Response To Mohammad Gani's Article
‘Science and Religion: Reality vs. Emotion!’ – is Anything but far from Reality!
Published on May 21, 2008
Discussion on science and religion is a central topic in MM for a while. MM has provided a unique platform so that variant views on Science and religion can seek common ground through ongoing dialogue. Such dialogue has become so popular that we are planning to publish a Bangla Book named, "Biggan O Dhormo: Shonghat, Naki Shomonnoy?" which is expected to get published in 2009.
For a long time, the dominant viewpoint at least among scientists and skeptics has been that science and religion are incompatible. Like many other mukto-mona members, I belong to this group. In recent years the opposite viewpoint has tended to be more popular (and not surprisingly, there have been quite a lot of money and media attentions available for scholars interested in arguing in favor of the pro-compatibility position as well). Mr. Gani's thought is inline with the second group. Nevertheless, I would like to thank Mr. Gani for penning his thought on this issue to maintain the ongoing dialogue. I would also like to thank him for participating in MM forum, even though just few days ago he accused MM for following the "dumping practice". It is quite pleasing and perhaps amusing to see his articles are continuously being published in that forum, for which he posses so much hate that he compared that with "KKK". I would be interested to know that while this "KKK forum" and the moderators having "racial attitude" is publishing his article on regular basis, how many Islamic newspaper and sites he has seen that have the courage to publish the opposing views. Anyway, after my clarification, I am sure he realized that he was wrong on his assumption on Mukto-Mona. Today, I will show his recent article "Science and Religion: Reality vs. Emotion" is also based on some flawed assumptions as well.
I have read Mr. Gani's article and many similar articles such as this. Such articles generally maintain the following flow.
In the first step, the authors start with typical `God in Gaps' argument – i.e., try to poke holes in science and then stuff their God into them. Their typical argument is - "Science cannot explain that, cannot do this", and then conclude, "God did this" or if put in a more humble way, "There must be a place for God in science". Thus, they think they have accomplished a first step of the mission of reconciling science with supernatural.
As a second step, these “premise keepers” will try to reconcile their particular faith with recent scientific advancements. If one is brought up in an Islamic faith, he will find Big Bang in Quran, if he is a Christian, he will find Black holes in Biblical verses, and if the person is Hindu, he will find `time dilation' in Vedic slokes etc. After doing such `eminent research' in reconciling, he would eventually conclude that it was indeed a miracle to have the advanced scientific information in such so-and so-ancient holly books; it must be the act of God. Here he attempts to reconcile his particular brand of religious faith with science.
Lastly, they will find eminent design and creation in every place he goes or whatever verses he reads from scripture; he would therefore justify his faith, not only on God, but also his personal brand of religion at the end.
So entire flowchart would be somewhat like the following which usually the "premise keepers" like Mr. Gani provides as their justification of belief:
God in Gaps (poke hole in science) ---> Finding Science in religious Scripture --- > ( + some design argument) ----> Justification in God and specific brand of religion.
Mr. Gani's article is typical of this kind. I will refute each step and will show that his justification of faith not at all based on sound logic.
God in Gaps:
I will start from `God in Gaps' argument. To me and many others, this is not an argument; this is actually an argument from ignorance: "Since we don't know how this happened, it must mean God did it." Yet ignorance is never an argument and cannot be considered evidence in any meaningful sense. I will show that most of the arguments that he formulated in his piece, is nothing but ‘argument from Ignorance’. This is what Mr. Gani writes as a justification of his faith:
"Science has no room for creating something from nothing and our theory of "Infinite Density Mass and Zero Volume" theory (known as Singularity) as science describes; has many fundamental flaws….. This is not the end of the puzzle; our cosmology also has its own problem; like where does "mass" come from, at the most fundamental level?.... Science cannot answer these questions, because in the first moments of its existence the universe was probably compressed to such an extraordinary degree and consumed by the heat of a fire beyond human imagination!"
First of all, if science cannot answer "these questions", then please admit that no theology, no religion can claim to give any better or perfect answer either. If anything we can predict coming out with the proper answer, it will be ‘science’. In fact in the past we have seen how science falsified various religious claims (six days creation, earth-centric solar system, age of earth, various fancy creation stories etc) and came out with correct answers. The old creationists take the Bible literally and are forced to conclude that much of science is wrong. Even today many religionists put "Adam Eve" story or some religious holy verse as an evidence to oppose evolution. However, needless to say, scientific evidences are going entirely opposite direction refuting all such fancy religious claims.
