a country that had never previously had a suicide attack in its history prior to the 2003 invasion.

According to the study, political injustice provides a possible reason for the proponents of such attacks to justify such actions. It is therefore crucial that acts of political violence are analysed as a separate issue based upon the individuals who choose to engage in them.

The Professor states,

“The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world’s religions. . . . Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland” [24]

Regarding the July 2005 bombings in London, the British government was forewarned that its involvement in the catastrophic US invasion of Iraq had increased Britain’s vulnerability to the threat of retaliation. The leaked report from the UK’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), which predated the attacks, warned:

“Events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist related activity in the UK”.

In April 2005, a report drawn up by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) entitled “International Terrorism: Impact of Iraq” was even more explicit, stating:

“We judge that the conflict in Iraq has exacerbated the threat from international terrorism and will continue to have an impact in the long term. It has reinforced the determination of terrorists who were already committed to attacking the West and motivated others who were not.”

It is essential to understand what role Western foreign policy has played in exacerbating the sense of political injustice and in driving individuals to undertake acts of political violence against those they perceive as aggressors. This is not a justification, but it does set a context for a discussion to find answers to contemporary political problems.

Rather than blame a whole community or its leanings towards Islam and its concept of Jihad, it is important to understand the political nature of the factors that drive such acts as opposed to solely attributing them to Jihad, which does not take account of the history of political violence across cultures, religions and ways of life.

Final Remarks

It has to be noted, that Muslims are simply human beings that believe in Islam, which is a comprehensive way of life that seeks to promote religious tolerance and social cohesion. The Islamic concept of Jihad is not indiscriminate terrorism, rather it is a mechanism that seeks to remove oppression and protect the innocent. In line with the teachings of classical Islam, Muslims do not – and should not – seek to violently attack non-combatants.

Muslims want to facilitate understanding and promote mutual peaceful coexistence. This however cannot be achieved without engaging in an open and honest discussion on what Islam really is. Outdated clichés of ‘Jihadi Terrorist’ can no longer quench the public’s intellectual thirst and a more nuanced and comprehensive discussion is now needed.

It was intended that this article would achieve just that.

 

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References 

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Jihad-Incorporated-Guide-Militant-Islam/dp/1591024536/
[2] http://www.spectator.co.uk/melaniephillips/597641/jihad-with-money.thtml
[3] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/1184086.stm
[4] http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/chapter7.htm
[5] This is different from what many commentators describe as ‘political violence’ please access the following link that differentiates between theology and political violence http://hamzatzortzis.blogspot.com/2008/07/questions-is-islam-responsible-for.html or see section below in this article
[6] John of Nikiou, quoted by Petra M. Sijpesteijn, Egypt in the Byzantine World, Cambridge, 2007, P. 442.
[7] “Life as a Non-Muslim in the Caliphate”http://www.caliphate.co.uk/caliphate/nonmuslims.htm
[8] Philip Mansel. 1995. Constantinople : City of the World’s desire, 1453-1924. Penguin Books, p. 15
[9] H. Graetz, History of the Jews, London , 1892, Vol 3, P. 112.
[10] http://www.epolitix.com/latestnews/article-detail/newsarticle/david-miliband-speech-in-full/
[11] Zion Zohar, Sephardic & Mizrahi Jewry, New York, 2005, P. 8-9.
[12] “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects Taghut (evil) and believes in Allah has grasped the most trust worthy hand-hold that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. ” Qur’an 2:256
[13] Caliph and their non-Muslim subjects: A critical study of the covenant of Umar. A. S. Tritton. Routledge Library Editions: Islam. 2008, p. 138-139
[14] The orders are always couched in restraining language, with much repetition of warnings, such as “do not transgress” and “God does not love the transgressors” and “He loves those who are conscious of Him”. These are instructions given to people who, from the beginning, should have the intention of acting “in the way of God”. Linguistically we notice that the verses in this passage always restrict actions in a legalistic way, which appeals strongly to Muslims’ conscience. In six verses (Quran 2:190-5) we find four prohibitions (do not), six restrictions: two “until”, two “if”, two “who attack you”, as well as such cautions as “in the way of God”, “be conscious of God”, “God does not like aggressors”, “God is with those who are conscious of Him”, “with those who do good deeds” and “God is Forgiving, Merciful.” It should be noted that the Qur’an, in treating the theme of war, as with many other themes, regularly gives the reasons and justifications for any action it demands.http://www.islamicity.com/articles/Articles.asp?ref=IV0603-2947
[15] Observer Comment Extra “Imperialism may be out, but aggressive wars and colonial protectorates are back”http://observer.guardian.co.uk/worldview/story/0,,684308,00.html
[16] U.S. Brig. General William Looney (Interview Washington Post, August 30, 1999) Referring, in reality, to the brutal mass-murder of hundreds of civilian Iraqi men, women and children during 10,000 sorties by American/British war criminals in the first eight months of 1999.
[17] Qur’an 4:75
[18] Reinhart Dozy, A History of Muslims in Spain , 1861 (reprinted 1913, 2002), Delhi , P.235.
[19] T. W. Arnold , Preaching of Islam, London , 1913, P. 61.
[20] Ulick R. Burke, A History of Spain , London , 1900, Vol I, P. 129.
[21] The Essays of Adam Smith, London , 1869, P. 353.
[22] Christopher J. Walker, Islam and the West, Gloucester , 2005, P. 17.
[23]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dying_to_Win:_The_Strategic_Logic_of_Suicide_Terrorism
[24] Ibid


Note: The aim of this article is not to reject the science related to evolution. Its aim is to evoke thinking about the scientific method and the philosophy of science.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 ”In questions of science the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual.” Galileo Galilei

Over the past few decades there has been a growing discourse on science, evolution and its compatibility with Divine revelation. This discourse can be summarised in the following way: the theory of evolution has been established as a scientific fact therefore a believer in a particular revealed text, such as the Qur’an, must reconcile evolution with their holy book. If there is no hope for reconciliation there are three main outcomes: the religious text is discarded, evolution is renounced, or a hope for a better understanding of the religious text and evolution in the future. However, in this growing discussion there is a hidden premise. This premise is that science produces certainty, evolution is fact and science is the only way to establish or verify truth claims. This premise is assumed in the popular discussion amongst many religious people, popular scientists and even the media, and by not bringing this premise to the forefront of the debate many Muslims (and fellow theists) have been left confused and disheartened.

It is not the scope of this article to enter into a discussion concerning the various approaches taken by scholars and thinkers to reconcile evolution with revelation. What will be discussed is what can be described as a foundational approach to the discussion or what is sometimes referred to as anepistemic approach. We believe that this approach exposes the false assumption that the theory of evolution is a fact, or is certain. Therefore, the need for reconciliation is not entirely necessary. By understanding the scientific method and the philosophy of science, and applying the concepts and principles to evolution, it will be evident that it is not a fact, and thus does not reach the level of certainty. This is also true for many of the intellectual outputs of science.

It must be noted that science can reach a level of certainty – but this is very rare – and although highly effective, it has severe limitations. People need to understand this and limit it to its sphere. There are many areas of knowledge that science is de-scoped, in other words, it has no say. Therefore, people must be aware of the fanatics in this debate masquerading as bastions of truth and beacons of light for all to follow. These fanatics are the science fundamentalists who advocate a narrow and dogmatic approach to science. They presume and propagate naturalism, empiricism and scientism, all of which are incoherent and lead to philosophical absurdities. We strongly believe that people should beware of these popularisers, and understand what science really is – a blessing from God with limitations and unresolved problems concerning some of its claims to truth.

A Note on the Definition of a Fact and Certainty

The words fact and certainty in this article are going to be used interchangeably. In the context of the discussion they will mean the representation of a state of affairs (reality). The level of accuracy is affected by the type of assumptions and metaphysical presuppositions used to try and described the state of affairs. The words fact and certainty do not mean a workable theory or the best theoretical model that has yet to be proven false; this is a scientific and pragmatic approach which doesn’t take into consideration the epistemic value of a particular theory. What is meant by epistemic value is a particular theory’s level of accuracy in describing reality, a theory may be a fact from a scientific perspective, but it may have a very low epistemic value. In scientific terminology evolution is a fact, but this use of the term means confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent[1]. To deconstruct the term ‘fact’ from a scientific perspective the key term to understand is ‘confirmed’. In the context of evolution this confirmation is achieved with certain assumptions and metaphysical presuppositions. It is the purpose of this article to expose what these are, therefore, by understanding these assumptions and presuppositions it will allow the reader to think outside of the box, and appreciate that evolution is not certain, in other words it does not yet fully represent reality, even though it may be confirmed scientifically. This is why the termsfact and certainty used in this article will refer to guaranteed conclusions such as the conclusions from deductive arguments (to be discussed later). To confine ourselves to a definition of fact and certainty based on the assumptions and presuppositions of science would be incoherent because they are not established truths either – in reality some of them have been exposed as incoherent, problematic and baseless in this article.

The Epistemic Approach

The epistemic approach that we will use can be summarised in the following way; Since this whole discussion rests on the premise that evolution is a fact and has reached the level of certainty, then the easiest way to provide an intellectual response is to readdress the hidden premise. Is evolution a fact? What epistemic status does revelation have? By answering these two questions, the problem is solved. This approach follows the subsequent logical structure:

i.            Evolution is an intellectual product of science.

ii.            Science is made up of a process and a philosophy (the logic through which we build scientific knowledge, also known as the philosophy of science).

iii.            The scientific process is limited.

iv.            The philosophy of science – most of the time – does not produce certain knowledge (this type of non-certain knowledge in Islamic thought is known as al-‘ilm adh-dhann). When the philosophy of science is understood and applied to evolution, the conclusion is that it is not a fact and has not reached the level of certainty.

v.            Divine revelation is certain knowledge (this type of certain knowledge is known as al-‘ilm al-qat’i) which can be proven using deductive arguments.

vi.            Conclusions:

  1. Science is a limited method of study with its own scope and sphere.
  2. The philosophy of science brings to light a whole range of issues and problems concerning the theory and study of knowledge (epistemology).
  3. The philosophy of science, when applied to evolution, exposes it as not reaching the level of certainty.
  4. Revelation is a source of certain knowledge.
  5. In situations where science and Divine revelation are irreconcilable, revelation supersedes science.

