The Intellectual Chaos in the Muslim Societies: Are They Still Awaiting Their Rene Descartes?

By Zia H Shah MD and his twentieth entry friends from the Cadet College Hasanabdal alumni

The scientific advance led by the Islamic Empire during the 8th to 12th centuries came to a screeching halt as the baton was passed to the Christian Europe.

Was it due to the fact that the Muslims did not have their Rene Descartes?

Uğur Şahin is an oncologist and entrepreneur and founder of BioNTech, born in Turkey, but had to do his ground breaking research in Germany that led to the first Covid 19 vaccine to be approved in the Western world. He could not have done it in Turkey or for that matter in any other Muslim country.

Is it due to the fact that the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

Dr. Abdus Salam, the only Muslim physicist to receive a Nobel prize had to work in UK and Italy and not in any Muslim country. He has in fact mostly been condemned by his native country of Pakistan.

Is it due to the fact that the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

The victims of rape in Pakistan cannot have DNA evidence come to their rescue. Here is an Urdu video to document that phenomenon:

Is it due to the fact that the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

The prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, was once walking with his companions and saw some farmers pollinating the date palm trees. He made a cursory remark why to go through all this fuss. The companions took it as a religious edict and stopped the pollination process that they had been doing for generations, such was their commitment to the prophet and his mission. The crop naturally failed as the male and female parts needed to come together, as we know well today thanks to the advances in the field of botany.

When the companions complained to the prophet, he said that he was only a religious teacher and when it came to matters of the world and of nature they were their own masters. The humility of the prophet did not keep him from giving up his authority, where he did not have a jurisdiction.

If the prophet himself is not an expert on matters of science then no Muslim scholar or theologian is an expert without establishing his or her credentials in scientific pursuits.

But over the centuries the advice fell on deaf ears. The later Muslims including Imam Bukhari created a whole chapter of medical remedies attributed to the prophet on assumed divine authority, whose vulnerability was only well exposed after the dawn of allopathy in recent centuries.

Was it due to the fact that the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

Before we go to Rene Descartes, let us talk about Al-Ghazali.

Al-Ghazali (UK/ælˈɡɑːzɑːli/,[19] US/ˌælɡəˈzɑːli, -zæl-/;[20][21] full name أَبُو حَامِدٍ مُحَمَّدُ بْنُ مُحَمَّدٍ ٱلطُّوسِيُّ ٱلْغَزَالِيُّ or ٱلْغَزَّالِيُّ, Abū Ḥāmid Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad aṭ-Ṭūsiyy al-Ġaz(z)ālīy; Latinized Algazelus or Algazel; c. 1058 – 19 December 1111) was a Persian[22][23][24] philosopher who was one of the most prominent and influential philosopherstheologiansjuristslogicians and mystics,[25][26] of Sunni Islam.[27]

Most Muslims consider[28] him to be a Mujaddid, a renewer of the faith who, according to the prophetic hadith, appears once every century to restore the faith of the ummah (“the Islamic Community”).[29][30][31] His works were so highly acclaimed by his contemporaries that al-Ghazali was awarded the honorific title “Proof of Islam” (Hujjat al-Islām).[1]

Al-Ghazali believed that the Islamic spiritual tradition had become moribund and that the spiritual sciences taught by the first generation of Muslims had been forgotten.[32] This belief lead him to write his magnum opus entitled Iḥyā’ ‘ulūm ad-dīn (“The Revival of the Religious Sciences“).[33] Among his other works, the Tahāfut al-Falāsifa (“Incoherence of the Philosophers”) is a significant landmark in the history of philosophy, as it advances the critique of Aristotelian science.

Al-Ghazali was a great theologian, may be even a philosopher, but he was no Rene Descartes. So who was Rene Descartes?

René Descartes (/deɪˈkɑːrt/ or UK/ˈdeɪkɑːrt/French: [ʁəne dekaʁt] (listen); Latinized: Renatus Cartesius;[b][15] 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650[16][17][18]:58) was a French-born philosophermathematician, and scientist who spent a large portion of his working life in the Dutch Republic, initially serving the Dutch States Army of Maurice of NassauPrince of Orange and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. One of the most notable intellectual figures of the Dutch Golden Age,[19] Descartes is also widely regarded as one of the founders of modern philosophy.

Descartes was led to his dualistic theories in part from his most famous philosophical endeavor — to place into doubt all that could be doubted in the hope of arriving at a basic, undeniable truth. That resulted in his famous Cogito ergo sum — I think, therefore I am. Descartes could doubt the existence of the physical world and that even his own body actually existed, but he could not doubt the idea that his mind existed because doubting is a thought process. The very act of doubting one’s existence proves that one actually exists; otherwise, who is doing the doubting?

Through his process of doubting, he recognized that, regardless of what the changeable physical world was really like, his mind was still whole and unchanged, and therefore somehow separate from that physical world.

It’s important to remember that, for Descartes, the brain and the mind are not the same thing. The brain serves, in part, as a connection between the mind and the body, but because it is a physical, changeable thing, it is not the actual mind. Man’s mind is whole and indivisible, whereas his body can be changed. You can cut your hair, remove your appendix, or even lose a limb, but that loss in no way reduces your mind. In laying out the mind body dualism Descartes opened up the physical to independent and systematic study without being constantly bogged down by the non-material things like mind, thought and consciousness that did not lend themselves to an easy scientific study.

The limitation in the study of consciousness was not due to limitation of the tools, but perhaps inherently so.

The fact of the matter is that the study of consciousness has not significantly changed in the last four centuries since Rene Descartes’ time.

Not only the Muslims are awaiting their Rene Descartes but the field of the study of human consciousness is also still awaiting its Rene Descartes.

Descartes also believed that man was the only dualistic creature. He placed animals in the realm of the purely physical, mechanistic world, acting purely on instinct and on the laws of nature. That has been clearly challenged by the Darwinian theory of evolution that clearly connects the humans to other primates and mammals.

Even though Descartes was proven wrong, but the truth is that his dualism had made Charles Darwin possible and be accepted in the Western civilization, without a beheading or burning on the stake for blasphemy or heresy, until he came to be celebrated as one of the greatest of the civilization, a century and a half after his death.

Descartes believed that the pineal gland in the brain was the locus of interaction between the mind and body because he believed that this gland was the only part of the brain that wasn’t a duplicate. This was not substantiated but his dualism was nevertheless a magical wand that triggered the last four centuries of astronomical progress in all the physical sciences in the West.

The Incoherence of the Philosophers (تهافت الفلاسفة Tahāfut al-Falāsifaʰ in Arabic) is the title of a landmark 11th-century work by Al-Ghazali. a student of the Asharite school of Islamic theology. He criticized the Avicennian school of early Islamic philosophy.[1] Muslim philosophers such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Al-Farabi (Alpharabius) are denounced in this book, as they follow Greek philosophy even when it contradicts Islam. The text was dramatically successful, and marked a milestone in the ascendance of the Asharite school within Islamic philosophy and theological discourse.

It was a scathing and influential critique of the budding Neoplatonic philosophical tradition in the Islamic world and against the works of Avicenna in particular.[44] Among others, Al-Ghazali charged philosophers with non-belief in Islam and sought to disprove the teaching of the philosophers using logical arguments.[43][45]

The book favored faith over philosophy in matters specifically concerning metaphysics or knowledge of the divine.

Please note that in retrospect, some thousand years later, it is easier to appreciate that he was not focused on science or study of nature, rather on metaphysics and knowledge of the divine.

