Looking for scientific proof of God’s existence?

The videos below have been reproduced from www.rationalreligion.co.uk (previously http://www.endofatheism.com). Do yourselves a favour : keep updated by bookmarking this highly informative and entertaining website, and following it

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Like, retweet, leave comments, challenge and ask questions, before you’re forced to face up to http://www.endoflife.net and http://www.TooLate.com (And yes, I’ve checked – these domain names don’t exist yet :op)

Enjoy!

 

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.

The Revival of True Sainthood by the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam

This is an extract from the autobiography of Mawlawi Ghulam Rasul Rajeki (may Allah be pleased with him), who was born into a family affiliated to the Qadiriyyah Order having produced, generation after generation, a profusion of Saints, both men and women, who were reputed in the Punjab for their visions and miracles. From his very childhood, Mawlawi Saheb was assiduous in his Salaah (daily prayers), and diligent in his invocations of blessings upon the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) and other devotions. Allah the Most High led him while he was still in his teens to recognise the truth of the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him), and to become his follower, after which, people began to witness saintly miracles at his hand which astounded even his own family. Mawlawi Ghulam Rasul Rajeki (may Allah be pleased with him) stood as a living testimony to the sanctifying power of the Imam al-Mahdi whose coming for the rejuvenation of true Islam had been promised by the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him).

Based on ” The Revival of True Sainthood”

https://theartofmisinformation.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/the-revival-of-true-sainthood/

An Incident at Jamun Bola

“The village of Jamun Bola is situated two miles north of our residence. Many landlords of that village had been the well-wishers of our elders. When they came to know of the circumstances surrounding the illness and miraculous recovery of Jeewan Khan [through the prayers of Mawlawi Ghulam Rasul, in a previous episode], an inhabitant of Dhudrha named Khan Muhammad, who was one of these landlords, came to see my father and said: ‘For some time my younger brother, Jan Muhammad, has been suffering from tuberculosis. As an act of kindness, please instruct Mian Ghulam Rasul Sahib to stay at our house for a few days so as to pray for Jan Muhammad, that Allah the Almighty may grant him health too.” Following his request, and as per my father’s instructions, I set off towards them. Upon my arrival, and having refreshed my ablutions, I began to pray for his brother. After having ended with the salaam, I enquired as to how his condition was. The family replied: “The fever has completely disappeared and he has even started to feel hungry.” Afterwards, within a few days, such strength was born in his thin and weak body, that he was able to walk around. Having witnessed this sign, these people began to entertain some positive feelings about Ahmadiyyat; however not a single person entered into the allegiance of the Promised Messiah (pbuh). As a result, Allah the Almighty informed me: “THE HEALTH THAT HAS BEEN GRANTED TO THIS PATIENT WAS A FINAL ARGUMENT FOR THEM; AND IF THEY DO NOT ACCEPT AHMADIYYAT, THE PATIENT WILL BE MADE TO ENTER THE GRAVE ON THE TWENTY-EIGHTH OF THE MONTH OF SHA‘BAAN, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT.” Subsequently, as soon as I awoke I asked for pen and inkpot and wrote down this divine revelation on a piece of paper and entrusted it to some of the non-Ahmadis of the village, cautioning them not to disclose the prophecy [to anyone] before the appointed time of death. Afterwards, I set off for the holy court of the Promised Messiah (pbuh) and there I spent the blessed month of Ramadan. When Allah the Almighty, in His wisdom, had caused the incident of Jan Muhammad’s apparent return to health to be talked about everywhere, the disease resurfaced and on exactly the twenty-eighth night of the month of Sha‘baan, he departed from this mortal earth. Following his demise, when the non-Ahmadis exposed my writings in front of the public, they were left speechless. How unfortunate it is that even after this, those people still did not accept Ahmadiyyat.”

An incident at Sa‘dullahpur

“Sa‘dullahpur village is about three miles south of our village. Most of its Hanafi inhabitants were on good terms with our elders. For this reason, I used to visit every so often and preach to this village and try to convince them of the truthfulness of the Promised Messiah (pbuh). In this village, there was an Ahl-e-Hadith scholar, Mawlawi Ghawth Muhammad Sahib, who was a student of the Ghaznavi family in Amritsar, and was therefore exceedingly hostile and opposed [to Ahmadiyyat]. One day, after the Salaat-al-Zuhr (midday prayer) at the mosque, I began to preach Ahmadiyyat in their presence and gave them some books and periodicals to study. When they found out from my preaching and from the Promised Messiah’s books that I believed Hadrat Mirza Sahib to be the Promised Messiah and Imam al-Mahdi, they started using foul language and abusing the Promised Messiah (pbuh). I reasoned with them saying that they could swear at me all they wanted, but that they should refrain from insulting the Promised Messiah (pbuh). In spite of this, they did not stop their abuse. Retiring to a private place, I fell down in prostration praying before the threshold of God with great sobbing and weeping. During the night, I returned to the mosque without having eaten any food and slept there. When morning drew near, Mawlawi Ghawth Muhammad Sahib came up to me in the mosque and begged for forgiveness, beseeching me to do the following: “For God’s sake, please write a letter for my allegiance to Mirza Sahib, otherwise I fear I will die right now and be cast into hell!” Observing his repentance, and greatly astonished, I enquired the reason for it. The Mawlawi Sahib proceeded to give me the following explanation: “I have seen in a dream that it was the Day of Judgment and the decree of my being cast into hell had been issued. To act upon the decree, angels of a terrifying appearance came towards me. They carried enormous clubs that reached all the way up to the sky. These angels grabbed hold of me and declared: “You have attacked the honour of the Promised Messiah (pbuh), the Imam of the Age, so go now to Hell and face your punishment.” I cried out in horror: “I repent! Please let me go!” The angels took no notice, and said: “Now he repents?” They then raised their clubs to strike me. Out of sheer terror I woke up and in this state I have come to you. For God’s sake, please have my sins forgiven and write a letter certifying my allegiance to Hadrat Mirza Sahib.” Due to this dream, he became an Ahmadi; and thereafter as a result of our combined preaching efforts, dozens of men and women entered into the Ahmadiyya Community.”

