The Big Question

Dr. Laurence Brown

At some point in our lives, everybody asks the big questions: “Who made us,” and “Why are we here?”

So who did make us? Most of us have been brought up more on science than religion, and to believe in the Big Bang and evolution more than God. But which makes more sense? And is there any reason why the theories of science and creationism cannot coexist?

The Big Bang may explain the origin of the universe, but it doesn’t explain the origin of the primordial dust cloud. This dust cloud (which, according to the theory, drew together, compacted and then exploded) had to come from somewhere. After all, it contained enough matter to form not just our galaxy, but the billion other galaxies in the known universe. So where did that come form? Who, or what, created the primordial dust cloud?

Similarly, evolution may explain the fossil record, but it falls far short of explaining the quintessential essence of human life—the soul. We all have one. We feel its presence, we speak of its existence and at times pray for its salvation. But only the religious can explain where it came from. The theory of natural selection can explain many of the material aspects of living things, but it fails to explain the human soul.

Furthermore, anyone who studies the complexities of life and the universe cannot help but witness the signature of the Creator. Whether or not people recognize these signs is another matter—as the old saying goes, denial isn’t just a river inEgypt. (Get it? Denial, spelled “de Nile” … the river Ni … oh, never mind.) The point is that if we see a painting, we know there is a painter. If we see a sculpture, we know there’s a sculptor; a pot, a potter. So when we view creation, shouldn’t we know there’s a Creator?

The concept that the universe exploded and then developed in balanced perfection through random events and natural selection is little different from the proposal that, by dropping bombs into a junkyard, sooner or later one of them will blow everything together into a perfect Mercedes.

If there is one thing we know for certain, it is that without a controlling influence, all systems degenerate into chaos. The theories of the Big Bang and evolution propose the exact opposite, however—that chaos fostered perfection. Would it not be more reasonable to conclude that the Big Bang and evolution were controlled events? Controlled, that is, by the Creator?

The Bedouin of Arabia tell the tale of a nomad finding an exquisite palace at an oasis in the middle of an otherwise barren desert. When he asks how it was built, the owner tells him it was formed by the forces of nature. The wind shaped the rocks and blew them to the edge of this oasis, and then tumbled them together into the shape of the palace. Then it blew sand and rain into the cracks to cement them together. Next, it blew strands of sheep’s wool together into rugs and tapestries, stray wood together into furniture, doors, windowsills and trim, and positioned them in the palace at just the right locations. Lightning strikes melted sand into sheets of glass and blasted them into the window-frames, and smelted black sand into steel and shaped it into the fence and gate with perfect alignment and symmetry. The process took billions of years and only happened at this one place on earth—purely through coincidence.

When we finish rolling our eyes, we get the point. Obviously, the palace was built by design, not by happenstance. To what (or more to the point, to Whom), then, should we attribute the origin of items of infinitely greater complexity, such as our universe and ourselves?

Another argument to dismiss the concept of Creationism focuses upon what people perceive to be the imperfections of creation. These are the “How can there be a God if such-and-such happened?” arguments. The issue under discussion could be anything from a natural disaster to birth defects, from genocide to grandma’s cancer. That’s not the point. The point is that denying God based upon what we perceive to be injustices of life presumes that a divine being would not have designed our lives to be anything other than perfect, and would have established justice on Earth.

Hmm … is there no other option?

We can just as easily propose that God did not design life on Earth to be paradise, but rather a test, the punishment or rewards of which are to be had in the next life, which is where God establishes His ultimate justice. In support of this concept we can well ask who suffered more injustices in their worldly lives than God’s favorites, which is to say the prophets? And who do we expect to occupy the highest stations in paradise, if not those who maintain true faith in the face of worldly adversity? So suffering in this worldly life does not necessarily translate into God’s disfavor, and a blissful worldly life does not necessarily translate into beatitude in the hereafter.