If any rational person look at the past 100 years of scientific advancement and he will notice that scientists were indeed able to solve many such puzzles which were thought to be impossible. Down through the centuries, science has eliminated a great many of its gaps. People who had used the Gap argument were embarrassed, since their God shrank in power with each new scientific advance. For anything cold not be explained by science was thought to be guided by supernatural causes indeed. For example it was not known before Newton how earth hangs upon nothing in space circling around the sun. Many people must have thought of a mysterious "supernatural force" behind it.
Anyway, origin of matter and universe is not as `divine' as Mr. Gani suggests, at least if we consider the results coming from current cosmological researches. The origin of matter has been well explained through current 'cosmic inflation' theory, suggested by Alan Guth and Linde. It shows how the universe can have formed from nothing, in complete chaos (maximum entropy), and have order form spontaneously, without violating any known principles of physics. That is, it provides an economical explanation of the origin of the universe without creation or design. A creator is not required by the data. Alan Guth has also written a book for general readers: "The inflationary Universe" which is highly recommended from my side. If anyone wants to go into deeper level, here are some other papers from scientific journal that have explained the topic in detail:
E.P. Tryon, "Is the Universe a Vacuum Fluctuation?", Nature 246 (1973): 396-97.
David Atkatz and Heinz Pagels, "Origin of universe as Quantum Tunneling effect" Physical review D25 (1982): 2065-73;
S.W. Hawking and I.G.Moss "Supercolled Phase Transitions in the very early Universe", Physics letters B110(1982):35-38;
Alexander Vilenkin, "Creation of Universe from Nothing" Physics letters 117B (1982) 25-28,
Alexander Vilenkin, "Quantum Origin of the Universe" Nuclear Physics B252 (1985) 141-152,
Andre Linde, "Quantum creation of the inflationary Universe," Letter Al Nuovo Cimento 39(1984): 401-405 etc.
These papers may seem too technical for the general readers, but these are cited to illustrate that serious attention to the possibility of an uncaused origin of the universe has been given by reputed physicist and published in major renowned journals. If the notion is just nonsense the papers would have never been published. For more popular level work, one can read Guth's Grand Guess (Discover, 2002) or “The self-reproducing Inflationary Universe” (Scientific American, 1998).
To strengthen my point, I will add an excerpt from the recent work of Professor Victor Stenger, the Emeritus professor of physics and astronomy, University of Hawaii. This is what Victor Stenger has mentioned in his latest book, `God: The Failed Hypothesis—How Science Shows that God Does Not Exist' (2008):
The universe currently contains a large amount of matter that is characterized by the physical quantity we define as mass. Prior to the twentieth century, it was believed that matter could neither be created nor destroyed, just changed from one type to another. So the very existence of matter seemed to be a miracle, a violation of the assumed law of conservation of mass that occurred just once—at the creation.
However, in his special theory of relativity published in 1905, Albert Einstein showed that matter can be created out of energy and can disappear into energy. ….So, the existence of mass in the universe violates no law of nature. It can come from energy. But, where does the energy come from? One of the most important principles of physics is the law of conservation of energy, also known as the first law of thermodynamics, which requires that energy come from somewhere. In principle, the creation hypothesis could be confirmed by the direct observation or theoretical requirement that conservation of energy was violated 13.7 billion years ago at the start of the big bang.
However, neither observations nor theory indicate this to have been the case. The first law allows energy to convert from one type to another as long as the total for a closed system remains fixed. Remarkably, the sum of the rest kinetic energies of the bodies in the early universe seems to have been exactly cancelled by the negative potential energy that results from their mutual gravitational interactions. Within small measurement errors and quantum uncertainties, the mean energy density of the universe is exactly what it should be for a universe that appeared from an initial state of zero energy.
