THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION
Science is a dynamic field and different opinions have been accepted by scientists during different times. A hundred years ago, much of what we now know were unknown and many theories that we now ridicule were accepted. The scientists of a hundred years ago would too ridicule the science of their previous century. We are sure that a hundred years later much of what we now accept will be debunked, people will discover new knowledge and ridicule much of what we now consider scientific. It is not right to think of science as a certain source of information, we should think beyond our time. The sole certain source is the Quran, the Word of God. Science is a medium for guiding us to this certain truth.
The perception of science in the West has become so extraordinary that people have begun to request solutions from science in every single situation. People have begun to take pills when feeling unhappy instead of going to a psychologist. Assigning such a high mission to science has forced science to give explanations even in affairs that are beyond its scope. Scientists have felt obligated to give answers to people in matters about which they have no evidence or document instead of concerning themselves with testable phenomena. Scientists think that it is shameful to say "We don't know" in a matter that they have no knowledge of, they prefer making up a fictitious theory just so that they don't remain quiet about it. In fact, most of what we hear from scientists regarding prehistoric periods when there was no writing are fabricated fantasies. The questions of how the Earth was formed, how dinosaurs died out, how early humans lived are answered by scientists without depending on any proof or document. These questions are way beyond the scope of science. The contemporary answers given to these questions are no more than the predictions of some scientist studying these matters despite being presented as absolute facts. Predicting prehistoric ages with the data at our disposal is similar to predicting the entire house only with the knowledge of its television. Scientific theories are constantly being debunked because science meddles in affairs that are beyond its scope, and this damages its reputation in the eyes of people. People have attained a false notion in the modern era: Science has progressed enough to render religion redundant in explaining the world. We are going to demonstrate why this notion is false.
If we find a derelict car in a desolate place and inspect it for a long time, we can understand its mechanisms and the way it functions. Well, do understanding its mechanisms and how it functions lead us to the conclusion that this car came into existence by chance? No. On the contrary, learning its mechanisms causes us to admire its designer even more. Just like this, true science makes one closer to God. For instance, Louis Pasteur was one of the greatest biologists in history and he was a strong believer in God. He summarized his job as such: "The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. Science brings men nearer to God." God tells us in the Quran: "We will show them Our signs in the horizons and within themselves until it becomes clear to them that it is the truth. Is it not sufficient concerning your Lord that He is, over all things, a Witness? (Qur'an 41:53)" This promise of God indeed came true and scientists have discovered numerous signs that prove the creation of God. It is easier to believe in God today than in the past because we have found an intricate harmony when we explored the creation that ancient people couldn’t even have imagined. The scientific discoveries didn't make God redundant; rather, they illustrated incredible signs that prove the existence of God.
When we look at history, we see that many scientists have made discoveries through inspiration, even through dreams. For example, Friedrich August Kekule found the structure of the benzene molecule, inspired by his dream in which he saw a snake biting its own tail. Another famous example is Dmitri Mendeleev, who created the periodic table by noting down the elements he saw in his dream. These examples illustrate that God helps those who investigate nature and exposes pieces of his hidden knowledge to them. God recompenses those who run after knowledge and doesn't turn them down whether they are Muslims or not.
Science is interested in the question of "how", and religion is interested in the question of "why." For example, science can understand more or less how rain occurs; and religion holds that the phenomenon of rain which is vital for life is due to the wisdom of God, it is part of the orderly system that God created, and this incredible phenomenon that we owe our lives to is not a random process of blind nature. The Quran describes the physical stages of rain; it doesn't claim that God conjures it up in the sky out of nowhere. For example, scientists have discovered that the continents were united long before humans inhabited the world, and they got separated later. Religion holds that this is due to the mercy of God: "And the earth - We SPREAD IT OUT and cast therein firmly set mountains and made grow therein [something] of every beautiful (Qur'an 50:7)" If the continents had not split, the vast majority of land would have had a dry continental climate and much of the land we now live on would have been uninhabitable, in deprivation of the facilities that we now take for granted. As this example illustrates, whatever God does has wisdom even though we sometimes fail to discern it. Science and philosophy are means to find and comprehend the wisdom in creation.