The holy Quran states:

“The Originator of the heavens and the earth! How can He have a son when He has no consort, and when He has created everything and has knowledge of all things?

Such is Allah, your Lord. There is no God but He, the Creator of all things, so worship Him. And He is Guardian over everything.

Eyes cannot reach Him but He reaches the eyes. And He is the Incomprehensible, the All-Aware.” (Al Quran 6:101-103)

Study of nature is based on human observation, as our eyes perceive this universe. However, if a Transcendent God of Abrahamic faiths exists, Who is beyond time and space, then the human eyes cannot reach Him. But, He reaches the eyes of the prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, and saintly people or whoever he chooses to reveal Himself to.

Nevertheless, the Muslims of Ghazali’s time used his book to misunderstand the role of science or human observation and human effort to advance our understanding of the universe.

Was it due to the fact that the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

Fifteen years after Al Ghazali’s death Ibn Rushd was born.

Ibn Rushd (Arabic: ابن رشد‎; full name in Arabic: أبو الوليد محمد ابن احمد ابن رشد‎, romanizedAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rušd; 14 April 1126 – 11 December 1198), often Latinized as  Averroës (English: /əˈvɛroʊiːz/), was a MuslimAndalusian[1]polymath and jurist who wrote about many subjects, including philosophytheologymedicineastronomyphysicspsychologymathematicsIslamic jurisprudence and law, and linguistics. The author of more than 100 books and treatises,[2][3] Being described as “founding father of secular thought in Western Europe”,[4][5] his philosophical works include numerous commentaries on Aristotle, for which he was known in the western world as The Commentator and Father of rationalism.[6] Ibn Rushd also served as a chief judge and a court physician for the Almohad Caliphate.

Averroës was a strong proponent of Aristotelianism; he attempted to restore what he considered the original teachings of Aristotle and opposed the Neoplatonist tendencies of earlier Muslim thinkers, such as Al-Farabi and Avicenna. He also defended the pursuit of philosophy against criticism by Ashari theologians such as Al-Ghazali. Averroes argued that philosophy was permissible in Islam and even compulsory among certain elites. He also argued scriptural text should be interpreted allegorically if it appeared to contradict conclusions reached by reason and philosophy.

He wrote the Critique of Al Ghazali’s Incoherence named Incoherence of the Incoherence.

Averroës argued that philosophy—which for him represented conclusions reached using reason and careful method—cannot contradict revelations in Islam because they are just two different methods of reaching the truth, and “truth cannot contradict truth”.[46][47] When conclusions reached by philosophy appear to contradict the text of the revelation, then according to Averroes, revelation must be subjected to interpretation or allegorical understanding to remove the contradiction.[46][43] This interpretation must be done by those “rooted in knowledge”—a phrase taken from the Quran, 3:7, which for Averroes refers to philosophers who during his lifetime had access to the “highest methods of knowledge”.[46][47] He also argues that the Quran calls for Muslims to study philosophy because the study and reflection of nature would increase a person’s knowledge of “the Artisan” (God).[48] He quotes Quranic passages calling on Muslims to reflect on nature and uses them to render a fatwa (legal opinion) that philosophy is allowed for Muslims and is probably an obligation, at least among those who have the talent for it.[49]

His book did not have the desired effect among the Muslims and the baton of the scientific progress was passed gradually from the Muslims to the Christian Europe for the coming centuries.

Averroes and the study of his literature made Rene Descartes possible in the Western world. Unfortunately no Descartes was born in the Muslim world.

Therefore the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

The tide of scientific research is still not turning in favor of the Muslims. Can we continue to blame Al Ghazali for our continued downfall? Perhaps we could come up with better narratives to keep our theology and faith as well as our study of nature and science.

Simon Van Den Bergh writes in the last paragraph of his Introduction to the translation of the Incoherence of the Incoherence by Averroës:

Emotionally the difference goes deep. Averroës is a philosopher and a proud believer in the possibility of reason to achieve a knowledge of ‘was das Innere der Welt zusammenhält’. He was not always too sure, he knew too much, and there is much wavering and hesitation in his ideas. Still, his faith in reason remains unshaken. Although he does not subscribe to the lofty words of his master that man because of the power of his intellect is a mortal God, he reproaches the theologians for having made God an immortal man. God, for him, is a dehumanized principle. But if God has to respond to the needs of man’s heart, can He be exempt from humanity? Ghazali is a mu’min, that is a believer, he is a Muslim, that is he accepts his heart submits to a truth his reason cannot establish, for his heart has reasons his reason does not know. His theology is the philosophy of the heart in which there is expressed man’s fear and loneliness and his feeling of dependence on an understanding and loving Being to whom he can cry out from the depths of his despair, and whose mercy is infinite. It is not so much after abstract truth that Ghazali strives; his search is for God, for the Pity behind the clouds.

The human concerns can be conveniently divided into two dimensions the physical and non-physical. The scientific method works very well in the physical domain and should not be allowed to be hijacked by the theologians of one religion or sect or others.

The belief in God, His Providence, revelation from this All-Knowing source, our true dreams, our best intuitions, our consciousness and our soul do not easily lend themselves to methods used to study the physical world.

Let there be a Descartes and there will be light.

Conclusion

Who do I prefer, Al Ghazali or Averroës?

Simon Van Den Bergh writes in the second and the third last paragraphs of his Introduction to the translation of the Incoherence of the Incoherence by Averroës:

When we have read the long discussions between the philosophers and theologians we may come to the conclusion that it is sometimes more the formula than the essence of things which divides them. Both philosophers and theologians Arm that God creates or has created the world. For the philosophers, since the world is eternal, this creation is eternal. Is there, however, any sense in calling created what has been eternally? For the theologians God is the creator of everything including time, but does not the term ‘creation’ assume already the concept of time? Both the philosophers and theologians apply to God the theory that His will and knowledge differ from human will and knowledge in that they are creative principles and essentially beyond understanding; both admit that the Divine cannot be measured by the standards of man. But this, in fact, implies an avowal of our complete ignorance in face of the Mystery of God. Still, for both parties God is the supreme Artifex who in His wisdom has chosen the best of all possible worlds; for although the philosophers affirm also that God acts only by natural necessity, their system, like that of their predecessors, the Platonists, Peripatetics, and Stoics, is essentially teleological. As to the problem of possibility, both parties commit the same inconsistencies and hold sometimes that the world could, sometimes that it could not, have been different from what it is. Finally, both parties believe in God’s ultimate Unity. And if one studies the other works of Ghazali the resemblance between him and the philosophers becomes still greater.

For instance, he too believes in the spirituality of the soul, notwithstanding the arguments he gives against it in this book; he too sometimes regards religious concepts as the symbols of a higher philosophical or mystical truth, although he admits here only a literal interpretation. He too sometimes teaches the fundamental theory of the philosophers which he tries to refute so insistently in our book, the theory that from the one supreme Agent as the ultimate source through intermediaries all things derive; and he himself expresses this idea (in his Alchemy of Happiness and slightly differently in his Vivification of Theology) by the charming simile of an ant which seeing black tracings on a sheet of paper thinks that their cause is the pen, while it is the hand that moves the pen by the power of the will which derives from the heart, itself inspired by the spiritual agent, the cause of causes. The resemblances between Ghazali and Averroës, men belonging to the same culture, indeed, the greatest men in this culture, seem sometimes greater than their differences.