A detailed analysis and justification for the above statements will follow.

i. Evolution is an intellectual product of science.

This is generally true, and does not require justification.

ii. Science is made up of a process and a philosophy (the logic through which we build scientific knowledge, also known as the philosophy of science).

Science is commonly thought to just involve a method or a set of steps that one has to take to ensure the results of an experiment or theory are scientific. While this is true, the philosophy of science – which is the way in which we reach conclusions from the results of a particular experiment – is often a neglected topic of popular science and rarely discussed in the public domain.

So what is the scientific method and the philosophy of science?

The scientific method

The word science comes from the Latin word scientia, meaning knowledge. A concise definition of science has been accurately stated by the philosopher Bertrand Russell,

The attempt to discover, by means of observation and reasoning based upon it, … particular facts about the world, and the laws connecting facts with one another.[2]

To elaborate on the above definition, the scientific method can be described in the following way. The scientific method:

  • Focuseson the physical natural world. Science can only answer in terms of natural phenomena and natural processes. When we ask questions like, what is the meaning of life? Does the soul exist? The general expectation is to have answers that are outside of the natural world — and hence, outside of science.
  • Aimsto explain the physical natural world. Science as a collective institution aims to produce more and more accurate natural explanations of how the natural world works, what its components are, and how the world got to be the way it is now.
  • Only accepts ideas that can be tested. For an idea to be testable, it must logically generate specific expectations – in other words, a set of observations that we could expect to make if the idea were true and a set of observations that would be inconsistent with the idea and lead you to believe that it is not true.
  • Relies on the evidencefrom testing a testable idea. Ultimately, scientific ideas must not only be testable, but must actually be tested – preferably with many different lines of evidence by many different people.[3]

So where does the philosophy of science fit it?

The philosophy of science focuses on deriving and building knowledge from the evidence gathered from testing a testable idea. For that reason, it concerns itself with the implications of the data collected from an experiment, the metaphysical assumptions used to interpret the data, and the thinking processes used to form conclusions based on scientific evidence.

iii. The scientific process is limited.

The limitations of the scientific process are rarely discussed. One key reason for this is that science has become a social enterprise. A social norm has developed that exclaims that science has replaced religion and is now the new gospel truth. Rupert Sheldrake, one of the world’s most innovative biologists and writers, who is best known for his theory of morphic fields and morphic resonance, highlights this point in his new book The Science Delusion,

Yet in the second decade of the twenty-first century, when science and technology seem to be at the peak of their power, when their influence has spread all over the world and when their triumph seems indisputable, unexpected problems are disrupting the sciences from within. Most scientists take it for granted that these problems will eventually be solved by more research along established lines, but some, including myself, think they are symptoms of a deeper malaise…science is being held back by centuries-old assumptions that have hardened into dogmas.[4]

It must be noted that the Islamic spiritual tradition does not reject science, it is quite the opposite; Islam is pro-science. According to historians of science, it was the Muslim intellectuals and scientists that were the pioneers of the scientific method. For instance, the Muslim physicist and scientist Ibn al-Haytham used experimentation to obtain the results in his Book of Optics published in 1021 CE. He combined observations, experiments and rational arguments to support his intromission theory of vision.[5] Also, the Islamic influence on the renaissance – via the establishment of Islamic Spain – was unprecedented, as Professor Thomas Arnold in his book The Preaching of Islam writes:

…Muslim Spain had written one of the brightest pages in the history of Medieval Europe. Her influence had passed through Provence into the other countries of Europe, bringing into birth a new poetry and a new culture, and it was from her that Christian scholars received what of Greek philosophy and science they had to stimulate their mental activity up to the time of the Renaissance.[6]

It is therefore fair to conclude that Islam has not been at odds with science, and this article does not intend to belittle science. In actual fact, science is seen to be a great blessing from God and a sign of His Mercy.

The scientific method is limited due to:

Sensory perception:

George Gaylord Simpson, the renowned evolutionist of Harvard, wrote,

It is inherent in any acceptable definition of science that statements that cannot be checked by observations are not really about anything—or at the very least they are not science.[7]

This means that what cannot be observed is outside the scope of science. For example, questions such as does God exist? and is there a soul? are outside the realm of the scientific method. This does not imply that such questions are meaningless, rather it exposes the limitations of the scientific process, as there are other methods that can provide answers to the above questions. The philosopher of science Elliot Sober verifies this limitation of science, he writes in his essay Empiricism,

At any moment scientists are limited by the observations they have at hand…the limitation is that science is forced to restrict its attention to problems that observations can solve.[8]

It is important to note that to claim that conclusions which have not been established via observation – and by extension science – are meaningless or false, is making the inaccurate assumption that science is the only method to verify claims to truth. This false assumption, known as scientism, will be discussed later.

Time:

Science cannot explain the past or the origins of things. For instance questions such as, what was before the Big Bang? and how did the first living cell emerge? are technically outside the realm of the scientific method. Enno Wolthius explains this in his book Science, God and You:

Science seeks to explain the behavior of that which is, and to check its explanation by means of experiments. But this experimental requirement can be met only in the present time. The past, and especially the beginning of things, lies beyond the grasp of this method, and so science can only speculate about the origin and history of the world.[9]

Morality:

In other words science is amoral. It cannot provide detailed answers to the following questions, how must we act? and what should we do? Science also removes any true meaning to our sense of objective moral obligation. If science were to be relied upon concerning this, the conclusions would lead to absurdities. Charles Darwin thought about this point in 19th century,

If…men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of  interfering.[10]

What Darwin seems to be pointing out here is that our values would have no objective meaning from a scientific perspective, as we are just a by-product of a set of socio-biological circumstances. This is why the oft repeated statement you cannot get an ought from an is, is true. Science can tell us what is, but it cannot tell us what ought to be. This sense of ought is best explained outside of the scope of science, Professor of Theology and Ethics Ian Markham comments on this:

Embedded in the word ‘ought’ is the sense of  a moral fact transcending our life and world…The underlying character of moral language implies something universal and external.[11]

iv. The philosophy of science – most of the time – doesn’t produce certain knowledge (this type of non-certain knowledge in Islamic thought is known as al-‘ilm adh-dhann). When the philosophy of science is understood and applied to evolution, the conclusion is that it is not a fact and has not reached the level of certainty.

What this statement means is that – most of the time – the conclusions or implications of theoretical models and experimental data do not provide levels of knowledge that can be described as certain. The inconclusive, or non-certain  nature of science is due to major metaphysical assumptions used to interpret scientific results. This includes theoretical and experimental bias, which exposes the relative nature of scientific conclusions. When these assumptions are understood and applied to evolution the conclusion will be clear – it is not a fact and has not reached the level of certainty.

There are a whole range of conceptual, logical and philosophical issues in the philosophy of science that highlight the approximate and tentative nature of science:

The problem of Induction:

Induction is a thinking process where one makes conclusions by moving from the particular to the general. Arguments based on induction can range in probability from very low to very high, but always less than 100%.

Here is an example of induction:

I have observed that punching a boxing bag properly with protective gloves never causes injury. Therefore no one will be injured using a boxing bag.

As can be seen from the example above, induction faces a key problem which is the inability to guarantee the conclusion, because a sweeping generalisation cannot be made from a limited number of observations. The best it can provide are probabilities, ranging from low to very high.[A] In the aforementioned example the person who made the statement could not logically prove that the next person to punch a boxing bag will not get injured.

Therefore, the problem with induction is that it can’t produce certainty.[B] This issue was raised by the 18th century Scottish philosopher David Hume in his book, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Hume argued that inductive reasoning can never produce certainty. He concluded that moving from a limited set of observed phenomena to making conclusions for an unlimited set of observed phenomena is beyond the present testimony of the senses, and the records of our memory.[12]

From a practical scientific perspective, generalisations made for an entire group or for the next observation within that group based on a limited set of data, will never be certain. For example, a scientist travelled to Wales and wanted to find out the colour of sheep (assuming he does not know the colour of sheep), and he started observing the sheep and recording what colour they are. Say after 150 sheep observations he found that all of them were white. The scientist would conclude based upon his data, using induction, that all sheep are white. This basic example highlights the problematic nature with the process of induction as we know sheep can also be black. Certainty using induction will never be achieved.

Professor Alex Rosenberg in his book Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Introduction explains the problem of induction and he concludes that this is a key problem facing science; he writes,

Here we have explored another problem facing empiricism as the official epistemology of science: the problem of induction, which goes back to Hume, and added to the agenda of problems for both empiricists and rationalists. [13]

Since evolution is based on inductive generalisations from data, including direct and indirect observations, the conclusions from these will never be certain.

The problem with empiricism:

Empiricism claims that we have no source of knowledge in a subject or for the concepts we use in a subject other than sense experience. Philosopher Elliot Sober in his essay Empiricism explains the empiricist’s thesis,

Empiricists deny that it is ever rationally obligatory to believe that theories provide true descriptions of an unobservable reality…For an empiricist, if a theory is logically consistent, observations are the only source of information about whether the theory is empirically adequate.[14]

Empiricism suffers from limitations and logical problems. One form of empiricism – which we will call strong empiricism – is limited to things that can only be observed. This form of empiricism faces a whole host of logical problems. The main problem with strong empiricism is that it can only base its conclusions on observed realities and cannot make conclusions on unobserved realities. Elliot Sober explains this problem,

Empiricists need to address problems in the philosophy of perception. The most obvious first stab at saying what seeing an object involves is to describe the passage of light from the object into the eyes, with the result that a visual experience occurs. However, the invisibility of white cats in snowstorms and the fact that we see silhouettes (like the moon during an eclipse) shows that this is neither sufficient nor necessary.[15]

Further exploring Sober’s example, imagine you observe a white cat walking outside of a house towards the direction of an oncoming snowstorm; you can see the cat walking up to the snowstorm and then you can no longer see the cat. A strong empiricist’s account would be to deny that there is a cat in the snowstorm, or at least suspend any claims to knowledge. However, based on other intellectual tools at your disposal you would conclude that there is a white cat in the snowstorm regardless of whether or not you can observe one.

