God and Science
In the West, the news media often represent the interaction of religion and science as a battle to death between religious scholars and scientific atheists. But for many scientists, who belong to the mainstream faith, things look entirely different. Throughout the last millennium, the Church was looked upon as a controlling mother with two defiant sons called physics and biology. Yet, despite strained relations, there is always optimism that religion and science can benefit from each other.
Medieval scientists, assured by their faith that the universe is rational, took their first steps towards uncovering God’s Design. The first great conflict happened between the Church on one side and Galileo on the other side. In 1595 Galileo supported the Copernican theory that the earth revolves around the sun against the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic assumption that planets circle a fixed earth.
Galileo was condemned by the Church for his scientific beliefs and was ordered in 1616 not to discuss Copernicanism either orally or in writing. Only in 1984 a papal commission acknowledged that the church was wrong, but it was not until 1992 that the church actually reversed its condemnation of Galileo. It took the Church about 4 centuries to admit that it was wrong.
Therefore, the son physics moved out of the house, and for a while, science enjoyed its freedom. The telescopes of the following centuries saw many stars in a huge void, evoking the dream of infinite universe with no sign of a beginning or a prospect of an end. Some scientists thought that the universe was never changing. To them, there was no need for a God!
This simple view did not last. Edwin Hubble discovered the red shift of the distant stars, and in 1920’s the whole world knew that the universe had a beginning called the Big Bang. The fact that the universe had a beginning asserted the existence of an Omnipotent Designer that started the Big Bang. Cosmology used physics to uncover a magnificently organized universe; fine-tuned to foster life within it. In its adulthood, physics realized that mother is much smarter than she had been credited. The son physics started to have a tremendous appreciation for creating the universe and his mother’s wisdom.
Biology moved out of the house later than physics and is later to return as well.
Darwin introduced a concept of evolution of species by natural selection. It was an interesting guesswork, but where in this scheme was the Designer? In the 19th century the foundation of life was in a total mystery. Scientists of the time hoped that the complexity of humans and animals would resolve into simplicity when more was learned about life. Darwinists had no way of knowing about proteins, amino acids, the genetic code and other mysteries of the living cell.
In the last 50 years biology has uncovered some of the mysteries of the living cell, and the results firmly indicate another Grand Design. The marvels of the living cell include precisely tailored microscopic systems that include molecular trucks to haul neatly tagged cargo from one end of the cell to the other along a molecular railroad tracks. It also includes power plants to generate the cell’s energy; disciplined biological armies standing ready to fight the invaders; and a centralized genetic government to maintain order. Darwin’s natural selection lies in smoking ruins. Darwinism may explain simple things like the shape of finch beaks, but for the more complex questions of how life evolved and why, biology is still reluctant to admit God’s Grand Design.
At the present time biology seems to be in a state of complete denial that controlled physics when the concept of the Big Bang was first introduced. Some modern biologists look for anything to reject the prospect of intentional design of life. Their denial won’t last long, though; evidences are too strong. Other biologists suggested an interesting compromise. It is called creative evolution.
They believe that God created Adam, but they may exclude the controversial Biblical statement that God created Adam in His own image. Now, they ask the question: Who was really Adam? Could he be the first living cell on Earth? Creative evolution advocates evolution not by natural selection but by the guidance of God.
This conclusion is based upon incomplete evidences. And all the conflicts and contradictions of evolution will have to be defended by the creative evolutionists and that was never done successfully.
The news media often ask scientists how science can be reconciled with religion. A better question would be how could anyone with some knowledge of science avoid watching the overwhelming evidences of One God?
Humans managed to divide science into three main categories:
· Physical: such as physics, chemistry, and engineering.
· Biological: such as medicine, embryology, botany, and zoology.
· Sociological: such as psychology, economics, anthropology, and history.
However, the great scientific pioneers in the human’s history could not really be classified as physicist, biologists, or sociologists. Most of them had knowledge in many branches of science. An inspiring list of those pioneers includes Newton, Galileo, Al-battani (Albatenius), and Ibn Sina. Without exception, true scientists were devout religious people. They simply understood that science would never have answers to all complex questions.
At present, in trying to deal with the enormous scientific and spiritual information that is available to us, it may help to abandon the above categorization of science and put the above three categories under a new name called Evidences of God! Or attach the Name of God to all branches of science such as physics of God, biology of God, etc. If we do that, the simplest physical law, biological and sociological phenomenon can then make sense. Asking questions about: who, why, and how can then have one answer, and one answer only.