As a devout Muslim believer and practitioner, I defer to Al Ghazali when I am thinking about my religion and Providence of God and to Averroës when I am thinking about sciences and my profession of a healer, a physician, a Sleep Disorders specialist. In addition to being ‘a believing people’ the Muslims are also ‘a thinking nation or Ummah,’ as the holy Quran calls them time and again to ponder over nature and bring forth their arguments.

Unfortunately, the Muslim theologian of all sects, without any considerable exception, still side with Al Ghazali, even in scientific matters and study of nature, to the implied ignoring or even condemnation of present day Averroës, who push his arguments. Why do the religious scholars do that? It soothes their egos and keeps them relevant in the present day and age and wins them blind obedience of their followers.

Dr. Zia H Shah, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times and author of this article

Averroës of today are still condemned invariably, in the twentieth first century, by the so called Muslim scholars, theologians and their mobs. Who are the Averroës of our time? These are people like Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Pervez Hoodboy in Pakistan, Mustafa Akyol from Turkey and not so humble author of this article.

We are often condemned or at least not endorsed or promoted, because the Muslims have not had their Rene Descartes yet! The Muslim masses are unable to see the two clear compartments or shall we say the distinction is too often blurred by their religious and political leaders.

Is it due to the fact that the Muslims are still awaiting their Rene Descartes?

Rene Descartes was a thinking man and a source of great light to the Western civilization and to the whole of humanity in turn.

We have pooled hundreds if not thousands of articles on the theme of religion and science, to draw the Muslim masses out of hero worship to a new era, where they can grow their learning not only from their scholars of choice, but Avicenna, Al Ghazali, Averroës and Descartes of all faiths and lack thereof.

I conclude by a quote from Nelson Mandella, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

Bibliography

Video: Hamza Yusuf About Al Ghazali

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Ibn Rushd (Averroes) (1126—1198)

From the Muslim Sunrise: Truth and Science

Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science On the lost Golden Age and the rejection of reason

Book Review: Islam Without Extremes by Mustafa Akyol

The great Greek trio and a case for religion

Human Soul: The Final Frontier?

Video: Laughter is the best cure for psychics

Neurobiology of Dreams and Revelation

Al Aleem: The Bestower of true dreams

The Nature of Revelation

True Nature of Divine Revelations

We Dream, Therefore God Is!

Literal Reading of the Quran and Hadith Makes Most Muslim Leaders Very Stupid

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Please carefully listen to this 21 minute video of one of the popular Sunni Muslim leaders in USA and his defense of the blasphemy laws.

I love him but do not endorse his idea that Blasphemy Laws exist in Islam. What exists in Islam is freedom of religion and speech. The mistake that he is making is not his alone, I have rather seen most of the scholars of Islam from the Pakistan background have been vulnerable in this regards.

While I agree with Qadhi’s overall tolerant approach, his defense of blasphemy laws simply violates the principles of freedom of religion for many, which is a very fundamental and signatory principle of the holy Quran and modern human civilization. It seems to me that he is unable to make a succinct case of what he wants to say. He makes claims that there is no ambiguity in the understanding of blasphemy in jurisprudence, but does not site any evidence for it.

I believe that short comings of Yasir Qadhi and other present or previous scholars arises from the fact that they do not realize that the separation of church and state or mosque and state was not so precisely defined in the seventh century Arabia and Hadith were quoted and written without that clear understanding.

Today, when we understand these domains better we have to state our case in contemporary terminology. In present times we talk about hate speech or defamation laws in the Western world rather than blasphemy laws. Even the European Convention on Human Rights, makes clear exceptions to free speech. Article 10 provides the right to freedom of expression, subject to certain restrictions that are “in accordance with law” and “necessary in a democratic society.” This right includes the freedom to hold opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas, but allows restrictions for:

  • interests of national security
  • territorial integrity or public safety
  • prevention of disorder or crime
  • protection of health or morals
  • protection of the reputation or the rights of others
  • preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence
  • maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary

If the Muslim countries have to make laws those need to be with these modern understanding of statehood so that there is greater consensus among the Muslims and these concepts can be better communicated with the rest of the world, with whom we share our planet earth.

The scholars continue to read the Quran and the Hadith in literal terms without translating those for our times and culture more than 1400 years removed from the 7th century Arabia.

I have addressed the issue of literal reading of the Quran in several of my prior articles: The Taliban Rule: Do Muslims Prefer Camels Over Modern Cars? The Holy Quran and the Seventh Century Arabian Metaphors and Reason or Orthodoxy: Which One Should Rule?

Scope, Style and Preservation of the Quran

All of David Attenborough’s Work as a Proof for the Hereafter according to the Holy Quran

Epigraph

Do they not see that God brings life into being and reproduces it? Truly this is easy for God. Say, ‘Travel throughout the earth and see how He brings life into being: and He will bring the next life into being. God has power over all things. (Al Quran 29:19-20/20-21)

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

As I was reading the translation of Surah Ankabut, meaning The Spider this morning, I had an epiphany when I read the verses quoted in the Epigraph above. I knew that the Quran has on several occasions used the blossoming of plant life in the spring as evidence for the Second Life or Hereafter, but here was the most stunning expression of this phenomenon. Allah states that as the recreation of plant life and animal reproduction is easy for him so will be second creation in Afterlife.

Then Allah invites us to travel in the earth and see all the plant life and animal life with that perspective and the wise will become convinced of the Afterlife. No one has travelled more and with greater insight in the study of life than David Attenborough and with this new window I begin to see his work in new light.

He has dozen of documentaries on all forms of life on planet earth. You can begin to see them in YouTube and Netflix as we speak.

This was my epiphany this morning and I am grateful to Allah for this and I pray that He will keep me always pregnant with new insights.

David Attenborough showing his typical fascination with animals and plants. The Muslim Times has the best collection of articles about the Quran, Afterlife and Religion & Science

Additional reading

A Slight Twist Makes David Attenborough a Great Teacher for God of the Abrahamic Faiths

Commentary of Surah Fatihah for the 21st Century

National Geographic Video: All Knowing, All Seeing God Keeps Us Away from Crime and Sin, See the Evidence

Stephen Hawking Passes Away – May God Bless His Soul, But He Didn’t Believe in One

A Cordial invitation to Sir David Attenborough to be a Theist

If there is freewill, so is Providence: Refuting the best of atheism through the latest science

Epigraph:

And He (Allah) gave you all that you wanted of Him; and if you try to count the favors of Allah, you will not be able to number them. Indeed, man is very unjust, very ungrateful.  (Al Quran 14:34/35)

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

Let me start off by saying, if my articles are boring to you, it may be that you need to read more of them, as was suggested by John Cage, who was a famous American composer of the twentieth century, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

The title of Stephen Hawking’s 2010 book that he co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow is The Grand Design.  In this book the authors have described their agnostic or atheistic world view, through the glasses of contemporary physics. However, the title itself is a Freudian slip revealing the underlying conflict of Hawking’s premise. He cannot express his proposition, even briefly so, without borrowing a phrase that argues the exact opposite and suggests a Designer, a Creator, a First cause, Alpha and Omega! The authors do not offer us any new evidence to prove their premise. The book repackages commonly known scientific information.

The main thesis of the book seems to rely on the multiverse theory and M Theory, which is used to rescue the sinking ship of atheism. These are invoked in one form or the other in concluding paragraphs of almost every chapter, of this book, after the fifth one. The multiverse theory, however, may belong to science fiction rather than science as we do not have access to multiverse to examine it through scientific methods.  Hawking teaches us in the final paragraphs of the fifth chapter that the M theory allows for ten raised to the power 500 different universes, together represented with the term multiverse, each universe with its own laws.

