Parallel Evolution vs Common Descent: An analogy

Photo: Scene from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, by 20th Centruy Fox 
Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim understanding of evolution is that it is intelligently guided and not random, and that different species, though sharing many features with each other, did not necessarily have a common ancestor. Man has always been human right from the very first cell he is descended from. The following is based on an interesting analogy shared by Rizwan Khan, a spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in the United States. He can be followed here: @Rizwan1770

Here is an analogy that may make our position on evolution easier to understand:

From the moment the sperm meets the egg, it is written in the chromosomes that the child will be either male or female, even though that difference only becomes noticeable half way through the pregnancy. An uninformed observer may say that the fetus is neutral for half of the pregnancy and then it randomly branches off to become a male, but we would explain that the fetus has always been male from the time of conception and that this has been written into its chromosomes; it only became observable at a certain point. Although we are both observing the same phenomenon, our understanding of how that phenomenon unfolded is very different.

Likewise, we may have been similar to other species of life at different stages of our evolution, and we may have appeared indistinguishable to the uninformed observer. Such an observer would say that we were apes and then we randomly branched off to become human beings at the point that those differences became apparent. What we argue is that we were always human. Just as with a fetus, where there is a certain point in gestation at which the effects of the male chromosome become distinctly observable, similarly, there was a certain point in our evolution where the effects of our human DNA became distinctly observable.

Also, it would be absurd if someone said that a fetus randomly branches off to become a male and then simultaneously develops all of the male organs in perfect harmony and in a short period of time out of random variance. These changes are guided by what was already written into our chromosomes. Similarly, we argue that it is absurd to say that apes randomly branched off and then went through very rapid, simultaneous advancements in perfect harmony, in a short period of time, out of random variance. These changes were guided by what was already written in our DNA.

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Can Any Theory of How Life Began “Disprove God”?

Plankton

Photo credit: Yannemann https://www.flickr.com/photos/yannemann/4924077647  Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for “fair use” for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.

A few days ago, the Independent was ablaze with the following headline:

“New theory could prove how life began and disprove God”

To add to the fireworks, the article went on to say that “a writer on the website of Richard Dawkins’ foundation says that the theory has put God “on the ropes” and has “terrified” Christians…” and that someone on the website wrote that “the theory could make things “a whole lot worse for creationists”.”

It is always amusing to see how, in their desperation to “disprove” God, certain people confuse PROCESS with AGENT. Whatever the process was through which life was created from dead matter and made to evolve, knowing its finer details will not rule out the assertion that the process was guided by a super-intelligent agent, any more than knowing how an apple is digested will rule out the eater. Nor will it explain how the universe, in which the apple exists, appeared in the first place.

This may remind some readers of the joke in which God was approached by a scientist who said, “Listen God, we’ve decided we don’t need you anymore. These days we can clone people, transplant organs and do all sorts of things that used to be considered miraculous.” God replied, “Don’t need me, huh? How about we put your theory to the test. Why don’t we have a competition to see who can make a human being?” The scientist agrees, so God declares they should do it like He did in the good old days. “Fine!” says the scientist as he bends down to scoop up a handful of dirt.“Whoa!” says God, “Not so fast! You get your own dirt.”

The new theory, proposed by a researcher at MIT, is that “when a group of atoms is exposed for a long time to a source of energy, it will restructure itself to dissipate more energy. The emergence of life might not be the luck of atoms arranging themselves in the right way, it says, but an inevitable event if the conditions are correct.” The researcher is reported to have said: “You start with a random clump of atoms, and if you shine light on it for long enough, it should not be so surprising that you get a plant.”

It is quite shameful for a researcher, who one would expect to be a dignified member of the scientific community who is always circumspect when it comes to drawing conclusions and making them public, to talk of atoms “arranging themselves” and the first life forms in the same breath, as if these two things were just a step or two away from each other. The layman will come away with the idea that the first life forms must have been rather basic, primitive things, not much more than rearranged atoms.

More discerning readers will of course know that for cells to function, they require the presence of a whole series of molecular machines to run like clockwork from Day One. Whatever the processes were that led the simple rearrangement of atoms to a fully functional, self-replicating, conscious cell, they were certainly more complex than simply shining light on atoms and ending up with a plant.