Why “Euthyphro’s Dilemma” Is Mere Claptrap: How The Qur’an Solves Atheism’s Greatest Argument

2

There is a weapon in the arsenal of atheists believed by some advocates of piffle to be so powerful and holy that only the anointed priests of the holy order of balderdash, also known as the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, can deploy it without all matter in the universe collapsing in on itself during a cosmic game of Flapdoodle. Dr. Stephen Hall summarises it thus:

Are things morally right/wrong, good/bad because God says so, or does God say that they are right/wrong, good/bad because God recognises that they are? If the first option is true, then that means that right/wrong are arbitrary. If the latter is true, then we don’t need God to know what is right/wrong, as we can recognize it just as God does. [Hall.S; Humanism, A Very Short Introduction, p.74]

Taking torture as an example, Dr. Stephen Hall, advocate of Humanism, continues:

If the theist says things are morally right or wrong only because God says so, then morality, it turns out, is still arbitrary and relative. Prior to God’s issuing any commands, there is no right or wrong, and thus whatever commands he issues must be morally arbitrary… In response, some theists insist that, as God is himself morally good, he wouldn’t command us to torture innocent people… Had God said torturing the innocent was right, then it would have been. (In that case) God does not make torturing the innocent wrong by virtue of issuing his commands. Such torture would be wrong whatever God commanded. God’s commands are issued, as it were, for informational purposes only… The theist is now acknowledging that torturing the innocent is wrong anyway – it’s objectively wrong – whether or not there exists a God who issues commands. But then atheists and agnostics are free to help themselves to this same objective moral yardstick.

Is this not a veritable victory for atheism? Is this anything less than a splendid scimitar to the jugular of the Divine? A coup d’état so precipitous and dashing that it left you gob-smacked?

Or, maybe it’s just a short-sighted, sanguine argument. Gibberish. Poppycock. Hogwash and claptrapping barney, as my butler (in one of the multiverses) would call it.

Here’s why.

The Qur’an answers Euthyphro’s dilemma in a very simple, understandable way:

And by the soul and its perfection —And He revealed to it what is wrong for it and what is right for it —He indeed truly prospers who purifies it, And he who corrupts it is ruined.
[Qur’an 91:8-11]

In these verses, God sets out what is ‘right’ as what will lead to the attainment of our purpose in life, namely, spiritual purification and what is ‘wrong’ as the opposite. But what is “spiritual purification”? A bit wishy-washy, is it? Not at all. The Qur’an clarifies:

Verily, he truly prospers who purifies himself, And remembers the name of his Lord and offers Prayers. [Qur’an 87:15-16]

Fulfilling the purpose of our life is how the Qur’an determines what is ‘right’, and spiritual purification is the process of deepening and promoting a relationship with our Creator through remembrance of God’s attributes and communication with Him in prayer. Thus, God’s determination of right and wrong is not arbitrary but is related to the objective of our creation. Moreover, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are not independent of God, as the argument states, for what is ‘right’ is what will improve our relationship with God. This is a matter dependent on God’s nature for the more we imitate God’s attributes as set out by His revelation and also by the conscience He has provided us, the more we are purified through nearness to Him. ‘Right’ and ‘wrong’ do not, therefore, exist outside of God either. Thus, the premise of Euthyphro’s dilemma that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are “one of two things,” is flawed. What leads to God is what is related to His Nature and constitutes what is ‘right’, while what leads away from God is ‘wrong’ as it is contrary to His Nature.

The nature of our conscience, according to the Qur’an, testifies to the character and Nature of God. The psychology of humans, in its unadulterated form, is a torch-bearer and a reminder of the Nature of God:

So set thy face to the service of religion as one devoted to God. And follow the nature made by Allah — the nature in which He has created mankind. There is no altering the creation of Allah. That is the right religion. But most men know not. [Qur’an 30:31]

The right religion, God tells us, is the teaching in which the nature of mankind is kept pure and unadulterated, upon the pattern of God’s Nature. This can also be seen by the fact that God is never described in the Qur’an as “good”, termed “Ihsan” in Arabic. Ihsan or “goodness” is only a characteristic of humans. Why? Simply put, if God was described as “good” then Euthyphro’s dilemma would be valid, as “goodness” could then be said to exist outside of God. Instead, it is goodness that is defined by God’s nature: goodness is God – not the other way around. This can be appreciated by the fact that the opening verses of the Qur’an describe God as the one in whom all praiseworthy qualities originate and find their authorship:

All Praise belongs to and returns to Allah, Creator, Developer and Sustainer of all the worlds [Qur’an 1:2].

All praise returning to God means that anything you see, which you deem praiseworthy, is in fact, merely a reflection of God’s attributes. The Prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, echoed this when he described Ihsan or “goodness” in the following manner:

Ihsan is to worship Allah as if you see Him, and if you do not achieve this state of devotion, then know at least that Allah sees you. [Sahih Bukhari Vol. 6, Book 60, Hadith 300]

Goodness is therefore to be able to “see God” rather than “seeing goodness”. To see God means to know God’s attributes, to love those attributes and to be motivated to imitate those attributes. Such worship does not simply consist of formulaic prostrating and bowing, but consists of living one’s entire life on the pattern of such praiseworthy qualities. Those who cannot partake of such a high degree of nearness to God, such as to have God’s attributes before the mind’s eye at every moment, can partake of it by remembering that God is aware of them and that they will be held to account for any acts contrary to His nature, also known as “evil deeds”.

Thus, the higher state of “goodness” or Ihsan, is to spontaneously follow God out of love for His attributes, as reflected in one’s own pure conscience. Such a condition is one of total love and obedience and constitutes the active doing of deeds that please God – known as “good deeds”. The lower level is to merely abstain from deeds that run contrary to God’s nature and pleasure, through being aware of one’s accountability to God. Thus, the former consist of positive virtues – the active doing of good, while the latter consists of negative virtues – abstention from evil.

The above phrase of the Prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, is both simple and remarkable insofar as he captures with such brevity the entire panoply of human goodness, while simultaneously drawing attention to the roots of those actions: knowledge and adoration of God’s attributes as the motivator of good deeds; and accountability to God as the means of restraint from evil. In tying goodness or Ihsan to God’s essential nature, he cuts to the heart of Euthyphro’s dilemma, exposing the atheist argument for the bunkum it really is.

 

Note: The present post has been reproduced from the End of Atheism blog. The author is Dr Tahir Nasser @TahirNasser

When chickens come home to roost

The following challenge is doing the rounds on social media:

MUSLIMS, REFUTE THIS ANALYSIS OF FREE WILL IN ISLAM.

My comments are preceded by the word “COMMENT“.

 

Four Premises

  • Allah is omniscient.
  • Nothing happens except by Allah’s will.
  • Allah Himself has free will.
  • Allah cannot make a mistake.

COMMENT: Premise 2 is false. Islam informs us that nothing happens except by Allah’s PERMISSION. Allah does not WILL anyone to commit crimes; however He PERMITS them to do so. This is borne out by the following Qur’anic verse:

“And if thy Lord had so willed, surely, all who are on the earth would have believed together. Wilt thou, then, force men to become believers?” (10:99)*

Forcing people to do things is not Allah’s way.

 

Analysis

1: Because nothing happens except by Allah’s will, all human beings are created only according to Allah’s will.

