Submitted by Ikram.
The above youtube link was earlier posted by Rashid in a different thread.
It was an interesting debate to a certain extent where both participants came from different ends of the spectrum, Tzortiz (T) from the assumption that there is God whereas Hoodbhoy (P) from the given that there is Science. The logic of T encompassed pre-Big Bang but without any proofs. Whereas, P was limited by time and space of the physical world only after the Big Bang and he was not in the room to deny the non-physical i.e. moral/spiritual space that T dwell upon. T tried to move in his argument spectrum towards P but could not encapsulate P for the mere fact that P was there for only cold logic of his science which was a flat rebuttal in itself.
Please note that both T & P are not from different and opposite ends of spectrum, rather from different corners of the room and not necessarily with antagonist points of view. What the debate lacked was a knowledgeable moderator, who should had initially set the tone of what this debate was about and then structured the debate with shorter but multiple opportunities for both to make the point rather than one time long speeches and then one time rebuttals. In between transitions, the moderator then could had shaped the arguments of one participant for the other. Due to lack of this structure, it is not that which of the debaters won, but it is the audience who lost an opportunity to learn rather than just hear. And both participants spoke past each other. T seems to be a skilled orator with common colloquial punch lines, whereas, P was more concrete in his space, but that is who they are. T probably with theological influence & Western literature background and P from Trieste physics. At least to me the arguments of P were clear to be thought about. Whereas, T was more philosophical and vague, though he had clever interjections and quotes which somewhat had a wow factor, but little sustainable substance.
The debate brought out certain points, paraphrased below by each that are briefly touched upon and are identified by their name letters. Comments with indented paragraphs are added by me.
T – Concept of God transcends time and space.
57:3. He is (from) the very First (there was nothing before Him), and (He will exist to) the Last (there will be nothing after Him), and when nothing remains He will remain (He being an eternal Being). He is the Supreme Being (subordinate to no one). And (whereas He comprehends everything) He is Incomprehensible. He has full knowledge of everything.
T – Universe out of nothing.
The natural question arises as to how it all came to be over past, present and future:
2:117. (God is) the Wonderful Originator without depending upon any matter or pattern of the heavens and the earth; and when He issues a decree He does but say to it, `Be’ and it comes to be.
The time frame in the verse above and it comes to be is bound by the nature of that particular creation:
36:82. Verily, His command, when He intends (to evolve) a thing, is (only) that He says to it, `Be’ and it comes into being (at the proper time).
On a celestial scale, the law of conservation of matter has given way to the law of conservation of energy and e=mc^2. Nowadays it is not surprising for matter to emerge from non-matter.
On the spiritual plane:
…to create something out of nothing is also His work. Just as you see it in a scene in a dream He creates a whole world without any matter, and shows nonexistent things to be existent. Thus such are all the wonders of His power… [Mirza Ghulam Ahmad – The Light – U.K. Edition, May 2008 Special Century Edition, page 19]
Whereas, in evolutionary transformation of matter:
6:95. Verily, it is Allâh Who splits the (seed) grains and (fruit) stones. He bring [sic] forth the living out of the lifeless and He brings forth the lifeless out of the living. Such is Allâh, wherefore then are you turned back.
“Everything in the world appears to have been enchained by the Law. It follows it implicitly Is it then other than Allah’s religion that they seek (to follow), and to Him submits whoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly, and to Him shall they be returned? (3:82). Nature discloses regularity, precision, punctuality, knowledge, power, command, intellect, preordination, prearrangement, precaution, and several other features that are the possessions of the mind exclusively. In their presence the universe cannot be taken as the outcome of accident; It needs an intelligent Design to precede the process of its creation. The word design is sometimes used to bore minds with skeptical tendencies, but it now carries wider connotation. It brings within it so many facts and figures recently discovered by Science that disbelief in God would amount to ignorance.” [Introduction to Study of The Holy Quran, by Khwaja Kamaluudin, p. 21. Note: “intelligent Design” referred to here has no relation to contemporary evolution debate]
T- Self Creation of ?God
59:22. He is Allâh, He is the One beside whom there is no other, cannot be and will never be One worthy of worship but He. (He is) the Knower of the unseen and the seen. He is the Most Gracious, the Ever Merciful.