Nowhere in the book have the authors told us what could science have discovered that would have proved a Transcendent God, in other words their conclusion is in fact, only their starting premise.

In this article, I will show that science could have discovered something that would have ruled out the possibility of a Creator or a God that can influence this universe and grant prayers of the believers or give them true dreams and reveal scriptures to His prophets.

In this well written book, Stephen Hawking wants to take the miracle of our habitable earth away by suggesting that there are billions of planets and stars in our expanding universe so there had to be habitable zones in our universe and we naturally find ourselves in one of those.

Nevertheless, in chapter seven of the book he confesses that it takes 10 billion years to cook carbon from lighter elements at millions of degrees centigrade.  And then we needed supernova explosions to spread this carbon to habitable parts of the universe.  Carbon is absolutely essential for all life forms on our planet earth. To use the terminology of the atheists, the mother nature knew that we are coming more than 10 billion years ago.

Hawking does not stand in awe of this miracle of creation, which is more than 10 billion years in making and involves coincidence on top of coincidence on top of unending coincidences.  Perhaps he takes the 13.7 billion year miracle to be an accident or serendipity.  Or may be he attributes the whole phenomenon to the magical mathematical laws underpinning our universe.

But, mathematical laws have no creative power. A book describing all the laws beautifully can keep sitting in a book shelf for trillions of years and will not create a single planet or a solar system, not to speak of a universe with a dimension of 13.7 billion light years.

Napoleon, in one of the most notable conversations in the history of science, asked the French scientist Pierre Simon Laplace about the role of God in his scientific world view. It is said that Laplace had presented Napoleon with a copy of his work, who had heard that the book contained no mention of God. Napoleon, who was fond of imposing embarrassment, received it with the remark, “Laplace, they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator.” Laplace is said to have replied, “Sir, I have no need of that hypothesis.” And so it goes. The apparent so called self-sufficiency of our physical universe has caused many a scientist to move away from the idea of a Creator of the universe or the God Hypothesis. But is it really so?

While nineteenth century physics was framing God out of the picture, the twentieth century physics and more specifically the Quantum physics has catapulted God back into mainstream scientific discussions to the amazement of scientists with an atheistic bend.

Baron John Rees, President of the Royal Society of UK writes in his book, Just Six Numbers: the Deep Forces That Shape the Universe, describes our biophylic universe in the following words:

I have highlighted these six because each plays a crucial and distinctive role in our universe, and together they determine how the universe evolves and what its internal potentialities are; moreover, three of them (those that pertain to the large-scale universe) are only now being measured with any precision.
These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if anyone of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator?[1]
Firing squad
To drive home the full force of the fine tuning of these six numbers from physics, Martin Rees further quotes a very useful metaphor:
There are various ways of reacting to the apparent fine tuning of our six numbers. One hard-headed response is that we couldn’t exist if these numbers weren’t adjusted in the appropriate ‘special’ way: we manifestly are here, so there’s nothing to be surprise about. Many scientists take this line, but it certainly leaves me unsatisfied. I‘m impressed by a metaphor given by the Canadian philosopher John Leslie. Suppose you are facing a firing squad. Fifty marksmen take aim, but they all miss. If they hadn’t all missed, you wouldn’t have survived to ponder the matter. But you wouldn’t just leave it at that – you’d still be baffled, and would seek some further reason for your good fortune.[2][3]

So, the validity and eloquence of the argument of fine tuning of our universe is self evident. It is not merely a matter of six numbers, the fact of the matter is that according to the M theory as explained by Stephen Hawking in his above mentioned book, we need ten raised to the power of five hundred, independent universes to explain the biophylic nature of our known universe.

Free will

If the scientists had discovered that universe is completely deterministic as Laplace was proposing and a completely closed system then it would have obviously ruled out the Provident God of the Abrahamic faiths, if we could not find Him within the natural world. Such a closed system would have ruled out our freewill also. But it was not to be. I would suggest for additional details: Demystifying Quantum Physics: You Need it for Your Faith and a short video to understand our free will:

To drive home the enormity of the number ten raised to the power five hundred universes, proposed to explain away the biophylic miracle of our known universe, let me share that If some being could discover a universe every millisecond, it would have discovered only 10 raised to 20 universes, since the Big Bang. Still lot more to go.

So, as long as the notion of freewill survives, there is plenty of evidence for Providence and it will flourish.  If billions of humans’ freewill can affect the reality at the quantum level, so can a Divine being at the same quantum level without violating any known laws of nature or be discernable in any way other than what the quantum physics provides.

Unless the scientists ever demonstrate a self contained, closed deterministic world, Monotheism of the Abrahamic faiths is the best metaphysics and not the purposeless day dreaming or confabulations of the atheists.

References:

1. John Rees. Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe. Basic Books, 2000. Page 4.
2. John Rees. Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe. Basic Books, 2000. Page 4.
3. John Rees. Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape the Universe. Basic Books, 2000. Page 165-166.

Additional suggested reading and viewing for the Creator God of the Abrahamic Faiths

Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God

The Muslim Times, Perhaps the Only Medium Presenting the Creator God of the Holy Quran

A Cordial invitation to Sir David Attenborough to be a Theist

How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution

Charles Darwin: An Epiphany for the Muslims, A Catastrophe for the Christians

Allah the Creator, the Maker and the Fashioner: The Best Documentary on Birds

The anesthesia of familiarity: There should be a Creator of Our Universe

The Beauty and the GPS of the Birds and the Quran

A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from?

Plain Water will Tell you the Story

Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe by Martin Rees

The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life? by Paul Davies

Moon: Does it have a purpose?

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

How science polishes our understanding of the Quran

By Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

The second last verse of Surah Ha Mim Sajdah reads, “We will show them Our Signs in the universe and also in their own psyche and consciousness until it becomes manifest to them that the Quran is the Truth.” (Al Quran 41:53)

It goes without saying that our knowledge of our solar system, our universe, cosmology, physics and mathematics that supports it, has multiplied a billion fold from the seventh century Arabia to the 21st century global village.

For the understanding of our universe you could be watching any number of good documentaries produced by the reputable Western companies. I will share only one here:

Likewise our understanding of the human psychology has increased in so many different ways.

So there is no denying that almost a thousand Quranic verses talking about nature or the study of nature do not mean the same thing today as they did in the seventh century Arabia. I have written specifically about this topic before also: Science in the Service of the Scriptures and how Darwinian evolution has changed our Quranic story of Adam: Surah Al Baqara (The Cow): Section 4: Adam and Eve.

I believe that any good commentary of the Quran can never be written in stone. Please see our collection below about scope and style of the Quran.

Therefore, verses about sociology, legislation and host of other subjects that change with the changing societies have to be understood and read in contemporary terms.

The fundamentalist then ask is there any thing fixed in the Quran? Yes, the main themes of theology. Monotheism and our accountability, in the hereafter, are written in stone.

I believe that the two fundamental beliefs in Islam, which it shares with Judaism and Christianity are belief in the Transcendent God and accountability in the life after death. (87:16-19) The former is discussed at some length in the commentary of Surah Al Fatihah and the latter in the commentary of Surah Al Waqi’ah. This is why each and every prophet of God was sent and this indeed is the very purpose of the holy Quran, as it often uses the first creation as a proof for the second creation, namely our accountability in the hereafter.

