Religion Helps Science
To Be Rightly Guided
Science is the investigation of the material world we live in through observation and experiment. Accordingly, in conducting such investigation, science will lead to various conclusions based on the information collected through observation and experimentation. In addition, however, every discipline of science also has certain norms that are simply taken for granted, or accepted without further verification. In scientific literature, this set of norms is called a "paradigm".
This initial outlook charts the "course" of all related scientific investigation. As is known, the first step in scientific investigation is the formulation of a "hypothesis". To begin with, for their research topic, scientists must form a hypothesis. Then, this hypothesis is tested through scientific experimentation. If observations and experiments verify the hypothesis, the "hypothesis" is called an "established principle or law". If the hypothesis is disproved, then new hypotheses are tested, and the process continues.
The formulation of the hypothesis, which is the first step of the process, is often dependent on the scientists' basic viewpoint. For instance, scientists, if committed to a certain outlook, could base their work on a hypothesis that "matter has a tendency to self-organize without the involvement of a conscious agent". Then, they would conduct years of research to verify that hypothesis. Yet, since matter has no such capability, all these efforts are bound to fail. Furthermore, if scientists are overly obstinate about their hypothesis, the research may well last for years, and even for generations. The end result, though, would be but a huge waste of time and resources.
However, had the point of assumption been the idea that "it is impossible for matter to self-organize without conscious planning", that scientific research would have followed a more expeditious and productive course.
This issue, that is, the issue of establishing a proper hypothesis, requires an entirely different source than mere scientific data. Correct identification of this source is critical, because, as we explained in the above example, an error in the identification of a source may cost the science-world years, decades, or even centuries.
The source sought is God's revelation to mankind. God is the Creator of the universe, the world and of living things, and therefore, the most accurate and indisputable knowledge about these subjects derives from Him. In accordance, God has revealed to us important information about these matters in the Qur'an. The most fundamental of these are as follows:
1) God created the universe from nothing. Nothing came into being as a result of random occurrences, or of its own accord. It follows that there is not a chaos of chance-happenings in nature or the universe, but a perfect order created with an intelligent design.
2) The material universe, and predominantly, the Earth we live in, is specially designed to allow for human life. There is a certain purpose in the movements of stars and planets, in geographical landmarks, and in the properties of water or the atmosphere, that makes human life possible.
3) All forms of life have come into being by God's creation. God created all living things. Moreover, these creatures act through the inspiration of God, as quoted in the Qur'an in the example of the honeybees, with the verse that begins with, "Your Lord inspired the bees…" (Qur'an, 16:68)
These are absolute truths communicated to us by God in the Qur'an. An approach to science based on these facts will inevitably lead to remarkable progress and serve humanity in the most beneficial manner. We find numerous examples of this in history. It was only possible with the placement of science on a proper foothold that Muslim scientists, who were then helping to forge the greatest civilization in the world, contributed to major achievements in the 9th and 10th centuries. In the West, the pioneers in all fields of science, from physics to chemistry, astronomy to biology and palaeontology, were great men of science who believed in God, and who conducted research for the sake of exploring what He created.
Einstein also maintained that scientists must rely on religious sources when developing their objectives:
Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion… I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith.1
Since the middle of the 19th century, however, the scientific community has divorced itself from this divine source, and come under the influence of a materialist philosophy.
Materialism, an idea that dates back to ancient Greece, maintains the absolute existence of matter and denies God. This materialistic outlook gradually made its way into the scientific community, and, beginning in the middle of the 19th century, a considerable portion of scientific investigation was initiated to support it. To this purpose, many theories were formulated, such as the "infinite universe model" suggesting that the universe exists since infinite time, leaving no room for a Creator, Darwin's evolutionary theory claiming that life is the work of chance, or Freud's views holding that the human mind consists of the brain alone.
Today, in retrospect, we see that the claims put forth by materialism were but a waste of time for science. For decades, a great number of scientists have expended their best efforts to prove each of these claims, but the results always proved them wrong. Discoveries confirmed the proclamations of the Qur'an – that the universe was created from nothing, that it is tailored to suit human life, and that it is impossible for life to have come into being and evolved by chance.
Believing in a myth such as evolution, and adhering to it despite the findings of science, results in an emotional state of despair. The harmony in the universe and the design in living things becomes rather a great source of trouble to them. The following words of Darwin offer us a glimpse into the sentiments of most evolutionists:
I remember well the time when the thought of the eye made me cold all over, but I have got over this stage of complaint... and now trifling particulars of structure often make me very uncomfortable. The sight of a feather in a peacock's tail, whenever I gaze at it, makes me sick!2
The feathers of a peacock, as well as countless other signs of creation in nature, continue to discomfit evolutionists. Turning a blind eye to such apparent miracles, they develop an ambivalence to such truths, accompanied by a mental state of denial. A good case to this point is the prominent evolutionist Richard Dawkins, who calls upon Christians not to assume that they have witnessed a miracle, even if they see the statue of the Virgin Mary waving to them. According to Dawkins;
Perhaps all the atoms of the statue's arm just happened to move in the same direction at once—a low probability event to be sure, but possible.3
On the other hand, our immediate surroundings, and the universe we live in, teem with numerous signs of Creation. Implicit in the fascinating system of a mosquito, the glorious artistry in the wings of a peacock, a complex and perfectly functioning organ like the eye, and millions of other forms of life, are signs of the existence of God, and His supreme knowledge and wisdom, for people who believe. A scientist who maintains that creation is a fact views nature from this perspective, and derives great pleasure in every observation he makes, and every experiment he conducts, gaining inspiration for further studies.
What is in the heavens and in the earth belongs to Allah. Allah encompasses all things.