In plain terms, If `something' refers to the substance of universe and nothing interpreted as a state of "zero" energy, then modern physics has precisely shown that the total kinetic energy of motion for universe is exactly balanced by the negative energy of gravity. This has also been very clearly explained in the following passage of Stephen Hawking's famous book "The Brief History of Time" (1988, p 129):
There are something like ten million million million million million million million million million million million million million million (1 with eighty [five] zeroes after it) particles in the region of the universe that we can observe. Where did they all come from? The answer is that, in quantum theory, particles can be created out of energy in the form of particle/antiparticle pairs. But that just raises the question of where the energy came from. The answer is that the total energy of the universe is exactly zero. The matter in the universe is made out of positive energy. However, the matter is all attracting itself by gravity. Two pieces of matter that are close to each other have less energy than the same two pieces a long way apart, because you have to expend energy to separate them against the gravitational force that is pulling them together. Thus, in a sense, the gravitational field has negative energy. In the case of a universe that is approximately uniform in space, one can show that this negative gravitational energy exactly cancels the positive energy represented by the matter. So the total energy of the universe is zero”.
This means no energy is required to "create" the universe; as according to Einstein's theory of relativity, the energy of a gravitational field is negative. The energy of matter, however, is positive. So the entire universe-creation scenario could unfold without breaking conservation-of-energy laws. The positive energy of all matter in the universe could be precisely counterbalanced by the negative energy of all the gravity in the universe. Again, speaking in physicists’ simpler terms, if the net energy cost of inflating universe is zero, then nothing needs to be added from outside. The energy accounting books that are internal to the system balance. In these terms, it takes no energy at all to get a universe, and no thermodynamic work needs to be done (see Guth and Steinhardt, 1989, The Inflationary Universe, New Physics etc.). And, the zero total energy is now an observational fact. This is also the prediction of inflationary cosmology, which is strongly supported by observation too.
In one of the chapters of my Bangla book – "Alo Hate Choliyache Adharer Jatree" (2005), I have put some insights for the general readers that can be accessed from the following link:
I have also written how matter and universe might have originated from "nothing" without violating any laws of physics. It was published in "Science world" issue:
If Mr. Gani does not believe in my word, he can check the mathematical models of the natural origin of our universe which is available in the Net. The modes are based on the well-established theories of general relativity and quantum mechanics. These models can be presented to counter the assertion that science cannot provide any plausible explanation for the origin of the universe, as Mr. Gani claims:
The most prominent cosmological model called, Inflation holds that in its very early infancy the universe underwent a brief but stupendous growth spurt before settling down and in the same basic mechanism spawned not only the observable universe--the galaxy-emblazoned realm we ponder through our telescopes--but also countless other universes being branched off from our own, universes that we are not able to see, and possibly we’ll never see. Besides this multiverse theory (through chaotic inflation) two other theories are competing with each other to focus the origin of the Universe. One is the latest elaboration of Steinhardt and Turok's cyclic cosmology spearheaded by Evgeny Buchbinder of Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, and was published last December. In their popular level book for general readers, - ‘Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang’ (Doubleday, 2007) Steinhardt and Turok explained their proposal of a “cyclic universe” model, in which our Big Bang is just one act in an eternal cycle of expansion and contraction. A trillion years from now, by their calculations, space, time, and matter will crunch down into another fireball and reemerge as another Big Bang. For eternity, the universe will swing between Big Bang and Big Crunch, a cosmic pendulum clock that never winds down. The latest version of the cyclic model even matches key pieces of observational evidence supporting the view. The another theory and the most radical one off course, rebel physicist Julian Barbour's publication - The End of Time—a manifesto suggesting that attempts to address what came before the Big Bang were based on a fundamental mistake. There is no need to find a solution to time's beginning, Barbour insisted, because time does not actually exist. While we have to wait for the next generation of ground-based observatories and space missions, that is expected to provide more clues about the correct theory that will prevail in the long run, nevertheless, one thing is clear - no theory needs any supernatural intervention for justification of our origin and the physical reality of our universe.
But, to Mr. Gani, not only the origin of matter, but also order has a divine place. This is what he says –
`What could create orders those are not ordered?'
Well, we know from both everyday experience and sophisticated scientific observations, order of complex systems develop from simpler systems all the time in nature—with not even low intelligence required. A mist of water vapor can freeze into a snowflake. Winds can carve out great cathedrals in rock. Brontosaurs can evolve from bacteria. Spontaneous magnetization, crystallization, formation of living cell, formation of star or even complex galaxy – all examples show how order can come from disorder naturally. Nobody claims for divine intervene. However, Mr. Gani needs that ‘hypothesis’ to justify his ‘sound faith’.
In early past century, ‘order’ had probably a place for strong argument for such divine intervention. However, since we are confirmed that universe is expanding, we recognized that formation of localized order is consistent with the second law, and that occurs in the expense of increasing the overall entropy of the whole universe. It seems, in forming the argument for the existence of divine power, Mr. Gani is outdated not just by few years, but at least half a century!