COMMENT: As pointed out above, everything happens with God’s permission, but that does not imply that God wants everything to be the way it is.

2: Because Allah is omniscient, Allah knows the eventual fate of every person even before the moment of their creation.

COMMENT: This is correct.

3: Because Allah has free will, he has the free will to create or not create any human being he chooses.

COMMENT: This is correct.

4: Therefore, at the moments of creation, Allah is choosing to create some people that he already knows will be saved, and others that he already knows will be condemned to hell.

COMMENT: This is correct, but incomplete. Allah creates people who He knows will CHOOSE to act in a way that will save them, and others that He knows will CHOOSE to act in a way that will lead them to hell.

5: Therefore, since the results of every lifetime are already known even prior to creation, the “test” for salvation is already complete even before the created individual is born.

COMMENT: This is partially correct. The test results are already known to Allah, but knowledge of the results does NOT mean that God is the one producing these results. As for the test being complete, see below.

Q.E.D. Life on earth cannot be a test for salvation. The test is already complete before life on earth takes place.

COMMENT: This is incorrect. God’s knowledge of future events will only be true if the events take place. The test is only complete when all human choices have been made and all future events have happened.

 

Further Analysis

6: If a human being were capable of doing anything to change his fate from the one Allah already determined, then Allah would have made a mistake.

COMMENT: Allah does NOT determine the fate of anyone. They determine their own fate, and are consequently made by God to carry the burden of that self-chosen fate. The question of a “mistake” does not apply.

7: Since Allah cannot make a mistake, a human being cannot do anything to change his fate from the one Allah already determined.

Q.E.D. Human beings cannot have free will.

COMMENT: Incorrect. See above.

 

 Conclusion

  • Life on earth is not a test for salvation. For what is there to test if the results are known ahead of time and there is nothing we can do to change them?
  • Qiyamah, the Islamic Day of Judgment, is a farce. For we are not being judged based on our behaviors, but on Allah’s previous decision.
  • People are not led to Islam because it is superior message or religion, but because Allah decided that they would become Muslims whether they wanted to or not.
  • Since the vast majority of human beings who have ever lived, and who are living today are not Muslim, Allah must have created the vast majority of human beings for the express purpose of condemning them to Jahannam. Therefore the primary purpose of creation must be hell and suffering, not paradise and salvation.

COMMENT: This conclusion is entirely erroneous, due to the false assumption made in premise 2. Certain parameters in life are determined by God, such as the place and date of birth, ethnicity, height, physical abilities, etc., but within these parameters Man creates his own fate. The fact that God already knows what Man will do even before the universe was created, in no way means that God forced Man to make those choices. God sends guidance through His messengers to the whole of mankind. It is entirely their choice whether to arrogantly and viciously oppose it or to accept it with humility and gratitude. Their choices are not forced upon them, and they will have to face the consequences of those choices.

A farmer knowing – even before they hatch – at what time his chickens will come home to roost everyday is not the one making them do it.

 


*This will be 10:100 in translations where the Basmalah (In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Ever-Merciful) is counted as verse number 1.

 

Why Religion Succeeds where Humanism Fails

Why religions succeeds where humanism fails

By Umar Nasser

The original post can be read HERE. Photo credit: Joel Duggan. 

Attempting to critically assess Humanism’s moral teachings is a bit like studying subatomic particles in quantum physics: the closer you look, the less you seem to know. Out of the many moral philosophies on offer, which should we follow? Consequentialism or virtue ethics? Hume or Kant? Is utilitarianism good, bad, or somewhere in between? And who’s setting these rules anyway?

So much for scientific specificity. In the absence of any clear doctrines to critique, one can only go by generalities. Indeed, generalities are the only thing that Humanism can really offer – the more specific we get, the quicker we descend into dissent and disagreements amongst its own ranks. A top-level framework is what is needed, and Humanism’s is essentially to increase well-being and reduce suffering. It’s a position defended explicitly by popular atheist writer Sam Harris, and typifies the Humanist approach. And let’s be honest – it sounds pretty good. Surely every religious person would agree on increasing well-being, and reducing suffering? And if atheists and theists can agree on it, then where’s the need for religion? Can’t we just follow it anyway? Well, let’s find out.

The first and most obvious problem we come across with a principle like this is the issue of utilitarianism. If increasing well-being becomes a numbers game, then surely the heaviest set wins? As such, if I could torture one person and elicit information that could save a hundred, does that make torture OK? Apparently. Similarly, what of situations where an individual feels their well-being increase, without obvious harm being done? Does that make such an action moral? For instance, if someone was inclined towards a consensual incestual relationship, would that be OK? So we are told.

These are common examples, but one is spoiled for choice. Under Humanism’s vague directions, we are left precisely where we began – lost. Take an accountant of the Rothschild’s, the richest family on Earth. Imagine he is one day tempted to steal some money from his luxury-loving employers. Just £1000. He has the skills to easily get away with it. He will certainly benefit from the extra money, and he knows for sure that his billionaire employers will never miss it. He looks at religious morality that tells him such theft is unlawful, and that he will be held responsible. But our accountant is much too enlightened for this religion nonsense. To Humanism he goes! And what does he find? Maximise well-being, minimise suffering. Well he thinks, no-one will suffer, and his well-being will increase. And so it would seem that theft is not only not immoral, but positively a good thing!

Then let’s turn to a rather more sordid affair – literally. A married woman and her tempting lover. She finds herself in a dissatisfied marriage, but feels that it could all pick up if she lets herself indulge just once with her new-found friend. She waits until her husband is out of the country so he can’t find out, but then, her conscience prickles. This is adultery. That can’t be right, can it? As she pauses for thought, Humanism, wonderful Humanism, comes to her aid. She remembers that delightful Stephen Fry video which said we should do what makes us happy. Maximise well-being and reduce suffering…

Well, needless to say, she decides to go and maximise her well-being.

The examples are endless. Imagine the criminal, asked if he committed a crime for which there are no other suspects. Lie with no consequence, or tell the truth with punishment? Or the drug addict who’s considering another high, a unique sensory experience that you can’t get anywhere else. Which version of well-being should he follow, and what compelling reason does Humanism give him to follow one path over the other? The reality is that without a justified model of what well-being is, we’re shooting in the dark. We end up with 7 billion different versions of well-being, everyone’s conception clashing with the other’s, and none being any more right than the next one.

And what then of suffering? Is reducing suffering always good, and increasing suffering always bad? Well, what of the mother who deprives her child of his/her wish, out of knowledge of what is best for it? Is that an immoral act? Clearly not – the child may suffer, but the Mother has an endpoint in mind to which she wants to nurture it. So how could the Mother allow her child to go down a path that she knows is harmful with respect to its ultimate end? Thus suffering is sometimes beneficial.

