By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
22 September 2016
Can Science and Religion ever reconcile? In
popular imagination, Science is based on reason and Religion is based on faith.
Speaking historically, belief without a good rational basis or evidence may
have been a necessity in the past, but today, this is neither necessary nor a
good thing. Today blind belief is more harmful than blind rejection but acceptance
on a rational basis is not only good but indispensable to leading a truly
“moral” life with values that are transcendental and not merely utilitarian.
Religion gave us concepts and moral
principles that were far beyond the capacity of human minds to fully comprehend
their utility and role in leap frogging their society on the scale of
civilization. However, once these were practised as a religious duty and the
benefits became obvious, the concept became understandable from hindsight and
over a period even self-evident. These ideas or concepts or moral principles
then became a part of rational inquiry in philosophy and helped develop what
came to be known as “practical ethics” or ethical values based on practical or
utilitarian considerations. In religion the same principle of say honesty is
absolute and without practical or utilitarian considerations but simply in
reverence for the law of God. A person
will thus be honest even if he stands to lose and has everything to gain by
being dishonest if honesty is a moral value.
The fact that it also has a practical value is secondary. If it is only
an ethical value then he may compromise after weighing the pros and cons of
honest behaviour in a given situation. Without first practising honesty as a
religious duty, its practical value may never have become known to mankind.
Therefore belief in religion helped mankind to practice moral principles before
the practical value became evident.
To us who have grown with the moral/ethical
precepts, the principles may look self-evident but imagine a person who has not
been taught about right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood etc. If he
is watching a movie and sees a scene of snatching of a gold chain, the scene is
perfectly understandable to him. Even a monkey snatches what takes it fancy.
However, if he sees a person finding a gold chain and then making efforts to
find its owner and return it, this would not make any sense to him at all
unless he can associate such behaviour with moral principles. If he has not
learnt those moral principles, such a scene would make him think the person is
stupid. Criminals and psychopaths are such persons who have for whatever reason
never imbibed moral principles.
Consider for example, the golden rule “Do
unto others as you would have them do unto you”. This is an idea which to my
mind transformed us from the state of living as savages into a civilization.
Religions taught us not only “moral behaviour” but gave us shared values which
built trust and cooperation among people sharing the same religious beliefs.
Speaking generally, to this day we trust coreligionists and distrust people
from other religions. That is the reason we need inter-faith dialogue with
people from other religions to find common ground which helps build trust from
knowledge of what is common and shared.
We know for a fact that many civilizations
co-existed in different parts of the world and may have lived without contact
with each other for a long period before they developed the means to venture
out and make contact with people in distant lands. Then if the golden rule is
what transformed every such society, then it must be common to all people and
all religions. Indeed, this appears to be a fact. It is found in all major and
minor religions in all parts of the world.
Was this golden rule given by religion? Why
is this question important? If religion is thought to be a construct of the
human mind, then the question is unimportant but if we are to investigate the
claim of the theists that their scriptures are divinely inspired or revelations
from God, then the question is relevant. All academic disciplines are based on
“reason” and take it as axiomatic that there is no God and that everything is
just a result of the evolutionary process. With such an “axiom” as the starting
point, the claim of the theists is never taken seriously or put to a scientific
test. We will depart from such a stand and investigate the claim in as
scientific a manner as possible since Science by its very nature is bound to
pursue any theory that holds a promise of leading to the truth - else it is not
Science but superstition.
We will also rely on the Quran for our
investigation because it makes claims that no other book of scriptures makes
which makes it eminently suitable for a scientific analysis. The claims are:
1. There is only one God and that the Quran
is a revelation from the one and only God.
2. It confirms previous scriptures and
religions and says that Islam is not a new religion but the religion of God all
through the ages.
3. It says that prophets have been sent to
all nations at different periods in history for the guidance of the people and
that many of these prophets were contemporaneous.
4. The followers claim that the Book is
preserved as it was revealed.
5. It is in a language that is still spoken.
6. It claims that Muhammad is the last of
7. It confirms that the Quran has given the
complete “Deen” or the Islamic way of life or the “Moral way of life”
8. It provides a method to test whether the
scripture can be from any other source other than God.