The key delusion here is shining a light “for long enough”. In other words, we are being asked to believe that TIME creates life. This is extremely dishonest, when mathematicians have demonstrated time and again that the amount of time available since the universe began is simply not suffient for life to appear by unguided processes. To circumvent this unavoidable mathematical reality, the fantastical idea of a “multiverse” has been conjured up; something which has absolutely no evidence to back it up with, and which only exists on paper because there are scientists who are obsessed with the idea of disproving God by any means instead of humbly following the mathematical and scientific evidence wherever it leads.

For a glimpse into what goes on inside a human cell, watch THIS

And for plant cells, THIS

As for the smug declaration that this new theory will make things “a whole lot worse for creationists”, six-24-hour-day creationists and 6000-year-old earth protagonists are already in a whole heap of scientific trouble, so it is difficult to imagine how this new theory will make things any worse for them. The fact that they ascribe unscientific actions to God in no way changes what really happened. All they do is give an opportunity to the noisier anti-theists to further ridicule the idea of God. In fact, such creationists and anti-theists both have equally ridiculous conceptions of God. And of science. The ones say that plants appeared all of a sudden, the others affirm that if you keep shining light on a clump of atoms, you’ll inevitably get a plant. They truly deserve each other!

The Qur’an, like the Bible, speaks of creation in six days. However, there is a big difference between the two accounts. Unlike the Book of Genesis, which limits each day to 24 hours by specifying that there was an evening and a morning,  the Qur’an leaves the expression as simply “six days”, and explains that in God’s parlance, a “day” means a period of time of any length; some “days” are equal to 1000 years, others to 50000, others still to far longer periods as we will now show.

In one verse, the Qur’an declares:

Allah it is Who created the heavens and the earth, and that which is between them, in six periods; then He settled on the Throne. You have no helper or intercessor beside Him. Will you not then reflect?

In another verse, it proclaims:

Say: “Do you really disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two days? And do you set up equals to Him?’ That is the Lord of the worlds.”

Thus, the creation of the whole universe is said to have occurred in six “days”, of which our planet took two “days” to be created. Or in other words a ratio of 2:6 or 1:3.

When we turn to what science has discovered so far, we find that the approximate age of planet earth is 4.56 billion years and that of the universe is 13.77 billion years. If 13.77 billion years is divided into six periods of equal length, planet earth will take up two of them. Again, a ratio of 1:3.

That an illiterate 6th-Century inhabitant of the Arabian desert could make such a declaration has implications that are for our readers to reflect upon. He said that it was God Who had told him to say this:

“Do you really disbelieve in Him Who created the earth in two days? And do you set up equals to Him?’ That is the Lord of the worlds.”

No matter how much knowledge of the creative process can be acquired by Man, it will never explain away the Agent behind it all. Au contraire.

 

Is Life Sacred in an Atheist World?

With the recent controversy over whether Humanism should be taught in UK RE classes, this belief system is getting more attention than it’s ever done. We thought we’d help out the British Humanist Association with their policy of promoting critical thought around Humanism by publishing a series of posts examining whether Humanism makes, well… any sense at all. Enjoy!

Humanism assumes universally accepted precepts such as the inherent sanctity of human life. It tells us that human life is something worth fostering and promoting, and that it is morally despicable to actively try and harm it. I agree. I cannot help but note, however, that humanism offers absolutely no intellectual basis for these laudable ideals. In fact, as it is a moral philosophy based on God’s non-existence, it seems to offer quite the opposite.

In a world without God, the universe is at best an accidental one, the origin of which is entirely unexplained, but certainly not the result of a Higher Power. Similarly, human life is not at all intended. Rather, it is simply the happy byproduct of Darwinian evolution – the dubious idea that a fortuitous, unexplained, fully-functioning cell appeared one day, consequently underwent countless copying errors in its DNA, and after being ravaged by similarly undirected environmental changes, produced you, me, and that barking dog that keeps you up at night.