Winds that God created help plants spread their seeds, disperses clean air, gives sailing ships the thrust that they need for their motion, injects oxygen into seas and oceans by creating waves in them which is vital for life, cools us down in summers and it is an important renewable source of energy. Moreover, winds have a huge credit in the formation of rains. Winds carry the dust on the land up to the sky, and the ascended dust later have water vapor condensed around it which finally form rain. Winds then drag clouds to places where rain is needed, it would only rain over oceans and seas where water evaporates if it wasn't for winds. The Sun that God created is an inexhaustible source of energy, it warms us up, illuminates us, it has crucial functions for our body such as providing vitamin D for us. If the Sun were stationary in the sky without a daily motion, half of the world would be dark and too cold, not permitting any form of life; and the other half of the world would be too hot as a result of being constantly exposed to the Sun, again not permitting any form of life. The Moon that God created goes through different phases (crescent, full moon…) and takes on the function of calendar; its reflection of light at nights is imperative for many species; the tide cycle caused by the Moon prevents river valleys from getting their ends obstructed, prevents coasts from getting dirty, and it is an important renewable source of energy for us. The Sun is actually a very dangerous object; it has strong explosions that emit huge amounts of radiation. Although the Sun makes incredibly strong sounds, these sounds do not reach us due to the absence of matter in space. Had solar sounds reached us, we would have suffered immensely. God covered the Earth with the ozone layer so as to protect us from the radiation that the Sun emits. Everything God creates has wisdom in it, God never does anything in vain. Science can explain how these systems work, but it cannot explain why these systems work. Science can never explain questions like "Why did the universe come into existence?" or "What is the meaning of life?" This is why science can never displace religion or render it redundant.
We see the mercy of God wherever we look. God created horses for transportation and created livestock for consumption. What would we do if all animals were wild? God created oceans, seas, rivers, lakes; these do not mix although many of these are physically linked to each other. "And it is He who has released [simultaneously] the two seas, one fresh and sweet and one salty and bitter, and He placed between them a barrier and prohibiting partition. (Qur'an 25:53)" If fresh water could mix with salty water and became salty, how could we survive? God created glaciers in the poles as stores of fresh water. God gave water buoyant force so that we can travel on it. The density of water decreases when it freezes, that's why seas and lakes freeze from the top, and the emerging ice layer protects the water beneath it from cold. If the density of water were to increase during freezing as is the case in every matter except for water; oceans, seas, and lakes would freeze completely whenever the temperature falls below 0 degrees Celsius, thus making marine life impossible. God created various minerals below the ground for our various requirements. God alternates the day and the night so that we can work in the daytime and sleep at night. Resting and sleeping would be difficult in the absence of the night, and working would be difficult in the absence of daylight. "Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those of understanding. (Qur'an 3:190)" One-fifth of the air we breathe is oxygen. If this amount was a bit lower, we would definitely suffocate; if this amount was a bit higher, materials would ignite very easily and fires would break out quite often. A change in the amount of oxygen is usually offset by plants, that's why this proportion is somewhat constant. "And the heaven He raised and imposed the balance - That you not transgress within the balance. (Qur'an 55:7-8)" God created various fruits and vegetables as various nourishments and cures for us. God put in plants the cures of all requirements that our body has. Although most people are ungrateful, God lavishes his mercy on us all the time. "And He has brought you of all you asked Him; and in case you number the favor (s) of God, you (cannot) enumerate them. Surely man is indeed constantly unjust, most disbelieving. (Qur'an 14:34)"
In the Quran, the word "ayah" is used both for the verses of the Quran and for the sings of God present in creation. According to the language of the Quran; there are verses in animals, in stars, in human history… The Quran values the study of organisms, the universe and history as much as it values the study of the Quran itself when looked from this perspective. At the end of the day, both the study of the Quran and the study of the universe lead us to the belief in one God. "Say, [O Muhammad], ‘Travel through the land and observe how He began creation. Then God will produce the final creation. Indeed God, over all things, is competent.' (Qur'an 29:20)" God encourages Muslims to explore the creation in verses like these because the universe is a treasure full of signs that are waiting to be discovered. For example, the revival of nature in spring season is a sign for the resurrection of people after their deaths: "And it is God who sends the winds, and they stir the clouds, and We drive them to a dead land and give life thereby to the earth after its lifelessness. Thus