59:23. He is Allâh, beside whom there is no other, cannot be and will never be One worthy of worship but He, (He is) the Supreme Sovereign, the Holy One, the Most Perfect, Bestower of peaceful Security, the Guardian, the All-Mighty, the Compensator of losses, the Possessor of all greatness. Holy is Allâh, far beyond and above the things they associate with Him.
59:24. He is Allâh, the Creator of (the matter and the spirit), the Maker, the Bestower of forms (and fashioner of everything suiting to its requirement). All fair attributes belong to Him. All that lies in the heavens and the earth declares His glory; He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.
85:13. It is He Who originates and continues reproducing.
85:14. And He is the Protector, the Most Loving;
85:15. Lord of the Throne (of Power), the Lord of all Glory,
85:16. Absolute Performer of what He intends (to carry out). [Here “He intends” can be extrapolated to include according to His Laws]
112:1. Say,`(The fact is) He is Allâh, the One and Alone in His Being’.
112:2. `Allâh is that Supreme Being Who is the Independent and Besought of all and Unique in all His attributes’.
112:3. `He begets none and is begotten by no one’.
112:4. `And there is none His equal’.
114:2. `The Sovereign, the Controller of all affairs of mankind,
114:3. `The God of mankind,
P – Clarifies the topic of the debate – “Religion as a rational enterprise, is it or is it not?”
Defines Rationality as – Interlinks (of ideas) that link cause to effect based upon set of universal rules e.g. deaths in epidemics results from scientific reasons e.g. germs, hygiene, genetics, malnutrition etc. Religious rationalism emanates from “somebody displeased” i.e. God, for earthquakes, tsunamis etc. to happen. Then why on earth the poor and believing people were hurt first in 2005 Kashmir earthquake?
More often than not our own lack of knowledge forces us to blame preordination or destiny for an affliction or disaster. The black plagues were widely believed to be a curse by God instead of what they were: infections whose cure was then unknown. However, it was probably easier for people to blame the cause on God rather than accept responsibility for human ignorance. In modern times, under-developed societies suffer disproportionately from natural disasters or epidemics. The question then becomes why does God’s wrath descend mostly on the under developed world? Is God disciplining the poor disproportionately or is this disproportionate human destruction a function of human ignorance?
64:11 (Nothing happens haphazardly in the Universe.) No calamity befalls but according to the laws of God. Whoever (understands this and) believes in God guides himself deep down in his heart. God is the Knower of all things (and events). [Nations that understand the laws in nature are better equipped to take preventive measures against natural disasters. Izn = Leave = Permission = Laws] – Shabbir Ahmed.
P – If religion was a rational exercise then there must be universal consensus on its principles similar to consensus in scientific rules, whereas it is not. For example Muslims and Jews believe in one god, Christians in three, Hindus in 5700+.
What P missed was that all of the above i.e. Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus etc. have one common thing. They all believe in God for the mere fact:
“The greatest height intellect can elevate us to, is that there ought to be a God. But whether He is actually there, is a question that surpasses the region of our stereotyped intellect. No amount of argumentation can bring home to the blind that light is there. What he can perceive is only this much, that there ought to be something called light, as there are so many reports to show its existence. But the law of nature, where there is a demand there is a supply, compels us to believe that there must be some solution or other of the problem. So far as man’s capacity for the acquisition of knowledge is concerned, he has two instruments, sense organs and intellect. But both of these are ineffective to take us beyond the quagmire of doubt and suspicion so far as the existence of God is concerned. The craving for first-hand sure knowledge is there. Law of nature requires the possibility of means to satisfy the craving. Sense perception and intellect, the two sources of knowledge, are not potent enough to help us out of the difficulty. Therefore, there must be some other channel of ascertaining truth, to accept which we must not be reluctant.” [God Speaks to Man (Revelation) by M. Muhammad Yaqub B.A., Islamic Review and Muslim India, Vol. VIII, No. 6-7, June-July 1920, p. 273]
P – People belong to a religion because they are born into one. Only 0.1% change their birth religion.