The problems faced by strong empiricism have not gone unaddressed by empiricists. They have responded by weakening their definition for empiricism by redefining empiricism to the view that we can only know something if it is confirmed or supported by sensory experience – we shall call this weak empiricism. Others have dogmatically maintained the view that the only way to truth is via direct observation and being supported by observation is not good enough. These responses have created an unresolved dilemma for the empiricist. The Philosopher John Cottingham exposes this problem in his book Rationalism:

But what about ‘all water at a given atmospheric pressure boils at 100 degrees Celsius’? Since this statement has the form of an unrestricted universal generalization, it follows that no finite number of observations can conclusively establish its truth. An additional and perhaps even more worrying problem is that when we reach the higher levels of science…we tend to encounter structures and entities that are not observable in any straightforward sense. Atoms, molecules, electrons, photons and the like are highly complex theoretical constructs…here we seem to be very far removed from the world of direct ‘empirical observation’…The positivists tended to respond to this difficulty by weakening their criterion for meaningfulness…it was proposed that a statement was meaningful if it could be confirmed or supported by sensory experience. However, this weaker criterion is uncomfortably vague…Statements about God or Freedom, or the nature of Substance, or the Absolute, may not be directly checkable against experience…The positivist thus seems to be faced with a fatal dilemma: either he will have to make his criterion so stringent that it will exclude the generalizations and theoretical statements of science, or else he will have to weaken his criterion sufficiently to open the door to the speculations of the metaphysician. The dilemma has remained unresolved to this day…[16]

In light of the above, since empiricism is used as a metaphysical assumption to justify evolution then it cannot claim certainty, as there is the main problem of the unobserved. It can be assumed that our observations do not encompass all phenomena therefore evolution is tentative, in other words it can change based upon future observations. For evolution to be certain, all phenomena related to the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations must have been observed. Including observing all evolutionary processes that give rise to diversity at every level including species and individual organisms.

A prioriand Causality:

Empiricism is exposed as an incoherent metaphysical assumption because it claims that knowledge must be dependent on experience, known as a posteriori in the language of philosophy. If it can be shown that there are truths that are independent from experience, known a priori, then the empiricist’s thesis breaks down.

There are many truths that are known independent of experience and are necessarily true and not merely products of empirical generalisations. These include,

  • Mathematics and logical truths
  • Moral  and ethical truths
  • Causality
  • From semantics (deductive logic – discussed in detail later):
    • All bachelors are unmarried.
    • All bachelors are male.
    • Therefore all bachelors are unmarried males.

The innate knowledge of causality is an interesting way of exposing the empiricist’s worldview. Many empiricists in the field of quantum physics have rejected the idea of causality, known as determinism, for an indeterministic view. This contention has arisen due to the apparent observations in the quantum vacuum, that sub-atomic events behave spontaneously without any causes. From a philosophical perspective it is extremely difficult for these empiricists to justify their conclusions. This is because without the concept of causality we will not have the mental framework to understand our observations and experiences.

As mentioned above, causality is a priori, which means knowledge we have independent of any experience or observations. We know causality is true because we bring it to all our experiences, rather than our experience bringing it to us. It is like wearing yellow-tinted glasses; everything looks yellow not because of anything out there in the world, but because of the glasses through which we are looking at everything. Take the following example into consideration[C]; imagine you are looking at the White House in Washington DC. Your eyes may wonder to the door, across the pillars, then to the roof and finally over to the front lawn. You can also reverse the order of your perceptions. Contrast this to another experience, you are on the river Thames in London and you see a boat floating past. What dictates the order in which you had these experiences? When you looked at the White House you had a choice to see the door first and then the pillars and so on, as well as the ability to reverse the order of your perceptions. However, with the boat you had no choice as the front of the boat was the first to appear.

The point here is that you would not have been able to make the distinction that some experiences are ordered by yourself and others are ordered independently, unless we had the concept of causality. In the example of the boat you would not be able to understand the logical causal connection between the front of the boat and the back. In absence of causality our experiences would be very different from the way that they are. It would be a single sequence of experiences only: one thing after another. So to accept that sub-atomic events do not correspond with causality would be tantamount to denying our own experience. Philosopher John Cottingham summarises how observations already presuppose  causality,

But on Kant’s argument we would not be able to recognize the…event in the first place, unless there were a rule that makes it necessary that the order of our perceptions should be thus and not otherwise. In short, the very experience of an external event already presupposes an understanding of causal necessity.[17]

From this perspective, empiricism is faced with a huge problem. Either they accept that knowledge can be achieved outside of sensory experience or they reject causality and by doing so reject their own perceptions, which would be tantamount to rejecting empiricism itself.

Since empiricism is a key metaphysical assumption used to justify evolution, it then weakens the view that evolution is based on certainty, because empiricism faces many philosophical problems.

Popper’s Falsification, Kuhn & Feyerabend:

The philosophers and thinkers Karl Popper, Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend radically changed our view on scientific theories. For instance, Karl Popper understood that the problem of induction will never be resolved and developed “falsification” to show which scientific theories were genuine and which where pseudo-science. Popper’s falsification states that theories cannot be proven to be true but they can be proved false. If a theory claims that something will be observed under certain circumstances, and it is not observed, then the theory is proved false.[18]

Conversely, Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend rejected the empiricist model of science but also Popper’s view that notions can be falsified by having their consequences checked against experience. Kuhn argued  that ‘normal science’  is practiced within a framework of assumptions and agreed practices, in other words it has its own paradigm. Data or experimental results that do not fit within that framework (known as anomalous results) are “routinely dismissed and explained away“[19]. Feyerabend argued that no theory can be completely consistent with the facts. He saw the use of improvised concepts to save the paradigm as essential to the progress of science. Feyerabend took examples from the history of science and argued that scientists regularly deviate from the scientific method when they use improvised ideas to explain observations that are only later justified by theory.

The key points of Kuhn and Feyerabend can be summarised in the following way:

  • A so-called observation may (and probably will) have observation bias.
  • New theories provide different conceptual lenses which will produce new ‘data’ – a new way of seeing things.
  • If observations depend on a theory and theory in some sense determines how we read the world, then there is no way of objectively deciding between two theories.[20]

Robert Sheldrake, one of the world’s most innovative biologists and writers, aptly summarises the above contentions,

Anyone who has carried out scientific research knows that data are uncertain, that much depends on the way they are interpreted, and that all methods have their limitations.[21]

Considering the perspectives on Popper, Kuhn and Feyerabend, it is obvious to see that scientific theories cannot be proven in a way that gives them status of certainty. Applying the concepts developed by Kuhn and Feyerabend, we can see that evolution also faces some theoretical problems, and therefore cannot be considered as certain. For example, language acquisition in human beings has caused theoretical problems for evolution. It is not the place to discuss this at length. However, the fact that human beings seem to have an innate ability to take meagre linguistic input and develop knowledge of language that extends far beyond anything that he has learned, cannot be explained by evolution.[22]  Noam Chomsky a proponent of this perspective on language acquisition argues the difficulty evolution has in providing an adequate explanation,

…it is quite pointless to speculate about the ‘evolution’ of human language from animal communication systems.[23]

Simon M. Kirby the British Computation Linguist also raises the challenges evolution faces concerning the development of language,

This highlights an important and difficult challenge facing the study of language evolution: the need for cooperation between different disciplines and between researchers working on different aspects of the problem. Without this cooperation a satisfactory account of the evolution of human language, and therefore of human language itself, is likely to be elusive.[24]

Naturalism:

Naturalism is the view that the super-natural does not exist. The universe is like a box, a closed system, nothing outside can interfere and natural laws are an adequate account for all phenomena. Naturalism is the ontology of most atheists and scientists. They believe that plain cold matter is the source and nature of reality. It has to be made clear here that naturalism is not an epistemological thesis – it doesn’t tell us how to obtain knowledge – it is an ontology, it is the lens with which some people use to describe the source and nature of reality. Therefore, having a naturalistic presupposition is obviously going to skew the way scientific facts and experimental data are interpreted.

Philosophical naturalism faces many issues and therefore should not be used as the lens in which scientific theories are developed. These problems are called ‘recalcitrant facts’. A recalcitrant fact is a fact that resists a theory. For example, if Joe Bloggs was charged with murdering his wife on Sunday 6th January 2013 at 6PM but he could show that he was at a football game outside of the country at the time, the very fact that he was not at the murder scene is a fact that resists the theory that he murdered his wife. So the theory is incoherent and fails. This is true for naturalism. There are many recalcitrant facts that indicate the incoherence of naturalism, some of them include:

  • Consciousness
  • Language acquisition
  • Objective moral truths
  • “Big Bang” cosmology
  • Free Will

Consciousness is an interesting and powerful topic to expose the incoherence of naturalism. For example, a naturalistic ontology cannot explain intentionality which is a product of consciousness. One of the pioneers in the field of Neuroscience Wilder Penfield, explained how when the cerebral cortex of a subject was probed, the subject’s hand would move. The subject was subsequently asked who moved his hand, and he would reply that he didn’t do it, that the neuroscientist did it. If the physical brain was the cause of all conscious activity such as the subject intending to move his hand, then by probing the brain it should also cause the subjective phenomenon of intending to do something. But this wasn’t the case; the subject clearly knew that he did not intend to move his hand. Penfield concluded that there is no place in the cerebral cortex where electrical stimulation will cause a patient to decide.[25]

Although the topic of consciousness requires volumes to be explained and to respond to materialistic objections, the point that to be noted here is that naturalism cannot fully explain consciousness, especially intentionality. The philosopher J. P. Moreland in his essay The Argument from Consciousness explains that there is no plausible naturalistic explanation for the emergence of consciousness,

The truth is that naturalism has no plausible way to explain the appearance of emergent mental properties in the cosmos. Ned Block confesses that we have no idea how consciousness could have emerged from nonconsious matter: ‘we have nothing – zilch – worthy of being called a research programme…Researchers are stumped’.[26]

Evolution is a naturalist’s project. Therefore interpretations of the relevant data and observations will be filtered via the metaphysical assumption of naturalism. Since naturalism is incoherent and faces its own philosophical issues, then it follows that evolution – which has been formulated via a naturalist ontology – cannot be certain.