Indeed, not only is sometimes suffering necessary to be saved from the bad, it can be a prerequisite of achieving the good. Can we develop steadfastness without trials? Can we nurture patience without pestilence? Can we summon courage without obstacles? Ask any toiling student, or sweating body-builder, or weary charity worker – suffering is not only something to be avoided, but often something to be sought after. As such, we do not always suffer when we are suffering.

It should be clear by now, that empty words of well-being and suffering are meaningless without defining a set goal towards which they are directed. Without this, we may well end up doing harm to someone whilst thinking that we are helping them, or imagine that we are saving them from harm when only holding back from them good. Without such a reference point, the villains of the world will seek to justify the suffering they inflict by the well-being they envisage, and Humanism is unable to coherently justify what makes such a vision wrong. Humanism, by failing to offer a set model of what we should be shooting for, allows our morality to become a slave to transient passions and social pressures. We lose sight of our target, before realising we never had one to begin with.

Religion on the other hand gives us a model of well-being, as articulated poignantly in the Qur’an:

Surely, I have not created men high and low, but that they may worship Me.” (Holy Qur’an, 51:57-8)

The Arabic word used here for ‘worship’ means far more than what we are accustomed to from the familiar school assemblies and occasional Church visit. It means to serve, to assimilate the qualities of a Master, to follow in a beloved’s footsteps. Thus, the meaning of this verse is as the Second Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Communitywrote over 50 years ago:

“[One’s purpose] is to subject oneself to a rigorous spiritual discipline, working with all one’s inherent powers and capacities to their fullest scope, in perfect harmony with and in obedience to God’s design, so as to receive the Divine impress and thus be able to manifest in oneself God’s attributes. This is, as stated in the present verse, the great and noble aim and object of man’s creation and this is exactly what worship of God means. The external and internal endowments of human nature give us clearly to understand that of God-given faculties the highest is the one which awakens in man the urge to search after God and incites in him the noble desire to completely submit himself to His will.”

As is clear, the purpose for which we are created is to become Godly, and thus attain the love of our Creator. As imitation truly is the highest form of flattery, we then seek to become a benefit for others in society by mimicking in our own spheres divine beneficence. But that beneficence takes a form, a shape which is in line with the guidance from the Being Who created us. As He knows all our potentials and inner natures, His guidance is the only one qualified to truly tell us what well-being is and how to achieve it. Only He can tell us what suffering we should endure for a higher purpose, and what suffering must be avoided at all costs.

This is the key difference between religious and atheistic morality. Humanism has no basis for calling one thing right and another thing wrong – such concepts are mere illusions according to its prerequisite beliefs. Moreover, it is fundamentally incapable of furnishing us with any useful guidance on how we should live our lives as it has no purpose towards which it can aim. Each person is a law unto themselves, justified in working towards their own idea of well-being and disregarding anyone else’s, whatever the cost may be.

On the other hand, religion calls towards a Divine Creator who has created us with a set purpose in mind. Achieving that aim is what will give us true satisfaction, for we have been constituted as such. We are given models in the Prophets of how to emulate divine qualities and thus win divine love. This is the well-being that religion tells us we were born to seek. It reminds us that within us lurk souls which act as a barometer telling us how well or poorly we are doing this: an in-built navigation system whose call we all hear. The moral and social teachings of God in religious scripture are designed with all our capacities and temperaments in mind, and are thus effective in creating a society which gives everyone the best opportunity to realise their divine purpose – should they so please. Otherwise they are free to ignore their purpose and enjoy the provisions provided to the spiritual and the worldly alike, though by doing so they deprive themselves of the true inner satisfaction which we have all been created to enjoy.

Without such a destination and route laid out by a Creator, we’re completely rudderless, with no lighthouse on the horizon towards which we can sail. Thick waves roll over us, and we are left in darkness no matter the direction in which we turn.

Find out about some of the moral teachings of Islam as explained by the Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam over at trueislam.com


 

Follow Umar Nasser on twitter @UmarN91

7 Biology Myths No Electrical Engineer Would Ever Tolerate

A stimulating and unarguably rational post by Perry Marshall. See the original HERE (and don’t miss the great comments underneath it!)

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.

As an Electrical Engineer, I am appalled at the intellectual slop that passes for science in biology.

Engineers would lose their jobs in droves if they tolerated the mushy thinking and lack of rigor that is routine in the life sciences. Before I elaborate on this, some background.

15 years ago I couldn’t have imagined I would become interested in DNA, biology, evolution or any such thing. Biology in high school was b-o-r-i-n-g. Chemistry in college was a hard slog.

I got my degree in Electrical Engineering. Specialized in communications and control systems. Graduated and developed analog circuits. Worked as an acoustical engineer. Designed the speakers in the 1994 Ford Probe, the 1995 Acura Vigor, the 1995 Jeep Cherokee and the 1996 Honda Civic.

Left acoustics & pursued digital communications. Sold embedded networking hardware, software and IC’s in the automation and robotics industry. Fought digital networking standards battles in manufacturing.

Wrote an Ethernet book, published by the world’s #1 technical society for process control engineers. And now here I am discussing DNA, evolution, and telling you about scientific discoveries so new, you can’t buy books about them in the bookstore.

I’m loving it. As an outsider to the “biology industry” I bring a very particular perspective: That of an engineer who’s performed digital network design (very exact), analog circuit design (a quasi-art form), and acoustics (extremely complex and messy).

All industries become incestuous as they age. They resist change. All professions are run by good ol’ boys clubs.

In every industry, innovations almost never come from the inside. Novel approaches usually come from outsiders. External innovations are opposed by the old guard because they threaten the status quo. Bill Gates was a complete outsider to the computer business. Larry and Sergey, founders of Google, were complete foreigners to the search engine game.

(Early on, they tried to sell their search technology to Yahoo for $1 million but Yahoo turned them down.)

Fred Smith, founder of Federal Express, was a complete virgin in the shipping industry. Ray Kroc of McDonalds wasn’t a restaurant veteran; he was a milkshake machine salesman.

All these people had an outsiders’ point of view that enabled them to see what insiders were blind to. Like these men, I am a total outsider in biology.

Yet despite the fact that I wouldn’t pass a test on retroviruses or organic chemistry, as an EE I see certain things with crystal clarity that biologists are blind to.

One reason is, in Electrical Engineering, theory matches reality better than it does in almost any other engineering discipline. Examples: In metallurgy, when you predict the failure load of a steel beam, you’re lucky if your guess is within 10%. In chemical engineering, a 5-10% error factor is considered good for many reactions.