Suggested reading for knowing the Creator of our universe

Deism: Common between Islam, Christianity and Judaism

Patriarch Abraham’s Deism and Monotheism: The Best Paradigm For Interfaith Tolerance

Everything is a Miracle According to the Holy Quran and Albert Einstein

The Muslim Times, Perhaps the Only Medium Presenting the Creator God of the Holy Quran

How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution

Charles Darwin: An Epiphany for the Muslims, A Catastrophe for the Christians

Photosynthesis: deserving of our awe or ridicule?

Allah the Creator, the Maker and the Fashioner: The Best Documentary on Birds

The anesthesia of familiarity: There should be a Creator of Our Universe

The Beauty and the GPS of the Birds and the Quran

Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God

A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from?

Plain Water will Tell you the Story

Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe by Martin Rees

The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life? by Paul Davies

Moon: Does it have a purpose?

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

12 Famous Scientists On The Possibility Of God

Every Ray of Light Gives Us Eternal Hope in God’s Providence

Religion and Science: The Indispensable God-hypothesis

Scope, Style and Preservation of the Quran

If you limit yourself to one or a few religious teachers, you may have a severe case of myopia

To Know more how you can benefit from the Muslim Times, go to our Homepage or About Us page
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

In the very beginning of Surah Saff, chapter 61 of the Quran, we read: “Whatever is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Allah, He is the Mighty, the Wise.”

There are several other verses of the Quran on this theme that it can be considered almost a Quranic refrain.

Allah is making a very profound claim here that literally every thing that we see around, under the microscope or through the telescope, glorifies Him.

Now, if you resort to reading the commentary or lecture of a given Muslim scholar about such verses, you are going to be short changed, for the theologian has spend his life studying theology and different details of the Shariah and has had very little time to master the scientific beauties of our universe.

You can appreciate the amazing beauties of different life forms or biology through the eyes and camera of David Attenborough’s crew and mind boggling complexities and intricacies of physics and cosmology through the writings and videoes of Paul Davies, Martin Rees and James Al Khalili and many others.

Now, you might say wait a minute many of these are not even theists. That is well and good. That is where I come in and in a few short writings bring the scholarship of ages to the service of One True God and introduce you to sublime Monotheism: A Slight Twist Makes David Attenborough a Great Teacher for God of the Abrahamic Faiths and A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from?

Dr. Zia H Shah

If you are going to learn your biology and especially evolution from likes of Zakir Naik and Yusuf Estes, may I say respectfully that you will be seriously misinformed: Exposing Creationism of Zakir Naik, Tahir ul Qadari, Yusuf Estes and Harun Yahya.

The last verse of Sura Hashar, chapter 59 of the Quran, states: He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise.”

So, to fully appreciate the attributes, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner, may I respectfully suggest that you may need to recognize the Muslim Times as a good source and benefit from the following:

Everything is a Miracle According to the Holy Quran and Albert Einstein

The Muslim Times, Perhaps the Only Medium Presenting the Creator God of the Holy Quran

How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution

Charles Darwin: An Epiphany for the Muslims, A Catastrophe for the Christians

Photosynthesis: deserving of our awe or ridicule?

Allah the Creator, the Maker and the Fashioner: The Best Documentary on Birds

The anesthesia of familiarity: There should be a Creator of Our Universe

The Beauty and the GPS of the Birds and the Quran

Ten Raised to Five Hundred Reasons for Our Gracious God

A challenge for Dawkins: Where did carbon come from?

Plain Water will Tell you the Story

Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe by Martin Rees

The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life? by Paul Davies

Moon: Does it have a purpose?

The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences

Twelve Famous Scientists On The Possibility Of God

Surah Al Naba: The Announcement

A Meccan surah. The disbelievers often asked incredulously about the Resurrection, this is mentioned in the first five verses of the surah. This surah gives evidence of God’s power in verses 6-16, then explains what will happen on the Day of Resurrection, and the respective fates of believers and disbelievers in the rest of the surah.

It follows the theme of several other surahs, where God’s first creation is presented as evidence for second creation or Resurrection.

So, this surah is another exhibit for our repeated assertion that the two most fundamental theses of the Quran are belief in the Creator and Loving God and our accountability to Him in the hereafter.

We believe the two fundamental beliefs in Islam, which it shares with Judaism and Christianity are belief in the Transcendent God and accountability in the life after death. (87:16-19) The former is discussed at some length in the commentary of Surah Al Fatihah and the latter in the commentary of Surah Al Waqi’ah. This is why each and every prophet of God was sent and this indeed is the very purpose of the holy Quran.  In the worldly and human sphere the goal of the Quran is to create just and compassionate individuals and society.

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ

In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.

78:1. What are they asking about? عَمَّ يَتَسَاءَلُونَ
78:2. Is it about the momentous announcement, the Day of Judgment?عَنِ النَّبَإِ الْعَظِيمِ
78:3. About which they differ. الَّذِي هُمْ فِيهِ مُخْتَلِفُونَ ‎
78:4. They will find out. كَلَّا سَيَعْلَمُونَ
78:5. In the end they will find out. ثُمَّ كَلَّا سَيَعْلَمُونَ
78:6. Did We not make the earth a flat bed, أَلَمْ نَجْعَلِ الْأَرْضَ مِهَادًا
78:7. and make the mountains to keep it stable? وَالْجِبَالَ أَوْتَادًا
78:8. Did We not create you in pairs, وَخَلَقْنَاكُمْ أَزْوَاجًا
78:9. give you sleep as a source of rest, وَجَعَلْنَا نَوْمَكُمْ سُبَاتًا
78:10. the night as a cover, وَجَعَلْنَا اللَّيْلَ لِبَاسًا
78:11. and the day for your livelihood? وَجَعَلْنَا النَّهَارَ مَعَاشًا
78:12. Did We not build seven strong heavens above you, وَبَنَيْنَا فَوْقَكُمْ سَبْعًا شِدَادًا
78:13. and make sun a blazing lamp? وَجَعَلْنَا سِرَاجًا وَهَّاجًا
78:14. Did We not send water pouring down from the clouds وَأَنزَلْنَا مِنَ الْمُعْصِرَاتِ مَاءً ثَجَّاجًا
78:15. to bring forth with it grain, vegetations,لِّنُخْرِجَ بِهِ حَبًّا وَنَبَاتًا
78:16. and luxuriant gardens? وَجَنَّاتٍ أَلْفَافًا
78:17. A time has been appointed for the Day of Judgment:إِنَّ يَوْمَ الْفَصْلِ كَانَ مِيقَاتًا
78:18. a Day when the Trumpet will sound and you will come forward in crowds, يَوْمَ يُنفَخُ فِي الصُّورِ فَتَأْتُونَ أَفْوَاجًا
78:19. when the heaven will open up like wide portals, وَفُتِحَتِ السَّمَاءُ فَكَانَتْ أَبْوَابًا
78:20. when the mountains will vanish like a mirage.وَسُيِّرَتِ الْجِبَالُ فَكَانَتْ سَرَابًا
78:21. Surely, hell lies in wait, إِنَّ جَهَنَّمَ كَانَتْ مِرْصَادًا
78:22. a resort for oppressors لِّلطَّاغِينَ مَآبًا
78:23. to stay in for ages, لَّابِثِينَ فِيهَا أَحْقَابًا
78:24. where they will taste neither coolness nor any pleasant drink لَّا يَذُوقُونَ فِيهَا بَرْدًا وَلَا شَرَابًا
78:25. except one that is scalding and nauseating إِلَّا حَمِيمًا وَغَسَّاقًا
78:26. a fitting requital, جَزَاءً وِفَاقًا
78:27. for they did not fear the reckoning,إِنَّهُمْ كَانُوا لَا يَرْجُونَ حِسَابًا
78:28. and they rejected Our messages as lies. وَكَذَّبُوا بِآيَاتِنَا كِذَّابًا
78:29. We have recorded everything in a Book. وَكُلَّ شَيْءٍ أَحْصَيْنَاهُ كِتَابًا
78:30. ‘Taste this: all you will get from Us is more torment.’ فَذُوقُوا فَلَن نَّزِيدَكُمْ إِلَّا عَذَابًا
78:31. For those who were God conscious there is supreme fulfilment: إِنَّ لِلْمُتَّقِينَ مَفَازًا
78:32. private gardens, vineyards, حَدَائِقَ وَأَعْنَابًا
78:33. young, well-matched companions, وَكَوَاعِبَ أَتْرَابًا
78:34. and overflowing cups. وَكَأْسًا دِهَاقًا
78:35. There they will hear no vain or lying talk. لَّا يَسْمَعُونَ فِيهَا لَغْوًا وَلَا كِذَّابًا
78:36. a reward from your Lord, a fitting giftرَّبِّ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا الرَّحْمَٰنِ ۖ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ مِنْهُ خِطَابًا
78:37. from the Lord of the heavens and earth and everything between, the Lord of Mercy. They will have no authority from Him to speak. يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الرُّوحُ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ صَفًّا ۖ لَّا يَتَكَلَّمُونَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وَقَالَ صَوَابًا
78:38. On the Day when the souls and the angels stand in rows, they will not speak except for those to whom the Lord of Mercy gives permission, who will say only what is true. يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الرُّوحُ وَالْمَلَائِكَةُ صَفًّا ۖ لَّا يَتَكَلَّمُونَ إِلَّا مَنْ أَذِنَ لَهُ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وَقَالَ صَوَابًا
78:39. That day is sure to come. So let him, who will, seek recourse unto his Lord.ذَٰلِكَ الْيَوْمُ الْحَقُّ ۖ فَمَن شَاءَ اتَّخَذَ إِلَىٰ رَبِّهِ مَآبًا
78:40. Indeed, We have warned you of an imminent torment, on the Day when every person will see what their own hands have sent ahead for them, when the disbeliever will say, ‘If only I were mere dust!’ إِنَّا أَنذَرْنَاكُمْ عَذَابًا قَرِيبًا يَوْمَ يَنظُرُ الْمَرْءُ مَا قَدَّمَتْ يَدَاهُ وَيَقُولُ الْكَافِرُ يَا لَيْتَنِي كُنتُ تُرَابًا