The verses that provide the test criteria
are several but the test is the same:
(2:23) And if ye are in doubt as to what
We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Sura like
thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides Allah,
if your (doubts) are true. (24) But if ye cannot- and of a surety ye cannot-
then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones,- which is prepared for those
who reject Faith.
(17:88) Say: "If the whole of
mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur´an,
they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with
help and support.
What is being compared in the challenge to
produce a Sura or chapter like thereunto? Every scholar of the Quran has only
talked about the linguistic excellence of the Quran but that is a subjective
criteria and not amenable to any scientific inquiry or testing. There has to be
something of substance to compare. Otherwise the challenge is meaningless.
(10:37) This Qur´an is not such as can
be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of
(revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book -
wherein there is no doubt - from the Lord of the worlds. (38) Or do they say,
"He forged it"? say: "Bring then a Sura like unto it, and call
(to your aid) anyone you can besides Allah, if it be ye speak the truth!"
The nature of the Book is described as a
confirmation of what was revealed before and a fuller explanation thereof. We
may therefore expect in the Quran a complete explanation of the one-line Golden
Rule which must be as old as civilization itself.
(11:13) Or they may say, "He forged
it," Say, "Bring ye then ten suras forged, like unto it, and call (to
your aid) whomsoever ye can, other than Allah!- If ye speak the truth! (14)
"If then they (your false gods) answer not your (call), know ye that this
revelation is sent down (replete) with the knowledge of Allah, and that there
is no god but He! will ye even then submit (to Islam)?"
It is replete with knowledge of Allah
(about the best way of living for mankind as we shall shortly discover)
So What Is To Be Compared?
Here we need to consider what is the main
objective of the Book. The first Sura has 7 verses of which verse 6 and 7
contain a prayer and the rest of the Quran is understood to be an answer to the
(1:6) Show us the straightway, (7) The
way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose (portion) is not
wrath, and who go not astray.
The Book essentially shows mankind the
straight path(moral way) to success in this world and in the hereafter.
5:3 This day have I perfected your
dinakum for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as
The main objective of the Book is therefore
to give mankind a complete way of life. It is also the straight way or the
“moral way” of life.
In 12:76 Dini malikimeans Law of the
King. So it also means the law. The day
of judgment is called Yaum-i-din or the day mankind will be judged by his
deeds or by the way he lived his life. In 16:52 And to Him l-dinu
constantly. I-dinu is translated as “is
due the worship”. What can constant worship mean? If every action of man is in
accordance with the din-e-islam or according to the moral way of living, then
it becomes constant worship.
The Substance of the Book is therefore the
“moral way of life”
Since scriptures were revealed before, it
is a confirmation of what was revealed before and a fuller explanation of the
same but also abrogation of a few instructions of yore and replacement by what
is better in keeping with the times.
(2:106) None of Our revelations do We
abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or
similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?
The Moral Way of Life is living a life
based on “moral principles” which is the main objective of the Quran to give to
mankind. So what is claimed to be inimitable in the scriptures must be the moral
principles in general, irrespective of from which scripture or religion since
the same principles were revealed before. What may also be inimitable is the
form in which these appear in the Quran which is claimed to be the last Book.
In what we are discussing, the hypothesis
of the theist can therefore be framed as:
The scriptures are inspired/revealed by
the Divine. These are not a construct of the human mind.
The Falsifiability Test
The claim in the Quran appears to be that
the scriptures in general have given mankind moral principles to live by and
these are revelations from God or inspired by God and beyond human capability
If we can find durable moral principles
produced by man, then this claim of the Quran as understood by us is falsified.
Then either our understanding of what is claimed to be unique is defective or
if we can find enough moral principles as a result of human thought, then there
appears to be no need for religion and we can rely on reason alone.
Are Moral Principles Good Criteria For
For religions to succeed, these moral
principles had to make mankind take a qualitative and quantitative leap on the
scale of civilization. The starting state being living as savages. The fact
that the “moral principles” have civilized us is uncontested since philosophy
supports these and even the atheists observe them as long as it serves their
self-interest. Without them, we will be back to the days of living like
Adherence to the moral principles initially
may have been only out of reverence to God but once these were practiced and
the advantages to both the individual and the society became obvious, these
became understandable in hindsight and even self-evident. Human laws were then framed based on these
principles and even today, legal judgments are based not only on the laws of
the land but sometimes based on the universally accepted moral principles.
