Transcript of Episode 07. Two options for Atheists and the Argument from Design
Yassir Fazaga: Dr Jaafar, it is good to be with you. In the last episode, we were talking about the rational argument for the existence of God and you spoke about Ibn Taimiya’s views as well as others and you chose to speak how Ibn Taimiya elaborated and gave us a summary of a few points. You mentioned it was the innate nature of humanity to believe in the existence of God, you spoke about the ayahs and then you mentioned the cosmological argument and interestingly you said that the Quran does not argue much for the existence of God but mostly its ayahs are leading to the need to worship Allah SWT. You also said that contemporary physics actually falls into the two options that Allah gave in Quran.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: I didn’t say physicist; I said atheist physicist or even atheist philosophers. They realize that if you say there is no Creator then you have no choice except to say that either things came out of nothing or that they created themselves. And I found that some of them actually do say this.
Yassir Fazaga: I believe we have a quote from Davies on this.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes Davies in his book ‘God & New Physics’ has talked about it.
Yassir Fazaga: He actually proposes what the Quran said, I believe you quoted it last time in Surah Toor
ام خلقوا من غير شي ام هم الخالقون
‘Were they created out of nothing or are they creators of themselves’
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes and he opts for the first one that yes we were created out of nothing!
Yassir Fazaga: As ludicrous as that might sound!
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes and he is a ‘great’ physicist!
Yassir Fazaga: And he is arguing for this!
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes because some people if insist for some reason that there is no creator they find themselves falling into this trap of saying something which is completely irrational.
Yassir Fazaga: Let me read from his book and I am reading a small quote here. He says:
No scientific problem is more fundamental or more daunting than the puzzle of how the universe came into being. Could this have happened without any supernatural input? Quantum mechanics seems to provide a loophole in the age old assumption that you cannot get something for nothing. Physicists are now talking about the self creating universe and a cosmoses erupted into existence spontaneously.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: You see does this make any sense? A cosmos erupting…. What does it mean? He’s just using words like erupt!
Yassir Fazaga: And he does actually say that it’s a self created universe.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Something erupts into existence out of nothing?! He could have given some other theory rather than ‘something’ erupting.
Yassir Fazaga: Where would it erupt from?
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: If you insist on the claim that there is no Creator, some thinkers have a psychological explanation for the physicists denying the existence of a Creator. They say that they don’t want anyone to interfere with their discipline. They want themselves to be the people who explain everything. Because if you say this was created by God that would mean its God who runs the universe. It is Him to whom people will turn. They don’t seem to like this. They want to be the ones responsible for universe.
Yassir Fazaga: And in the philosophy and physics world out there, is this theory gaining any ground?
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Of course this is not a scientific theory to begin with. I am glad you brought this up. To be honest, Davies himself says in the introduction of his book ‘I am not speaking as a scientist because there is no place for this in physics or biology etc’, he is using his knowledge as a physicist to defend a certain position that has nothing to do with physics.
Yassir Fazaga: And I think what you are arguing is that even rationally speaking, it really doesn’t have much credibility. This is where Allah has said ام خلقوا من غير شي and he says, Yes! We were created out of nothing.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: He is saying both actually; as he also mentions ‘self created’ universe in addition to ‘something erupting out of nothing’.
Yassir Fazaga: After that we spoke of some of the attributes that a Creator must have and you said this earlier as well that the messengers did not come to elaborate on people to believe in the existence of God. But rather their aim was to correct people’s misunderstandings of what they thought of their Creator.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: And to guide them to worship their Creator. That’s the most important thing. In the Quran, it is repeated that every prophet who is sent to his people, the first thing he would tell them that he is been sent to invite them to worship none but the Creator. That’s the basic message but then people ask questions and prophets have to answer them.
Someone says I don’t believe in the Creator, someone else might say yes I do believe in the Creator but why should He send a person like you? Why doesn’t He send an angel? Someone says why only one prophet for us, why couldn’t God send more and so on. And they have to answer these questions.
Almost all these questions were asked by Arabs to whom the Prophet SAW was sent and I sometimes say that the wisdom behind sending this Quran to an Arab Prophet was the fact that even the nonbelievers were quite intelligent and they asked all questions that could be asked! They left nothing for the atheists that would come after them. And all their questions were answered.
Yassir Fazaga: Shaykh just to clarify for our viewers so that they do not misunderstand about what you said, he was only ‘sent’ to the Arabs but his message was universal.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes just that the first people whom he was with were Arabs.
Yassir Fazaga: Did these prophets provide any rational argument as to why they were chosen to be sent?
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes and we’ll come to that later on. We now want to concentrate on the fundamentals to which the prophets were sent. So we started with faith in God, we gave relevant arguments and I suggest that now we talk about what is called the ‘argument from design’.
There was a ‘cosmological argument’ and an ‘argument from design’ and both are mentioned in the Quran. The difference between the two is that the cosmological argument talks about individual objects. And it tells you that if you look into the nature of these individual objects you can see that they must be created, so it’s talking about creation.
The ‘argument from design’ does not talk about individual objects but in fact talks about the relationship between them. And it directs your attention to a very obvious fact that creation is not a heap of scattered independent objects. And none of them would form a system that serves a certain purpose.
This applies specially to human beings. You have eyes, nose, ears – all of them work in harmony to serve a certain purpose and the universe as a whole is like this. You live on earth which is made in such a way that when rain falls, there is a possibility for plants to grow, there is air, oxygen, light from the sun, and you are created in pairs so that the species will be preserved, not only human beings but even animals.