Demystifying Quantum Physics: You Need it for Your Faith

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times

If my articles are boring to you, it may be that you need to read more of them, as was suggested by John Cage, one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century, “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

He (Allah) is the First and the Last, and the Manifest and the Hidden, and He knows every little detail fully well. (Al Quran 57:3/4)

Quantum physics has come to symbolize complexity among other things and most of us try to shy away from it.  But, the fundamental reality is that if we put the mathematics aside and find the right teachers, following arguments in Quantum physics is not any harder than any other scientific, religious, philosophical, logical and political argument.  Often what it means is picking up, which expert is giving a fair and balanced understanding and which one is blinded by his or her ideological concerns.

Napoleon, in one of the most notable conversations in the history of science, asked the French scientist Pierre Simon Laplace about the role of God in his scientific world view. It is said that Laplace had presented Napoleon with a copy of his work, who had heard that the book contained no mention of God. Napoleon, who was fond of imposing embarrassment, received it with the remark, “Laplace, they tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator.” Laplace is said to have replied, “Sir, I have no need of that hypothesis.” And so it goes. The apparent so called self-sufficiency of our physical universe has caused many a scientist to move away from the idea of a Creator of the universe or the God Hypothesis. But is it really so?

Laplace is one of the seventy two people to have their names on the Eiffel Tower. So strong was his belief in determinism and the scientific process that he said that given the knowledge of every atomic motion, the entire future of the universe could be mapped out. This was precisely the reason why Einstein did not believe in free will or accountability except for the horrific crimes of the Nazis.  Laplace wrote:

We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at any given moment knew all of the forces that animate nature and the mutual positions of the beings that compose it, if this intellect were vast enough to submit the data to analysis, could condense into a single formula the movement of the greatest bodies of the universe and that of the lightest atom; for such an intellect nothing could be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes.

Atheist physicist and philosophers want to continue to read determinism in physics despite the discoveries of Quantum physics, in the twentieth century, to rule out human soul, human free will and Providence of God. Read Carl Sagan as he rightfully sings praises of science, but, implies to rule out prayer and Providence, by bracketing them with quackery and witchcraft:

You can go to the witch doctor to lift the spell that causes your pernicious anemia, or you can take vitamin B12. If you want to save your child from polio, you can pray or you can inoculate. If you’re interested in the sex of your unborn child, you can consult plumb-bob danglers all you want (leftright, a boy; forward-back, a girl-or maybe it’s the other way around), but they’ll be right, on average, only one time in two. If you want real accuracy (here, ninety-nine percent accuracy), try amniocentesis and sonograms. Try science.

If our world is deterministic then the claims of atheist scientists are true.  There is no room for Islam or Christianity or any other religion.  If hard determinism is true then God does not exist and our claims about human soul are no more than those in previous decades about Santa Clause and in previous centuries about witches.  Encyclopedia Britannica tells us about determinism and its implications:

Determinism, in philosophy, theory that all events, including moral choices, are completely determined by previously existing causes. Determinism is usually understood to preclude free will because it entails that humans cannot act otherwise than they do. The theory holds that the universe is utterly rational because complete knowledge of any given situation assures that unerring knowledge of its future is also possible. Pierre-Simon, Marquis de Laplace, in the 18th century framed the classical formulation of this thesis. For him, the present state of the universe is the effect of its previous state and the cause of the state that follows it. If a mind, at any given moment, could know all of the forces operating in nature and the respective positions of all its components, it would thereby know with certainty the future and the past of every entity, large or small. The Persian poet Omar Khayyam expressed a similar deterministic view of the world in the concluding half of one of his quatrains: “And the first Morning of Creation wrote / What the Last Dawn of Reckoning shall read.”[1]

So, if determinism is true there is no need to invoke human soul, human free will and Providence of God.  These three become agents that simply cannot influence our world.  In Wikipedia we can read:

Determinism is a philosophy stating that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. Different versions of this theory depend upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and events, asserting that these hold without exception. Deterministic theories throughout the history of philosophy have sprung from diverse motives and considerations, some of which overlap. They can be understood in relation to their historical significance and alternative theories. Some forms of determinism can be tested empirically with ideas stemming from physics and the philosophy of physics. The opposite of determinism is some kind of indeterminism (otherwise called nondeterminism). Determinism is often contrasted with free will.  Determinism is often taken to mean simply causal determinism: an idea known in physics as cause-and-effect. It is the concept that events within a given paradigm are bound by causality in such a way that any state (of an object or event) is completely determined by prior states. This can be distinguished from other varieties of determinism mentioned below. Other debates often concern the scope of determined systems, with some maintaining that the entire universe (or multiverse) is a single determinate system and others identifying other more limited determinate systems. Within numerous historical debates, many varieties and philosophical positions on the subject of determinism exist. This includes debates concerning human action and free will, where opinions might be sorted as compatibilistic and incompatibilistic.[2]

I as a Muslim believe in free will and deny Hard Determinism.  The Philosophers have created four different combinations of belief or disbelief in free will and determinism.  They have argued that either Determinism is true or Indeterminism is true, but also that Free Will either exists or it does not. This creates four possible positions. Compatibilism refers to the view that free will is, in some sense, compatible with Determinism. The three Incompatibilist positions, on the other hand, deny this possibility. They instead suggest there is a dichotomy between determinism and free will (only one can be true).