Quran agrees to a certain extent of what P says:
5:104. …They say, `Sufficient for us is that (tradition) whereon we have found our forefathers.’ What! (would they follow them blindly) even though their forefathers had no knowledge whatsoever and had no guidance?
But, then there is an example of a non-physics i.e. moral force which made the change in history. The same virtuous force persists with the same principles prevailing for the present and the future:
110:1. The help of Allâh and the victory (over the Makkans) has indeed come (in fulfillment of the prophecies),
110:2. And you see people thronging in to the fold of the Faith of Allâh.
P – Quran is not a book of science. You cannot do any experiment to reject a theological doctrine.
Yes, Quran is not a book of science but in step with science for all its secular arguments. It does not contravene science of whatever we know of it. While discussing the validity of science in Qur’ân, the main purpose of Qur’ân is much more and is summarized as follows:
“The aim of the Qur’ân is to spiritualize our souls. It makes numerous statements based on historical facts, but it is not a book of history. It draws attention to different stages of the creation of the universe (7:54; 14:33; 21:28-33; 71:15-18), the origin of life from water (21:30; 24:45), and concerning humans (71:14; 32:7; 39:7; 40:67), but it is not a treatise on the evolution of life. It makes several references to the laws governing the wonderful system that revives the dry earth through rain (7:57) and maintains the supply of sweet and salt water in rivers and oceans (25:54; 35:12), but it is not a manual of Meteorology, Hydraulics, or Ecology. It says: ‘We create a human being from an extract of clay; then We reduce him to a drop of sperm (and place him) in a safe depository; then We form the sperm into a clot; then We develop the clot into a lump of flesh; then We fashion bones out of this lump of flesh, then We clothe the bones with flesh, and thereafter We evolve him into another being’ (23:12-14); yet it is not a work on Obstetrics. Several of its verses contain references to the achievements in the material sciences and activities in the field of trade, space research, and weaponries. He has let the two bodies of water flow freely; they will (one day) join together. (At present) a barrier stands between them. They cannot encroach one upon the other. Pearls and corals come out of both (these seas). And to Him belong the ships raised aloft in the sea like mountain peaks (55:19-24 – a hint on the construction of the Suez and Panama Canals and the huge ships crossing them). It adds: O body of JINN (- fiery natured) and (ordinary) the people! If you have the power and capacity to go beyond the confines of the heavens and the earth, then do go. But you will not be able to go unless you have the necessary and unusual power. Flames of fire, smoke and molten copper will be let loose upon you and you will not be able to defend yourselves (55:33), and yet the Qur’ân is not a book about material sciences, rockets, missiles, or sputniks. It says that when Pharaoh Meneptah was drowning and as death overtook him, he was told: ‘So, on this day We will preserve you in your body (only) that you may be a sign (to learn a lesson from) for the coming generations’ (10:92). The Bible makes no mention of this, nor does any book of history, but still, the Qur’ân is not concerned with Egyptology or Archaeology. Its purpose is not to teach History, Nature, Philosophy, nor to teach any other Science or Art but, as previously stated, to spiritualize our souls. It states, discusses or cites a thing only to the extent relevant to its aim and object, leaving out details as it returns to its central theme and its invitation. When the Qur’ân is studied in this light, there is no doubt that the whole Scripture is a closely reasoned argument and there is continuity of subject throughout the Book.” [The Holy Quran – Introduction, Nooruddin, pg 48-a – 49-a]
P – Builds his case upon the absurdities of theological constructs e.g. he quotes that some claim that angels travel at speed of light, hence nothing can be faster than the angles and by implication nothing can be faster than light. Then he quotes recent CERN results where neutrinos were found traveling faster than light with a Q.E.D. of neutrinos being outside of God’s control.
P is right on the money when he ridicules the proponents of psedo-Islamic science, the Mullah mentality (-the blind fellowship) in an otherwise outwardly secular professional.