This shows that this could not have happened just by chance. This must have been designed by a Creator and this is mentioned in the Quran in so many places. The evidence of Ayahs can also include this, because an Ayah can either be an individual object or it can refer to relationship between different objects of creation.
Yassir Fazaga: We would like to take examples on how Quran uses this argument to come to such kinds of conclusion.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Remember what we said before, it is talking about the relationship between different objects of creation.
We have in Chapter 78, Verse 6-16 where Allah says الم نجعل الارض مهادا – ‘Have we not created the earth as a cradle’, I haven’t been able to find a word that befits the translation of مهادا but note that Allah does not say that We made earth of steel or some other metal.
He SWT further continues ‘and the mountains as stakes’, some of the Muslim scientists are now talking about why are the mountains being described as being اوتادا i.e. stakes but we don’t want to go into details of that right now. ‘And we have created you in pairs. And have appointed your sleep for repose and have appointed the night as a cloak and have appointed the day for livelihood, and built above you seven strong heavens, and have appointed a dazzling lamp (the sun) and have sent down from the rainy clouds abundant water, thereby to produce grain and plant and gardens of thick foliage’. This is only one example. There are many other verses too and perhaps you remember some of them too.
Yassir Fazaga: I remember for example in Surah Taha when Moses AS was speaking to the Pharaoh and he said tell me about your God and Mosa AS seems to allude to this:
الذي اعطى كل شي خلقه ثم هدى
‘Who has given each creation its shape or mould and also gave it guidance’
And then he goes on to say:
ٱلَّذِى جَعَلَ لَكُمُ ٱلۡأَرۡضَ مَهۡدً۬ا وَسَلَكَ لَكُمۡ فِيہَا سُبُلاً۬
‘Who has made earth for you like a bed (spread out); and has opened roads (ways and paths etc.) for you therein’
Shaykh, what I understand here is that the word جعل is not for design. It’s not happening haphazardly, and was meant to be that way.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes. Now these are obvious facts that everyone can see i.e. the relationship between different kinds of creation. But some scientists now tell us something very interesting. They talk about the big bang theory….
Yassir Fazaga: Sorry to interrupt you shaykh, before you go further, if you can explain the big bang theory so that we follow you in a better way.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: The big bang theory says that all this creation that we see was not there. Apparently it came from nothing but then this is not rationally acceptable. So they say there was something like a primary atom and that exploded and from that explosion everything was formed.
Yassir Fazaga: Without giving an explanation where that atom came from?
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: Yes of course science cannot answer that and that opened the door to lots of religious questions and interestingly, it was the physicist who started talking about the existence of the Creator whether in favour or against like Davis for instance. Before the big bang it was thought that matter is eternal and hence does not require an explanation for its creation. And it was thought by some that the question of the existence of God has been ruled out as matter is eternal.
Yassir Fazaga: Shaykh I remember when we were at school we were made to memorize this quote المادة لا تفنى ولا تستحدث i.e. matter is neither created nor destroyed.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: In fact this has never been true, even before the big bang. By the way this is an example of something that is in science but is not scientific as this is like an assumption without any scientific proof. And interestingly this was a Greek belief.
This shows how culture influences people’s concepts even when they come from scientific background. And some philosophers said that there is no need for this. And he says there is no contradiction between saying that matter is conserved and that it can be created and destroyed and he gave an example of something like a glass having a hole at its bottom saying if I pour water in it from the top, the same amount of water drips down from the hole below but the level of the water will be the same in spite of the fact that its being created and destroyed at the same time – by being poured from up and draining out from down – and even Newton who is described as being the greatest physicist of his time was not a believer but he did not say that atoms came out of nothing. He said I believe that the Lord created the atoms in such a way that when they come together they form molecules and molecules of various atoms form various matters so he was not an atheist.
Some people use scientific facts to support their atheistic views. Now the anthropic principle says that the world was created from the beginning in such a way that it supports creation of people like us. Here I can quote a something from a very renowned physicist who is called Newton of modern times- Hawkings who wrote the famous book ‘Brief History of Time’. He says that this means that the initial state of the universe must have been very carefully chosen indeed.
If the hot big bang model is true, right back to the beginning of time, it would be very difficult to explain why the universe should have begun in just this way except as the act of a God. He is not a believer but this is what he says. He adds that if there was a very minute change in the rate of expansion after the big bang, the universe would not have been the way it is now, so some believers add this to the argument of design.
Yassir Fazaga: Sheikh among these four or five arguments which one does the Quran elaborates most on?
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: I think it is the argument from design. Some Muslim intellectuals like Ibn Rushd, the philosopher and lawyer, were of the belief that the argument from design talks about the attributes of God. It is not an argument for the existence of God. But some other theologians including Ibn Taimiya say that it talks of both, because if it says that the universe is designed in a way that it could not have come by chance. There must be a Creator. So it serves both purposes- it tells you about God’s existence and His attributes at the same time.
Yassir Fazaga: If I remember correctly you once said in Arabic and it was quite poetic that you would know God either through الكون المنظور or الكتاب المسموع i.e. the world that is observed or the revelation that is heard.
Dr Jaafar Sheikh Idris: This is why we also said that one of the evidence for the existence of the Creator are His words. It is creation and revelation meaning creation and revelation both point to the Creator.
Yassir Fazaga: Shaykh, as always it is such a great pleasure to be with you. This keeps getting interesting as time is passing by. Hoping that you will join us next time. Till we meet again, Assalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.
Credit: Transcribed by Defiance Team. http://thedefiance.co/the-rational-one/