Dear Dr Nik Howk,
I have just seen your thoughtful letter to your friend, with the call-sign of 'jublintan65', that you copied to me. He is, I think, an intelligent person, because anyone who has never doubted his belief may not have thought deeply about it. He is courageous because he faces his doubts head on. Mother Theresa had severe bouts of doubt about her faith, and spoke about it to her confessor and to close friends. Even W, in his latest presidential memoir, confessed to earlier periods of doubt, though I think he lacked the faculty and stamina to delve below the surface. Had he persisted in the good habit of asking questions, Iraq would be a less tragic place today. You also made mention that we had a brief polemical session. True. The conversation took the "orange and apple" path, and came to an end.
I am writing this brief comment because I noted your rhetorical question to jublintan65 - where you asked him to ponder, what could have happened in the time, in the few seconds, just before the Big Bang?
First of all, let me comment that people of most faiths, mainly of the Book, have moved their goal posts many, many times in history, as science progressed with new knowledge and understanding of the human condition and the reality of the cosmos. At first followers are told to believe that the world was created 10,000 years ago, and that the sun went up in the East and came down in the West. Then, science proved it to be otherwise. Oh, sorry, there has been a mistake - it is then agreed that the heliocentric view is right after all, the world is indeed round, and it goes around the sun.
Science proved the existence of dinosaurs. Nope, followers are told, there never were such creatures as dinosaurs. They would have been mentioned in the Book. Then, the position changed to yes, there were, but it all happened 10,000 years ago, and man had lived side by side with those horrifying creatures... Evolution? Absolutely not! Heresy! But the proof, one piling upon the other at many levels, from fossil remains to DNA, became too irresistible. Today the Vatican is setting up a university to study Evolution in a scientific way, to see if it can be explained by doctrine.
You are a man of science, Doc, and I respect you as an accomplished professional. I am sure you can see the inconsistencies that are being bandied about today. I can see that jublintan65 is an educated person who deals with doubts in a humble and rational manner. It is a good approach. We should think for ourselves, not be told what to think or do. This is not arrogance. Far from it. It is humility of the ignorant to seek to understand, and to be kind and civil to all.
Let me digress a little. A good friend of mine took an overseas friend (a Caucasian visitor) to visit and admire the architecture of a beautiful mosque here. He made sure that the visitor was modestly and respectfully dressed, with slacks and a long-sleeved batik. My friend and the imam knew each other from regular Friday prayers. But when the imam saw my friend with the visitor, he chased them both out of the compound. He scolded my friend, "Why do you bring najis here?". Now, must we give is to a group that think that way? My wife and I have enjoyed visiting the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Many non-Muslim tourists, I noticed, were welcome to view the historic building. Why then, in this country, are non-Muslims called "najis", and are treated as such? I am deeply saddened. But I digress.
I return to your question, what happened at the time just before the Big Bang? Have I framed the question correctly, just as you meant it? I assume that I have. The answer is, as I think you already know, time and space began with the Big Bang. The time-space continuum started with the Big Bang. Therefore it makes no logical sense to ask what happened at the time just before the Big Bang, because there was no such thing as Time, or Space, then. That this is counterintuitive, I agree, and it takes some time to grasp it. Just as the concept of a round Earth was difficult for the Medieval man to grasp. Or the incredible speed of light to those unfamiliar with Physics, even today. Or how a particle can be in two places at the same time (according to the Heisenberg Uncertainly Principle that you know well). And many other aspects of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Our brain, in the millions of years of evolution, did not develop in the way we can understand this because these dimensions - the very large and the very small, were never necessary for our survival. Our intuitions were shaped in such a way as only to help us fend off the real challenges (e.g. hunger, thirst, predators, etc.) to our survival.