Scientism:

Scientism claims that a proposition is not true if it cannot be scientifically proven. In other words if something cannot be shown to be true via the scientific method, then it is false. There are a few problems with scientism, some of which we have already discussed, for instance:

    • Scientism is self-defeating. Scientism claims that a proposition is not true if it cannot be scientifically proven. But the proposition itself cannot be scientifically proven! It is like saying “there are no sentences in the English language longer than three words” or “I cannot speak one word of English”.
    • Scientism cannot prove necessary truths like mathematics and logic. For example, If P, then Q. P. Therefore, Q[27] and 3 + 3 = 6 are necessary truths and not merely empirical generalisations.
    • Scientism cannot prove moral and aesthetic truths. For example love, beauty, right and wrong.
    • Science cannot prove other sources of knowledge. For example justified beliefs via ‘authentic testimony’.

A major problem with scientism is that truths can be established outside the scientific paradigm. As aforementioned, authentic testimony is a valid source of knowledge in which epistemologists have argued at length to explain that the say so of others can – within certain criteria – provide a basis for truth.

The epistemology of testimony is the branch of the theory of knowledge concerned with how we acquire knowledge and justified belief from the say-so of other people“.[28] Therefore, one of the key questions it tries to answer is how we successfully acquire justified belief or knowledge on the basis of what other people tell us.[29]

Many truths that we hold are on the basis of authentic testimony, because we trust the statements of others and we have no good reason to reject what they have said. This is especially so when we have multiple people telling us the same thing via different chains of transmission (known as tawattur reporting in Islamic thought). Professor C. A. J. Coady highlights some of the truths we accept on the basis of testimony, he writes,

Many of us have never seen a baby born, nor have most of us examined the circulation of the blood…[30]

 Assistant Professor Benjamin McMyler in his book Testimony, Truth and Authority, explains that some of the things he knows are due to testimony,

Here are a few things that I know. I know that the copperhead is the most common venomous snake in the greater Houston area. I know that Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo. I know that, as I write, the average price for gasoline in the U.S is $4.10 per gallon. All of these things I know on the basis of what epistemologists call testimony, on the basis of being told of them by another person or group of persons.[31]

Although this is a vast topic, there is a general consensus that authentic testimony is a source of knowledge. However, there are disagreements amongst epistemologists on how we validate the transmission of knowledge via testimony. Even scientists require testimony as a source of knowledge in order to understand science itself. For instance, there are many assumptions in science that are purely based on the say so of other scientists.

Whatever discussions there are around testimony, the key point to raise here is that it is a valid source of knowledge. Therefore, the view that science is the only way to establish truth, is false. Professor Keith Lehrer summarises the validity of testimony as a source of knowledge,

The final question that arises concerning our acceptance of testimony is this. What converts our acceptance of testimony of others into knowledge? The first part of the answer is that we must be trustworthy in our evaluations of the trustworthiness of others, and we must accept that this is so. Moreover, our trustworthiness must be successfully truth-connected, that is, the others must, in fact, be trustworthy and their trustworthiness must be truth-connected. We must accept this is so. In short, our acceptance of their testimony must be justified in a way that is not refuted or defeated by any errors that we make in evaluating them and their testimony. Undefeated or irrefutable justified acceptance of the testimony of others is knowledge.[32]

Although scientism – as an issue in the philosophy of science – does not seem to provide problems for evolution, it is useful to highlight that non-scientific sources of knowledge may also play a vital role in our understanding of who we are and where we came from. It logically follows that since science is not the only way to reach conclusions about things, then we should entertain the possibility of other routes to knowledge.

v. Divine revelation is certain knowledge (this type of certain knowledge is known as al-‘ilm al-qat’i)  which can be proven using deductive arguments.

If Divine revelation is from God, then by definition its knowledge claims are true or certain. There is the obvious caveat that this depends on our understanding of what the revelation says and if we have come to the correct interpretation, however, the point here is that since it comes from the Divine – who is the All-Knowing and transcends our limitations – then what the revelation says is going to be true. An important point to highlight is that there are some unequivocal verses in the Quran and some that are open to interpretation. It seems contradictory to make this claim about the Qur’an when some of its verses will be uncertain from the perspective of what they imply and mean. However, interpreting the Qur’an has been made an intellectual endeavour between suitably qualified exegetes. What we are saying here is that the proposition here concerns the ontology of knowledge – its source and nature. Therefore, if the Qur’an is from the Divine it follows that its knowledge claims are true, regardless if we understand what these claims to knowledge are, because by definition God is the All-Knowing and His knowledge transcends human knowledge. With respect to evolution we are assuming that if the verses in the Qur’an cannot be reconciled with the science, then the Qur’an takes precedence due to its Divine nature.

The article does not intend to present a detailed case for how the Qur’an is from God; however it is important to note that using methods outside of the scientific paradigm, it can be rationalised that the book cannot have come from a human being. In other words there are no naturalistic explanations to explain the authorship of the Qur’an. There are various arguments to justify the above claim. For instance, Muslims can rely on deductive arguments to explain the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. Deductive arguments are arguments which the premises guarantee the truth of the conclusion. If the premises of a deductive argument are true then it is impossible for the conclusion to be false.

Here are some examples of deductive arguments:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause

2. The universe began to exist

3. Therefore the universe has a cause

1. Stockholm is in Norway or Sweden.

2. If Stockholm is in Norway then it is in Scandinavia.

3. If Stockholm is in Sweden then it is in Scandinavia.

4. Therefore, Stockholm is in Scandinavia.

1. All men are mortal.

2. George is a man.

3. Therefore, George is mortal.

The above are examples of valid and sound arguments.  A deductive argument is valid if the conclusion follows from its premises. It is sound if its premises are true and it is valid. With regards to the Qur’an there are many deductive arguments that can substantiate its claim of being a Divine book. For example, there is a well known deductive argument concerning the literary miracle of the Qur’an,

1. A miracle is an event that lies outside of the productive capacity of nature (there are no causal links between the event and the nature of the event).

2. The Qur’an’s literary form lies outside of the productive capacity of nature (its literary form cannot be logically explained using the Arabic language).

3. Therefore, the Qur’an is a miracle (a miracle is an act of God).

This deductive argument is valid because the conclusion logically follows from its premises. It is sound due to an overwhelming amount of evidence to substantiate the premises claims. However, it is not the place to justify and explain this argument here, for more information please read the chapterThe Challenge in the Qur’an from the book The History of the Magnificent Qur’an published by Exhibition Islam.[33]

The point that needs to be understood here is that the Qur’an can be shown to be Divine revelation, and therefore its claims to knowledge are certain and factual.

vi. Conclusions.

In light of the above it can be concluded that not only have many people misunderstood evolution, but they have misunderstood science itself. Evolution may be a coherent explanation based upon its own metaphysical assumptions, theoretical limitations and philosophical presuppositions, but it is not certain knowledge. This is because the scientific method is limited and the intellectual tools used to understand the results and data from scientific experiments do not – most of the time – produce certainty. Since revealed texts are certain and science cannot produce certain knowledge, revealed texts will always supersede science if there is a need for reconciliation and if there are irreconcilable differences. For the Muslim, this revealed text is the Qur’an, and this text can be established as a Divine book outside of the method and philosophy of science using deductive arguments.

The irony of this evolution debate is that majority of the people who believe in evolution do so out of the testimony of others, namely our teachers at school or the books we read, because we haven’t done the experiments ourselves. This is no different than a new form of priesthood – the scientific priesthood! But we must be wary, teachers and scientists and priests are human beings, and humans err. For example Marc Hauser, a Harvard professor of biology, was found guilty of misconduct as he invented and falsified data in experiments on monkeys. This was not detected by peer reviewers but by a student whistleblower. Hauser, an atheist, authored the book Moral Minds: The Nature of Right and Wrong in which he claims morality is an inherited instinct and that atheists are just as ethical as churchgoers.[34] The point being made here is that although we must respect scientists and teachers, we should not do so blindly. Rather, we must always understand knowledge and claims of truth from an epistemological perspective, meaning does this knowledge have the right to claim certainty? By understanding the scientific method and its philosophy we can easily conclude that it is a blessing and mercy from God, but it does not – most of the time – produce certain knowledge.

This brings us to briefly address scientific consensus. Many people who claim that evolution is certain do so on the say-so of others. They cite the scientific consensus on the issue as a defeater to anyone who claims otherwise. However, if we look into the history of science this position is unsound. There are many examples to show that when the scientific and academic authorities of the time thought something to be 100% certain, they were later proved to be wrong. For example in 1843 Oliver Wendell Holmes published  work on the contagiousness of puerperal fever but the scientific community attacked his conclusion. Just a few years prior to Wendell in 1775 Dr Alexander Gordon published a paper on contagious nature of puerperal fever. His paper highlighted the importance of the correct hygiene as a means to prevent the spread of the disease. Nevertheless, his paper faced harsh criticism and immense opposition. Many lives would have been saved if the scientific consensus was less dogmatic and open to the fact that a consensus should be there to be broken, all of which is in the spirit of the scientific process. There are many similar examples in the history of science, and if we can learn anything from them, is that a scientific consensus on an issue doesn’t necessarily make it the truth.