is the resurrection. (Qur'an 35:9)" Seeds that have no sign of life come to life in springs in accordance with the DNA inside of them, they attain features based on the DNA they carry. Humans too will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment in accordance with their book of deeds; they will be resurrected in a good state if their book of deeds has good, they will be resurrected in a bad state if their book of deeds has evil. There is a comparison between the seed and the dead man, between the plant and the live man, between the seed's DNA and the book of deeds in which all of one's deeds are recorded throughout his life. This is a nice example of taking a lesson from nature, and it illustrates how the verses in nature compliment Quranic verses. God revives thousands of species in every spring so as to show his potency each year, and to refute deists who claim that God initiated the universe but later neglected it.
Nothing vanishes in nature; everything is subject to transformation in various cycles. The atoms that now constitute your body might have constituted an insect a hundred years ago, and might have constituted a dinosaur a hundred million years ago, and may constitute a human that you will never see a hundred years later. The atom has always been the same atom; it only took different forms at different times. Just like this, the soul doesn't disappear; it only takes different forms in new bodies over time. The atoms in our body came from the foods we ate. The milk of a cow we drank, the tomato from a village, the chocolate that was produced in Europe, the water that gushed out from springs constituted our bodies after we consumed them. Namely, our bodies incorporate molecules that came from numerous different places; it came into existence through the gathering of molecules from different spots. Although the molecules on our body were far away from each other a hundred years ago, God assembled all of them and created us. Our bodies will break down and disintegrate after we die. God will assemble our dispersed molecules and recreate us on the Day of Resurrection, just like he did when were born. Isn't our God who created us by assembling dispersed molecules capable of resurrecting us by regathering our disintegrated bodies? Of course, he is capable of doing so.
A Muslim who thinks that there is a purpose and wisdom behind every created thing is expected to be more enthusiastic about studying the universe than an atheist who thinks that everything is haphazard and contingent. For example, when atheists discover a structure in the human body whose function is not yet known, they declare it outright a vestigial organ that is a remnant of evolution and assume it to be functionless. Muslims, on the other hand, know that nothing happens without a reason, and they study each creation in an attempt to discover the purpose and wisdom underlying it as this Quranic verse describes: “Those who remember Allah while standing or sitting or [lying] on their sides and give thought to the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying], ‘Our Lord, You did not create this aimlessly; exalted are You [above such a thing];…’ (Qur’an 3:191)” It is a strong psychological motivation for a scientist to be sure that what he is researching is the way it is for a purposeful reason, and the road of research he is taking will not dead-end. Why would an atheistic scientist who deems everything contingent look for a reason underlying every occurrence and make research to find out this reason?
Has there been any occasion in history that the teachings of Islam contradicted science? Islam does not contradict science but it may contradict the general opinion held by the scientists of a particular time, and this happened on many occasions in history. Every dispute between Islamic teachings and science in history ended with the victory of Islam and the scientists eventually accepted the Islamic view, only with the exception of Darwin's theory of evolution. One example of these occasions was the discussion of the Big Bang theory. Science used to defend that the universe is infinite both in size and in time which is contrary to Islamic beliefs but later accepted that the universe has a limited size and a limited age. Another dispute was the motion of the Sun. Scientists thought that the Sun is stationary in the universe after they discovered that the Earth revolves around the Sun. Since the Quran explicitly states that the Sun follows a particular route, non-Muslims had believed for years that the Quran contradicts science. In very recent history, scientists have discovered that the Sun has a particular route in the Milky Way, thus forcing non-Muslims to retract their accusations against Islam. Another occasion of these disputes was about the origin of humans. Scientists had believed for years that humans evolved independently at different parts of the planet. The theory that the origins of different races are not the same gave rise to the trend of racism in the 20th century. The question of "how could people reach the Americas and Australia if they all came from Adam and Eve instead of emerging from different places?" would be asked frequently by atheists in order to criticize religions. However, genetic studies have debunked this theory and proved that all humans came from a single tribe (scientists don't call this Adam and Eve as you can predict). Scientists had to accept the Islamic stance on the issue and this genetic study demonstrated how absurd racism is, which was one of the most popular trends of the 20th century.