Lastly, Mr Gani also astonished by the nature of physical laws. He says,
`Questions that religious philosophy cannot answer about the nature of existence and the origin of God; just as there are many questions that scientists cannot answer about the nature and origins of physical laws.'
Really? The perception that there are indeed eternal laws governing our universe itself is debatable. Many scientists have argued that the laws of science in its most elegant form is nothing but an intelligent construct of human mind starting from some very basic and simple, almost common sensical set of "rules". For example Physicist Victor Stenger makes that point in his article at:
I would also recommend Mr. Gani to read the following chapter from `God –the failed hypothesis’:
Finding Science in religious Scripture:
In the next step, Mr. Gani cites the following verse from Quran –
`Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, ....'
And eventually concludes, this "seems" to be a reference of the 'Big Bang'.
Well, modern science puts such a profound impact and impression to the ‘educated’ apologists, that denying the effectiveness of science is not an option for them now; their arduous task is rather to dig out their ancient books to relate vague verses with science. This has been a favorite pastime for the popular apologetics thinking this attitude gives a direct appeal of how scientific their scriptures are. Especially after ‘recognition’ from a French medical doctor Bucaille, the claims of certain verses in the Quran anticipate today’s scientific knowledge became very popular. Muslims take the Quran itself to be the primary miracle that Allah presented to humankind via His favorite prophet, so establishing that a document originating among the ancient desert dwellers 14 centuries ago contains information only verifiable with modern techniques would not only be ‘quite impressive’ but also would be the solid ‘proof’ of miracle. Thus, the ‘science-in-the-Quran apologetics’ found their way to bring their ‘Quranic science’ into the general or even academic discussion.
Let's analysis the following verses to understand the Qur'anic creation in correct context:
21:30 Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and we made every living thing of water? Will they not then believe?
21:31 And We have placed in the earth firm hills lest it quake with them, and We have placed therein ravines as roads that haply they may find their way.
21:32 And we have made the sky a roof withheld (from them). Yet they turn away from its portents.
For further clarification let us also quote verse from Sura Al-Rad (13:2)
Allah it is Who raised up the heavens without visible supports, then mounted the Throne, and compelled the sun and the moon to be of service, each runneth unto an appointed term; He ordereth the course; He detaileth the revelations, that haply ye may be certain of the meeting with your Lord.
It looks like a very primitive image on the relationship between the heavens and earth. After Allah raise up the heavens on unseen pillars, and put down the earth, he put the mountains on the earth to not quake, like putting a heavy thing on a piece of paper to not fly?! Allah makes the sky a roof withheld to not fall on people head?! How he do so? By putting the heavens on unseen pillars!! How could one pass these as twentieth century science? Still more strange is this part of verse 21:30:…the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then we parted them, …..' If these few words are really the proof of `Big-Bang', then one may legitimately ask; where is the mention of the huge explosion? The word `Big-Bang', itself, is very significant here. Where do we find the sign of that famous `Bang?'
Moreover, Big Bang in Physics refers to the explosion of SPACE-TIME SINGULARITY (not matter). Matter was not even created when Big Bang happened. Earth was formed billions of years after the Big Bang. The above verses are clearly referring to earth and sky being "joined" (which doesn't even have a common sense or scientific meaning) together and then being split apart (again no scientific or common sense meaning), forget about comparing it to Big Bang!
A scientifically and common sensually meaningless statement like - "sky (heaven) and earth being joined and subsequently separated" cannot be suggested as hinting to the scientific facts of Big Bang! In fact, why the idea is put in such form in Qur'an can be easily guessed. Such kind of idea that the heavens and earth were once joined and then separated by the activity of Gods and Goddesses was actually quite common among pagans of the Middle East. Among the Egyptians for example, it was the involuntary separation of Geb (the earth god) from his wife and sister Nut (the sky goddess) that was responsible for the division of the earth from the sky. The Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh likewise describes the moment "when the heavens had been separated from the earth, when the earth had been delimited from the heavens" as a result of the separation of a sky God (An) from a earth Goddess (Ki). If you remove the pagan references, you have the same story as found in the Qur'an.