Interestingly there have been intellectual exchanges and debates concerning philosophical issues in evolution. For example, in the academic volumeConceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology, that was written to highlight the conceptual issues that arise in the theory and practice of evolutionary biology, its editor writes,

Evolutionary biology is a living, growing discipline, and the same is true of the philosophy of evolutionary biology. One sign that a discipline is growing is that there are open questions, with multiple answers still in competition.[35]

Even from an experimental and theoretical perspective there are many academics that have published peer reviewed work that still questions the coherence of evolution. For example a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Bioremediation, Biodiversity and Bioavailability, written by Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, Kurt Stüber, Heinz Saedler and Jeong Hee Kim, entitled ‘Biodiversity and Dollo’s Law: To What Extent can the Phenotypic Differences between Misopates orontium and Antirrhinum majus be Bridged by Mutagenesis’ concluded that the debate continues whether mutations and selection alone will be sufficient to produce all the new genetic functions and innovations necessary for the cytoplasm, membranes, and cell walls.[36]

On a final note, this reminds me of a personal conversation I heard of Richard Dawkins. Someone questioned the answer he gave to an audience member at the World Atheist Convention in Ireland, which was “why did you tell them not to study the philosophy of science and ‘just do the science’?”, his silence really spoke volumes. Once you study the philosophy of science you will start to appreciate science for what it is; a useful evolving tool (no pun intended). It is not the only way to justify claims to truth, and it does not necessarily give you certainties, especially if it is laden with assumptions, theoretical presuppositions and limitations.

Footnotes & References


[A] There are two main types of induction, strong induction and weak induction. Strong induction moves from the particular to the general in a way that makes a conclusion for the whole group. Weak induction moves from the particular to the general in a way that makes a conclusion for the next observation.

An example of strong induction is the conclusion that all ravens are black because each raven that has ever been observed has been black.

An example of weak induction is that because every raven that has ever been observed has been black, the next observed raven will be black.

[B] Induction can reach certainties but not in the form of generalisations. For example,

I observe an instance of A with the quality B.

Therefore, the nature of A allows B.

 If you have observed Crows that are black you can conclude with certainty that some Crows are black. But you could not achieve certainty if you concluded that all Crows were black based on a limited set of observations. This type of induction that produces certainty doesn’t apply to evolution as inductive reasoning in the form of generalisations is not certain.

[C] This argument has been adapted from the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s book Kritik der Reinen Vernuft (A Critique of Pure Reason).

zs

 
 

                                              [1] http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_fact-and-theory.html

[2] Bertrand Russell. Religion and Science. Oxford University Press. 1935, p. 8.

[3] Adapted and taken from Understanding Science: How Science Really Works http://undsci.berkeley.edu/article/whatisscience_03

[4] Rupert Sheldrake. The Science Delusion. Coronet. 2013, p. 6.

[5] D. C. Lindberg. Theories of Vision from al-Kindi to Kepler. University of Chicago Press. 1976, pp. 60–7.

[6] Thomas Arnold. The Preaching of Islam, p. 131.

[7] George Gaylord Simpson. The Nonprevalence of Humanoids. 1964. Science, 143:769, Feb. 21.

[8] Elliot Sober “Empiricism” in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science. Edited by Stathis Psillos and Martin Curd. 2010, pp. 137-138.

[9] Enno Wolthius. Science, God & You. Baker Book House. 1963.

[10] Charles Darwin. The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex. Second Edition. New York. 1882, p. 99.

[11] Ian Markham. Against Atheism: Why Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris Are Fundamentally Wrong. 2010,  p. 34.

[12] David Hume. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, p. 108.

[13] Professor Alex Rosenberg. Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Introduction. 2012, p. 198.

[14] Elliot Sober “Empiricism” in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science. Edited by Stathis Psillos and Martin Curd. 2010, p. 129.

[15] Elliot Sober “Empiricism” in The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science. Edited by Stathis Psillos and Martin Curd. 2010, p. 131.

[16] John Cottingham. Rationalism. Paladin. 1984, pp. 109 -110.

[17] Ibid p. 88.

[18] See Karl Popper. Conjectures and Refutations. Routledge and Keagan Paul, 1963, pp. 33-39; from Theodore Schick, ed., Readings in the Philosophy of Science. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company. 2000, pp. 9-13.

[19] Rupert Sheldrake. The Science Delusion. Coronet. 2013, p. 297.

[20] See Thomas Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Paul Feyerabend’s article “Explanation, Reduction and Empiricism”.

[21] Rupert Sheldrake. The Science Delusion. Coronet. 2013, p. 298.

[22] Recent Contributions to the Theory of Innate Ideas, p. 123.

[23] Noam Chomsky cited in A. Denkel’s “The Natural Background of Meaning” p. 108.

[24] [Prefinal Draft] Kirby, S. (2007). The evolution of language. In Dunbar, R. and Barrett, L., editors, Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology, pp. 669–681. Oxford University Press.

[25] See Mystery of the Mind: A Critical Study of Consciousness and the Human Brain. Princeton University Press. 1978.

[26] J. P. Moreland. “The Argument from Consciousness” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. Edited by William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland. 2009, p. 340.

[27] Access the following link to understand what this means http://www.philosophy-index.com/logic/forms/modus-ponens.php

[28] Benjamin McMyler. Testimony, Truth and Authority. Oxford University Press. 2011. p. 3.

[29] The Epistemology of Testimony. Edited by Jennifer Lackey and Ernest Sosa. Clarendon Press: Oxford. 2006, p. 2.

[30] C. A. J. Coady. Testimony: A Philosophical Study. Oxford University Press. 1992, p. 82.

[31] Benjamin McMyler. Testimony, Truth and Authority. Oxford University Press. 2011. p 10.

[32] Keith Lehrer cited in The Epistemology of Testimony. Oxford University Press. 2006, p. 158

[33] To purchase the book please access the following link http://www.exhibitionislam.com/books.aspx?ID=28

[34] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marc_Hauser#Scientific_misconduct

[35] Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology. Edited by Elliot Sober. The MIT Press. 2006, p. ix.

[36] Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, Kurt Stüber, Heinz Saedler, Jeong Hee Kim, “Biodiversity and Dollo’s Law: To What Extent can the Phenotypic Differences betweenMisopates orontium and Antirrhinum majus be Bridged by Mutagenesis,”Bioremediation, Biodiversity and Bioavailability, Vol. 1(1):1-30 (2007).


“No question is more sublime than why there is a universe: why there is anything rather than nothing.”[1]

When we reflect upon our own existence we will come to the realisation, that at some point in time, we began to exist. Since we were once non-existent and are now in existence, it follows that we must have had a beginning. In light of this, the Qur’an raises some profound questions: were we created by nothing? Did we create ourselves? Or did we create the universe?

“Or were they created by nothing? Or were they the creators (of themselves)? Or did they create heavens and earth? Rather, they are not certain.” Quran 52:35-36

These questions can be addressed to the existence of everything temporal, in other words the entire universe. Therefore, the exegetical implications of these verses can be logically formulated in the following way:

Things that began to exist were either:-

1. Created or brought into being from nothing
2. Self caused or self created
3. Created or brought into being by something else that began to exist
4. Created or brought into being by a non-created or un-caused entity

Before we proceed, the first presupposition has to be subtantiated, as it forms the basis for the Qur’an’s argument for the existence of God. This first assumption is that the universe began to exist.

Did the universe begin to exist?

To substantiate the view that the universe began to exist we can bring into our discussion a plethora of philosophical and inductive arguments:

1. The second law of thermodynamics
2. The absurdity of an infinite history of past events
3. Astrophysical evidence

1. The second law of thermodynamics

The concept of entropy was introduced to explain the direction of various processes that occur in the natural world. Entropy is a measure of how evenly energy is distributed in a system. For example, heat always flows from a body of a higher temperature or energy (low entropy) to one of a lower temperature or energy (high entropy). Take the following illustration of a container with gas,


when the partition is removed, the gas in one end of the container will spread to the whole of the container, going from a state of low entropy (higher temperature or energy) to high entropy (lower temperature or energy).

Hence, according to the second law of thermodynamics, processes in a closed system tend towards higher entropy, as their energy is being used.

Applying the second law of thermodynamics to the universe we will conclude that it must have began to exist. Since the universe is a closed system, with enough time the universe will suffer a heat death or thermodynamic equilibrium. When systems are in thermodynamic equilibrium, they cannot transfer energy. This is because entropy can only increase over time. Therefore, as the universe continues to expand it will eventually become cold and dead. However this raises a question, if the universe never began to exist it would imply that the universe has existed for an infinite amount of time. If this is true then why isn’t the universe already in a state of heat death? This strongly suggests that the universe must have had a beginning, because if it didn’t it would imply that it has existed for an infinite amount of time, which would mean that it should already have suffered a heat death. Since it hasn’t suffered a heat death, it strongly indicates that the universe is finite, meaning it began to exist.

2. The absurdity of an infinite history of past events

Some philosophers such as Bertrand Russell argued that the universe is eternal, meaning it has no beginning and it will never end. However if we think about this we will conclude that this position is irrational. If the universe never had a beginning it means there must be an infinite history of past events. Yet does an actual infinite exist in the real world? Is it possible?