Positivists have fabricated a distorted version of history in order to impose on people the perception that religion clashes with science. Positivists target religion especially over the actions of the Catholic Church and claim that the Church put pressure on science during the Middle Ages. Particularly the names Galileo and Bruno have become the symbols of the positivistic propaganda, as these people allegedly represent how science was repressed by religion. In reality, the Church did not take issue with science, for the scientific progress would have benefited the Church as much as the country itself. The reason why the Church clashed with some scientists was its eagerness to protect its authority. Galileo was put under house arrest because he had openly insulted Pope in his writings, and this was a political conflict rather than a scientific one. If the reason for Galileo's punishment was his championing of the heliocentric model, the Church would have punished Copernicus a century ago for creating the heliocentric model in the first place. The reason why Bruno was burned to death is that he criticized the conventional interpretation of Christianity and wanted to establish a new religion, and this wasn't a scientific conflict either. Surely there was no freedom of thought in that era and the Church would exercise influence over pretty much everything; but the Church had no problem with science itself, its main intention was retaining its authority over the continent. Moreover, most scientists of the Renaissance including Galileo were religious Christians. The aim of these people wasn't undermining Christianity; instead, it was fortifying Christianity by cleansing it of false beliefs and practices. Isaac Newton, arguably the greatest scientist in history, was a devout Christian who rejected the Trinity although some falsely identify him with deism, and his conception of God was similar to that of Islamic teachings (Newton believed that Christianity and the New Testament were distorted in the first few centuries after Christ, and the Trinity was fabricated by people who lacked prophetic authority. Newton considered those who worship Christ as God to be guilty of the fundamental sin of idolatry.) Every revolution justifies its legitimacy by discrediting the previous system, and the positivist revolution justifies its legitimacy by discrediting Christianity. Atheists think that religions did not accept the heliocentric model in which the Earth rotates, and this is the reason why the Church persecuted the scientists who championed this model. In fact, the Quran referred to the rotation of the Earth in the 7th century: "When you look at the mountains, you think that they are standing still. But they are moving, like the clouds. Such is the manufacture of GOD, who perfected everything. He is fully Cognizant of everything you do.* (Qur'an 27:88)"
When we look at the history of Islam, we see that science had developed the most when religious devotion was the strongest. The time period between 800 and 1300 AD (until the Mongol invasion) is called the Golden Age of Islam, during which Muslims made remarkable advances in various sciences. The Westerners who think that religion and science clash unfortunately don't know the fact that the foundations of their science were laid by Muslims, and it is not coincidence that the Renaissance began in Italy where the Westerners had contact with the Muslim world, and the books of Ancient Greece were passed on to them through Arabic, and that the scientific method used today was devised by ibn Al-Haythem who is considered to be the first genuine scientist in history.