These therefore continue to be followed for their positive value even without a
belief in religion.
The obvious choice for testing the claim of
the theists therefore is “Moral Principles” because:
1. Everyone recognizes their value
2. The main object of the scriptures is to
guide mankind on “moral living”
3. If man could produce moral principles
through an evolutionary process, then clearly we never needed religion.
4. If we can now produce our moral
principles for living in the 21st century, then we don’t need religion anymore
and discard it as baggage from the past.
The test is therefore to see to what extent
we have got our moral principles from religion and to what extent from human
effort. If we have even a single good example of a durable ‘moral principle”
from human effort, then the hypothesis of the theist is doubtful. The
falsifiability test is therefore to find at least a single good example of a
durable “moral principle” that has come from human effort.
What Is The Testable Prediction?
The Quran describes Muhammad as the last
prophet and the “moral way of living” as having been completely defined for
mankind. The testable prediction is therefore that we should not be able to
find a single moral principle after 632 CE from any source – religious or
The following argument does not require
more than an understanding of plain English for the readers to understand the
complete argument. And let there be no doubt that the method is both sound and
in the best traditions of science although never before applied to such a
question. It meets the important falsifiability test as well as makes a
testable prediction that any sound theory must satisfy. Such a method has never been employed for
such a question simply because what makes the scriptures inimitable by man has
never been defined before. Once defined, the theory becomes both testable and
Research Question: Are moral principles important to us?
Very much so. These are what have civilized us and are extensively studied and
emphasized. Literature is replete with stories with a moral.
Research Question: List Moral Principles from religion and Moral Principles from
Human thought/endeavours outside religions
history of Philosophy begins around 600 BC when man started applying reason to
the moral principles from religion and producing “practical ethics” or showing
the practical value of the moral principles. Since the moral principles are
logical in hindsight, philosophy assumed that these could be produced based on
reason. However, philosophy has failed to produce a single durable moral
principle. All Moral Principles have come from Religion and none outside
Research Question: What does Philosophy do as far as moral principles are concerned?
shows how to use them and how to resolve moral dilemmas
Research Question: What has it produced?
has produced Ethics theories such as Utilitarianism
Research Question: How is Utilitarianism different?
is very much different. Utilitarianism is centred on what is good for self or
the individual and morality is centred on what is right or wrong and what is
just with no consideration for self but to do what is morally right.
Utilitarianism is amoral. Utilitarianism can be rationally justified; Moral
Duty can only be justified as conformance to the moral code out of reverence
for the code or for the love and reverence of the giver of the code which is
called God. These are often against self- interest and will therefore appear as
irrational to those who are not trained to be moral. Utilitarianism is rational
and human. Moral duty is based on reverence for the moral code and not based on
what appears to be rationally the best choice in self-interest. Kant who
proposed “The Principle of Supreme Morality” concedes that moral behaviour is
irrational without a belief in an immortal soul and consequences beyond this
life of our deeds measured on the scale of morality”. This explains the strong
connection between religion and moral principles. Moral Principles appear to be
not only found in religion but make sense only with “religious beliefs”.
Ethical precepts are the same moral precepts but only of a practical nature.
Research Question: What about atheists who also display “moral behaviour”?
people have moved away from religion and become atheists. However, they realize
the importance of moral principles since the society values these. Disregarding
these entirely would harm them personally and professionally. For example,
honesty is a good business principle for businesses that thrive on custom, customer
or repeat business. Dishonesty would make the customer not come back. The
percentage of repeat business in the turnover exceeds 90% for most businesses.
Honesty for such businesses is therefore an extremely strong utilitarian
At tourist spots where repeat business is
rare since a tourist rarely comes back, cheating is rampant because honesty is
only a moral principle and not a utilitarian principle.
Research Question: Are all religions alike?
every religion has scriptures claimed to be divinely inspired.