If this outlook is true in all its serendipitous details, then in what way is human life sacred? It is simply the accidental product of an accidental universe, a fluke that will disappear entirely in the blink of a cosmic eye. At best, one can say that human life is rare, remarkable only in a probabilistic sense. But that does nothing to obscure the obvious fact that in an atheistic perspective, human life has no intrinsic worth. It was an accident. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts. A good philosophy for a night out perhaps, but the sombre hangover is sure to kick in soon. If human life is an accident, then why should we value it? If a callous, uncaring oppressor seeks to trample on the rights of others for his own selfish ends, then by what argument will we silence him? ‘Be good!’, we cry.‘Why?’, he retorts. ‘The law of the jungle is what brought us into this world- why not continue it?’ In this bleak atheistic outlook, the idea that life is valuable can be chalked up to a psychological survival instinct drilled into us by the selfish dictates of natural selection. If someone ignores its compulsions, can we really argue against such cruel principles coherently? After all, an unspoken truth is being acted upon: none of this really matters anyway.

A theistic outlook however, radically alters this. We are not an accident. The universe did not bring itself into being through sheer force of non-existent will; rather, it was created by an eternal Higher Power for a very specific purpose. That purpose was to produce conscious beings capable of high moral and spiritual endeavour – beings that could know their Creator, develop a relationship with Him, emulate His Mercy, and thus work to produce peace amongst creation.

Human life therefore is absolutely valuable- it has a purpose, and belongs in reality to its Creator. To take a life away is to rob that life of its potential to fulfil the purpose of its existence, and experience the spiritual bliss that comes with it. To take a life away it is to take a life that was never ours to take.

Of course, believers and non-believers alike know that life is sacred. It is a principle which screams inside our very core. The difference is, alas, that the atheist’s heart finds no support from his or her head.

Note: That there is a cosmic plan for Man is obvious. Take a pygmy child from the Congo, or a Tuareg child from the Sahara, or the child of a Samoyed nomad from northern arctic Russia; bring them up in an upper-class household in England. Send them to Cambridge. One becomes a brain surgeon, the second a great musician, the third an astrophysicist. Why did these children have that hidden potential within them? Had time travel been possible, we may just as well have made a caveman’s child pass through the same process, with the same result. What use could such potential have for the survival of children born in tribes who had always been nomads or hunter-gatherers? Why should such children have the hidden potential to read, write, and comprehend the sciences and the arts? Clearly, this potential was placed in them long in advance, despite bringing no evolutionary advantage for millenia, so that one day it could blossom. Blind selection cannot create such amazing potential in any creature. The human race is special, and has had a noble purpose willed for it long before the purpose could reveal itself.

 

The first part of this article has been reproduced from the End of Atheism website. End of Atheism is a direct response to the New Atheist movement that began with Sam Harris’ book ‘End of Faith.’ You can find more material here:  www.endofatheism.com

Richard Dawkins & Natural Selection: a Love Affair

Richard Dawkins & Natural Selection (1)

He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a thing, He only says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is. (Qur’an 2:118)

Why is there something rather than nothing? That is the question that has plagued philosophers, scientists, and billions of people, throughout time and space. It is a question that is not only related to the Universe but is related to us on an individual basis, personally. Observing the Universe around us, it lies within our intuition that the Universe too has not existed forever. This observation has recently (as far as Human History goes) been confirmed by scientific, empirical research. The Universe as it is today, has not always existed. It has continuously expanded from a singularity, before which in both space and time, it did not – to our current observation – exist. To surmise that it did would be to assume something for which there is scant evidence currently. In short, the Universe came from a state of nothingness, into a state of existence.

Professor Richard Dawkins does not believe that the question “why is there something, rather than nothing” is worth acknowledging. In his book “The God Delusion”, instead of first solving the riddle of how the Universe came from nothing, he raises the same question against God. What follows is the intriguing construction of a house of cards.

“Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down.”