Civil engineers over-design bridges by 50% to 100% just to be safe. But a model of an electrical circuit or computer chip is often accurate to within 1% and sometimes 0.01%.

Because you can’t see electricity and shouldn’t touch it, EE is abstract and very mathematical. It’s also rigorous. I can’t tell you how many times in my engineering classes, the professor would be explaining something like, say, the behavior of a semiconductor, and he would derive the calculus equation from scratch.

Of the appliances in your house, which ones work exactly the way they’re supposed to? Your car doesn’t. Your dishwasher doesn’t. Your refrigerator needs new parts every few years. The mechanical stuff is prone to problems.

But your TV does exactly what it’s supposed to, for years. So does your iPod and your Microwave oven and your clock radio and your cell phone. You can thank an EE for that. For this reason, EE’s have very high expectations of theoretical models… because the model has to be built and it has to work.

Engineers don’t have much tolerance for B.S.

Today: 7 Urban Legends Biologists Believe…. but an Engineer Would Never Tolerate:

1. “Random mutations are usually neutral or harmful but occasionally they confer a benefit to an organism. Natural Selection filters out the harmful mutations, causing species to evolve.”

This is the central dogma of neo-Darwinism and is allegedly accepted by “virtually all scientists.” You will find it in literally 1,000 textbooks and 10,000 websites. To the average biologist and to the average man on the street, it sounds perfectly plausible. And I fully understand why people believe this.

But I’m an EE. I know that the information in DNA is a signal. By definition, random mutations are noise. Telling a communications engineer that adding noise to a signal sometimes create new, useful data structures is like telling a nurse you can occasionally cure a common cold by swallowing rat poison. This is absurd!

You’ll be hard pressed to find any communications engineer who, upon examining this claim, would agree with it.

Have you ever had a data glitch on your computer that improved your files? Ever? There is not a one single principle or practice in engineering that would ever suggest that this is actually true.

All the Natural Selection in the world is powerless without a beneficialmutation. And you’ll never get a major benefit from accidental copying errors. The mutations that drive evolution are systematic and directed, not accidental.

2. “97% of your DNA is junk – an accumulation of evolutionary leftovers from random mutations over millions of years.”

The only reason anyone believes lie #2 is that they believe lie #1. Here’s how any rational person can quickly figure out that #2 is B.S.: Human DNA holds 750 megabytes of data, the same as a Compact Disc.

If 97% of your DNA is junk, that means the 3% that isn’t junk is 22 megabytes. In other words, they’re implying that the entire plan for a human body only takes up 22 megabytes of storage space. Heck, the “Windows” folder on my PC – the directory that contains most of the Operating System – is 27gigabytes.

Does anyone actually think Microsoft Windows Vista is more sophisticated than the human body? Bill Gates sure doesn’t. The fact that a plan for an entire human body can even be contained on one CD is nothing short of a miracle of data compression.

Actual fact: DNA is not 3% efficient. It’s more like 1,000% efficient. The same gene can be used in completely different ways by a dozen different processes. The result is a level of data density that software engineers only dream of.

Engineers see profound elegance where biologists see junk. Which perspective is more in keeping with the aims of science?

3. “You only need 3 things for evolution to occur: heredity, variation and selection.”

Tufts university philosopher and prominent atheist Daniel Dennett famously said this. He would never say this if he had an engineering degree. If this were true, computer viruses (which have heredity, variation and selection) would mutate all by themselves and develop resistance to anti-virus software. They don’t.

If this were true, the pirated copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of Windows XP or The Eagles’ “Hotel California” that you can buy on the street corner for $2 in China would occasionally be superior to the original. It never is.

If this were true, Bill Gates wouldn’t have to employ 10,000 programmers in Redmond Washington. He would just buy truckloads of computers, add random errors to a billion copies of Windows and filter them through natural selection.

Nobody writes software that way. Nobody.

Have you ever wondered why?

Most biologists think evolution just happens automatically. They say all you need is time and a lot of raw materials and it will just happen. So why don’t computer programs ever evolve by themselves? They don’t and they never will – not unless they’re programmed to do so.

Evolution is not a given; in the real world it’s always a design feature. Software programmers will tell you that self-adaptive code is profoundly difficult to write.

Never happens by accident. This pronouncement by Daniel Dennett is Exhibit “A” of pseudoscience.

4. “Biology is nothing more than sophisticated physics and chemistry.”That’s like saying the Internet is nothing more than sophisticated copper wire and silicon chips.

I’m an e-commerce consultant. I practically live on the Internet. I have conversations with people about the Internet all the time. Nobody I talk to ever describes the Internet that way. Do you?

You talk about things like email and Google and Facebook. You tell your friend about the Youtube video where the guy goes to every country in the world and does his little dance jig. And the latest gaffe by Donald Trump.

All those things are information. 90% of Electrical Engineering is concerned with controlling and processing information. Only a small part of EE is concerned with things like motors and generators and watts and horsepower.

Even power equipment is controlled by information. All the interesting things you do with electricity involve signals or digital codes. Temperature measurement or text messages or a radio transmission.

The software is more interesting than the hardware. So it is with DNA. Chemicals are just the hardware.

Until the biology profession accepts that the real power in biology is in the information – the software and not the chemicals – it will continue to slam into brick walls and put forth evolutionary theories that make wrong predictions.

These assumptions continue to get nowhere in Origin of Life research. Information never improves by accident. Information evolves only through highly structured processes.

(By the way, Systems Biology bypasses old-school reductionism and is making great strides.)

5. “Genetic Algorithms Prove Darwinian Evolution.”

A Genetic Algorithm (GA) is a computer program that modifies code and then evaluates the code against some pre-programmed goal, keeping the winners and discarding the losers. GA’s refine software programs through an evolution-like process.

GA’s are not a be-all-end-all by any means, and they have limited application. But they are useful.

Some years ago Richard Dawkins wrote a software program that took the following garbage text:

WDLTMNLT DTJBKWIRZREZLMQCO P

After only 43 iterations, by deleting characters it didn’t want, the program reached its pre-programmed goal: METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL

Traditional Darwinian evolution by definition has no goals, just blind natural selection. Dawkins’ program has a definite goal and is programmed to reach it.

This program has nothing to do with formal Darwinian evolution. It’s intelligent evolution.

Every single Genetic Algorithm I’ve ever seen, no matter how simple or complicated, only works if it has pre-programmed goals.

Which requires both a program and objectives. I’ve never seen a GA that actually mirrored Darwinian Evolution. They always sneak in some element of design. Which only adds to the reasons why the Neo-Darwinian theory of purposeless random events is wrong.

Real world evolution is pre-programmed and has goals of some sort pre-loaded. I’ve never seen an exception. This is no different than computer programs that evolve.

