The Origins of the Universe

Notes & Comments: Belief in God – Religious and Scientific Study

In the US, a group of families in the Dover Area school district are challenging the decision taken by the district that ninth- grade students are to hear a brief statement about intelligent design (ID) before biology classes on evolution. The eight families argue that the district policy violates the constitutional separation of church and state. Intelligent design is a concept some scholars have advanced over the past 15 years that holds that Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection cannot fully explain the origin of life or the e m e rgence of highly complex life forms. It implies that life on Earth was the product of an unidentified intelligent force. Dover Area is believed to be the first school system in the nation to require students to be exposed to the intelligent design concept under a policy adopted by a 6-3 vote in October 2004. Critics say intelligent design (ID) is merely creationism – a literal reading of the Bible’s story of creation – camouflaged in scientific language, and it does not belong in a science curriculum. Proponents of ID argue that life is so complex it cannot have e m e rged without the guidance of an intelligent designer. Intelligent design (ID) states that the universe and its inhabitants could not have evolved by the ‘blind chance’ set forth in Darwinism. Its a rguments are mostly concerned with what it considers to be gaps in the theory of evolution, and it 4 The Review of Religions – October 2005 Co m m e n t s &Notes Belief in God – Religious and Scientific Study claims that these gaps scien- tifically prove the presence of an ‘intelligent designer’ in nature. Unlike creationism, ID does not state that God is the intelligent designer. It only says that there is clear evidence in nature of intelligent design. The designer in ID could be God, but it could also be an extraterrestrial race or some other supernatural force. Also, ID does not draw its a rguments directly from the Christian Bible. The concerns in the Dover Area case highlight the way the whole debate over ID has become polarised. It seems that one must either subscribe to a view that evolution is a water-tight theory which is entirely sound, or go down a route that is unscientific and entirely irrational.This second path, that of the Creationists or those advocating ID, is usually attacked as being unscientific, as it is assumed that belief in a Creator is somehow against scientific enquiry and progress. Perhaps there is a fear that such thinking will lead to a literal acceptance of Biblical scriptures. This polarisation has clouded some of the central features of the wider discussion of the roles of science and religion. Islam takes the middle road. We are told in the Holy Qur’an to believe in ‘the unseen’ (Ch.2:V.4) and to ‘believe in that which has been revealed to thee, and that which was revealed before thee,’ and to have ‘firm faith in what is yet to come’ (Ch.2:V.5). Belief in the unseen does not imply a belief in that which is irrational. The Holy Qur’an urges us to use scientific thinking to explore and investigate the world. And He it is Who spread out the earth and made therein mountains and rivers. And of the fruits He has made them in pairs, male and female. He causes the night to cover the day. Therein, verily, are Signs for a people who reflect. (Ch.13:V.4) And He it is Who gives life 5 NOTES AND COMMENTS The Review of Religions – October 2005 and causes death, and in His hands is the alternation of night and day. Will you not then understand? (Ch.23:V.81) The job of scientists however is not to prove the statements made in the Qur’an are correct. Islam postulates total belief in The Creator Who is Ever Present. Man is urged to look at the world and explore and through the use of science, to reflect on how The Creator made the world. The second Khalifa of the Ahmadiyya community in Islam has written: ‘… Islam teaches that there can be no conflict between the Word of God and the Work of God, and thus resolves the supposed conflict between science and religion. It does not ask me to ignore the laws of nature and to believe in things which are contrary to them. On the c o n t r a r y, it exhorts me to study the laws of nature and derive benefit from them. It teaches me that as revelation comes from God and He also is the Creator of the universe, there can be no conflict between that which He does and that which He says. It invites me, therefore, in order to understand His revelation, to study His work, and in order to realise the significance of His work, to study His word, and thus satisfies my intellectual yearning.’ (Why I believe in Islam?) Some scientists seem to feel the need to constantly justify religion and religious thought. In T h e S t o ry of God Robert Wi n s t o n poses the question that the need and desire for religious thinking may come from some kind of genetic programming in humans. He suggests that being religious may actually confer some survival benefit to human kind because religious beliefs lead to greater cohesion and the operation of moral codes. ‘Therefore in the long run – a shared religion appears to be 6 NOTES AND COMMENTS The Review of Religions – October 2005 evolutionarily advantageous and natural selection might favour those groups with stronger religious beliefs’. (The Guardian – 13.10.05) What this argument misses is that for the true believer, religion is much more than a code of life. Worship of God is an interactive dynamic. People who believe in God and pray to Him experience a communication with their Creator that is dynamic and vibrant. Believers have a real sense of the Presence of God in their lives. Those evolutionary biologists who have rejected an Independent Creator, struggle with the fact that people believe in Him. They have rejected God and then try to offer ‘scientific theories’ to explain why He is no longer needed or why some people choose to continue to believe in a Supreme Deity. Science has a tradition of looking in an unbiased manner at all the available evidence. It would be a pity then if because of their own misconceptions or prejudices, some members of the scientific community pursue dogmatism in their thinking that prevents any discussion of religion. Sarah Waseem – UK 7 NOTES AND COMMENTS The Review of Religions – October 2005