* (Some translators have made a mistake by translating this verse as if the motion of mountains is going to take place on Doomsday. If the motion of mountains were to take place on Doomsday, we would expect to see the prefix "sa" before the verb describing the motion of mountains because the prefix "sa" makes a verb future tense. Moreover, the conjunction "wa" that connects the verbs "think" and "moving of clouds" implies that these verbs take place at the same time. "Wa" is similar to "while" in English and it gives here the meaning that we think of mountains as rigid while they actually are moving. If the motion of mountains were to take place on Doomsday, the conjunction "fa", which gives the meaning that the following verb takes place after the previous verb would have been used. Even the context makes it clear that this verse refers to the rotation of the Earth. The verse praises the motion of mountains for not disturbing us despite being massive, and describes this as perfect manufacture of God. If the verse were referring to the chaos of Doomsday, there could be no mention of perfect manufacture. Also, the formation of day and night is mentioned two verses before this one, and the relationship between the formation of day and night and the rotation of the Earth is a scientific fact: "Do they not see that We made the night that they may rest therein and the day giving sight? (Qur'an 27:86)" )
Who carries out natural processes?
Are natural processes such as rain, lightning, and earthquakes carried out by God or by nature itself? This question is a very popular and important discussion since the time of Ancient Greece. Until Ancient Greece, people used to attribute natural processes directly to God. For example, the ancient Greeks would believe that thunder occurs when Zeus is angry. In the course of the intellectual evolution starting with the ancient Greek philosophers and peaking at the Age of Enlightenment, the positivistic notion that all natural events happen due to the systems present in nature itself gained popularity. For example, according to the positivistic thinking of the modern era, what causes rain is the evaporation of seawater after being exposed to the Sun's heat, and this evaporated water is dragged by winds, eventually condensing into raindrops that fall down on random spots. Namely, there is neither a plan nor a divine intervention guiding this process.
We should first point out as a reply to the positivistic thought that one will see a phenomenon at some point that cannot be explained by physical laws, rather can only be explained by supernatural intervention no matter which natural process he digs down to its core. For example, let's attribute the functions of our body to its systems instead of God. Then we face the question of what causes the processes in our systems. Let's attribute the processes in our systems to our organs instead of God. Then we face the question of what causes the processes in our organs. Let's attribute the processes in our organs to our cells, and then we face the question of what causes the processes in our cells. Well, to what are we going to attribute the processes in our cells? We cannot attribute them to blind, deaf, inanimate, mindless molecules because we observe an incredible harmony, collaboration, and plan in cells rather than a haphazard system. We have to attribute the harmony and collaboration in cells directly to God as impotent matters cannot carry out sophisticated operations. No matter what we look at in nature, we have to accept God as the final link in the chain of causations. Looking at processes only from above and not discerning the fundamental forces managing them from below is a serious problem of modern science. Everything that modern science considers as independent of God is actually obedient to the will of God in essence.
What is the relation between the will of God and the internal causal factors of nature? We have to analyze humans in order to apprehend God as humans are created in the image of God. God gave humans the privilege of having one of his most prominent attributes, the attribute of having volition. Now, let's intend to lift up your arm. Your sheer intention sufficed to lift up your arm; remaining processes were executed by the intricate collaboration of tens of muscles, bones, and nerves while you weren't even aware of it. If someone who is totally deprived of knowledge and prejudice watched you lifting your arm up, what would he attribute this motion to? He would attribute it to your muscular and nervous system because since consciousness is invisible and intangible, he wouldn't know that it is your consciousness that willed this motion. He wouldn't even know that you have a consciousness in the first place because all he sees is a pile of muscles and bones, whereas muscles and bones do not have volition. It is not the muscles that intended lifting your arm up, neither are the muscles responsible for lifting it up, they are only a means of executing the motion that your consciousness willed. God manages nature and has control over it just like we manage our own body and have control over it. "His command is only when He intends a thing that He says to it, "Be," and it is. (Qur'an 36:82)" The physical means like the sun, clouds, winds, raindrops that we see when it rains are like the muscular and nervous systems that God uses for this job, whereas the will behind this process belongs to God himself. Just like an ignorant man who is incognizant of consciousness would attribute the motion of a man only to his muscles, bones, and nerves; unbelievers who are incognizant of God attribute occurrences in life only to the laws of nature. When you contemplate rain from now on, know that all the physical factors that create the rain are like the muscles, bones, and nerves that God uses for this job. The main factor that wills the rainfall is the consciousness that manages the universe, that is to say, the almighty God. This is how God uses worldly means for creation. A Muslim who prays to God and asks him for a new car would not expect that one day angels will bring him a car from the sky, he would be aware that God will use worldly means to make him a car owner. Unfortunately, positivistic scientists fail to understand this relationship between God and worldly means that even simple and uneducated Muslims have understood and internalized.
