Salman Ahmed Shaikh
A person is asked to review a novel authored by some other person. The reviewer knows that he himself has not authored the novel. He reads most of the pages of the novel meticulously. He goes through the dialogues of characters carefully. Now, the reviewer can summarize the plot. In the story line, the author does not come explicitly as a character. In describing different scenes, the reviewer refers to characters in the novel. Each character gives way to next character through a physical process that is explained in the novel. What if the reviewer describes characters and the scenic details, but eventually ignores the author and claims the piece of writing as author-less because the author is not an explicit character in the novel and each character emanates from another character through a physical process described in the novel. What if he says that the novel has characters and their emotions, physical attributes and personality can be understood from the words in the novel and hence there is no need of attributing the novel to an author? What if this claim is made after finding few more intermediate pages of the novel and some more characters? If we would be puzzled to see this conclusion about a novel, imagine if this conclusion of ‘no author’ is reached about real characters in real existing life which runs into billions of species in a gigantic scenic environment which has immaculate details and complexity. One can describe how the author brought it about without reference to author, but it cannot negate the existence of author altogether. When we look at a computer program and find loop in the code which enables the program to run endlessly, it does not mean that there was no author and that the endless program had no point of start.
Big bang proved the premise scientifically that the universe began to exist. Everything that begins to exist cannot create itself. It cannot create itself while not in existence. So, it cannot be existing and non-existing at the same time. It has to be created by something that is not ‘it’. The creator has to be independent of the universe itself. So, the constraints of this universe do not apply to that creator since the Ultimate Creator is not part of the universe. It is the author of both the universe and its laws.
The Ultimate Creator has to be uncreated since it is necessary for the universe to be created in the first place. We find cause or creator for something that is created and that begins to exist at some finite point in time like the universe which came into existence 13.7 billion years ago. The Ultimate Creator did not come into existence at some finite point in time. It is ever-existing. This God is not the ‘scientific conjecture of god of the gaps’ which fits in the novel for pages that are not found in the novel. This God is the author of the whole novel and the programmer of nested loops within loops. He is not the pixel of the painting or a brush or a colour or the painting itself. It is the painter. It is not the laws of physics or theorems of mathematics alone. It is the source of these laws and theorems. Isaac Newton aptly said that gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who sets the planets in motion.
Stephen Hawking admittedly said:
“Even if there is only one possible unified theory, it is just a set of rules and equations. What is it that breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe.”[i]
The argument from faith is not that the first protein molecule or Higgs field is the Creator. Any chain of the physical processes would start from something. The nature of it could be described by anything like empty space and so on. Prof. Krauss attempts to answer origin of existence by redefining his notion of something as ‘nothing’ through the use of quantum mechanics. David Albert rightly contests this position. He writes:
“Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of simple physical stuff. The true relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical equivalent to there not being any physical stuff at all isn’t this or that particular arrangement of the fields —it is just the absence of the fields!”[ii]
The Creator in faith’s perspective is the source of all physical and non-physical stuff and the laws which govern matter and the physical processes which convert matter into different inorganic and organic forms. It gave consciousness to human beings like it gave to all living things. We may have evolved into the specie we are. Like other living beings, our bodies are made up of matter that exists in the universe. Our biological body is a chemical composition. Faith essentially addresses not our chemical composition of bodies, but our personality and consciousness. Soul is embodied in our skull that is made up of chemicals. Body is just the host of our soul. Animals also have bodies and some have similar chemical composition.
But, our soul is given a special ability of conscience. We have the innate ability to differentiate right from wrong. We have likeness for and the wish to see fairness, justice, honesty, truthfulness and cooperation in the universe where species survive on survival instincts. These values reflect in our art, prose and poetry. If the feelings, emotions, aesthetics, values and morality are merely a chemical mixture, then our labs shall be producing Shakespeare, Iqbal and Picasso just through chemistry experiments without any human intervention, instruction and programming.
Prof. Richard Dawkins says that he is passionate follower of Darwinian evolution, but not in favour of Darwinian view of organizing human life. Prof. Richard Dawkins sums up the Darwinian view of life as follows:
“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”[iii]
Having conscience, we despise unfairness, injustice, unkind behaviour, lies, and dishonesty. The life does not seem to be fair. Sometimes, people with bad morals and actions survive, thrive and claim resources, power and fame. In contrast, people with honesty and upright character often struggle, underachieve and remain under-rewarded. Injustice happens to people and even entire nations. If we go by the morals of evolution, it should not bother us if there is extinction of species. However, our soul, which is our true identity, does not remain indifferent to harm, injury, destruction, injustice and unkindness.