The concept of the actual infinite cannot be exported into the real world, because it leads to contradictions and doesn’t make sense. Let’s take the following examples to illustrate this point:

1. Say you have an infinite number of balls, if I take 2 balls away, how many do you have left? Infinity. Does that make sense? Well, there should be two less than infinity, and if there is, then we should be able to count how many balls you have. But this is impossible, because the infinite is just an idea and doesn’t exist in the real world. In light of this fact the famous German mathematician David Hilbert said,

“The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought…the role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea.”[2]

2. Imagine you are a soldier ready to fire a gun, but before you shoot you have to ask permission for the soldier behind you, but he has to do the same, and it goes on for infinity. Will you ever shoot? No you wouldn’t. This highlights, the absurdity of an infinite regress and this applies to events to. Therefore, there cannot be an infinite history of past events.

3. Take the distance between two points, one may argue that you can subdivide the distance into infinite parts, but you will always be subdividing and never actually reach the ‘infinitieth’ part! So in reality the infinite is potential and can never be actualised. Similarly the ancient Greek Philosopher Aristotle explained,

“…the infinite is potential, never actual: the number of parts that can be taken always surpasses any assigned number.”[3]

So if we refer back to an infinite history of past events we can conclude, since events are not just ideas they are real, the number of past events cannot be infinite. Therefore the universe must be finite, in other words the cosmos had a beginning.

3. Astrophysical evidence

The ‘Big Bang’ is the prevailing theory in cosmology. It was first formulated by the aid of some observations made by an American Astronomer called Edwin Hubble. While Hubble was trying to understand the size of the universe, he observed immensely luminous stars called Cepheid Variables and noticed something peculiar. He observed that some of these stars were further away than initially anticipated, and that their colour was slightly changed, shifting towards red, something now known as red-shift. From Hubble’s observations we were able conclude that everything seems to be moving away from each other, in other words the universe is effectively expanding. As time moves on the universe continues to expand, but if time is reversed, the theory is that everything starts to coalesce and come together. Coupled with the discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation, which is the radiation uniformly filling the observable universe, the idea of the ‘Big Bang’ was born. In other words the universe began at a cataclysmic event which created space-time and all matter in the universe. The physicist P. C. W. Davies explains,

“If we extrapolate this prediction to its extreme, we reach a point when all distances in the universe have shrunk to zero. An initial cosmological singularity therefore forms a past temporal extremity to the universe. We cannot continue physical reasoning, or even the concept of spacetime, through such an extremity. For this reason most cosmologists think of the initial singularity as the beginning of the universe. On this view the big bang represents the creation event; the creation not only of all the matter and energy in the universe, but also of spacetime itself.”[4]

Although our understanding of what happened 10-43 seconds after the ‘Big Bang’ is highly speculative, astrophysicists now concede little doubt that this universe in which we live is the aftermath of the emergence and expansion of space-time, which occurred approximately 14 billion years ago. John Gribbin, an astrophysicist at Cambridge University, summarises the importance of ‘Big Bang’ cosmology,

“…the discovery of the century, in cosmology at least, was without doubt the dramatic discovery made by Hubble, and confirmed by Einstein’s equations, that the Universe is not eternal, static, and unchanging.”[5]

Thus the ‘Big Bang’ model describes our universe as having a beginning a finite time ago. As Alex Vilenkin, one of the world’s leading theoretical cosmologists, writes,

“It is said that an argument is what convinces reasonable men and a proof is what it takes to convince even an unreasonable man. With the proof now in place, cosmologists can no longer hide behind the possibility of a past-eternal universe. There is no escape, they have to face the problem of a cosmic beginning.”[6]

Other models have been proposed to try and explain away the obvious metaphysical questions that arise from a finite universe, for instance P.C.W. Davies questions,

“What caused the big bang? . . . One might consider some supernatural force, some agency beyond space and time as being responsible for the big bang, or one might prefer to regard the big bang as an event without a cause. It seems to me that we don’t have too much choice. Either…something outside of the physical world…or…an event without a cause.”[7]

These models include the oscillating and vacuum fluctuation models. These models however still have principles that necessitate a beginning to the universe, in other words they are non-infinitely extendable into the past. Take the oscillating model as an example, this model maintains that if the gravitational pull of the mass of the universe was able to surmount the force of its expansion, then the expansion could be changed into a cosmic contraction or ‘Big Crunch’, and then into a new expansion, with the process continuing ad infinitum. However, there are a few issues with this model,

1. Firstly there is nothing available in modern physics that would allow a universe that is collapsing to spring back into a new expanding universe.

2. Secondly the mean mass density of the universe, derived from observational evidence, has shown that it is not enough to develop the required gravitational force to stop and reverse the expansion of the universe.

3. Thirdly, the second law of thermodynamics (as discussed above) implies the finitude of the universe. According to the oscillation model, the entropy is conserved from cycle to cycle of the various oscillations of expansion, crunch and expansion. This has the effect of generating larger and longer oscillations. Therefore the thermodynamic property of this model implies a beginning, as the universe that we exist in has not suffered a heat death, or thermodynamic equilibrium.

Since we have presented good evidence that the universe began to exist. We can now address the logically possible explanations the Qur’an presents as rationalisations of the origins of the universe.

Created or brought into being from nothing

We know the universe couldn’t have come out of nothing, because out of nothing, nothing comes! This is an undeniable philosophical principle, as P. J. Zwart in his publication About Time explains,

“If there is anything we find inconceivable it is that something could arise from nothing.”[8]

A significant point to raise here is that nothingness should not be misconstrued as the nothingness that some physicists talk about. The term nothingness in this context refers to the absence of anything physical, in other words there is no pre-existing ‘stuff’. In light of the beginning of the universe, there was absolutely nothing before it began to exist, which is why physicists have explained the universe as having a space-time boundary.

However, nothingness as defined by some physicists relates to the quantum vacuum. This is misleading because the quantum is something. In quantum theory the vacuum is a field of energy pervading the whole of the universe. In the word’s of John Polkinghorne, a philosopher of science, the quantum vacuum,

“…is not ‘nothing’; it is a structured and highly active entity.”[9]

So, in context of some of the physicists’ definition, the universe could not have come from absolutely nothing, as the quantum vacuum is something. It is a sea of fluctuating energy, which is still part of the cosmos and it did not pre-exist the universe. This point leads us nicely to the next possible explanation.

Self caused or self created

Philosophically, the universe couldn’t have created itself because that would imply a paradox. It would mean that something can exist and not exist at the same time. The logical ends of this explanation are tantamount to saying that your mother gave birth to herself!

Recently, the world renowned physicist, Stephen Hawking in his new book The Grand Design argues that the universe did self create due to the law of gravity,

“Because there is a law like gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing…”[10]

But his view on nothing, as previously mentioned, is not really nothingness but is space filled with the quantum vacuum, which is part of the universe. In essence Hawking is telling us that the universe can create itself, but it has to already exist for it to do that!

Concerning the law of gravity, well that is just a mathematical equation that describes nature. This law is part of the universe, which can also be described as a force of attraction between material objects. Therefore, how can this force exist before matter, in other words the universe?

To assert that the universe created itself would be absurd and self refuting, because in order for something to create itself it would need to exist before it existed!

Created or brought into being by something else that began to exist

This is not an adequate explanation for the origins of the universe. The universe could not have owed its existence to another state of temporal physical existence. To maintain such an explanation would be equivalent of expanding the boundaries of the universe, as all things which have a temporal beginning exist within the universe. Also, if temporal physical existence owes itself to another temporal physical existence ad infinitum, it doesn’t explain anything. Rather it highlights the absurdity of an infinite regress, and that there has to be a beginning to the temporal physical states, which logically must be a non-physical state.

Take the following example into consideration. If the universe, U1, followed another temporal cause U2, and U2 followed another temporal cause U3, and this went on ad infinitum we wouldn’t have the universe U1 in the first place. Think about it this way, when does U1 come into being? Only after U2 has come into being. When does U2 come into being? Only after U3 has come into being. This same problem will continue even if we go to infinity. If U1 depended on its coming into being on a chain of infinite temporal causes, U1 would never exist. As the Islamic Philosopher and Scholar Dr. Jaafar Idris writes,

“There would be no series of actual causes, but only a series of non-existents, as Ibn Taymiyyah explained. The fact, however, is that there are existents around us; therefore, their ultimate cause must be something other than temporal causes.”[11]

Created or brought into being by a non-created or un-caused entity

Since something cannot come from nothing, and self creation is absurd, including the unreasonableness of the aforementioned explanation, then the universe being created or brought into existence by an uncaused entity is the best explanation. This concept is intuitive but also agrees with reality: whatever begins to exist has a cause or a creator.

This cause or creator must be uncaused due to the absurdity of an infinite regress, in other words an indefinite chain of causes. To illustrate this better, if the cause of the universe had a cause and that cause had a cause ad infinitum, then there wouldn’t be a universe to talk about in the first place (something we have already discussed above). For example, imagine if a Stock Trader on a trading floor at the Stock Exchange was not able to buy or sell his stocks or bonds before asking permission from the investor, and then this investor had to check with his, and this went on forever, would the Stock Trader every buy or sell his stocks or bonds? The answer is no. In similar light if we apply this to the universe we would have to posit an uncaused cause due to this rational necessity. The Qur’an confirms the uncreatedness of the creator, God,

“He neither begets nor is born.” Qur’an 112:3

The cause or creator for the universe must be a single cause for several reasons. An attractive argument to substantiate this claim includes the use of the rational principle called Occam’s razor. In philosophical terms the principle enjoins that we do not multiply entities beyond necessity. What this basically means is that we should stick to explanations that do not create more questions than it answers. In the context of the cause for the universe we have no evidence to claim multiplicity, in other words more than one. The Qur’an affirms the Oneness of the creator,

“Say: He is God, [who is] One.” Qur’an 112:1

However some philosophers and scientists claim: why doesn’t the cause be the universe itself? Why can’t the cause stop at the universe? Well, the problem with these claims is that they would imply that the universe created itself, which we have already discussed, is absurd. Additionally, we have good reasons to postulate a cause for the universe because the universe began to exist, and what begins to exist has a cause.