I would hope that, by this line of reasoning, we can agree upon the answer to the first “big question.”  Who made us? Can we agree that if we are creation, God is the Creator?

If we can’t agree on this point, there probably isn’t much point in continuing. However, for those who do agree, let’s move on to “big question” number two—why are we here? What, in other words, is the purpose of life?

 

Copyright © 2007 Laurence B. Brown

Permission granted for free and unrestricted reproduction if reproduced in entirety without omissions, additions or alterations.

A graduate ofCornellUniversity,BrownUniversityMedicalSchoolandGeorgeWashingtonUniversityHospitalresidency program, Laurence B. Brown is an ophthalmic surgeon, a retired Air Force officer, and the medical director and chief ophthalmologist of a major eye center. He is also an ordained interfaith minister with a doctorate in divinity and a PhD in religion, and the author of a number of books of comparative religion and reality-based fiction. His works can be found on his website, www.LevelTruth.com.

How do we know God Exists?

Dr. Jamal Badawi

Even on a very fundamental level we find that throughout history there is a very strange phenomenon that people of different backgrounds, living in so many different parts of the world at different points in time, have always had this strong urge within themselves to look and to yearn for the Creator. They see that there is some power, a magnificent and merciful power that is sometimes interpreted in a mistaken way by materializing that in some form or other (i.e. idols). The basic yearning has always been there. Even in places where there is no recorded history of a particular prophet, people have yearned for a Creator. That’s what I’m referring to as an innate nature. The Arabic term is ‘fitra.’ Fitra literally translates to: something that one is created with or created in accordance with: this innate nature.

Is the intellect an enemy to faith?

All human faculties such as the senses including also the intellect are part and parcel of the whole process of seeking the truth. None of these by themselves will be sufficient, but on a whole they are not really in contradiction. In fact I would say, even more positively, that from a Muslim point of view one of the main things that make the human being distinct, one of the basic blessings that he is given by God to make him different from animals since animals can think as well, is intellect. So the intellect is a God given gift or blessing. How could we interpret that as a challenge or antithesis of faith? This doesn’t really stand.

On the personal or individual level, one doesn’t have to venture far to realize that God does exist. Just look into yourself, you don’t have to be a scientist but if you are then you’ll appreciate more the construction of the body; how it is made up of many cells. One cell becomes a cell for sight and the other for hearing; it’s amazing. How does the brain operate? The circulatory system? The digestive system? The nervous system? Such coordination and beauty [is shown through their functioning]. This shows that these things didn’t come to be in a haphazard way, there must have been a deliberate design behind them. So if you want to find God then look into yourself. The Quran says, “By looking into yourselves, you will find evidence to the presence and powers of God.”

In another verse it even says, “Do they not reflect in their own minds?” (30:8) In fact, if one really divorces himself from any prejudice caused by societal pressures one way or the other, or the worship of science as the ultimate thing, if one utilizes science in the proper way, you wouldn’t have to look at the body as a whole, just start analyzing one single organ and see how it works. Like some scientists would tell you that in order to duplicate the digestive system you’d need a huge laboratory and still it wouldn’t operate as efficiently as a naturally created organ would such as the stomach. We have acids in our stomachs that can erode metal but it doesn’t hurt us.  How could that be haphazard? If one aspect of that was developed by chance would everything else falling in line and falling together also happen by chance?

The Environment and Cosmic Order

Let’s move on to beyond ourselves, to find further evidence, the Quran also implores people to consider and to think. Take one aspect that many people think about today as very fashionable, like the ecological balance for example. Many people would take that as very clear evidence again that there is a design in this universe; vegetation as it relates to animal life and to human life; and the various atmospheric layers that we have. Everything is put together to sustain human life. If you look into the Quran, you find this mentioned. In one verse, in the Quran, it says, “God created everything in exact proportion.” (16:25) This is a very important term “in exact proportion” it’s not just that He created but that there is a deliberate design behind putting all of these things together.