Well, humans can cause artificial rains with current technology, does that mean these rains happen outside the will of God? Of course not. The entire body of the man who is involved in causing artificial rains, from his muscles to his heart, is in the hands of God, as well as all the natural mechanisms that play a role in these rains. If God doesn’t will a particular artificial rain, he can show this act ugly to the heart of the man who is involved in its causation, thereby making him change his mind. Isn’t God the source of all causes at the end of the day?
The Laws of Physics
There are ubiquitous physical laws in the universe that we experience each second. The cores of these laws are the four fundamental forces of nature: the gravitational force, the weak nuclear force, the electromagnetic force and the strong nuclear force. These four forces have such a delicate balance that a very small increase or decrease in the strength of these forces would not allow the formation of physical objects, let alone life. We are constantly being applied a force with the strength that can disintegrate the Earth, but we don’t feel this since we are also being applied a force with the same strength but towards the opposite direction. The positive charges on our body are repelled with forces that are equivalent to the force of an atomic bomb by the negative charges surrounding them, but these forces are balanced by the attraction of the negative charges with the same strength. We do not feel anything although we are being applied incredible forces from every direction. The electromagnetic force which is a major factor in the establishment of this delicate balance brings along a huge problem: atomic nuclei which are comprised of positively charged protons should theoretically explode due to their protons repelling each other. The strong nuclear force that God gave to nuclei steps in to resolve this issue and holds the protons together since it is much stronger than the electromagnetic force, and saves nuclei from exploding. Everything in the universe would’ve exploded in a second if any of the forces of nature were a little bit stronger or weaker. If the forces of nature had differed depending on time and place despite always being in effect, it would have been impossible for us to make calculations based on them. There would be no use of chemistry if the boiling point of water under particular conditions wasn’t the same at all times, and there would be no use of mathematical calculations for engineering if the magnitude of gravity wasn’t always the same under particular conditions.
Well, who put these laws in place? Every occurrence in the universe abides by particular laws in essence, is it possible for these laws to have been placed by unconscious nature? Is the universe bound by rules that were already placed by itself? There is no scientific reason for the existence of the laws of nature such as electromagnetic attraction other than the will of God. The formation of matters and life come about thanks to God’s binding of particles to his laws. Particles did not congregate and reached a consensus that they will all abide by such and such laws for being able to form everything in the universe. It is not unexpected of atheists to make this claim though, given that they attribute all arrangements in cells to unconscious molecules.
The laws of physics are not logically inevitable like the equation 2+2=4, their nonexistence is as possible as their existence. Since most of us have never witnessed anything contrary to them, we often falsely think that they are logically inevitable. In the famous experiment of Pavlov, Pavlov would ring a bell before each time he fed his dog. After some time, the dog began to salivate automatically upon hearing the bell, assuming that it is the time for food. This is because it had correlated the food with the bell in its mind. In fact, there is no causation effect between the bell and the food in essence, and the food doesn’t come thanks to the bell. It is only the accustomedness of the dog that causes it to correlate these two. Our accustomedness to the laws of nature is similar to this example. Since God brings about certain actions only under certain conditions, we falsely regard these as logically inevitable. In fact, the fire's not burning our hand when we bring our hand to it is as possible as Pavlov’s not bringing food after ringing the bell, because what indeed burns our hand is God and not fire itself. Also just like how the dog falsely attributes the coming of the food to the ringing of the bell, we falsely attribute the occurrences in nature to the conditions creating those occurrences, and cannot recognize God as the primary cause behind everything.
 “Newton.” The Creationist Debate: the Encounter between the Bible and the Historical Mind, by Arthur McCalla, Bloomsbury Academic, 2013, pp. 10–10.