Our argument thus far allows us to conclude that this cause or creator must be non contingent meaning that its existence is dependent on nothing but itself. If it were contingent it would be one more effect in the chain of causes. The Qur’an verifies this,

“God is Independent of (all) creatures.” Qur’an 3:97

The cause or creator must also be transcendent, this means that the cause of the universe must exist outside of and apart from the universe. Since this being exists apart from the universe it must be non-physical or immaterial, if it was material then it would be part of the universe. This is confirmed in the Qur’an,

“There is nothing like unto Him, and He is the Hearing, the Seeing” Qur’an 42:11

This cause must have the power to create the universe, without this ability nothing could be created. The Qur’an testifies to God’s power,

“Certainly, God has power over all things.” Qur’an 2:20

This cause must have a will, because it wouldn’t be able to create the universe without one. What this means is that it must have a will so the power to create could be acted on. The Qur’an refers to God as having a will in many places, for instance,

“And God guides whom He wills to a straight path.” Qur’an 2:213

In summary, we have concluded what the Qur’an concluded over 1400 years ago, that a creator for the universe exists, that is one, has a will, is powerful, uncaused, immaterial and eternal.

Quantum Physics Undermines the Argument

A common contention to the central argument made in this essay is that the assumption – whatever begins to exist has a cause – is false. This is due to the apparent observations in the quantum vacuum that sub-atomic events behave spontaneously without any causes. In light of this common contention there are some good objections we can raise:

1. Firstly, the view that some events just happen, also known as indeterminism, for no reason at all is impossible to prove conclusively. Our inability to identify a cause does not necessarily mean that there is no cause.

2. Secondly, there are deterministic perspectives adopted by physicists to explain these so-called spontaneous sub-atomic events. For instance in the 1950s David Bohm showed there was an alternative formulation of quantum theory that is fully deterministic in its basic structure. [12] Commenting on Bohm’s theory Polkinghorne explains,

“In Bohm’s theory there are particles which are as unproblematically objective and deterministic in their behaviour as Sir Isaac Newton himself might have wished them to be. However, there is also a hidden wave, encoding information about the whole environment. It is not itself directly observable, but it influences in a subtle and highly sensitive manner the motions of the particles in just such a way as to induce the experimentally observed probabilistic effects.”[13]

What this means is that the apparent indeterminism present at the quantum level can be explained deterministically by this hidden wave that produces observed indeterministic or probabilistic effects.

However, since these two interpretations of quantum theory are empirically equivalent the choice between them will not be based on a scientific decision but on a metaphysical one. This leads to the philosophical objection to this contention.

3. Thirdly, from a philosophical perspective it is extremely difficult for these physicists (who adopt an indeterministic explanation of sub-atomic events) to justify their conclusions. This is because without the concept of causality we will not have the mental framework to understand our observations and experiences. In philosophical terms causality is a priori, which means knowledge we have independent of any experience. We know causality is true because we bring it to all our experience, rather than our experience bringing it to us. It is like wearing yellow-tinted glasses, everything looks yellow not because of anything out there in the world, but because of the glasses through which we are looking at everything. Take the following example into consideration; imagine you are looking at the White House in Washington DC. Your eyes may wonder to the door, across the pillars, then to the roof and finally over to the front lawn. Now contrast this to another experience, you are on the river Thames in London and you see a boat floating past. What dictates the order in which you had these experiences? When you looked at the White House you had a choice to see the door first and then the pillars and so on. However, with the boat you had no choice as the front of the boat was the first to appear.

The point to take here is that you would not have been able to make the distinction that some experiences are ordered by yourself and others are ordered independently, unless we had the concept of causality. In absence of causality our experience would be very different from the way it is. It would be a single sequence of experiences only: one thing after another. So to accept that sub-atomic events do not correspond with causality would be tantamount of denying our own experience!

zs

References

[1] Derek Parfit, “Why Anything? Why This?” London Review of Books 20/2 (January 22, 1998), page 24.
[2] David Hilbert. On the Infinite, in Philosophy of Mathematics, ed. with an Intro. by P. Benacerraf and H. Putnam. Prentice-Hall. 1964, page151.
[3] Aristotle, Physics 207b8 (available online here http://classics.mit.edu/Aristotle/physics.html)
[4] P. C. W. Davies, “Spacetime Singularities in Cosmology,” in The Study of Time III, ed. J. T. Fraser (Berlin: Springer Verlag, 1978), pages 78–79.
[5] John Gribbin, In the Beginning: The Birth of the Living Universe (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1993), page 19.
[6] Alex Vilenkin, Many Worlds in One: The Search for Other Universe. Hill and Wang. 2006, page 176.
[7] Paul Davies, “The Birth of the Cosmos,” in God, Cosmos, Nature and Creativity, ed. Jill Gready (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1995), pages. 8-9.
[8] P. J. Zwart, About Time (Amsterdam and Oxford: North Holland Publishing Co., 1976), pages 117-19
[9] John Polkinghorne and Nicholas Beale. Questions of Truth. 2009, page 41
[10] Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow. The Grand Design. 2011, page 180.
[11] http://www.jaafaridris.com/English/Books/physicists.htm accessed 1 October 2011, 10:32AM.
[12] See D. Bohm and B. J. Hiley. The Undivided Universe. Routledge, 1993.
[13] John Polkinghorne. Science and Religion in Quest of Truth. SPCK. 2011, page 39


They say ”Endings are the new beginnings”. Such people are actually right. I agree with this notion. It’s because when something ends, it denotes new beginning. For example, when a person dies i.e. his life ends, but actually his dreamy and full of fantasy temporary life ends, and a new beginning i.e. the eternal life hereafter begins as soon as he dies. No, I’m not brushing up my philosophy, but actually stating the TRUTH.

Take another example, how the night falls and a stony silence creeps in the whole atmosphere. Come to think of it?!

After darkness, there is always LIGHT. IT’S THE TRUTH AS WELL. The most common epitome that illustrates this statement is the blessed phenomenon of Allah The Almighty upon us that after the night, dawn comes and morning emerges with the sound of the traffic enmeshed with the chirping and tweeting of the birds in the clear, blue sky. The stars and the moon have hidden themselves in a veil, and Mr. Sun appears. 🙂

Too many times, I encounter such people who lose their optimism down to a cellular level when they suffer from a ‘betrayal, fraud or a breakup of their relationships’, or when they flunk in any subject(s) at the school exams.

The aftermath of such loss of hope, loss of love, loss of humanity, and care and respect is very detrimental. Most of the people (like me) can’t bear up the pain of separation and end up as mental patients, depression patients in the mental asylum. Some of them even succumb to committing suicide!! :'(:(

Suicide is becoming a common aspect among teenagers in our society. Even I suffered from loss of love and loneliness and breakup and failures. The pain of getting betrayed is far worser than it seems. Research shows that the pain of breakup/betrayal causes severe pain/damage to the brain, even more severe than an injury. But from what I’ve gathered from my experiences of life is that only the sincere one i.e. A true lover/friend weeps and gets himself/herself afflicted with the injury of brain and heart after a breakup/betrayal. Instead of worrying over bad grades, you guys should even focus harder on your ACADEMICS… Work hard and prove to your teachers and enemies that u are not a garbage. YOU are YOU.. And YOU are a MARVEL.. Keep your morals HIGH. AIM FOR THE HEIGHT. SO, BEGIN YOUR OWN BEGINNING. AND AS FOR THE VULNERABLE ONES, WHO GOT THEIR TRUSTS BROKEN, THEY SHOULD ALSO MOVE ON AND CARRY ON WITH THEIR FOOTSTEPS..THEY SHOULD WALK FURTHER UNTIL THEY REACH THEIR DESTINATION..BECAUSE, THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD (P.B.U.H.) SAID: ”THE ONE WHO CHEATS IS NOT ONE OF US.” …

 

P.S. THIS WAS COMPOSED BY ME WHEN I WAS 16 YEARS OLD, IN 2013. 🙂 

zscurl


I am at once very poetic and extremely analytical when I write about love. I dissect this highest of human feelings with superb perception. I consider pure, true LOVE as SACRED and before I give myself the pleasure of writing about it, I must purify my lips with what I call a ”Sacred Fire”. I have to feel the inner energy, the glow of my eyes….

When I came to know LOVE, the songs in my heart became a deep silence, and I needed to ask for advice from someone to tell my heart about my heart and myself about myself. LOVE, according to me, consumes our emotions and passions…. Its hand is rough and sweet, takes hold of us in our loneliness and pours into our heart a drink in which bitterness and sweetness mingle….
The real feelings of LOVE are made of tears and laughter, of sorrow and happiness. It is a strange force that brings to our soul both death and life, sorrow and happiness, generating a dream stronger than life and deeper than death.
When love touches our soul with the tips of its fingers, we gather enough energy and strength to cross valleys, climb mountains to meet the one we love and travel from afar to meet the beloved of our life!…
I divide life into two halves: one half is frozen and the other half burning, and love is that burning half. This divine flame comes from the throne of divinity and I prayed that I be consumed by it. Love, according to me is not created by us but is sent from above and directs everything in our life, as it sees fit. . We are merely a plaything in its hands, knowing not where to go or what to do. When we love we should not say that (Allah/God) is in our heart, but rather that we are in the heart of Allah.
Real and geniune love for me is a self-consuming and self-nourishing fire. The flame is as strong as death, which changes everything and gives nothing but itself and takes nothing but from itself….

zscurl


Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), was a brilliant German philosopher. These 38 Stratagems are excerpts from “The Art of Controversy”, first translated into English and published in 1896.