6. “The human eye is a pathetic design. It’s got a big blind spot and the ‘wires’ are installed backwards.”

There are many, many variations on this argument. It’s just another version of “Junk DNA.”

When I was a manufacturing production manager, I had to produce an indicator lamp assembly for a piece of equipment. The design had a light bulb and 2 identical resistors, which I thought were stupid. I suggested that we replace the 2 resistors with one resistor of twice the value. This would save money and space.

I told the customer the design was obviously lousy. The engineer got angry and almost took his business elsewhere. Then my boss spent 30 minutes lecturing me. He reminded me that my job was to put the customers’ product into production, not insult him with my warped critique of his design skills.

What I didn’t know was that 600 volts would arc across one resistor, but not across two. A second, “redundant” resistor was an elegant way to solve that problem and it only cost 2 cents.

I learned the hard way that when you criticize a design, you may have a very incomplete picture of the many constraints the designer has to work within.

Designs always have delicate tradeoffs. Some have amazing performance but are extremely difficult to manufacture. Sometimes a minor change in material would make a huge improvement but the material is unavailable. Sometimes you have to make a compromise between 15 competing priorities.

Sometimes people have no appreciation for how difficult that maze is to navigate. I am not saying that there are no sub-optimal designs in biology – I’m sure there are lots of sub-optimal designs. Furthermore I do believe that life followed an evolutionary process and many designs are “best guesses” engineered by the organism’s ancestors.

But human beings must be very careful to not proudly assert that we could ‘obviously do better.’ We don’t know that. We do not understand what’s involved in designing an eye because we’ve never built one.

My friend, if you lose your eye, there’s not a single arrogant scientist in the world who can build you a new one. Especially not the scientists who try to tell you why the design of the eye is “pathetic.”

If I were selecting an eye surgeon, I’d look for one who has deep respect for the eye, not disdain for it. How about you? Every engineer knows that you never truly know how something works until you can build it. Merely taking it apart is not enough. Until we can DESIGN eyes for ourselves, we must be very cautious about what we say. The scientist must ALWAYS be humble in the face of nature and you should be wary of anyone who is not.

7. “There is no such thing as purpose in nature. There is only the appearance of purpose.” “Teleology” is a scientific term which is defined as ‘purpose in nature.’ Atheism denies teleology in the universe. For this reason some biologists have forbidden their students to use purposeful language. In 1974 Ernst Mayr illustrated it like this:

1. “The Wood Thrush migrates in the fall in order to escape the inclemency of the weather and the food shortages of the northern climates.”

2. “The Wood Thrush migrates in the fall and thereby escapes the inclemency of the weather and the food shortages of the northern climates.”

Statement #1 is purposeful, statement #2 is not. Mayr does fancy footwork in order to avoid reference to design in biology. (It also converts all of his writing to colorless passive sentences. Any good writer will tell you passive language is a sign of mushy thinking.)

The famous biologist JBS Haldane joked, “Teleology is like a mistress to a biologist: he cannot live without her but he’s unwilling to be seen with her in public.”

Everything in biology is purposeful. Which is precisely why biology is fundamentally different than chemistry.

Chemicals have no purpose. Organisms do. You cannot formulate a coherent description of life if you deny purpose.

For proof of this, look no further than the genetic code. Every codon in DNA maps to an amino acid that it is SUPPOSED TO make – but an error is possible.

It is not possible to even talk about any code at all without acknowledging purpose. Purpose is implicit in every strand of DNA in every organism in the world.

In his book “Perceptual Control Theory,” William Powers explains that the study of any goal-directed (control feedback) system is fundamentally different than the study of rocks or chemicals or magnetic fields or anything purely physical. The failure to acknowledge this has wreaked all kinds of havoc in science for 150 years.

Even something as simple as a thermostat cannot be understood if you see it as only an assembly of molecules.

A thermostat is programmed to hold your room at a certain temperature. The thermostat’s purpose can only be understood from a top-down point of view. It has a goal.

In Electrical Engineering, the top-down nature of information is described by something we call the OSI “7 Layer Model.”

Simplified explanation: The 7 Layer model says that in your computer, there’s an Ethernet cable that connects you to the Internet. The copper wire and the voltage on that wire is Layer 1 – the “physical layer.”

Layer 2 is is the 1’s and 0’s that voltage represents. Layers 3, 4, 5 and 6 are the operating system and layer 7 is your spreadsheet or email program or web browser, the “application layer.”

When you send me an email, information is encoded from the top down and sent through your Ethernet cable. When I receive your email, information is decoded from the bottom up starting with the signal on the cable, and I read your email on my screen.

ALL information is organized this way – in a top-down hierarchy. The wire has its purpose. The 1’s and 0’s have their purpose. The operating system has a purpose, my email program has a purpose and your message has a purpose.

You cannot deny purpose in computers or biology without immediately contradicting yourself 2 minutes later. Even a person who denies purpose is purposefully denying it.

Everything I just told you, I absolutely know to be true as a result of my education and experience as an engineer.

Darwinism as we know it CANNOT stand under the weight of 21st century DNA research. It’s impossible. Because I’ve read the literature. Amazon is absolutely littered with books written from every imaginable point of view, both religious and non-religious, pointing to the creaking, groaning edifice of Neo-Darwinism.

It is inevitable that it will fall. And it’s not going to be long. It will be replaced by an algorithmic model of Evolution.

BOLD HYPOTHESIS: When Biologists accept what Electrical Engineers know about information, a whole bunch of problems in biology will be solved:

1. The random mutation theory will be discarded. It will be replaced with Transposition, Natural Genetic Engineering, Horizontal Gene Transfer and Genome Doubling. Suddenly evolution will make sense because it is understood as an engineered process not random accident.

2. We’ll discover that what was originally thought to be junk DNA is actually the heart of the most sophisticated database format ever devised.

3a. Evolution will not be taken for granted but deeply appreciated as an utterly ingenious mechanism, pre-programmed into living things. As software engineers replicate the evolutionary algorithm in computer programs, we’ll achieve huge breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence.

3b: Evolution is orchestrated at a very high level within the organism. It is controlled by a mechanism that is currently poorly understood. This mechanism is beautifully efficient, elegant, fractal, and follows a very exact mathematical protocol. Bioinformatics will become the most rigorous discipline in engineering. The ‘code’ of this protocol will be cracked because of the Human Genome Project and the public availability of DNA sequences. This discovery will lay the foundation of an entire new branch of Computer Science in the 21st century.

4. The “Physics and Chemistry” paradigm of biology will be replaced with a “Bioinformatics” paradigm. Evolution and the origin of life theories will make much more successful predictions.

5. Neo-Darwinism will be discarded because biologists will recognize that biological evolution is just like Genetic Algorithms: It employs pre-programmed goals and educated guesses, not random chance.

