Scientific American September 1999
Religion and Science are Always in Agreement
Materialists, in an attempt to conceal their defeat by science, often take recourse through various propaganda methods. Foremost of them is the cliché of "the conflict between science and religion", commonly employed by materialist publications. These sources cover factitious stories, suggesting that throughout history religion has always been against science, and that science can progress only if religion is ruled out.
A quick look at the history of science, however, will be sufficient to point out the falsehood of this claim.
When we look at the history of Islam, we see that science was introduced into the Middle East along with the Qur'an. Pre-Islamic Arabs believed in all sorts of superstitions and hearsay, and conducted no investigation of the universe or nature. With Islam, this community became civilized, and, beginning to hold knowledge in high regard, and by observing the commands of the Qur'an, began to examine the world around them. Not only Arabs, but many other nations, such as the Iranians, Turks, and North Africans, became enlightened after embracing Islam. The use of reason and observation commanded in the Qur'an gave rise to a great civilization in the 9th and 10th centuries. Many Muslim scientists living during that period made significant discoveries in a number of disciplines, such as astronomy, mathematics, geometry, and medicine.
The importance given to knowledge in Islam is also obvious in the ahadith of our Prophet, God's Messenger, peace be upon him. There are numerous ahadith encouraging Muslims to seek knowledge and disseminate it. Some of them read:
One who proceeds on a path in the pursuit of knowledge, God makes him proceed therewith on a path to the Garden (Paradise)… The learned are the heirs of the prophets, for the prophets did not leave behind a legacy of wealth but that of knowledge. So whoever partakes of it derives a plenteous benefit.44
A believer is never satiated with gainful knowledge; he goes acquiring it till his death and entry into Paradise.45
It is narrated that the Prophet (pbuh) used to say after the dawn prayer, "O God, I ask You for beneficial knowledge, acceptable action, and good provision." 46
Playing an important role in the transfer of scientific knowledge to Europe, as well as producing many Muslim scientists of her own, Andalusia was a crucible of revolutionary discoveries and scientific progress, particularly in the field of medicine. Muslim physicians did not specialize in a single subject, but conducted studies in a wide range of fields, including pharmacology, surgery, ophthalmology, gynecology, physiology, bacteriology and hygiene. One of the most noted Andalusian physicians was Ibn Juljul (?-992), who conducted extensive studies on medical herbs, and produced works on the history of medicine and medical herbs. Another distinguished physician of the time was Abu Ja'far Ibn al-Jazzar (?-1009) from Tunisia, who mastered the science of drug therapy for the treatment of specific symptoms and diseases, and authored more than 30 books. Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi (1162-1231) is known for his studies in anatomy. He corrected the mistakes made in the past in anatomical studies of many bones of the body, such as the jaw and chest bone. Baghdadi's book, Al-Ifade ve'l Itibar, was re-published in 1788, and translated into Latin, German and French. His book Makalatun fi'l Havas covered the five senses.
Only those of His servants with knowledge have fear of God. God is Almighty, Ever Forgiving. (Surah Fatir: 28)
God bears witness that there is no deity but Him, as do the angels and the people of knowledge, upholding justice. There is no deity but Him, the Almighty, the All-Wise. (Surat Al ÔImran: 18)
Muslim anatomists determined the number of bones in the human skull correctly, and discovered the existence of three ossicles in the ear. One of the leading Muslim scientists working in anatomy was Ibn Sina (980-1037), known as Avicenna in the West. Instructed in literature, mathematics, geometry, physics, natural sciences, philosophy and logic, in his early years, Ibn Sina was not only widely known in the East, but also in the West. His most popular work, al-Qanun fi al-Tibb, known as the 'Canon' in the West, was written in Arabic, and after its translation into Latin in the 12th century, became the textbook of the schools of Europe until the 17th century. The Canon deals with diseases and drugs in a systematic manner. Apart from this, he wrote more than 100 books on philosophy and natural sciences. A significant portion of the medical knowledge included in the Canon is still accepted today.