Faith speaks to the soul and asks us to purify our soul. When faith gives guidelines about body, it is to make sure that the body hosting the soul should become pure by cleanliness and by being non-injurious to others. Even if our descendants were not humans in very distant past, it does not matter in the faith based worldview which attributes every creature’s origin and creation to the Ultimate Creator. But, we humans in our current form and nature have been given a special ability to differentiate right from wrong. This ability is not within our chemical composition. We might be having same colonies of bacteria and cells. This is the chemical description of our body, i.e. the host which embodies the human soul and spirit. The ability to differentiate right from wrong is in our conscience. We like to act in ways that are essentially good and virtuous and dislike acts which are wrong and unjust. Yet, this world is not fair. Belief in afterlife accountability actualizes the cause and effect in moral matters. It will give deterministic results to every act of good and every act of evil. That makes life meaningful and purposeful. That enables us to look beyond our survival instincts in organizing life on the basis of moral values of justice, fairness, honesty, sacrifice and cooperation.
Corona Virus has once again reminded us that the world at the level of viruses and bacteria may operate on survival instincts alone where survival of the fittest is the only moral code. Human body structure might have evolved to be in the present form, but the Ultimate Creator has given us the human soul and spirit which has consciousness like animals, but also has conscience. To act on consciousness is to live with survival instincts and ignore higher morals. To act on goodness suggested by conscience requires looking beyond animal instincts and embrace goodness as a habit and willful choice. Accountability in life hereafter urges that and promises cause and effect in moral matters.
The medical cure for Corona Virus can be sought keeping in view the viral behaviour in the bio-chemistry. But, the cure for purifying human soul lies in looking beyond viral, bacterial, cellular and animal behaviour and pay attention to goodness in behaviour urged by the conscience in human soul.
In the Godless worldview, the battle of survival ends with destruction eventually for Corona Virus, bacteria, unicellular organisms, animals and humans the same way. Humans having consciousness and conscience may define their personal meaning of life by themselves as to how best to spend few million breaths under the sun in maximizing self-pleasure. But, the life ends without due justice for many people who are killed, robbed and discriminated against and it ends without due punishment for many people who cause these crimes. Some are lucky and some are unlucky in the mortal game of survival of the fittest.
Belief in single origin of life by Ultimate Creator brings humility that we are one of many creations in the universe and should not be proud as all creation has single source of origin, no matter howsoever they differ in the chemical composition of their bodies and respective strengths. Faith based worldview explains how and why humans are different from other species in their strong sense of morality. It urges them to be thankful to their Creator and shun any pride because they too belong to the same Creator. It informs them that their free will allows them to choose the right and wrong paths in life. After they die, they will be held accountable for the use of free will in choosing goodness over evil, ethical over unethical and fair over unfair acts. It will provide them the chance to earn eternal blessing if they choose the righteous behaviour. Else, they will be held accountable if they choose evil over goodness, unethical over ethical and unfair over fair acts. Not only this worldview makes life meaningful, but fulfills the aspiration of seeing absolute justice not just for oneself, but for everyone.
Author of book ‘Selfish Gene’, Prof. Dawkins once said that evolution is the biggest show on earth. We learn the characters in the show and their respective evolving roles, but forget who is running the show and the purpose of that show. We are all part of the show as well at some point. Some episodes of the show are missing. Initial pages are muted. There are no living characters, but just description of details of the environment in the scene. One by one, characters start appearing. To get to know these other characters and their physical attributes does not make us the Producer and Director of that show.
Some of the evolutionary biologists who do not believe in any God review the previous episodes of the show by literally reading the plot line by line, but miss some important scenes that define the whole plot. They also miss the point that the writer does not start any story by introducing himself explicitly. He only introduces his characters and then makes them play out their roles. What these scientists are quoting from the plot is not necessarily wrong. Perhaps they are quoting exactly the pages of the plot they like and read again and again. But, why the show is happening in the first place? Who is running it? What is the role of human characters in this show? We can only learn from the Producer and Director of the show. He has spoken to us through some of his characters as messengers. The important details of such correspondence are all available inside the plot through the lives and documented dialogues of those messengers. But, the eyes of some people just focus on what they want to see. They have the remote to go to where they can find sensible answers to the entire plot. But, they do not want to see those details. They like the scenes where everyone plays their role in predictable ways day after day. It allows them to make predictions about future episodes. They forget those are just selected scenes of the plot, but not the entire plot. But, their refusal to pay attention to the whole plot would not change the plot. Eventually when the show is over, the ending would not be what they want or what any of the characters in the show want, but what the Producer and Director of that show wants.
Human characters in the show are given more leverage by the Producer and Director to play out their roles in the way they want. Some humans miscalculate this freedom, its limits and their own potential. They use the delegated authority to forget, disregard, downplay, undermine and even get rid of the Producer and Director. Some other non-living and apparently weaker and smaller characters are sometimes used by the Director to remind humans to be humble, have humility and paint their legacy among the good characters in the show. It is up to humans to paint their destiny. If they follow the Director’s guidelines, they can be signed for an even greater show which will begin for never ending again and which will give righteous people with virtuous behaviour the chance to play out their roles without any grief, sorrow and limits.
[i] Hawking, Stephen. (1988). Brief History of Time, Banton Books: New York.
[ii] Albert, David (2012). Book Review: On the Origin of Everything ‘A Universe from Nothing’ by Prof. Lawrence Krauss, New York Times, March 23.
[iii] Dawkins, Richard. (1996): River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life, UK: Basic Books.