6. Rather than assuming designs in biology are “pathetic” or “stupid” we’ll discover deeper reasons for why organisms are the way they are. And greater insights into the subtlety of living things.

7. Everything in biology makes sense once you understand that every single one of the 5 million trillion trillion cells on earth is purposeful and intentional and the original cells were designed to evolve and adapt.

Finally I would like to suggest that there is nothing in the world that can teach us more about digital communications and software programming than DNA.

DNA is an absolute gold mine, a treasure trove of insights of data storage, error correction, software architecture, robust design and fractal data compression.

Every Electrical Engineer and Computer Science major should study it intensively. And there is much we engineers can learn from the biologists – because even the simplest living thing is more elegant than the greatest man-made supercomputer.

As Engineers and Biologists begin to talk to each other, the 21st century will be amazing indeed.

Perry Marshall

P.S.: Innovations almost always come from outsiders. This means that those who read widely and embrace multiple disciplines – pockets of humanity that don’t normally talk to each other – can enjoy long and prosperous careers as innovators. The watchword of 21st century biology will be “Interdisciplinary” – the great mysteries will be solved by people who bring the expertise of other fields to bear on the biggest questions in science.

My challenge to you: Make a deliberate decision to step outside of your normal and familiar environment and innovate. The world will reward you for it.

Atheism’s Moral Compass: Finding Magnetic North

Humanism 2.4

Photo credit: Calsidyrose
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. Last time we had a look at how Humanism doesn’t give any basis for thinking life is sacred, and this time we examine what atheistic morality really looks like… 

 

By Umar Nasser (original post HERE)

We often hear from atheists and humanists that we don’t need moral guidance from on high because we all have an intrinsic sense of what’s right and wrong. Why complicate things with outdated texts that don’t keep up with modern life? What humanists are less forthcoming about however, is what right and wrong actually mean in an atheistic outlook.

So let’s think about it. What does it mean to say something is right or wrong? Well, the obvious question is: right and wrong in relation to what? These concepts don’t exist by themselves, rather they exist as two poles of the moral compass. But in what directions do these poles point? Where is magnetic north, the landmark to which our compass indicates, from which the south is repulsed? For an atheist, believing that there exists nothing greater than our accidental selves, we are lost on a barren moral landscape, one which stretches out endlessly in every direction, each coordinate equivalent to the last. If one lost traveller’s compass points him in one direction, then there he will go. But if another befuddled journeyer finds himself at criss-crosses with the first, which of them will be able to say that their north is the true north? After all, aren’t all compasses made equal?

Perhaps the first traveller bids goodbye to the other, and trudges on to find a conglomeration of navigators at one point. They tell him that many people’s compasses have found themselves here, so this must be magnetic north. A persuasive argument the traveller thinks, and finds a place of rest nearby. As he surveys the landscape however, he notices that a part of the collective, who were so sure but moments ago that they had found magnetic north, drift off into another direction, citing the authority of their compasses as they do so. Soon others begin to follow, and the crowd splits, conglomerating over time into vastly different areas, each insisting each time that their north is the true north.

A crinkle furrows the traveller’s brow. He flicks open his compass thoughtfully. If different people’s compasses are leading them in different directions then there are only two options: either, the compasses of some are broken, whilst those of others are not; or there is in reality no true magnetic north. It would be impossible for him to tell apart these two possibilities, for the results of both would look the same. His heart was telling him that North must exist, for why else would he find the urge to follow the bidding of his compass so irresistibly strong? The careless south-going travellers must simply have broken their compasses. But equally, if the latter proposition, that there never is nor ever was a real magnetic north was true, then perhaps the whole affair was an illusion from the very beginning. Perhaps the direction of the needle is unfixed, seamlessly shifting with the passage of time, hoodwinking every new generation of moral voyagers.

Such is the dilemma of an atheist. Without any divine character to whose nature our moral compasses point, one immediately stumbles into questions of what is right and what is wrong. Are moral values like fads in fashion, in one season and out the other? If so, then they contain no moral content of any worth. In the scathing words of Socrates: A system of morality that is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception that has nothing sound in it and nothing true.

But if humanist morality is not entirely relative, and there are some things that we can safely say are right, and others which are wrong, then we can simply ask on what basis are such moral pronouncements so surely made? Whose authority is considered the authority on these issues? A deafening silence is sure to follow.

Some humanists will tacitly accept that there is no such thing as true right and wrong, but will seek to convince us that different moral paths can be equally viable, as long as they are followed for reasons other than religious scripture. Like a good boutique, humanism offers a wide range of different ethical systems for the discerning atheist to choose from, but only if one chooses it and doesn’t follow it unthinkingly. In doing so, humanism confuses the journey for the destination, telling us that the plush interior of the humanist limousine more than makes up for its punctured wheels, fuel-less engine, and decapitated driver. It is embarrassingly obvious that if divergent moral paths are equally valid, then they are equally meaningless.

All this points to an even deeper, even more uncomfortable truth about atheistic morality. If right and wrong are unfixed, spinning like a top carelessly flicked by chance and circumstance, then it follows that the very concept of morality is an illusion. This makes sense, given the precepts of atheism. After all, in a godless, accidental world, our moral urges can only be ascribed to unconscious forces embedding advantageous social constructs in our neural circuitry, the tenets of which are persuasive but ultimately artificial. As such, there is no such thing as right and wrong, good and evil. There is no underlying order, purpose, or moral imperative. Things simply are the way they are, and to disobey your moral urges is cause only for social recrimination. A nauseating philosophy indeed, but it is the only one that atheism can truly support.

As such, the endeavour of humanism becomes plainly self-defeating. In promoting atheism it weakens its own basis for prescribing morality, and by prescribing morality it highlights atheism’s inability to explain the universal sense of conscience found in man.

And that is perhaps the most perplexing point. If atheism’s precepts are true, then why do we have such a strong voice screaming inside us that morality is not an illusion, that some things truly are virtuous, and others truly wicked? If our conscience is correct, then there must be something that certain acts are right and wrong in relation to. A committed atheist, however, finds themselves in the unenviable position of being unable to say that there is an ultimate morality to which our moral sensibilities are attuned, and unwilling to say that there isn’t.

A harder rock, and a rockier hard-place, can scarcely be imagined.


You can follow Umar Nasser on twitter here

How not to make a right haggis of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy

Photo credit: Chris Waits https://www.flickr.com/photos/chriswaits/4874035507   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.

Every society, collectivity or group of people will count some excellent individuals, many nice ones, a few not-so-nice ones, and a handful of bad ones. This applies across the board, and theists are no exception. Most, whether theists or atheists, will agree that it would not be reasonable or fair to judge a people on the strength of their corrupt individuals.