Zakariya Qazwini countered many mistaken beliefs about the heart and the brain that had been professed since Aristotle. The facts he provided about the heart and the brain are very close to our knowledge of today.
The works in anatomy of Zakariya Qazwini, Hamdullah al-Mustaufi al-Qazwini (1281-1350), and Ibn al-Nafis, laid the foundation of modern medicine. These scientists demonstrated, as early as the 13th and 14th centuries, the connections between the heart and the lungs, that the arteries carry oxygenated blood, and the veins carry deoxygenated blood, that the blood is oxygenated in the lungs, and that the oxygenated blood that returns to the heart is carried to the brain and other organs of the body via the aorta.
The first volume of Ali Bin Isa's (?-1038) three-volume work on the ophthalmologic diseases, called the Tezkiratu'l Kahhalin fi'l Ayn and Emraziha, is entirely devoted to the anatomy of the eye and includes very detailed information. The work was translated into Latin and German.
Muhammad ibn Zakariyya ar Razi (Rhazes) (865-925), Burhan al-din Nafis(?-1438), Isma'il Jurjani (?-1136), Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi (1236-1310), Mansur ibn Muhammad, Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (Albucasis), are just some of the Muslim scientists noted for their studies in astronomy, mathematics, medicine and anatomy.
Al-Biruni was an 11th century Muslim scientist. He knew that the earth rotates about its own axis 600 years prior to Galileo, and determined the earth's circumference 700 years prior to Newton.
There were also many Muslim scientists who made great contributions to various disciplines other than medicine and anatomy. For instance, Al-Biruni knew that the earth rotates about its own axis, some 600 years prior to Galileo, and determined the earth's circumference some 700 years prior to Newton. Ali Kushchu, a 15th century scientist, was the first to make a map of the moon, and a region of the moon has been named after him. Thabit ibn Qurrah (Thebit), who lived in the 9th century, invented differential calculus centuries before Newton. Battani, a 10th century scientist, is the first developer of trigonometry. Abul Wafa Muhammad al-Buzjani introduced the "secant-cosecant" to trigonometry for the first time. Al-Khwarizmi wrote the first book on algebra in the 9th century. Al-Maghribi invented the equation known today as the Pascal triangle, some 600 years prior to Pascal. Ibn al-Haitham (Alhazen), who lived in the 11th century, was the founder of optics. Roger Bacon and Kepler made use of his works, and Galileo invented the telescope by referring to them. Al-Kindi (Alkindus) introduced relative physics and the theory of relativity some 1100 years prior to Einstein. Shams al-din, who lived some 400 years prior to Pasteur, was the first to discover the existence of germs. Ali ibn al-Abbas lived in the 10th century and was the first to perform cancer surgery. In the same century, Ibn el Jessar introduced the reasons and treatment methods of leprosy. These Muslim scientists, only some of whom are mentioned here, have made important discoveries that laid the foundation for modern science.
When we look at Western civilization, we see that the advent of modern science arrived with faith in God. The 17th century, known as the "Age of the Scientific Revolution", abounds with scientists whose primary aim was the exploration of the universe and nature that God created. All scientific institutes established in various countries, such as Britain and France, had as their main goal "coming nearer to God by discovering His laws". This same trend made its way into the 18th century. Some of the scientists known for their devotion to God, and who made significant contributions to the world of science, were Newton, Kepler, Copernicus, Bacon, Galileo, Pascal, Boyle, Paley, and Cuvier, to name a few. (For further detail, please see the chapter "Scientists of Faith").
Ali Kushchu, a 15th century scientist, was the first to make a map of the moon, and a region of the moon has been named after him.
These scientists believed in God and practiced scientific research with an inspiration derived from their faith. One of the best indications of this was the "Bridgewater Treatises", a series of publications released in Britain in the early 19th century. A number of scientists conducted research on a variety of disciplines, and defined the object of their study to be "the signs of the harmony and order God created in the universe and nature". The method employed by these scientists is referred to as "Natural Theology", meaning "knowing God through nature".
