Dr Muhammad Maroof Shah
01 Feb 2017
May Lack Intellectuality and Scientists May Lack, And Abuse Intelligence.
It is said that once an atheist and a
theist debated the question of belief in God and after they finished, the
atheist became a theist and the theist an atheist – showing pointlessness of
usual debates on God. Buddha when asked about God responded by silence and is
also by making seemingly opposite statements depending upon the questioner’s
obsession with theism or atheism.
To an atheist he said that only God meaning
non-self/Absolute/pure Being really is and you are nothing and to the other one
that there is no God as he imagined. The Bible says that only a fool denies God
and the Quran implies that there is no possibility of entertaining doubt
regarding God. How are we to understand heated debate on God between
atheistic/agnostic scientists and believers of world religions including Islam?
How come we can assert people like Russell, Hawking, and Dawkins are fools if
they deny God? How come we can contradict the Word of God which leaves no doubt
entertainable and calls those who deny God fools? Leaving aside subjective
claims, who has reason, evidence and plain common sense on his side? Has
science somehow made atheism more rational choice for modern man? Answering
these questions requires clarifying the terms of the debate. Here, at some risk
of oversimplification, I attempt it.
Major world religions are not dependent on the view that God exists –
Buddhism, Taoism, Jainism, Confucianism, Hinduism, all are largely compatible
with silence regarding personal God – and mystical traditions talk about
Godhead (Absolute/Void) rather than God that is usually contested by atheists.
All the religions are wedded to a metaphysics accessible to Intellect all
potentially share that affirms what is dimly intuitively known by all regarding
Being/Consciousness/Intelligence. What is or may be contested in the name of
reason and science by atheist scientists and philosophers is mostly:
The God of popular
religion or exoteric theology.
One model of the
Divine that posits a cosmic policeman or voyeuristic vindictive deity who
threatens instead of complementing my freedom.
A God who fills
the blanks in scientific explanation, a being who intervenes from outside and
encounters the world as other.
which one could dispute about and not feel emotive/existential bonding with.
A King who
primarily operates from otherworld or directs afterlife film, a God who has to
contend with Satan as an adversary (as if Satan isn’t His left hand or his
agent in a way),
A being among
other beings, who isn’t my very being/Self.
Let us ask if any
atheist would fail to appreciate, in certain sense at least, the God of:
grounds ordinarily unalterable natural “laws” – Allah’s unalterable sunnah –
such as rising of the sun in the East.
Moses who is “I am
that I am” or the witnessing consciousness we all know we are when we see
without judging or identifying with any phenomena.
Jesus who is Love
something of which is experienced by all of us and in more intense manner by
every mother and good spouse.
Poets (which is
Imagination of which Blake speaks) and creativity and celebration (which Hafiz
and Rumi sing).
Mystical philosophers like Simone Weil
(“attention without distraction” which we, for brief moments at least, are all
capable of realizing), Levinas (encountered in the face of the Other) and Stace
(who is Mystery of existence or the Sacred experienced in “the sense of
mysterious” as Einstein would put it or as Haldane emphasized in his statement
that the universe is not just queer but queerer than we can imagine).
Plato (who is Beauty and Truth and felt as
attractiveness of the Good by every good person) of lover of beautiful things
Upanishads (for the sake of whom all things
or anything is loved, who is non-different from Me, who is Bliss we dimly know
in joy or in another expression of a mystic-philosopher “sweetness of all sweet
things” and “Isness of things” and “Being of being”)
Scholastic thinkers like Aquinas (who is
Scientists who try to understand how “the
most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible,”
what grounds Truth and requires passion for truth and weighing evidence and
Who/what is experienced in the depths of
ourselves, where we are silent and free of ego, or in and through
nature/art/moral and aesthetic dimension of the self we are endowed with that
evokes wonder, irresistibly attracts, transports us to ecstasy, moves us to
tears or makes us bow as in presence of saints, makes us lose ourselves in
dance or contemplation or an object of work.
Modern theologians like Tillich’s “power to
be” and “ultimate concern” or whatever concerns us ultimately, and Bonhoeffer’s
“the beyond in our midst.”
God has not been denied and can’t be denied
in principle by any scientist or philosopher in one or more of these senses.