Schopenhauer’s 38 ways to win an argument are:

  1. Carry your opponent’s proposition beyond its natural limits; exaggerate it. The more general your opponent’s statement becomes, the more objections you can find against it. The more restricted and narrow his or her propositions remain, the easier they are to defend by him or her.
  2. Use different meanings of your opponent’s words to refute his or her argument.
  3. Ignore your opponent’s proposition, which was intended to refer to a particular thing. Rather, understand it in some quite different sense, and then refute it. Attack something different than that which was asserted.
  4. Hide your conclusion from your opponent till the end. Mingle your premises here and there in your talk. Get your opponent to agree to them in no definite order. By this circuitious route you conceal your game until you have obtained all the admissions that are necessary to reach your goal.
  5. Use your opponent’s beliefs against him. If the opponent refuses to accept your premises, use his own premises to your advantage.
  6. Another plan is to confuse the issue by changing your opponent’s words or what he or she seeks to prove.
  7. State your proposition and show the truth of it by asking the opponent many questions. By asking many wide-reaching questions at once, you may hide what you want to get admitted. Then you quickly propound the argument resulting from the opponent’s admissions.
  8. Make your opponent angry. An angry person is less capable of using judgement or perceiving where his or her advantage lies.
  9. Use your opponent’s answers to your questions to reach different or even opposite conclusions.
  10. If your opponent answers all your questions negatively and refuses to grant any points, ask him or her to concede the opposite of your premises. This may confuse the opponent as to which point you actually seek them to concede.
  11. If the opponent grants you the truth of some of your premises, refrain from asking him or her to agree to your conclusion. Later, introduce your conclusion as a settled and admitted fact. Your opponent may come to believe that your conclusion was admitted.
  12. If the argument turns upon general ideas with no particular names, you must use language or a metaphor that is favorable in your proposition.
  13. To make your opponent accept a proposition, you must give him or her an opposite, counter-proposition as well. If the contrast is glaring, the opponent will accept your proposition to avoid being paradoxical.
  14. Try to bluff your opponent. If he or she has answered several of your questions without the answers turning out in favor of your conclusion, advance your conclusion triumphantly, even if it does not follow. If your opponent is shy or stupid, and you yourself possess a great deal of impudence and a good voice, the trick may easily succeed.
  15. If you wish to advance a proposition that is difficult to prove, put it aside for the moment. Instead, submit for your opponent’s acceptance or rejection some true poposition, as thoug you wished to draw your proof from it. Should the opponent reject it because he or she suspects a trick, you can obtain your triumph by showing how absurd the opponent is to reject a true proposition. Should the opponent accept it, you now have reason on your own for the moment. You can either try to prove your original proposition or maintain that your original proposition is proved by what the opponent accepted. For this, an extreme degree of impudence is required.
  16. When your opponent puts forth a proposition, find it inconsistent with his or her other statements, beliefs, actions, or lack of action.
  17. If your opponent presses you with a counter proof, you will often be able to save yourself by advancing some subtle distinction. Try to find a second meaning or an ambiguous sense for your opponent’s idea.
  18. If your opponent has taken up a line of argument that will end in your defeat, you must not allow him or her to carry it to its conclusion. Interrupt the dispute, break it off altogether, or lead the opponent to a different subject.
  19. Should your opponent expressly challenge you to produce any objection to some definite point in his or her argument, and you have nothing much to say, try to make the argument less specific.
  20. If your opponent has admitted to all or most of your premises, do not ask him or her directly to accept your conclusion. Rather draw the conclusion yourself as if it too had been admitted.
  21. When your opponent uses an argument that is superficial, refute it by setting forth its superficial character. But it is better to meet the opponent with a counter argument that is just as superficial, and so dispose of him or her. For it is with victory that your are concerned, and not with truth.
  22. If your opponent asks you to admit something from which the point in dispute will immediately follow, you must refuse to do so, declaring that it begs the question.
  23. Contradiction and contention irritate a person into exaggerating his or her statements. By contractiong your opponent you may drive him or her into extending the statement beyond its natural limit. When you then contradict the exaggerated form of it, you look as though you had refuted the orginal statement your opponent tries to extend your own statement further than you intended, redefine your statement’s limits.
  24. This trick consists in stating a false syllogism. Your opponent makes a proposition and by false inference and distortion of his or her ideas you force from the proposition other propositions that are not intended and that appear absurd. It then appears the opponent’s proposition gave rise to these inconsistencies, and so appears to be indirectly refuted.
  25. If your opponent is making a generalization, find an instance to the contrary. Only one valid contradiciton is needed to overthrow the opponent’s proposition.
  26. A brilliant move is to turn the tables and use your opponent’s arguments against him or herself.
  27. Should your opponent surprise you by becoming particularly angry at an argument, you must urge it with all the more zeal. Not only will this make the opponent angry, it may be presumed that you put your finger on the weak side of his or her case, and that the opponent is more open to attack on this point than you expected.
  28. This trick is chiefly practicable in a dispute if there is an audience who is not an expert on the subject. You make an invalid objection to your opponent who seems to be defeated in the eyes of the audience. This strategy is particularly effective if your objection makes the opponent look ridiculous or if the audience laughs. If the opponent must make a long, complicated explanation to correct you, the audience will not be disposed to listen.
  29. If you find that you are being beaten, you can create a diversion that is, you can suddenly begin to talk of something else, as though it had bearing on the matter in dispose. This may be done without presumption if the diversion has some general bearing on the matter.
  30. Make an appeal to authority rather than reason. If your opponent respects an authority or an expert, quote that authority to further your case. If needed, quote what the authority said in some other sense or circumstance. Authorities that your opponent fails to understand are those which he or she generally admires the most. You may also, should it be necessary, not only twist your authorities, but actually falsify them, or quote something that you have invented entirely yourself.
  31. If you know that you have no reply to an argument that your opponent advances, you may, by a fine stroke of irony, declare yourself to be an incompetent judge.
  32. A quick way of getting rid of an opponent’s assertion, or throwing suspicion on it, is by putting it into some odious category.
  33. You admit your opponent’s premises but deny the conclusion.
  34. When you state a question or an argument, and your opponent gives you no direct answer, or evades it with a counter question, or tries to change the subject, it is a sure sign you have touched a weak spot, sometimes without knowing it. You have as it were, reduced the opponent to silence. You must, therefore, urge the point all the more, and not let your opponent evade it, even when you do not know where the weakness that you have hit upon really lies.
  35. This trick makes all unnecessary if it works. Instead of working on an opponent’s intellect, work on his or her motive. If you succeed in making your opponent’s opinion, should it prove true, seem distinctly to his or her own interest, the opponenent will drop it like a hot potato.
  36. You may also puzzle and bewilder your opponent by mere bombast. If the opponent is weak or does not wish to appear as ife he or she has no idea what you are talking about, you can easily impose upon him or her some argument that sounds very deep or learned, or that sounds indisputable.
  37. Should your opponent be in the right but, luckily for you, choose a faulty proof, you can easily refute it and then claim that you have refuted the whole position. This is the way which bad advocates lose a good case. If no accurate proof occurs to the opponent or the bystanders, you have won the day.
  38. A last trick is to become personal, insulting and rude as soon as you perceive that your opponent has the upper hand. In becoming personal you leave the subject altogether, and turn your attack on the person by remarks of an offensive and spiteful character. This is a very popular trick, because everyone is able to carry it into effect.

(abstracted from the book:Numerical Lists You Never Knew or Once Knew and Probably Forget, by: John Boswell and Dan Starer)

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Why Physicists Need Philosophers

 

There’s a spat brewing between some theoretical physicists and philosophers of science recently, and NPR’s Adam Frank has all the details. It started when one philosopher of science, David Albert, questioned the notion that the universe came “from nothing,” as the title of Laurence Krauss’ new book claims. This quickly escalated into a debate over whether philosophy of science was even a worthwhile endeavor, or just a distraction from the hard, nuts-and-bolts work of figuring out the nature of the universe.

Frank has a great explanation of just why these physicists are wrong to dismiss philosophy out of hand:

Richard Feynman was famously scornful of the philosophy of science. He thought it was immune to finding relevant results or making real progress. But the problem is that we aren’t living in Richard Feynman’s age of physics anymore. Something strange happened on the way to the modern intersection of cosmology and foundational physics. Some measure of philosophical sophistication seems helpful, if nothing else, in confronting this new landscape.

Its one thing for physicists exploring carbon nanotubes to say they have no use for philosophy. Their work lives or dies by experimental data that can be collected tomorrow. But over the last few decades, cosmology and foundational physics have become dominated by ideas that that appear to take a page from science fiction and, more importantly, remain firmly untethered to data.

Concepts like hidden dimensions of reality (string theory) or hidden infinite possible parallel universes (the multiverse) are radical revisions of the very concept of reality. Since detailed contact with experimental data might be decades away, theorists have relied mainly on mathematical consistency and “aesthetics” to guide their explorations. In light of these developments, it seems absurd to dismiss philosophy as having nothing to do with their endeavors.

Read the rest over at Frank’s NPR blog.

🙂

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In ancient Greece (469 – 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom.

One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance, who ran up to him  excitedly and said,
“Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?”

“Wait a moment,” Socrates replied. “Before you tell me,
I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Test of Three.”

“Test of Three?”

“That’s correct,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my student let’s take a moment to test what you’re going to say. The first test is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man replied, “actually I just heard about it.”

“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second test, the test of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?”

“No, on the contrary…”

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him even  though you’re not certain it’s true?”

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued, “You may still pass though because there is a third test – the filter of Usefulness.
Is what you want to tell me about my student  going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really…”

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor  good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

The man was defeated and  ashamed and said no more.

This is the reason Socrates was a great philosopher and held in such high  esteem.

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This is Dale Carnegie’s summary of his book, from 1936

 

Part One

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Part Two

Six ways to make people like you

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Part Three

Win people to your way of thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say, “You’re wrong.”
  3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel that the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

Part Four

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

A leader’s job often includes changing your people’s attitudes and behavior. Some suggestions to accomplish this:

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”
  7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.

 

 

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