It was William Paley's Natural Theology: Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity, Collected From the Appearances of Nature, published in 1802, that pioneered the Bridgewater Treatises. In this book, Paley gave examples of design in living things, displaying a comprehensive knowledge of anatomy.
Taking Paley's work as a model, a call was made to the nominated members of the Royal Society of London. It was further directed that those so selected should be appointed to write, print, and publish one thousand copies of a work: "On the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God as manifested in the Creation illustrating such work by all reasonable arguments as, for instance, the variety and formation of God's creatures, in the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms; the effect of digestion and thereby of conversion; the construction of the hand of man and an infinite variety of other arguments; as also by discoveries ancient and modern in arts, sciences, and the whole extent of modern literature."
This call to explore the signs of God's existence was answered by many scientists who produced highly valuable studies. Those works produced as a consequence were the following:
(1)"The Adaptation of External Nature to the Moral and Intellectual Constitution of Man", by Thomas Chalmers (1833)
The Bridgewater Treatises are only one example of the meeting of religion and science. The main thrust behind numerous scientific studies, conducted both before and after these works, was to know the universe God created, and thus perceive His almightiness.
The scientific community's deviation from this initial course was brought about by the predominance of the materialist philosophy in 19th century Western culture, that resulted due to certain social and political conditions. This process finds its fullest expression in Darwin's theory of evolution, culminating, in direct contradiction to the former view, in the presentation of science and religion as two bitterly conflicting sources of knowledge.
Referring to this development, British researchers, Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln, make this comment:
For Isaac Newton, a century and a half before Darwin, science was not separate from religion but, on the contrary, an aspect of religion, and ultimately subservient to it. …But the science of Darwin's time became precisely that, divorcing itself from the context in which it had previously existed and establishing itself as a rival absolute, an alternative repository of meaning. As a result, religion and science were no longer working in concert, but rather stood opposed to each other, and humanity was increasingly forced to choose between them.47
Today, however, this contrived conflict between religion and science is found to be contrary to the very findings of science. Religion declares that the universe was created from nothingness, and science has found proofs of that fact. Religion teaches us that living things are created by God, and science has provided us with evidence of this in the design discovered in living things. In his book, Nature's Destiny, Michael Denton wrote: "Science, which has been for centuries the great ally of atheism and skepticism, has become at last, in these final days of the second millennium, what Newton and many of its early advocates had so fervently wished – the 'defender of the anthropocentric faith.'"48
This conclusion attained by science has helped a growing number of scientists to come to a strong belief in God. Noted biochemist Michael Behe refers to this fact when he says, "Incidentally, scientists who believe in God or a reality beyond nature are much more common than popular media stories lead one to believe. There is no reason to think that the figure of 90 percent of the general population that believes in God is much different for scientists."49
Confronted by the conclusion established by science, all that the materialists can do is set certain pressure tactics into action, and seek to intimidate the rest of the scientific community. In the West, a scientist has to conform to certain expectations in order to be promoted, to receive his/her MD or Ph.D., or to have his articles published in scientific journals. The number one condition required is to accept the theory of evolution unconditionally. For this reason, some scientists are forced to uphold Darwinist myths which they may actually reject, disregarding the signs of creation. In an article published in the Scientific American magazine, in the September 1999 issue, titled "Scientists and Religion in America", University of Washington sociologist Rodney Stark points out the pressures imposed on scientists:
There's been 200 years of marketing that if you want to be a scientific person you've got to keep your mind free of the fetters of religion. …In research universities, the religious people keep their mouths shut. And the irreligious people discriminate. There's a reward system to being irreligious in the upper echelons.50
Another facet of the systematic struggle waged by materialists against science is the propaganda methods we mentioned earlier. Central to this propaganda are mottoes such as "religion conflicts with science", or "science has got to be materialist". Now let us see why these claims are illogical and unsustainable.