So Doc, and jublintan65, it would seem that it is not logical to ask "What happened at the time before the Big Bang. Because time, and space, had not happened yet. In other words, it would as illogical as asking, "What happened just before I had dinner tomorrow?" Dinner tomorrow had not happened yet. In truth, we are the prisoners of our intuition,
an intuition that has been honed over millions of years of evolution. And counter-intuition is not always easy to grasp.
Those who ask out of curiosity do so out of humility and honesty. Many Muslims scholars, and many students of the Book, explore their uncertainties with honesty, always seeking an answer that makes sense. Jublintan65 should not feel uncomfortable. It is natural to try and scratch an intellectual itch. It is just possible that a few of those who reject honest questions "into sensitive areas" do so out of a sense of absolute certainty and, perhaps, a bit of hubris. And also, could it be, a bit of fear?
Salams and best wishes in the season of Eid-il Adha.
Many thanks to you for your erudite response and a 'Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Adzha' both to you and 'The Datin'.
Yes certainly my question on the milliseconds and million years before the 'Big Bang' was a planted one! Only a hardcore materialist/agnostic/atheist would notice this obvious 'slip of the mind' and retort back and say that the 'time-space-matter' continuum is non existent.
Nothing exist before the Big Bang??!! Stephan Hawkings, Carl Sagan and that currently famous Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins,author of "The God Delusion" all agreed that there was nothing before The Big Bang. Not even time and most importantly not even God.
The Big Bang just happened to happen. Then you have billions of stars and gallaxies moving outwardly. Then in a very localised minute portion of the universe molecules got together and under the right environment form genes and later form microbes.Millions of years later, microbes coalesce and form multicellular organism algae, and many more millions of years, fishes,amphibions....then apes........then MAN after several quantum leaps! All by chance. Darwinian theory. No 'Gardener'!
You guys can accept these odd which amount to one to several billion billion billion billion billion chance of a happening but Dawkins and the likes of him can go on stage and say that God being there behind The Big Bang is an impossibility![ see Man Rabbuka, another article ]
By Allah,if this is not the mother of all intellectual arrogance, what is!?
Oxford U is famous for it's beautiful gardens. They do not have gardeners there.The plants and trees just organised and arrange themselves after years of genetic selections, weathering and students and professors walking by!
"Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and we made every living thing of water? Will they not then believe? (30) And We have placed in the earth firm hills lest it quake with them, and We have placed therein ravines as roads that haply they may find their way. (31) And we have made the sky a roof withheld (from them). Yet they turn away from its portents. (32) And He it is Who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon. They float, each in an orbit. (33) We appointed immortality for no mortal before thee. What! if thou diest, can they be immortal! (34) Every soul must taste of death, and We try you with evil and with good, for ordeal. And unto Us ye will be returned." (35)
Surah Al Anbiya [ The Prophets ], Chapter 22 : 30-35
We in Islam can accept The Big Bang, no big deal. It is a non issue. As I said earlier, and I hope my friend ZZ share the same feeling now after several days of soul searching, Evolution as it is understood now, is not yet palatable on the 'plate' and cannot blend in for some.It could well be, or it may not, and we await for 'better science' to clarify things further. That Vatican move to set up a faculty to delve deeper into evolution is a positive step. As I have said earlier, it should not be an issue for us Muslims. Islam is about truth, we just need to keep our hearts and minds open even if our ulama' in the sciences have not yet even enter into the scientific discourse! Since the fall of the Ottomans, we have been stuck in the 'branches and lost within the leaves'.
As science goes, the goal posts keep changing. ZZ, you Dato' and your good friend Dawkins and myself, we are just mere gold fishes in an opaque silver goblet placed near a windowsill in down town Manhattan. All of us can hear the din and the traffic downstairs and we know things must be real busy but if that Dawkins fellow wants to tell us that from the noise and the din he can surmise and able to know exactly all the nooks and corners of the intricate New York subway and the streets, and on top of that also know what goes on in the head of President Obama that is his own funeral. If ZZ and you would like to follow as well, I have no argument. This is a free world, even within the narrow confine of the opaque silver goblet! That analogy Dato' , in essence, summaries the over glorified human intellect. We, even hard-core scientists and cosmologists, know very little, even at this point in time when we already think we know almost everything!