Research Question: Why is there such great variety in beliefs and practices if there
is only one God who has sent revelations to all the people?
Taking Islam as an example, there is the religion in the Quran. The Ahadith
compiled some 200 years later which are purported to be the sayings of the
Prophet distort the message of the Quran and therefore the practice of the
Muslims on every subject. Each religion has a part that is “divine” which in
course of time is corrupted by humans with their own understanding and
“interpretations”. Every religion therefore has a human component which
unfortunately gets frozen at a certain distant point in time making these
anachronistic. The human part is mostly superstition. With the part that makes
sense having been adopted by even atheists, what appears to remain is only
superstition. Also every religion appears to have degenerated into worship of
ancestors over a period. The great variety is because the human component now
dominates every religion including Islam.
Research Question: Why is religion necessary then?
transcendental and absolute values of morality that religion gives us have
never lost their importance. These can exist only within the framework of
religion. The concept of God as the giver of the moral code for whose love and
reverence the moral way of life is practiced is indispensable to morality
without which we are left only with “practical ethics” in which we play the
game of “catch me if you can” or “cheat if you can get away with it”.
Research Question: Is there an alternate hypothesis that explains the facts better?
alternate thesis is to suggest that the founders of the religions which gave us
the moral principles were only great visionaries who saw what was good for
mankind and proposed a moral code. Realizing that there was no way to attract
human beings to these moral codes since these contradicted the utilitarian
thinking of man, they invented utilitarianism beyond this life and therefore
talked about God, Heaven, Hell, Judgment day etc.
The problem with the alternative theory is
that it makes all such founders of great religions liars and the foundation of
their moral code based on a lie which by definition is immoral. The alternative
thesis leads to a paradox and must thus be rejected.
Is there any new moral principle since the
revelation of the Quran which claims that Muhammad was the last prophet and the
guidance to mankind on the “moral way of living” was completed implying that
there cannot be any new moral principle after that?
There is no new durable moral principle
after the revelation of the Quran.
Conclusion: The scriptures contain moral
principles that human thought has been unable to produce despite Philosophers
spending considerable effort on the subject. The hypothesis meets the
The alternative hypothesis leads to a
paradox and is rejected.
The hypothesis also meets the
The claim of religion that their scriptures
are divinely inspired/revealed has not been disproved despite the ease with
which it could have been disproved if the claim was false. It is therefore more
likely to be true than false. The belief of the theists in their scriptures as
divinely inspired is justified based on the findings.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an
independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private
sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent
contributor to NewAgeIslam.com
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Sb, You are the ultimate troll!
I repeat for the nth time that Confucius
said many things which are his original thoughts but the moral principle that
you attribute to him viz “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” as his original thought is
not his original thought. The rest of what he said are not moral principles.
The findings regarding the moral principle cited are as follows:
The dates only indicate
the first recorded instance.
this is the command: Do to the doer to make him do." (c. 2040 – c. 1650
Late Period (c. 664 BC – 323 BC) papyrus contains the Golden Rule: "That
which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another."
doing what you would blame others for doing." – Thales (c. 624 BC – c. 546
impose on others what you would not choose for yourself." — Confucius c.
your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your neighbor's loss as your own
loss." — Laozi (c. 500 BC)
One should never do that to another which one regards as
injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other
behavior is due to selfish desires.
Jeffrey Wattles has written a book on the subject and this is what
he has to say:
rule, "Do to others as you would have others do to you," is widely
assumed to have a single meaning, shared by virtually all the world's
religions. (Jeffrey Wattles)
Interestingly Jeffrey Wattles calls it "the principle of the practice of the family of
God." which sounds like Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which Secularlogic
Religion is associated by the scholars when they talk about the Golden rule.
The following is reproduced from my article:
There is only one God and that the Quran is a revelation from the one and only
It confirms previous scriptures and religions and says that Islam is not a new
religion but the religion of God all through the ages.
It says that prophets have been sent to all nations at different periods in
history for the guidance of the people and that many of these prophets were
confirms that the source of all religions is divine inspiration.