Again, from Quantum theory we know that moments after the explosion occurred, the four forces of nature; strong nuclear, weak nuclear, electromagnetic and gravity were combined as a single "super force" (Wald). Where are those indications in those verses of Qur'an? How can someone derive Hubble's Constant from those verses ? How can some one calculate red shift? How can we measure Doppler shifts? No answer.
If there is no answer of those scientific enquiries, how can one make himself convince that those verses actually describing big bang, not the partition of an egg before making an omelet?
On a side note, I would like to add, Nobel laureate Physicist Dr. Abdus Salam once warned us against people trying to explain Big Bang using verses from Qur'an, saying that the current version of Big Bang is the best known scientific explanation for the creation of the universe. Same concern was shown by astronomer/priest Georges-Henri Lemaître, who first proposed the idea of a big bang, wisely advised the Pope not to make this statement "infallible", when Pope Pius XII tried to relate Big-bang with Bible. Both Salam and Lemaître understood the problem -what if a better scientific explanation than Big Bang is found tomorrow? Should the verses be changed to accommodate the new scientific view? Certainly it is not possible; thus it shows the inherent contradiction such attempt leads to. Religious revelations can never vindicate or falsify science. The truth or falsity of a scientific principle lies within science itself.
In fact, if you read the creation story depicted in Quran or Bible carefully, you will see it looks nothing like Big Bang cosmology—no matter how one spins it. In the Quran, the universe is a firmament and Earth is fixed and immovable (not to mention flat). In reality, the universe is expanding and Earth rotates about the sun. Both Quran and Bible claim that everything has been created in six days. From Biblical Genesis, Earth is created in the first "day," before the sun, moon, and stars. In reality, Earth did not form until nine billion years after the Big Bang and after the sun and many other stars. Allah also described the heaven (sky) made of seven layers and placed (wrongly) the stars in the lowest layer i.e., lower than the Moon. Qur'an said that the Sun also must arise from the muddy waters and must enter the murky waters just as Zul Qaranain had witnessed. The Qur'anic solar system also contains the invisible Jinns. These Jinns, according to Qur'an are made of fire and they climb over each other’s shoulders and reach the heaven to eavesdrop the conversation of the “Exalted Assembly”. But the most interesting part is that Allah believed that the shooting stars and the meteors are the missiles thrown at the eavesdropping Jinns. These ancient fairy-tales depicted in Quran is far from common sense or reality, let alone be related with modern cosmology.
Justification of religious Faith
Mr. Gani wrote in his concluding remark:
"I believe in God not to rescue myself just from the misery of death; not to justify my hedonistic desires or to triumph over the evil. I believe in a Creator (God) because I see the creation around me everyday. I see all its order, I see the existence and I see the creativity. What could create orders those are not ordered? What could create existence that does not exist? The overall philosophy of science has given me the understanding to believe that it is not within sciences realm to prove or to disprove God and also that it is wholly unscientific to believe that science in any measure discounts God and His divinity. To the contrary, science suggests the implementation of all elements of our knowledge and wisdom more advanced and forcefully than our own mind in explaining our existence. Thus it would be a brutal scientific irresponsibility if we conveniently use (abuse) philosophy of science to disprove the existence of creator (God)."
Mr. Gani cannot see how the universe came about naturally, so it must be an act of God. He cannot see how the universe became orderly by natural processes, so order must have come about by supernatural processes. He cannot see how the physical laws can be originated, so it must be divine. In each of these cases I can give a plausible natural explanation that requires no divine actions. None can show in proving these natural explanations wrong.
Our scientific knowledge and humanity has moved beyond childhood. We no longer need to depend on imaginary fairy-tales or a mythical sky-father to provide for our explanations or needs. We can take care of ourselves. We can find ways to live our lives that are consistent with the universe revealed to us by reason and science.
But that will not satisfy Mr. Gani for sure. Mr. Gani believes in a Creator (God) because he ‘sees the creation around’ him everyday. Unfortunately, I do not. If an all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing God existed, he could posses the power to comfort a child dying an excruciating death from leukemia or cancer. He chooses not to do so. Moreover, humans cannot be held responsible for a massive flood, earthquake, plague or Tsunami. In fact, we can explain such calamities only by concluding that God is malevolent, because he knew of terrible destructive events to occur. It suggests that God is impotent to prevent evil. Needless to say, this would also suggest an unintelligent, deficient, faulty or evil designer, no doubt. The most logical position for me- such evil God does not exist at all.