"And if all the trees in the earth were pens, and the sea, with seven more seas to help it, (were ink), the words of Allah could not be exhausted. Lo! Allah is Mighty, Wise. Your creation and your raising (from the dead) are only as (the creation and the raising of) a single soul. Lo! Allah is Hearer, Knower"
Surah Al Luqman, 31 : 27-28
Scientists can spend their whole lives studying and contemplating on subatomic particles and the secret of the cosmos but the mysteries of the human soul and that of human consciousness is outside the realm of all of them. All these tools of modernity will not be able to measure or perceive the depth of the human heart.
" They ask you about the human soul. Tell them you know but very little"...
There we are, we are back one whole circle. Imam Ghazali scoured the arid desert of Iraq for years to clear up the desert in his heart. He came back with the simple realization that, that desert in his heart could only be an oasis of understanding and wisdom when he opens up his to Him.........Is not God sufficient for His servants?
The rest will rightfully fall into their respective places.....including evolution my dear ZZ since your querrel with Allah is just over the issue of evolution. Yes, even evolution!
Let us listen to TJ Winter, another Oxford don, who gave a lecture recently on " Is not God sufficient for His servants ". If Dato' care to listen carefully, it is still 'apples and oranges', but both can coalesce if we care to open our hearts to HIM.
Dato', you will still insist yet again by saying I am discussing 'apples' while you are talking 'oranges' and both cannot mix.
Frankly , to be truthful, I have no patience for people like Dawkins. Once one has reach that state, of '5 or 6' in his scales of things, I would rather leave him alone. Hopefully ZZ and your goodself are still at '1 or 2', that there is God somewhere but you would not care a lot about WHO HE IS; and can still be persuaded to 'turn around' insyaallah!
"Say: O disbelievers! I worship not that which ye worship; Nor worship ye that which I worship. And I shall not worship that which ye worship. Nor will ye worship that which I worship. Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion."
Dawkins and the likes of him are atheists one might say. In my book they have a religion. They worship their own ego and their limited intellect !
Dr Nik Howk
1...Dawkins' Scale of Things:.....The Arrogance of the Intellect....
according to Richard Dawkins, a distinction between agnosticism and atheism is unwieldy and depends on how close to zero we are willing to rate the existence of any given god-like entity. Since in practice it is not worth contrasting a zero probability with a probability that is nearly indistinguishable from zero, he prefers to categorize himself as a "de facto atheist". He specifies his position by means of a scale of 1 to 7. On this scale, 1 indicates "100 per cent probability of God." A person ranking at 7 on the scale would be a person who says "I know there is no God..." Dawkins places himself at 6 on the scale, which he characterizes as "I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there", but leaning toward 7. About himself, Dawkins continues that "I am agnostic only to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the garden."
2.....Another example of... Arrogance of the Intellect
let us move over to Florida and see a debate..
Frankly, to me, being brought on a staple diet of science very early on, I am still not bias about it's contribution with respect to us. It however does not explain everything and I do not need science to validate God, fullstop.
Most importantly,there is 'The Designer' Who design, create and own The Big Bang....whether there follows an evolution of the species so many million million years after the formation of the universe leading to man, or whether there is not, is inconsequential to me at present in the understanding and the acceptance of HIM.
I would await for 'better science' to clarify evolution further in a more clear way. Presently there is too much IMAGINE, IMAGINE, IMAGINE with respect to evolution. In the West it has taken the status akin to a religion!.
Even if say in a 100 years finally 'better science' does clarify evolution further, that in my mind would not negate the role of 'The Gardener'. More than anything else, if such a situation is reached His role as an INTELLIGENT DESIGNER is more enhanced.