6: 116. Should you obey the majority of those on earth, they would lead you astray from Allâh’s way. They follow nothing but mere surmise and they do nothing but make conjectures.
P – You do no service either to science or religion when you combine the two.
Here I disagree. One does not exclude the other as long it is not a Mullah’s scientific view. The concept of God does not threaten science. George Johnson summarizes this in his review of Owen Gingerich’s God’s Universe:
“… there are two ways to think about science. You can be a theist, believing that behind that veil of randomness lurks an active, loving, manipulative God, or you can be a materialist, for whom everything is matter and energy interacting within space and time. Whichever metaphysical club you belong to, the science comes out the same.” [Scientists on Religion: Theist and materialists ponder the place of humanity in the universe, by George Johnson, Scientific American, Volume 295 Number 4, October 2006.]
P – Self critique – Muslims have not produced any science worth mentioning in last 1000 years. Not even one example can be quoted from any field.
P is once again right on the money. The reason is simple because the Muslims misread the following verses in theological sense only and forgot that it is all about science. Qur’ân encourages and nurtures science. It asserts the vast extent of scientific knowledge:
18:109. Say, `If every ocean became ink for (recording) the words and creation of my Lord, surely, the oceans would be spent up before the words and creation of my Lord came to an end, even if we brought to add (therewith) as many more (oceans).
31:27. And if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea with seven more seas added to it (were ink), the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Surely Allah is Mighty, Wise.
Surely the above verses cannot refer to polemics or theology. They clearly signify that God intends man to discover the Laws of science that are also created by Him.
P – Quran tells you how to behave, what your moral values should be, social and ritual structuring.
P points out the core purpose of Quran in a generic sense, even though he limits it, but that’s okay. P is generally short sighted in that his frame or arguments are confined to physical world only, but “man cannot live by bread alone”. Like any other human P must have his own value system which must be unique but congruent to universal values of love, hate, yearn, seek, accept, reject, wish, rejoice, repent, regret etc, the all natural human emotions and expectations. Either he can live the current life as an experiment to fully learn the trick of the trade of life and society then hope for a re-incarnation to live an optimized life second time around or live like us mortals this life once and try to make most of it in non-physical aspects. Some may call it even “opium of the masses.” But it is opium for the addict and not for the patient who needs it from the trauma suffered, or a vaccine to prevent an illness, or a nutrition to bring to fruition what life has to offer, or a purpose to otherwise purposeless life and death cycle. That we find in Quran because:
2:2. This is the only perfect Book, wanting in naught, containing nothing doubtful, harmful or destructive, there is no false charge in it…
2:185. The (lunar) month of Ramadzân is that in which the Qur’ân (started to be) revealed as a guidance for the whole of mankind with its clear evidences (providing comprehensive) guidance and the Discrimination (between right and wrong)…
3:4. … And He has revealed (the Qur’ân as) the Criterion of judgment (between truth and falsehood)…
10:57. O mankind! there has come to you an exhortation (to do away with your weaknesses) from your Lord and a cure for whatever (disease) is in your hearts, and (a Book full of) excellent guidance and a mercy, (and full of blessings) to the believers (in the ultimate form of the Qur’ân).
14:1. …(This is) a great Book which We have revealed to you that you may bring mankind, by the leave of their Lord, out of different kinds of darkness into light, to the path of the All-Mighty, the Praiseworthy,
14:2. (To the path of) Allâh, to Whom belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth…
17:105. We revealed it (– the Qur’ân) to suit all the requirement of truth and wisdom and it has come down (to you) with truth and wisdom…
43:2. This perfect Book that makes (the truth) perspicuously clear bears witness (to the above truth).
P – Quran is not about science.
Yes, Quran is not a book of science in a classical sense, yet it does not abhor it either. There is a core common premise of a Muslim and a Scientist, that is both:
2:3. Those who believe in the existence of hidden reality, that which is beyond the reach of human perception and ordinary cognizance…
P – There is no point in digging out science from the Quran.