“The God Delusion” is several hundred pages in length and yet remarkably, it only gives one actual argument against the existence of God, and that too, borrowed from his favourite atheist philosopher, David Hume. There are many pages of his book that talks about why he doesn’t like religion, why he believes you can live without religion, why believers in God are self-deluded fools, etc., etc., but it is only after some one hundred pages on page 138 that the Professor actually shoots the only bullet in the barrel of his gun:

The creationist misappropriation of the argument from improbability always takes the same general form, and it doesn’t make any difference if the creationist chooses to masquerade in the politically expedient fancy dress of ‘intelligent design’ (ID). [i] Some observed phenomenon — often a living creature or one of its more complex organs, but it could be anything from a molecule up to the universe itself — is correctly extolled as statistically improbable. Sometimes the language of information theory is used: the Darwinian is challenged to explain the source of all the information in living matter, in the technical sense of information content as a measure of improbability or ‘surprise value’. Or the argument may invoke the economist’s hackneyed motto: there’s no such thing as a free lunch — and Darwinism is accused of trying to get something for nothing. In fact, as I shall show in this chapter, Darwinian natural selection is the only known solution to the otherwise unanswerable riddle of where the information comes from. It turns out to be the God Hypothesis that tries to get something for nothing. God tries to have his free lunch and be it too. However statistically improbable the entity you seek to explain by invoking a designer, the designer himself has got to be at least as improbable. God is the Ultimate Boeing 747. (The God Delusion, p. 138)

In short, Professor Dawkins’ argument is that if you believe the Universe’s complexity requires a designer, then surely God, who must be as complex or if not, more complex than the Universe, must require a Designer too. Who then, created God? The argument is however, riddled with false assumptions.

The first of these is that believers in God believe that the Universe requires a Designer because it is complex. This is an error. The reason the Universe requires a Designer is because prior to the Big Bang, there was no Universe. As far as current science can tell us, prior to the Universe, this Universe did not exist. It then came into existence. For this process of something coming from nothing, one requires a Designer. Why is this?

To answer this we will have to examine another aspect of Professor Dawkins’ claims, and that is, that besides “design” and “chance” there is a third alternative possibility of the motive force driving the Universe:

A deep understanding of Darwinism teaches us to be wary of the easy assumption that design is the only alternative to chance, and teaches us to seek out graded ramps of slowly increasing complexity. Before Darwin, philosophers such as Hume understood that the improbability of life did not mean it had to be designed, but they couldn’t imagine the alternative. After Darwin, we all should feel, deep in our bones, suspicious of the very idea of design. The illusion of design is a trap that has caught us before, and Darwin should have immunized us by raising our consciousness. Would that he had succeeded with all of us. (The God Delusion, p.138)

Thus Professor Dawkins claims a third type of process: Natural Selection, but on a cosmic scale. He claims that there may be a process whereby different universes of increasing complexity are created, and which are selected for. Those that are unable to survive, due to their physical constants being incompatible with continuation of that universe, automatically die off, while universes which can continue, do, and of them, those that produce life may be a tiny fraction. We just happen to be in a Universe that has produced life. This theory is also called The Multiverse Hypothesis.

The Multiverse (NB: not actually the multiverse).

The Multiverse
(NB: not actually the multiverse – just an artist’s representation)

The gaping hole in this argument, is that how did the laws that govern the creation and selection of the universes, come about? Did they also come about through a process of cosmic selection? Are these laws eternal in and of themselves? If there is a process of producing Universes and selecting for them through a process of graded ramps of slowly increasing complexity then what is the process by which this all occurs? Ultimately therefore, the laws that govern the generation of Universes, or the selection of them, must themselves either be designed, or have come about by chance. Or were the laws and processes which governed the creation and selection of the laws, themselves the product of a similar process of selection? Once again, an infinite regress of absurdity sets in, in which one continues to ask, by which process did the laws themselves that govern correct “selection” come about.

Unfortunately, all Professor Dawkins seems to have is Natural Selection as his hammer, and when all you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.

In short therefore, the notion that there is a third option besides “design” and “chance” is false. All ordered processes must themselves be explained; the very method of Universe production and selection must itself be explained, if it is an ordered process. If it is not an ordered process, then what differentiates it from random chance? If it is a gradual process of possible but improbable steps in a linear fashion – graded ramps of slowly increasing complexity – then this too is illogical, for how did those steps come about in the first place? Did this Universe-producing machine create the laws of cosmic selection which were required to create itself in the first instance?  Did the child give birth to it’s own mother? Did the omelette scramble itself into an egg, and thence into a squawking chicken?