However, when the bad apples associated in one way or another with a group of believers in God behave in condemnable ways, anti-theists are quick to blame the religion they claim to adhere to for their shameful behaviour.

The believers – let’s say they are Christian – will usually respond with something like : “True Christians would never do what those individuals did!”…only to have the anti-theists scream: “Aha! The No True Scotsman fallacy!” At this point, it appears the discussion has entered a deadlock.

So what is the No True Scotsman fallacy? The phrase was introduced by Antony Flew, who gave the following example:

A Scotsman sees a newspaper article on a series of crimes having taken place in Brighton; in response, his comment is:”No Scotsman would do such a thing!” upon which he is confronted with evidence of another Scotsman committing even worse crimes. His response is:”No true Scotsman would do such a thing!” Thus, the criminal is denied membership in the Scottish people, his crime cited as evidence of his not being a Scotsman.

This, of course, is a fallacy, as there is no premise in the definition of “Scotsman” which makes such crimes impossible or even improbable. In fact, to be a Scotsman, you have to be a male native or inhabitant of Scotland, or a man of Scottish descent, and that is all. You don’t even need to know how to play the bagpipes, wear a kilt, or make haggis.

But when it comes to religion and the No True Scotsman fallacy, anti-theists make a right haggis of it all.

This is because, although the NTS fallacy is true as it stands, it is widely used in the wrong context. The basic premise of the fallacy is overlooked: the fact that the notion of what makes a Scotsman is entirely arbitrary, and not something defined by universally accepted written rules or law. Let’s examine it again, using a different example:

Person A: “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.” (Says who? Where has it been written that Scotsmen are not supposed to do this?)

Person B: “But my uncle Angus likes sugar with his porridge.”

Person A: “Ah yes, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”

It can be observed that both the first and third statements are entirely arbitrary, and have no written rules or laws as points of reference.

When the No True Scotsman reasoning is introduced into areas where rules are defined by written law, it will no longer apply. In this case “true” in the third statement will refer to a person following written law.

Example:

Person A: “No Muslim worships anything apart from Allah.”

Person B: “But I saw three Muslims worshipping at a dead saint’s grave last week.”

Person A: “Ah yes, but no true Muslim worships anything apart from Allah.” (as it is defined in Islamic scripture; Qur’an, 17:23 : “Your Lord has decreed: Do not worship any but Him; and be good to your parents; and should both or any one of them attain old age with you, do not say to them even “fie” neither chide them, but speak to them with respect.“*)

Anyone whose actions are not based on this teaching cannot be a true Muslim. (Qur’an, 5:44 “Those who do not judge by what Allah has revealed are indeed unbelievers.“**)

Thus, the No True Scotsman fallacy can only apply where definitions or rules are made up arbitrarily by individuals, and not in situations where they are specified in written law.

 

 


 

*Will appear as 17:24 in translations counting the Basmalah “In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Ever-Merciful” as verse 1.
**Or 5:45; see above.

Do humans have moral obligations? The contradictions of the atheist’s worldview

“Humans are nowhere near as special as we like to think”, writes Melissa Hogenboom on BBC Earth’s “The Big Questions”.

Philosopher Daniel Dennett tells us consciousness is an illusion.

And that’s not the only illusion, apparently. “Free will is an illusion, so what?” scoffs Raj Ragunathan Ph.D.

And why not, after all? Theoretical Physicist, Lawrence Krauss says “I like to say, the universe doesn’t care about our common sense.  We have to force our ideas to conform to the evidence of reality rather than the other way around.  And if reality seems strange, that’s okay.”

In a nutshell, we’re not special, we aren’t really deciding what we want to do, and whatever we do, the universe doesn’t care.

Most living creatures certainly don’t seem to care. So why, as human beings, should WE care?

Consider the following picture:

Tiger trapped

Had the caption shown a man in the clutches of the tiger, and had it read: “This magnificent poacher dies in agony, trapped without hope. A tiger becomes fatter eating body parts”, few would have condemned the tiger. So why do we condemn the poacher – if we aren’t any more special than a tiger and the universe doesn’t care what we do?

Now take a look at this:

Cecil the Lion.JPG

Cecil the Lion 2.JPG

The death of Cecil the Lion caused international outrage and drew widespread condemnation. Had Cecil eaten the hunter alive, not only would the lion not have been criticized, the hunter himself would have been blamed for putting himself in harm’s way.

So, if human beings aren’t as special as many of us think, why do we reserve special treatment for other humans and not for animals?

One more example:

Animals for target practice.JPG

As a cat lover myself, I find this particularly upsetting. But if the universe doesn’t care about our actions, why is using animals for target practice any more reprehensible than what mother cats do themselves: bringing home injured birds and rodents for their kittens to practise their killing skills on?

Why should atheists care about what humans do to these animals? According to their own logic, it shouldn’t matter.

Raj Ragunathan Ph.D. makes a feeble attempt to counter this with “whether or not you act of out of free will in denying yourself the unhealthy-but-tasty cake, you will still have to face the health consequences of eating unhealthy meals. Likewise, whether or not you acted out of free will in committing a crime, you will still have to face the consequences of your misdeeds. So, from a purely consequentialist perspective, it makes sense to sometimes curb your temptations.

But why is making oneself or other people ill, bad? Why is trying to be healthy good?

Likewise, why should punishing a criminal be good, and not doing so, bad?

In a universe where humans have no special moral obligations, if we have to face the consequences, so what? Why should life be any better than death? It shouldn’t matter either way.

Yet, it DOES matter. Whether we are believers or atheists, we prefer life over death, and well-being over suffering. Moreover, there is a universal sense of duty in humans towards other creatures on their planet. Clearly, in our sense of moral responsibility, we are not like animals or plants – and our condemnation of any human behaviour deviating from the norm shows we all know it.

Islam teaches that human beings do indeed have a moral duty towards other creatures, and that because we, unlike animals, have free will, we shall be answerable to God for causing undue suffering to His creatures.

…Eat and drink but exceed not the limits; surely, (God) does not love those who exceed the bounds.” (the Qur’an, 7:32)

The Prophet of Islam cursed those who used animals for target practice, and warned that humans should only kill what they need for food. He said a person who brought water up from a well for a dog dying of thirst had all their sins forgiven. He also said that a person who starved a caged cat to death was bound for hell. He forbade the killing of predators for their skins. He even forbade taking baby birds out of their nest, saying that it would cause distress to their mother. And he cautioned his followers against setting fire to termite mounds.

This teaching is in accordance with human nature, that nature which separates us from all other creatures; the same human nature that compels us to denounce the crimes of the tiger’s poacher, Cecil’s hunter, and those cruel people taking animals to the target range.