In another verse, when people look at the whole scheme of creation, it says, “Were they created from nothing or are they themselves the creators?” No one claims that he’s created from nothing nor can he claim that he is the creator [of the heavens and earth]. Then the verse continues, “Or did they create the heavens and earth?” No one claims that. Then it says, “Nay but they see not.” (52: 35-36) So the science is there. It’s whether we apply it in the right place and in the proper way or not that makes the difference.

Finally, if you move into what I would call the third circle, not just looking into ourselves or the environment around us but looking into the whole cosmic order, again there is a design. The planets. The solar system. The way everything is coordinated. The distance between the sun and the earth, which if decreased may burn everything and if decreased everything would freeze. This is all deliberate. The succession of day and night, the circulation or changes of seasons, which has very important relevance to the lives of the people, to vegetation, and to animal life; all of these beautiful things that we are in awe at in the universe, we look at them with great admiration, definitely show that there is a design behind them and as is obvious any design needs a designer or creator it.

One verse in the Quran implores us in particular to this area and says, “Have they not reflected on the domain of the heavens and earth and what God created therein?”

In another verse it also says, in the general sense of the meaning: in the creation of the heavens and earth and in the succession of day and night there are certainly signs for those who reflect. Those who remember God while standing, sitting, and laying down and ponder on the creation of the heavens and the earth, saying: Our Lord you have not created this in vain. Glory be to You. Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire. (3: 190-191)

Our Own Limitations

In talking about the senses and the intellect or knowledge, I think anyone, even a person who does not believe in God, would admit readily that our senses are limited. Our perceptions are limited. Our sight, hearing, etc- we know that. Also, we know that our perceptions could also be deceived or they can deceive us. If you put a spoon in a glass of water, it looks crooked. A very well known phenomenon is of people traveling in the desert or in hot areas and would see in front of them a lake or a puddle of water- the mirage- but it actually does not exist. At the time it’s seen it is a reality to the person seeing it. So our perception is very useful, but it still falls short of getting to know everything.

On the other hand, science is fine. Science can resolve many issues and problems that are purely scientific- that are purely technical. Science can tell you for sure how to use technology for example to communicate sounds and pictures; this can be determined fully by science. However, there are many aspects in lives of people that are beyond science also. There is the moral aspect, there are the ethical standards, and there is the application of the fundamental principal of good and bad. As we said the [principle of good and bad] is instinctive but still needs some modifications and limitations. And we know throughout history that people have always had differences as to what exactly defines the proper ethical or moral standards. In order to resolve that problem, there must be a higher authority, God, Himself, telling us and providing us with stable standards of ethics and morality within which you can interpret various details.

Finally, and perhaps this is in my mind the most important reason, is that we know that knowledge is not only limited to science or books or perception. We know that there are certain aspects of knowledge, legitimate knowledge, which does not lend itself to any of those tools. For example, take the knowledge of the unseen. What happened in the past before history was recorded? If you wanted to get any information on that there is no recorded history. Or at least there is dispute about the recorded history. Revelation can tell you what, for example, the stories of previous prophets and what they said and what their message was.

There are issues that no matter how much you use your mind you will not be able to arrive at a final conclusion. An example of that would be the knowledge about God. You can’t feel the presence of God. You can feel the attributes of God but you can’t have full knowledge without having a prophet or messenger in receiving that revelation from God and the communication from Him to us. So, in essence, I don’t see contradiction. Actually, they all supplement each other. They have to be simply used in the proper context.

Adapted, with permission, from transcribed audio lectures on www.jamalbadawi.org

Atheism

The question, ‘Does God really exist ?’ is a contemporary question that was virtually absent from society as little as a century ago. It was unprecedented that one would even question the existence of a god.  This section will analyze the historical background that led to the scientific and secular revolutions which contributed to the current day acceptance of “Godless” societies. The foundations of Atheism and Islam will be compared. Lastly, the credibility of  Muhammad (pbuh),  to address this topic in the 21st century will  be presented.