Some scientists are limiting their creativity by rejecting the concept of God. If scientists make it their business to uncover some of God’s Grand Design, humanity will enjoy a much greater scientific achievements, paralleled only to the great scientific advances that Islam inspired in the Middle Ages.
This would certainly require a major overhaul in the entire educational system. Teachers would be required to be more inspirational.
Books would have to be rewritten to include the thoughts of the scientific pioneers, and not merely their works without any human attachments. This would change the life of physicists, biologists, engineers, botanists, and all other professionals. Every simple physical law, biological test or analysis is approached within the framework of the Grand Design. If that happens, the entire human family would be in a state of submission to the Will of God. And that is what Islam is all about.
The attitude of Islam towards continuous knowledge and scientific development is quite remarkable. As a matter of fact, the first word revealed in the Quran was “Read.” It was an order from the Creator to the Muslims to seek true knowledge, because this is the only way to achieve an appreciation for the Glory and Greatness of God. With this order, science took on an international character in the Islamic universities of the Middle Ages. During that time, Muslims had a great advantage because the Quran inspired the Muslims to study the sky and the earth to find proof for their faith.
Muhammad (Sallallaahu alaihi vasallam) encouraged the Muslims to seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave, no matter if their search took them as far as China. Studying is considered an act of worshipping God. It is an established fact that scientific upsurge by Muslims came as a result of religious influence. Anyone who knows something about Islamic history is aware of the period of the Middle Ages, which saw cultural and scientific peaks in the Islamic world.
Muslims made great contributions in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, physics, botany, medicine etc. There is no numeral of greater significance than the zero, which came from the Arabic word “sifr” or empty. Solutions of algebraic equations were introduced early in the Islamic world, where it was known as the “science of restoration and balancing.” (The Arabic word for restoration, al-jabr, is the root of the word algebra, and algebra as a science is an Islamic contribution.)
Al-Khwarizmi (780-850) of Baghdad popularized the use of the decimal numbering system and wrote the first clear textbook on algebra. The title of this influential Arabic book was “al-jabr wa al-muqabala”, which means “the art of bringing together unknowns to match known quantities.” The key word “al-jabr” or “bringing together” gave rise to the word algebra. Al-Battani (850-929) in Damascus is considered the greatest Muslim astronomer and mathematician. He improved trigonometry and calculated the first table of cotangents. The Latinos called al-Battani “Albatenius”. Other Muslims such as Abu Kamil, and Omar Khayyam are only few names that contributed in Algebra.
Ibn Al-haitham (965-1039), known as “Alhazen” in the West, was one of the greatest investigators of optics of all times. He was also a physician. His fame came from a book on optics that became known to Kepler during the seventeenth century. This masterpiece, “Ketab Al-Manazeer” (Book of Mirrors) had great influence on the training of later scientists in Europe, in which he described the nature of light as consisting of particles which carry heat and energy.
Thabit Ibn Qurra (833-902) in Baghdad was the commentator on higher mathematics, and wrote on the theory of numbers. He, also, wrote about gravity and its relationship with mass, stating that when there are two bodies, the larger body exerts a stronger influence on the lesser mass. Islamic astronomers of the Middle Ages, having learned how to build mathematical instruments, were setting up observatories and charting the movements of stars and planets, while contemporary Europeans were ignorant of nearly all sciences.
During the 10th century, Cordoba, the largest city in Europe, was a center for Islamic learning. Its mosque, known as La Mezquita, was one of the largest in the Islamic world. Ibn Rushd (1126-98), born in Cordoba, known in Latin as Averroës, was a Spanish-Arab Islamic philosopher, jurist, and physician. He also studied theology, philosophy, and mathematics under the Arab philosopher Ibn Tufayl (1105? -85) and medicine under the Arab physician Avenzoar (1090-1162).
It is interesting to note that prominent Muslim scientists were given Latin names with the effect of obscuring their identity and origin, and their association with the Islamic civilization. The Caliph’s library at Cordoba included 400,000 books. Scholars from all over Europe went to study at Cordoba. As the signs of mathematical awakening in Europe appeared in the thirteenth century, the Christian monks made contact with Islamic universities in Spain, opening the way to the Renaissance, and the translation from Arabic to Latin started.
The first university on earth, Al-Azhar (the resplendent) was established after the founding of Cairo itself in 969 AD. This university has an important effect upon the development of educational institutions in Europe. The wearing of black academic gowns, traditions of public disputations, and division of undergraduate and graduate faculties originated at Al-Azhar University. Non-Arab speaking students from Europe had to take a crash course in Arabic for 6 months, because Arabic was the language of science.