I recently wrote a blog post demonstrating no conflict exists between science and faith. The perceived conflict exists only in the minds of those who misunderstand one or the other. This is why ignorant Mullahs in the religious world feel threatened by science, just the same way as new atheists -- Mullahs of the atheist world -- insist faith is the enemy.
In response to the article, some atheists asked, "If no such conflict exists, then why didn't you become a scientist by studying the Koran, instead of physics and chemistry?" This is a common straw man fallacy. I never claimed the Koran is a book of science -- I said the Koran urges believers to pursue the sciences by promoting investigation, inquiry and critical thought. The Koran contains scientific truths, and it never contradicts any established scientific truth.
I was falsely accused of proselytizing and kicked out of a couple of the atheist forums I shared these views on. Some atheists said I must be delusional to be a scientist while believing in a "fairytale" like God. I have no doubt that the "God" these atheists have in mind is indeed a fairytale. But is the God I believe in also a fairytale? Or is belief in existence without a Creator the real fairytale?
Let us answer this question with the help of science. I start by posing a simple question. Think about a random chocolate bar. How do you think it came into being?
A. Through the help of an external force or agency. Isn't that common sense?
B. Magically appeared out of "nothing". Ever watch Disney cartoons?
C. It could either have come into existence through an external force or have appeared "out of thin air". We can never be wholly sure since we did not witness the exact moment when the bar came into existence.
When I posed this question on social media, most volunteers picked option A in an instant. For some others, a straight answer was almost impossible to get, even though it was actually quite obvious. Interestingly, all of those who dodged the question identified as atheists.
Some of them threw the Watchmaker fallacy at me, insisting that the "all things are created" rule does not extend to things that exist in nature e.g. trees or animals. This was a fallacy in itself. My question was not whether the chocolate bar was consciously designed, but whether there were external forces that played a role in its coming into existence. Trees and animals also come into existence through the play of forces, and these forces act consistently and systematically, albeit over significantly longer periods of time.
Now let us try to answer the same question in relation to the Cosmos.
With the the Big Bang theory becoming the most widely accepted theory of our cosmic birth, the common argument against theism -- that the universe was eternal and had no beginning -- no longer applied. In his article, the "Origin of the Universe," Professor Stephen Hawking writes:
The General Theory of Relativity and the discovery of the expansion of the universe shattered the old picture of an ever existing and ever lasting universe. Instead, general relativity predicted that the universe, and time itself, would begin in the Big Bang.
The Big Bang -- 13.8 billion years ago -- marked the birth of spacetime as we know it. This was the instant when matter and energy sprung into being from an extremely dense singularity, and the universe has only been expanding ever since. This is also when the laws of physics were born, and the four fundamental forces of nature came to be.
What was the spark that triggered this Big Bang?
Was an external force or agency involved, or did we magically begin to exist out of "nothingness" by sheer chance? Or as in the question of the chocolate bar, would we never be sure since we did not witness this exact moment of our cosmic birth?
More relevant to this discussion, which is the real fairytale? Believing a force or agency must be involved (as is the rule with everything), or to insist in a magical birth "out of thin air" without an external influence. In other words, did the Universe come about ex-nihilo (out of nothing) "Disney cartoon" style or ex-nihilo through an agency?
Stephen Hawkings writes in the same article:
Many scientists were still unhappy with the universe having a beginning because it seemed to imply that physics broke down. One would have to invoke an outside agency, which for convenience, one can call God, to determine how the universe began. They therefore advanced theories in which the universe was expanding at the present time, but didn't have a beginning.
This is the point where my atheist friends ask me to provide empirical evidence of such an outside agency. They probably don't realize that the burden of proof lies on the one making an extraordinary claim, not the one assuming the obvious, based on scientific observation. Why should I have to prove that an external force was responsible for the existence of the chocolate bar just because I did not witness its coming into being? It is the person who passionately insists on no involvement of such a force that has to furnish evidence for their fairytale belief in magical ex-nihilo creation. Extraordinary claims do require extraordinary evidence.
And I'm not asking anyone to prove a negative -- I'm simply asking them to repeat this phenomenon. After all, science is about verification through repetition, correct? So claimants of a spontaneous ex-nihilo creation need only demonstrate spontaneous creation out of 'nothingness,' or show how science accounts for such spontaneous creation. And no! 'quantum fluctuations' is not 'nothing.' It is still something.
Inevitably, the counter argument to a Creator resorts to, "Alright fine. It is possible there is an external force responsible for the Big Bang, but who created that Force then?"
Again, critics who raise this argument of ad infinitum regression of cause and effect forget that cause-effect is a concept that only applies to space-time and the laws of physics it is subject to. Going back, everything begins to break down at the exact time of the Big Bang, and our human understanding of spatial dimensions and of time no longer applies 'outside' or 'before' this exact instant. So, whatever Force ushered in our birth and directly or indirectly 'created' the Cosmos has to be independent of the laws of nature. This Force cannot be directly sought with the tools of science, because they are limited by their dependency on the physical laws of the universe. Here is where spirituality comes in.
The counter argument continues, "Well, maybe such a Force exists, but it is definitely not your God."
Unfortunately, God is a taboo word in new atheist circles. Quite frankly, I am also an atheist of the God they imagine and without merit attribute to me. The concept of God as explained in Islam is that of a Spiritual Being, a conscious Creator, Who created the laws of nature, Who provides for man's needs, Who expects man to serve His creation, and to Whom we are all accountable in the end.
Interestingly, even Stephen Hawking himself said:
"You cannot understand the glories of the universe without believing there is some Supreme Power behind it."
Whether this Power behind the Universe is actually the God I believe in is topic for another day. For now, the question I have for my atheist friends is simple. If you do think there must be some outside Force involved in the birth of our Cosmos, know that I chose to call this Force God. And if you insist in Disney style magical ex-nihilo creation without agency, then furnish the scientific proof of this fairytale belief. Even my seven year old niece knows those cartoons ain't real.