The Medieval Church's Reaction Against Scientists
Anti-religionist circles commonly use the errant practices and reactions of the Medieval Church as a weapon against religion. It is said that the Church retarded Europe and caused it severe misery. Implicit in these efforts is the attempt to associate the Medieval Church with religion, and to deliver the message that "if religion prevails, we will be buried in the darkness of the Middle Ages". True religion, however, is not reflected in the practices and reactions of the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church, abandoning the true revelation brought by the Prophet Jesus, adopted certain irreligious practices. Science indubitably suffered great harm at the hands of the Church, which was ruled by a clergy serving the special interests of certain few, thus completely divorcing itself from its divine source. This historical development, however, cannot be attributed to the religion of Islam. Islam is based, not on the superstitions of its clergy, but on the Qur'an only, which is the word of God.
The Catholic Church, abandoning the revelation brought by the Prophet Jesus, adopted certain irreligious practices. Even scientists like Galileo faced a stern reaction from the Church. This picture depicts the trial of Galileo during the Inquisition.
A significant example, showing that the bigotry of the Catholic Church had nothing to do with faith, is that scientists like Galileo, who were persecuted by the Church, were actually devout people. (The beliefs of these scientists will be examined in more detail in the second part of the book). This example shows once more that the pressures the religious establishment brought upon science is not a consequence of faith, but the distortion of religion.
Criticism Based on the Bible and the Torah
A number of materialists, who want to portray religion and science as inimical, not only cite examples from the practices of the Catholic Church, but also quote specific passages from the Torah, or the Bible, to demonstrate how they contradict scientific discoveries. Yet, there is one truth they either disregard or pretend ignorance of: The Bible and the Torah are altered texts. Both include many superstitions produced by man. Therefore, it would be very wrong to regard these books as basic reference sources of religion.
The Qur'an, on the other hand, is the revelation of God. It has not been altered in the least; not even a single letter of it has been changed. For this reason, there is no contradiction or error in the Qur'an. All the facts proclaimed by the Qur'an parallel scientific findings. Moreover, numerous scientific facts that could only be discovered in our day were announced in the Qur'an to people 1400 years ago. This is an important miracle of the Qur'an, and is one of the definitive proofs that it is the word of God. (Some of the scientific facts pointed out in the Qur'an will be covered in the chapters ahead).
Aware of this, materialists, unable to quote any verses from the Qur'an for their purposes, cite only the Bible or the Torah to express their anti-religionist views.
The Claim that "Science Ought to be Materialist"
Another propaganda tool used by scientists is the cliché that "Scientific studies matter alone, therefore it ought to be materialist".
Actually, this is nothing but a play on words, as anyone who gives it a little thought will recognize. It is true that science studies matter, but this does not imply that it needs to be materialistic; for "studying matter" and "being materialist" are very different things.
When we study matter, we conclude that this matter contains a knowledge and design too great to come about of its own. We can appreciate that this knowledge and design was consciously created by an intelligent agent, though we cannot see him. Let us consider, for instance, a cave, which we do not know whether anyone has visited it before us or not. If we see, when we enter it, impressive, masterful pictures on the walls of the cave, we then conclude "there must have been an intelligent agent here before us, who obviously produced these many works". We may never see this intelligent agent, but we know of his existence from his artifacts.
It is in this manner that science studies nature, and discovers that there is an order in nature which can by no means be explained by material factors, and that this design could only have been brought into being through supra-material Wisdom. In other words, the material world teems with evident signs of God's creative power and authority.
Materialists' Bigoted and Dogmatic Approach
One who subscribes to a certain view is free to test whether that view can be verified by scientific facts, and to perform scientific research for that purpose. A person, for instance, can proclaim that the world is flat, and conduct research to support his assertion. The important matter is how this person assesses the scientific data he accumulates. A scientist evaluating scientific results objectively will be unable to find any evidence proving that the earth is flat, on the contrary, he will encounter much evidence that the earth is elliptical. In this case, what this person must do is to admit the truth without prejudice, and give up his earlier beliefs.