Neither atheists nor their critics usually deny the imperative to be
moral or fail to appreciate loftiness of Socratic principle that virtue is its
own reward and knowledge is virtue. Who doesn’t in principle agree that our
self has a moral dimension that asserts itself in care for the
other/neighbour/stranger/posterity/environment? Who doesn’t affirm, in practice
at least, need for certain degree of accountability of deeds in some plane here
if not elsewhere and what is the crux of scriptural demand for ethical
behaviour, as far as it is applied on earth, if not this? Whether we believe in
survival of personality after death or not or only in some
mystical/philosophical doctrine of immortality that posits survival of
supra-personal intelligence (intellect) only, none denies summon from the court
of conscience and that is what is essentially required from humans for living
is incompatible with religion is assertion, from some pseudoscientific or less
intelligent scientists or dogmatic scientism of intelligence/consciousness
being dispensable for or merely incidental/ad hoc/accidental to
life/universe/existence/Being and this ultimately denies logic and rationality
whose champion science is supposedly, and also an assertion of absolute denial
of mystery for the sake of narrowly defined rationality and thus sacred and
thus the rejection of the attitude of humility and receptivity towards
phenomena in all their depth/height and this results in closure of mind
characteristic of dogmatic scientism.
Both religion and science are to be tested
in the laboratory of Life (grounded or implicated in God’s name Al-Hayy) and
whatever diminishes life and its potential to creativity, beauty, joy, wonder,
celebrate, adventure in outer and inner (higher) worlds, closes channels and
modalities of newer expression of human personality and let us not forget that
God is the ideal pole of man and another name of what is held intrinsically
valuable or good or beautiful or true.
Since religion is for saving people and not truth as such which is the
prerogative of metaphysics and accessible to intellect and religion is filtered
truth for consoling people that has to
give concessions to different individualities and emotions of believers, the
more truly intellectual we are, lesser is the scope for religious point of view
(which is fall from the intellectual constant as Guenon would put it) –
religions use, for instance, the term God where metaphysics uses Being and to
equate the two is an error. Science if committed to truth and nothing but truth
would be more comfortable with esotericism and metaphysics – many great 20th
century scientists including Plank, Einstein, Pauli, Heisenberg etc. have been
strongly mystically oriented. Let us accept science’s passion for truth
wholeheartedly, transpose religious language back into original esoteric and metaphysical
language, recognize that metaphysics and individual sciences have very strictly
delimited jurisdiction and can be autonomous as Guenon noted. Scientism and
fundamentalism are both united in restricting rationality and abusing
What the Quran requires is right use of
intelligence, transcending prejudices of all kinds, bringing evidence for what
one believes even if it is one’s paganism or shirk, affirming unity of reality
as one witnesses it, being true to our own self – ethical self and the self
that seeks company of stars and beyond that is in principle accessible
“empirically” or one can witness/enjoy/taste. No scientists qua being a
scientist will have problems with these demands. As far as modern science lacks or abuses intelligence
(“science doesn’t think” remarked Heidegger) it deserves a thrashing and that
is the key thing in the critique of Heidegger, Jaspers, Schuon, Burckhardt,
Wilber and many other brilliant thinkers against philosophical abuse of science
Those scientists who: trapped in literalist
reading and ignorant of ta’wil fail to find scriptures as keys to treasures of
being, or who imagine man to be at bottom only a clay as Satan did, or reduce
consciousness and intelligence to what is neither conscious nor intelligible,
deny man intellect (nous) by reducing it to reason (ratio) and the intellect
access to certainty of the Absolute by virtue of very definition or
constitution are not pursuing science but a particular philosophy that may be
critiqued on philosophical grounds and rightly charged with ultimately
impoverishing man, emasculating culture, refusing noetic aspect of beauty and
attractive power of truth that deliver us from ego or Samsara. Both theism and
atheism need to be transcended (“all propositions about God, including “God is”
and “God isn’t” are false. For all propositions operate through concepts. And
all propositions are the work of logical intellect”) and believers and their
critics can agree on dignity of man thanks to intelligence that applied to
moral sphere means conscience and to cognitive and aesthetic spheres means
pursuit of truth (ʿIlm, Irfan) and beauty (Ihsan).
qua man is born neither theist nor atheist but a playful spirit or
consciousness that seeks creative expression, knowledge, joy, love, freedom,
beauty, truth, goodness. Maintaining lofty human state in this sense requires
strength of critical intelligence and lofty character and this is what all
great thinkers and religions ultimately demand. How true we are to this
challenge is the question and not badly phrased theology of less gifted minds
or anti-theology in the names of religion or science respectively. Theology
needs to be taught as autology (science of Self) and we bring otherwise warring
camps of science and religion closer.