To the Incompatibilists, one must choose either free will or Determinism, and maybe even reject both. The result is one of three positions:

According to this classification, I am arguing for Metaphysical Libertarianism; I believe in free will and deny determinism.  I believe that for that to be true, we need proper understanding of Quantum physics, otherwise we cannot argue for it.

The principle of free will has religious, ethical, and scientific implications. For example, in the religious realm, free will implies that individual will and choices can coexist with an omnipotent divinity. In ethics, it may hold implications for whether individuals can be held morally accountable for their actions.

Like dominoes fall in a deterministic fashion, if Laplace or causal determinism is true then our choices are predetermined and we are not free to make them and hence do not have free will.  But, I believe that the twentieth century physics, as opposed to earlier physics has shown us that our world is indeterministic.  Quantum physics developed in the first 3-4 decades of twentieth century provides explanation and avenue not only for our free will but also for God’s Providence.

The Miracle of Light – An Every Day Metaphor to Appreciate Quantum Physics

God said let there be light and there was the Holy Quran!  The Quran describes Allah as Manifest as well as Transcendent and Hidden at the same time, in the verse quoted in the beginning.  It is in this duality that the relationship of religion and science is to be understood.  If Laplace had been right in predicting the future accurately, not only there would have been no Personal God but also no ‘free will’ for mankind.  But something beautiful yet common place, namely, each and every ray of light, defies the tall claims of Laplace.

The scientific conflict between particle and wave models of light has permeated the history of science for several centuries.  The issue dates back to at least Newton.  His careful investigations into the properties of light in the 1660s led to his discovery that white light consists of a mixture of colors. He struggled with a formulation of the nature of light, ultimately asserting in Opticks (1704) that light consists of a stream of ‘corpuscles,’ or particles.  The wave model explains certain observed phenomena but the photoelectric phenomena are best explained by ‘corpuscle’ nature of light.

If you have ever held a metal wire over a gas flame, you have borne wit­ness to one of the great secrets of the universe. As the wire gets hotter, it begins to glow, to give off light. And the color of that light changes with temperature. A cooler wire gives off a reddish glow, while the hottest wires shine with a blue-white brilliance. What you are watching, as any high school physics student can tell you, is the transformation of one kind of energy (heat) into another (light). As the wire gets hotter and hotter, it gets brighter. That’s because if there is more heat energy avail­able, more light energy can be given off, which makes sense.

Why does the color of that light change with temperature? Throughout the nineteenth century, that deceptively simple question baffled the best minds of classical physics. As the wire gets hotter and hotter, the atoms within it move more rapidly. Maybe that causes the color (the wavelength) of the light to change? Well, that’s true, but there’s more to it. Every time classical physicists used their understanding of matter and energy to try to predict exactly which wavelengths of light should be given off by a hot wire, they got it wrong. At high temperatures, those classical predictions were dramatically wrong. Something didn’t make sense.

Max Planck, a German physicist, found a way to solve the problem. Physicists had always assumed that light, being a wave, could be emitted from an object at any wavelength and in any amount. Planck realized that for this phenomenon the particulate nature as suggested by Newton was the key. He proposed that light could only be released in little packets containing a precise amount of energy. He called these packets or ‘corpuscles’ of Newton as ‘quanta.’  All of a sudden, everything fell into place.

It was known that when some solids were struck by light, they emitted electrons.  This phenomenon is called the photoelectric effect.   Albert Einstein offered the best explanation of the photoelectric effect in a brilliant paper that eventually won him his Nobel Prize.   He seized on the dual nature of light.  Light was not only a waveform but is composed of individual quanta later called photons.  This understanding of the dual nature of light was needed to explain some of the phenomena that had been observed in study of light.  The wave theory of light did not explain the photoelectric effect but conceptualizing the light to be also particle, beautifully solved this riddle.  Einstein proposed that the energy to eject a single electron from the plate came from a single quantum of light. That’s why a more intense light (more quanta) just ejects more electrons. But the energy in each of those packets, the quantum wallop if you will, is determined by the wavelength, the color, of the light. With one stroke, of genius, Einstein had shown that Planck’s quanta were not just theoretical constructs. Light really could behave as if it were made of a stream of particles, today known as photons.  He was awarded the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics for this work.

Prof. Kenneth R Miller wrote in his popular book, Finding Darwin’s God:

All of this might have been sensible and comforting were it not for the fact that light was already known to behave as if it were a wave! So many experiments already had shown that light could be diffracted, that light had a frequency and a wavelength, that light spread out like a wave on the surface of a pond. Could all those experiments be wrong? No, they were not. All of those experiments were right. Light was both a particle and a wave. It was both a continuous stream and a shower of discrete quantum packets. And that nonsensical result was just the beginning.

Classical physics had prepared everyone to think of physical events as governed by fixed laws, but the quantum revolution quickly destroyed this Newtonian certainty. An object as simple as a mirror can show us why. A household mirror reflects about ninety-five percent of light hitting it. The other five percent passes right through. As long as we think of light as a Wave, a continuous stream of energy, it’s easy to visualize ninety-five per­cent reflection. But photons are indivisible-each individual photon must either be reflected or pass through the surface of the mirror. That means that for one hundred photons fired at the surface, ninety-five will bounce off but five will pass right through.

If we fire a series of one hundred photons at the mirror, can we tell in advance which will be the five that are going to pass through? Absolutely not. All photons of a particular wavelength are identical; there is nothing to distinguish one from the other. If we rig up an experiment in which we fire a single photon at our mirror, we cannot predict in advance what will happen, no matter how precise our knowledge of the system might be. Most of the time, that photon is going to come bouncing off; but one time out of twenty, on average, it’s going to go right through the mirror. There is nothing we can do, not even in principle, to figure out when that one chance in twenty is going to come up. It means that the outcome of each individual experiment is unpredictable in principle.”[2]

Any hopes that the strange uncertainty of quantum behavior would be confined to light were quickly destroyed when it became clear that the quantum theory had to be applied to explain the behavior of electrons also. Their behavior in any individual encounter, just like the photon fired at the mirror, cannot be predicted, not even in principle.  The photo electric effect was leading the physics community to quantum mechanics.

Just as the invention of the telescope dramatically broadened exploration of the Cosmos, so too the invention of the microscope opened the intricate world of the cell. The analysis of the frequencies of light emitted and absorbed by atoms was a principal impetus for the development of quantum mechanics.  What had begun as a tiny loose end, a strange little problem in the rela­tionship between heat and light, now is understood to mean that nothing is quite the way it had once seemed. The unfolding of quantum mechanics was and still is a drama of high suspense, as Heisenberg himself wrote:

I remember discussions with Bohr (in 1927) which went through many hours till very late at night and ended almost in despair, and when at the end of the dis­cussion I went alone for a walk in the neighboring park, I repeated to myself again and again the question: ‘Can nature possibly be absurd as it seemed to us in these atomic experiments?’[3]

One hundred years after the discovery of the quantum, we can say that the answer is yes, that is exactly what nature is like. Just because science can explain so many unknowns doesn’t mean that it can explain everything, or that it can vanquish the unknowable.  At its very core, in the midst of the ultimate constituents of matter and energy, the predictable causality that once formed the heart of classical physics breaks down. Deep down the nature is unknowable as the Transcendent God is Unknowable.  It may be, this is where the finite meets the Infinite, and by the very nature of the meeting point, it is hidden in mystery and awe, an enigma or a riddle never to be solved!