The same holds true for materialism. Science has proven that matter is not an absolute being, but that it had a beginning. Moreover, it has shown that there is a mind-boggling design in nature. Therefore, materialist scientists studying matter have seen that their theory is inapplicable, and that the truth is actually the very opposite of their claim.
Interestingly, however, such persons entertain a blind devotion to materialism, exhibiting an astonishing tenacity in holding on to their "belief". A Harvard geneticist, Richard Lewontin, a well known materialist and evolutionist, excuses his dogmatic materialism in these words:
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, so we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.51
Here Lewontin actually depicts the mindset of all materialists. As he acknowledges, materialists first subscribe to the materialist ideology above all else, and then look for evidence to support their ideology. That is to say, materialism is not a conclusion materialists have arrived at through scientific research, but a prejudice they impose upon science.
The same idea is embodied in the words of another evolutionist as well. In his book, titled Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to Creation of Life on Earth, the renowned evolutionist Robert Shapiro states his commitment to the theory of evolution as such:
Some future day may yet arrive when all reasonable chemical experiments run to discover a probable origin for life have failed unequivocally. Further, new geological evidence may indicate a sudden appearance of life on the earth. Finally, we may have explored the universe and found no trace of life, or process leading to life, elsewhere. In such a case, some scientists might choose to turn to religion for an answer. Others, however, myself included, would attempt to sort out the surviving less probable scientific explanations in the hope of selecting one that was still more likely than the remainder.52
Here, what Shapiro means when he says "scientific explanations" is actually "materialist explanations". This blind devotion to materialism has led Shapiro, and thousands of others like him, to subscribe to a fanatical disbelief. What they are actually saying is, "no matter what evidence is presented, we will not believe in God".
Most interestingly, this obsession is not peculiar to the current materialists alone. In the Qur'an, God reveals important knowledge about these people who have resolved to remain disbelievers. For instance, the Egyptians, who said, "no matter what kind of Sign you bring to bewitch us, we will not believe in you" (Surat al-A‘raf: 132) to the Prophet Moses, who showed them a number of miracles, had the same predisposition as the materialists of today. God refers to these people in this way:
Some of them listen to you but We have placed covers on their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. Though they see every Sign, they still would not believe, so that when they come to you, disputing with you, the unbelievers say, 'This is nothing but the myths of previous peoples!' (Surat al-An'am: 25)
They have sworn by God with their most earnest oaths that if a Sign comes to them they would believe. Say: 'The Signs are in God's control alone.' What will make you realize that even if a Sign did come, they would still not believe? (Surat al-An'am: 109)
Each creature was created by God with great harmony and perfect design. In examining the design of the feathers of an owl, or observing its masterful flight during the night, a person who uses his reason and follows his conscience will come to see and honor the eternal power and knowledge of God.
NOTES44. Al-Kulayni, Usul al-Kafi, i, kitab fadl al-'ilm, bab thawab al-'alim wa al-muta'allim, hadith 1
45. Tirmidhi, 222
46. Tirmidhi, 2487, Ahmad and Ibn Majah, narrated by Umm Salamah
47. Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, Henry Lincoln, The Messianic Legacy, Gorgi Books, London:1991, pp.177-178
48. Michael Denton, Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe, The New York: The Free Press, 1998, p. 389
49. Michael J.Behe, Darwin's Black Box, New York: Free Press, 1996, p.239
50. Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham, Scientists and Religion in America, Scientific American, September 1999, p. 81
51. Richard Lewontin, The Demon-Haunted World, The New York Review of Books, January, 9, 1997, p.28
52. Michael J.Behe, Darwin's Black Box, New York: Free Press, 1996, p.234