That is too broad a brush stroke by P. Of course, one will never be able to find details of M-Theory in Quran, but Quran encourages the core aspect of mind that makes a “good” scientist:
12:108. Say, `This is my path. I call to Allâh. I am on sure knowledge verifiable by reason and (so are) those who follow me. (I believe that) Holy is Allâh. I am not of the polytheists.’
Qur’ân, thus, sets the standards for knowledge, verifiable by reason, which is commonly referred to as “science.” This verse by itself excludes a Mullah from both the science and the logic of Quran.
Some pertient points in Rebuttal session are as follows:
T – Quran does not go against reality of science. Quran uses science as a supporting argument.
T – People belong to faith and values because of prevailing consensus.
T – How and Why are two different things e.g. How pregnancy happens? Answer: union of sperm and egg. Why my wife became pregnant? Answer: Because I loved her.
T – An atheist can only verify facts but is far removed from the causality of life and universe.
P – With a Sir Syed-ian view, P rejects the relationship of physical world and the prayer e.g. If whole of Saudi Arabia prays for rain, will it become a tropical rain forest? Quran is correct and science is correct. You have to read Quran in a way that the possibility of miracles becomes allegorical.
P – Admonishes the opponent about his superficial understanding of scientific constructs and prevents him from using his understanding in theological arguments.
Q&A session – some of the highlights are below:
T – Allah from nothing?
P – Science will not tell you somethings. It will not tell you why you exist, what is the purpose of your life, what your morals ought to be. Science only deals with the physical universe after the big bang and not with the issue of a “Creator” who was there before it.
Audience: How can an atheist be sincerely an atheist when he does not even entertain that domain of thought of a Creator?
P’s reply – Science is separate from atheism, agnosticism and religion. These domains only deal with what brought all this about? If the Holy Book had science in it then in the last 1000 years we should had gained in knowledge of a testable experiment, some machine that must had been build, in the form of some device.
Since P is a professor of physics in a leading university and was under tutelage of great Abdus Salam in Triest, he must ask his students to re-read the first verses of Muhammad’s revelations in a different light:
96:1. Read in the name of your Lord Who creates
96:2. creates man from a clot (of blood)
96:3. read and your Lord is most Generous,
96:4. Who taught by the pen,
96:5. taught man what he did not know.
96:6. No! Man is surely inordinate,
96:7. because he looks upon himself as self-sufficient.
96:8. Surely to your Lord is the return. [Muhammad Ali]
A keen reader will immediately notice the path to human progress when one is to Read in the name of your Lord Who creates the basis of all material and non-material opportunities in life; and the Divine guarantee of success if one is to read and your Lord is most Generous; and the knowledge that He taught man what he did not know which leads to progress; but the natural impediment to this progress is the human side of man i.e. Man is surely inordinate, he looks upon himself as self-sufficient and thus robs himself of the progress that the Almighty has in store for him. Embedded in these first commandments is the message that lays down the very foundation of what we call individual scholarship and, collectively, as the universities in modern day a.k.a. Harvards, Stanfords, Oxfords, Triestes…
The Bottom Line to this kind of debate was summarized by Khwaja Kamaluddin in earlier part of last century:
“True Science and true Theology are one and the same. One reveals the Laws of God working in the various manifestations of the Universe, on the physical plane; the other discloses the same Laws at work in the Moral and Spiritual sphere. All these laws emanate from the same First Intelligent Cause, and cannot, therefore, admit of any mutual discrepancy.”
“A person with an atheistic turn of mind cannot but admit the essential reasonableness of the Qur-ánic Theology. The ‘God’ of the Qur-án is the ‘God’ of Nature. If the working of Nature disclose a reign of law, which demands implicit obedience to it from all the component parts of the Universe, and if different forms of the law exhibit different characters and features of that Great Mind, Who is admittedly working behind the scene, it is not difficult to arrive at some of the conceivable attributes of the First Intelligent Cause; and a true theology must reveal them.” [Islam and Zoroastrianism by Khwaja Kamal ud din, p. 91, 93, pub: 1925]
Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all the above verses from Quran are taken from the Translation of the Holy Quran by Nooruddin.