When we look at it this way, and realise that there is only “design” or “chance”, one realises that the very origin of anything can only be “design”. This is because “chance” is defined as the random selection of an outcome from a set of possibilities. If those possibilities do not yet exist, then chance cannot act. Dice which have no sides cannot be rolled and a racehorse without any horses doesn’t offer much of a gamble. Even if one was to apply the theory of cosmic selection, selection is not a creative process, but rather, a culling process. Without an initial creation, there is nothing to cull, nothing to “select” and nothing for “chance” or any other selective process to act upon. When the issue is looked at from this point, the creation or existence of anything which had a beginning and an origin will always be by “design”, not “chance”, “selection” or any other non-creative process. Unsurprisingly, you need a creative process to create something. Neither chance nor any process reminiscent of natural or cosmic selection are adequate.

What, however, if the Universe existed prior to the Big Bang, and then merely came into a new form of existence? Thus the Universe did not come from nothing, but merely was developed from one state into another. One Universe collapsed upon itself, produced another black hole and developed into our current universe.

This too does not satisfy reason. Suppose for a moment that the Big Bang occurred due to something called The Big Cause, and The Big Cause was caused by The Bigger Cause. What then caused the Bigger Cause? This chain of cause and effect cannot extend infinitely, as otherwise, there would be no beginning to the chain of cause and effect, and without a beginning, how would we have reached the present moment? If there wasn’t a beginning to this blog post, how do you find yourself reading in the middle of it (it’s coming to an end soon, don’t fret)? If there isn’t a beginning to a race, how to do you find yourself running in it? In short, an infinite chain of cause and effect can never reach any point anywhere along it’s chain, because it will always be infinitely behind the present position on that chain. You will have an infinite regression of causes.

This indicates that everything that has a beginning is dependent on having originated with an Uncaused Cause. This is because, something that has a beginning cannot have created itself. To create itself, while it didn’t yet exist, would require it to both exist and not exist, simultaneously. Without an Uncaused Cause therefore, anything that has a beginning, cannot exist. Moreover, such an Uncaused Cause does not suffer from the deficiency of requiring a designer, because such an Uncaused Cause did not itself originate from anything, rather, it has always existed. Atheists such as Richard Dawkins, David Hume, Julian Baginni, etc., all misrepresent this argument by citing it as stating that everything that exists must have a cause. This is erroneous; the argument states that everything that begins to exist must have a cause. Thus, an Uncaused Cause that does not have a beginning, such as God, does not require a “designer”. An Uncaused Cause is therefore a logical necessity and an imperative.

It is interesting to note that atheists, by assuming the Multiverse argument, have also accepted the belief in an Uncaused Cause. Many atheists accept that the Uncaused Cause is a logical necessity, only they claim that a Universe-generating machine, is the Uncaused Cause. This is logically inconsistent; because if they are willing to accept the existence of an Uncaused Cause, then what is the big leap in saying that such an existence could also be conscious of itself – thus making it a Divine, or Personal Entity. Thus, by assuming the Multiverse hypothesis, they jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. They run into precisely what they wished to avoid.

To Allah belong the East and the West; so withersoever you turn, there will be the face of Allah. Surely, Allah is Bountiful, All-Knowing. (Qur’an 2:116)

To summarise then, something did not come from nothing. Something (the universe) came from something else (an Uncaused Cause). The universe must have had a beginning – an origin, as an infinite chain of cause and effect is an illogicality.

Furthermore, all things that have a beginning, must take their origin in “design”, not “chance”. There is no third alternative such as “cosmic selection” because any process or laws that govern such selection must themselves be either the product of “design” or “chance”, lest a further infinite regression of absurdities be created.

Thus, the only logical outcome for this Universe, which must have began either with the Big Bang or at an event prior to it, is that it came into existence from nothingness, by the Design of an Uncaused Cause.