Double slit experiment: An easy way to appreciate the mysteries of the Quantum world

The double-slit experiment, sometimes called Young’s experiment (after Young’s interference experiment), is a demonstration that matter and energy can display characteristics of both waves and particles, and demonstrates the fundamentally probabilistic nature of quantum mechanical phenomena.

In the basic version of the experiment, a coherent light source such as a laser beam illuminates a thin plate pierced by two parallel slits, and the light passing through the slits is observed on a screen behind the plate. The wave nature of light causes the light waves passing through the two slits to interfere, producing bright and dark bands on the screen — a result that would not be expected if light consisted strictly of particles. However, on the screen, the light is always found to be absorbed as though it were composed of discrete particles or photons.[1][2]

This result establishes the principle known as wave–particle duality. Additionally, the detection of individual photons is observed to be inherently probabilistic, which is inexplicable using classical mechanics.[3]

The following short video, in a very easy manner, not only explains the double split experiment, but, its implications on the indeterminacy of our quantum world.  After all there are limits to what humans can know and those limits will not go away with technological advances, Double Slit Experiment explained! by Jim Al-Khalili:

You can read the same details in the first chapter of a book, by Prof. James Al-Khalili, who is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Chair in the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey, Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed.

Quantum Physics and Uncertainty Principle

Lot of time the complexity that Quantum physicist have to deal with is calculations for each electron based on Schrödinger equation, which gives the first time derivative of the quantum state. That is, it explicitly and uniquely predicts the development of the wave function with time.

ihbarfrac{partialpsi(x,t)}{partial t} = - frac{hbar^2}{2m} frac{partial^2psi(x,t)}{partial x^2}+V(x)psi

The complexity of the equation is obvious at the first glance, but if we can bypass this then life is not too tough to bear.

At one time, it was assumed in the physical sciences that if the behavior observed in a system cannot be predicted, the problem is due to lack of fine-grained information, so that a sufficiently detailed investigation would eventually result in a deterministic theory (“If you knew exactly all the forces acting on the dice, you would be able to predict which number comes up”).

However, the advent of quantum mechanics removed the underpinning from that approach, with the claim that (at least according to the Copenhagen interpretation) the most basic constituents of matter at times behave indeterministically.
In fact there are two sources of quantum indeterminism:

  1. the Heisenberg uncertainty principle prevents the simultaneous accurate measurement of all a particle’s properties; and
  2. the collapse of the wave function, in which the state of a system upon measurement cannot be predicted.

The latter kind of indeterminism is not only a feature of the Copenhagen interpretation, with its observer-dependence, but also of objective collapse theories.

Opponents of quantum indeterminism suggested that determinism could be restored by formulating a new theory in which additional information, so-called hidden variables ,[28] would allow definite outcomes to be determined. For instance, in 1935, Einstein, Podolsky and Rosen wrote a paper titled Can Quantum-Mechanical Description of Physical Reality Be Considered Complete? arguing that such a theory was in fact necessary.

The double-slit experiment (and its variations), conducted with individual particles, has become a classic thought experiment for its clarity in expressing the central puzzles of quantum mechanics. Because it demonstrates the fundamental limitation of the observer to predict experimental results, Richard Feynman called it “a phenomenon which is impossible … to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery [of quantum mechanics].”[3], and was fond of saying that all of quantum mechanics can be gleaned from carefully thinking through the implications of this single experiment[4]. Časlav Brukner and Anton Zeilinger have succinctly expressed this limitation as follows:

[T]he observer can decide whether or not to put detectors into the interfering path. That way, by deciding whether or not to determine the path through the two-slit experiment, he/she can decide which property can become reality. If he/she chooses not to put the detectors there, then the interference pattern will become reality; if he/she does put the detectors there, then the beam path will become reality. Yet, most importantly, the observer has no influence on the specific element of the world that becomes reality. Specifically, if he/she chooses to determine the path, then he/she has no influence whatsoever over which of the two paths, the left one or the right one, nature will tell him/her is the one in which the particle is found. Likewise, if he/she chooses to observe the interference pattern, then he/she has no influence whatsoever over where in the observation plane he/she will observe a specific particle. Both outcomes are completely random.[5]

Epilogue

In the three great monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, God is viewed as a supreme, transcendent being, beyond matter space and time, and yet the foundation of all that meets our senses that is described in terms of matter, space, and time. That is the Al Batin or the Hidden God of monotheism.  Furthermore, this God is not the god of deism, who created the world and then left it alone, or the god of pantheism, who is equated with all of existence. The Islamic and the Judeo-Christian God is a nanosecond-by-nanosecond participant in each event that takes place in every cubic nanometer of the universe.  He has full knowledge of all things.  God listens to every thought and participates in each action of his very special creation, a minute bit of organized matter called humanity that moves around on the surface of a tiny pebble in a vast universe.  The Holy Quran declares:

Allah’s is the Kingdom of the heavens and the earth; and to Allah are all affairs returned for final judgment. (Al Quran 57:5/6)

Whereas the nineteenth century physics was about to frame God out of physical understanding of the universe, the twentieth century physics has turned the tables in favor of Monotheism.

To the atheists design in the universe is apparent but not real. For the theists, enlightened in science, the converse is true, the self sufficiency of the universe based on the laws of nature is apparent and perceived only and is not real. God is the Law Giver and sustainer of the universe. Both positions may be argued to some degree from modern science. However, only theism can offer a holistic approach, not only explaining our universe, but also human morality and ethics, our history and personal experience.

When we approach science from this theistic perspective we find that our religion and science become one and our psyche finds unification.

If there is a ‘Personal God’ that hears human prayers then there has to be a way for the Deity to influence the physical world without breaking the laws of nature and making the study of science futile.  Quantum physics may be the magical wand, whereby ‘Personal God’ can influence our world, without breaking the laws of nature.  In His infinite wisdom, the Omniscient God provided for infinite means, at the quantum level, to maintain His divinity!  He says in the Holy Quran, in Sura Hadid:

He (Allah) is the First and the Last, and the Manifest and the Hidden, and He knows every little detail fully well. (Al Quran 57:3/4)

Quantum physics is the magical wand, by which Allah has established His divinity on each and every quark, photon and boson.  In so doing He has not only provided for His Providence but also for our free will, while ensuring predictability and reign of laws of nature at macroscopic level.  If Laplace had been right, he would have not only ruled out God, but, also our free will and personal responsibility.

References

1. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/159526/determinism

[2] Kenneth R Miller.  Finding Darwin’s God.  Cliff Street Books (Harper Collins), paper back edition 2000, p. 199-200.

[3] David Pepper, Frank Webster and George Revill.  Environmentalism: Critical Concepts. Routledge, 2003.  Page 148.

Additional Reading and Viewing

Video: Biologist Kenneth Miller on Free Will and Quantum Physics

Quantum Theory – Sign of a Personal God

Human Soul: The Final Frontier?