Research Question: Why is there such great
variety in beliefs and practices if there is only one God who has sent
revelations to all the people?
answer is in the article.
following is also what Confucius said which is a general truth (not a moral
principle) and applicable to the two of us who will not change their minds. I
have a reason which is clearly articulated in the article and willingness to
drop the theory if it can be falsified. You
cannot give one good example that satisfies the falsification test and yet call
it a dubious theory. It shows how dubious you are. After strenuous efforts you
gave a dubious example of Confucius which is proved to be false.
Only the wisest and the stupidest of men never change.
Now please stop trolling and even if you do, I intend to
ignore you and anyone else who comes with anything other than an example that
meets the falsification test.
Deen-e-Islam or the Moral Way of Living in Islam
On Apostasy etc:
The Quran prescribes hadd punishments only for kufr in the temporal dimension. Kufr in the temporal dimension is also kufr in the spiritual dimension but not vice versa.
Hadd punishments for kufr relating to God or the spiritual dimension are not prescribed in the Quran as that would violate the right of conscience that the Quran clearly grants to man.
Some forms of Kufr may appear to stride both the dimensions - for example, an apostate who turns hostile and carries on activities harmful to a section of the society or the state. Such a person can be punished for the harm that he has caused or can potentially cause but not for apostasy. Apostasy is merely incidental and irrelevant to the case as apostasy is not kufr in the temporal dimension.
Usury, if it does not contravene laws of the land, will only be kufr in the spiritual dimension. Through legislation, usury could be made a punishable offence since it is injurious to man as well but it is not hadd. Legislating punishments for kufr related to the spiritual dimension alone, violate the freedoms granted to man by the Quran and is kufr.
Learn to make distinction between man-made and divine laws which the article clearly points out. In fact it begins with acutioning against blind belief saying that is worse than blind rejection.
GM Sb says: How can you take "principles" to mean "moral principles" when you and anyone following this discussion must know that I have been repeatedly saying that moral principles can be derived both from human and religious sources. –
You are confirming that when you said principles you meant moral principles. Why do you then say you referred to my thesis and not to moral principles?
Your saying that moral principles are derived from human thought alone without divine inspiration repeatedly is not enough. Where is the proof to falsify my thesis?
He says: Even after I told you about your misunderstanding, you would not concede the point. Your contention that "principle" was a wrong word for me to use becomes your main argument now, and what I have been saying for past several days becomes null and void!
What have I misunderstood when after saying that principles referred to my thesis you are now back to saying that principles referred to moral principles? I got you right the first time.
Your repeatedly saying that moral principles can also come from human thinking is not proof.
GM Sb further says: “You say, "The moral principle “Do unto others…” is decisively proved to be much older than Confucius."
Everything for you is "decisive"! Can't wise men of different countries and different eras come to the same precept independently? You thinks this is sufficient reason for you to call me "a deliberate liar"! Well, if you say so, it must be decisive!”
He is talking about two different things. Does he concede that the moral principle which he was attributing to Confucius is decisively proved as of ancient origin and perhaps as old as civilization itself? The decisive proof that I have talked about is limited to exactly what I said.
What proves that he is a deliberate liar is his saying the following even after decisive proof is provided to show that the moral principle cannot be attributed to Confucius as his original thought which by the way even Confucius never claimed as his original and his book starts with a disclaimer:
“He declares "it has been shown decisively that the moral principle he was attributing to Confucius was not his." To use the phrase "it has been shown decisively," in matters such as these shows his Trump-like inclination to deceive.”
If I get him right, what he is perhaps trying to say is that if anybody talks of a moral principle, we should attribute it to the man in good faith as his original thought because we are all capable of arriving independently of each of the moral principles independently. (This is his belief without proof and as a matter of fact against all evidence to the contrary)
In effect, what he is saying is that Religion was never necessary in the past or now and that man could have independently of religion and God arrived at the moral way of living.
He is entitled to “his way and his beliefs” and we must part now and go our separate ways.
Those who will not believe will not believe no matter what evidence is provided and will believe in whatever they want to believe in even with all the evidence against it. Only Allah can guide people to the truth.
My apologies for having hurt your feelings in the process while trying to address your doubts.