Gosh. That sounds a lot like God, doesn’t it? Who would’ve thought…

 

The present article has been reproduced from the End of Atheism website. End of Atheism is a direct response to the New Atheist movement that began with Sam Harris’ book ‘End of Faith.’ You can find more material here:  www.endofatheism.com

Who Designed the Designer? Atheists’ Arguments Refuted.

Professor Richard Dawkins in his book, “The God Delusion” provides one serious argument as to why God probably doesn’t exist. This argument is examined, dismantled, and demonstrated as deeply flawed.

 

The present article has been reproduced from the End of Atheism website. End of Atheism is a direct response to the New Atheist movement that began with Sam Harris’ book ‘End of Faith.’ You can find more material here:  www.endofatheism.com

Darwinism destroyed by David Berlinski

“Nissuna umana investigazione si può dimandare vera scienza, s’essa non passa per le matematiche dimostrazioni.”

“No human investigation can be called real science if it cannot be demonstrated mathematically.”                                                                                                                             LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519)

David Berlinski shows how Darwinism, or the theory of the evolution of species by natural selection advanced by Charles Darwin, does not stand up to scientific or mathematical scrutiny.

A great mind among modern intellectuals, David Berlinski, a secular Jew, was previously a research assistant in molecular biology at Columbia University and a research fellow at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria and the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques (IHES) in France. He has taught philosophy, mathematics, and English at Stanford University, Rutgers University, The City University of New York, the University of Washington, the University of Puget Sound, San Jose State University, the University of Santa Clara, the University of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, and taught mathematics at the Université de Paris. He has a PhD in philosophy from Princeton University and has written on philosophy and mathematics. He authored “The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions” (Paperback edition, Basic Books, September 2009), a true masterpiece. This brilliant, incisive, and funny book explores the limits of science and the pretensions of those who insist it can be—indeed must be—the ultimate touchstone for understanding our world and ourselves.

 

Who created God? Who Made God? Where Did God Come From? ‘The God Delusion’ Refuted

“Who created God?” is a question that has long plagued agnostic and atheist thinkers. If the Universe’s complexity requires a designer, then what about God, Who surely must be as complex (if not more) than the Universe? Does God need Designing? Why does the Universe need a God? Couldn’t it have come from nothing?

“Who Created God? – Richard Dawkins Refuted” demonstrates that God doesn’t need a Designer, unlike the Universe, and explains why.

End of Atheism is a direct response to the New Atheist movement that began with Sam Harris’ book ‘End of Faith.’ You can find more material on www.endofatheism.com.

The Qur’an and Extraterrestrial Life

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image22958543
http://www.dreamstime.com/-image22958543

The vision of the universe that the Qur’an presents is poles apart from the one held by the philosophers and sages of all the past ages. At the time of the Quranic revelation, it was Greek astronomy which dominated the minds of men everywhere in the world and all civilizations seemed to have been influenced by the same. This domination continued uninterrupted until the time of Copernicus. It was universally believed that the heavens consisted of layer upon layer of some transparent plastic material, studded with bright heavenly bodies we know as stars. To be more specific, the following was the sum total of the entire knowledge of the people of that age:

  1. The earth was composed of a mass of dust, rock, water, air and minerals. It was a stationary mass, with a near flat surface neither rotating around itself nor revolving around any other heavenly body.
  2. The earth occupied a unique position in the cosmos, the like of which did not exist anywhere else in space. It remained fixed and stationary in its mooring while the Heavens perpetually revolved around it.

Evidently, this concept of the universe eliminated the possibility of the existence of life elsewhere. The only habitat for life the people of that age knew, was this earth—suspended as they thought it was in mid-space. Contrary to this, the Qur’an admits neither the uniqueness of the earth nor its being stationary. On the issue of the number of earths, it declares: …READ MORE

The Question of Suffering

Answering that age-old question: If God is Merciful, why is there so much suffering in the world?

An excerpt from the book “Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth”, by Mirza Tahir Ahmad.

http://www.alislam.org/library/books/revelation/part_2_section_6.html

Revelation Rationality