Mediaeval European conceptions about the nature and existence of the universe were strongly underpinned by the authority of the Church which in turn relied upon arguments from scriptures that had long since deviated from their true originals. As modern scientific thinking developed, it met a great deal of hostility from the Church whose authority it challenged. The rift in European culture between science and religion deepened steadily until the two became irreconcilable. Eventually, religion came to be seen as a domain of blind beliefs and consolatory rituals about which science could have nothing to do with God, let alone deferring to the authority of Divine Revelation. The Darwinian account of evolution sealed and popularized a tendency to regard existence as self-originated and self-sustained, a process which unfolded by itself according to laws which would, sooner or later, be understood fully (and therefore to some degree manipulability) by human beings. Many scientists (by no means all) have in principle and practice maintained that natural causes or so-called laws of nature are sufficient to explain all phenomena.
While the Prophets who, despite having lived in different places and at different times, were unanimous on how existence originated and is sustained—as indeed they were on all other essential issues pertaining to life and existence—and again while a considerable number of scientists agree with the Prophets on this matter, scientists and philosophers who favor naturalistic and materialistic views of existence differ greatly in their explanations.
Before passing on to discuss this viewpoint, we should point out that unlike the Prophets who, despite living in different places and at different times, were unanimous on how existence originated and is sustained—as indeed they were on all other essential issues pertaining to life and existence—and again unlike a considerable number of scientists who agree with the Prophets on this matter, scientists and philosophers who favor naturalistic and materialistic views of existence differ greatly in their explanations. Some of them attribute creativity and eternity to matter and attribute life and consciousness to it. Others argue that nature is eternally self-existent and claim to explain everything by natural causes and laws. Still others, unable to explain the origin of life, attempt to explain existence with notions such as chance and necessity. Quite briefly, we shall discuss the impossibility of explaining existence unless the existence and Unity of God is affirmed.
Natural laws have a nominal, not a real, existence
Natural laws have a nominal, not a real, existence. They are propositions tendered as explanations of particular kinds of event or phenomenon, they allude to imaginary forces inferred from the motions or relationships of events or phenomena. The law of gravity or the law of reproduction and growth in living organisms or other laws such as magnetic attraction and repulsion are not entities whose existence is verified through our own external senses or through instruments that enhance those senses. Whatever truth the law of gravity, for example, may be said to have, can we claim that the real universe (one in which that law operates) has (or must) come about because of it? Is it at all reasonable then to ascribe the existence of anything, let alone intelligent and conscious living beings, to entities that exist only as propositions?
Natural laws and causes are inferred from the motions or relationships of events or phenomena in the universe
Natural laws and causes are inferred from the motions or relationships of events or phenomena in the universe. Therefore they are, in principle, dependent upon events or phenomena rather than their origin or originators. Certainly, they are not self-dependent or self-existent.
The existence of the universe as a whole and of all events or phenomena within it is contingent. That is, their existence is not absolutely necessary—it is equally possible for them to exist or not.
The existence of the universe as a whole and of all events or phenomena within it is contingent. That is, their existence is not absolutely necessary—it is equally possible for them to exist or not. Evidently, there are almost limitless alternatives for any particle of sustenance which could form the building block of an embryo, to go to any one of its innumerable cells. Anything whose existence is contingent cannot be eternal and needs one with the power of choice to prefer its existence over its non-existence or merely potential existence.
All contingent entities are contained in time and space and therefore have a beginning
All contingent entities are contained in time and space and therefore have a beginning. Anything that has a beginning must certainly have an end also, and cannot therefore be eternal.
Natural causes are in need of each other to bring about an effect
Natural causes are in need of each other to bring about an effect. For example, an apple needs an apple blossom for its existence, and the blossom needs a branch, and the branch a tree, and so on, to the seed of the tree which needs earth, air and moisture to germinate and grow. Each cause is also an effect and, unless we accept as many deities as the number of causes, we must look to a single cause outside the chain of causes and effects.
Many deaf, blind, ignorant, unconscious causes and laws cannot come together by themselves into the subtle and complex arrangement we recognize as a living organism
For a single effect to come into existence an infinite number of causes must come together and collaborate in a way so coordinated and reliable that we call their collective operation ‘natural laws’. For example, a single apple requires for its existence the co-operation of air, earth, sunlight, water, the 23 degree inclination of the earth’s axis, and the complex rules of germination and growth of seeds and plants. So many deaf, blind, ignorant, unconscious causes and laws cannot come together by themselves into the subtle and complex arrangement we recognize as a living organism, still less into a living organism such as man who is not only living and conscious but also intelligent and responsible—able to answer questions about his intentions and actions.
There is not an appropriate relation or acceptable proportionateness between causes and effects
A tiny seed contains in itself a huge tree. A human being, the most complex of creatures, grows from a female ovum fertilized by a microscopic male sperm. In short, there is not an appropriate relation or acceptable proportionateness between causes and effects. Extremely weak, simple, ignorant and lifeless causes result in very powerful, complex, intelligent and vigorously living effects.
All natural phenomena and processes have their opposites
All natural phenomena and processes have their opposites; north and south poles; positive and negative poles; hot and cold; beautiful and ugly; day and night; attraction and repulsion; freezing and melting; vaporization and condensation; etc. Something which has an opposite and needs its opposite to exist and be known by means of its opposite cannot be a creator or originator.
Causality is not enough to explain things and events
We often witness that although all the causes necessary to the existence of an effect are ready, that effect does not come into existence, and, conversely, something happens or comes into existence without any causes that we can recognize or understand as such. Also, the same causes do not always bring about the same effects. It is because of this that some scientists reject the idea of causality as a way of explaining things and events in the universe.
Although the most capable of ‘causes’ or ‘agents’, man is so weak and helpless as not to be able to resist even a microbe
Among causes, man is the most capable and eminent, distinguished with intellect, consciousness, will-power and many other faculties and inner and outer senses and feelings. Yet he is so weak and helpless as not to be able to resist even a microbe and he is caught up in endless needs and pains. If man, being the most capable, intelligent, powerful and conscious of causes, has no part in his own coming into existence and no control over the working of even his own body, how can other causes have creativity?
Natural causes have neither knowledge nor will nor power so that they can be responsible for things to come into existence which evidently require knowledge and will to come into existence
Materialists take the conjunction of events for causality. That is, if two events coexist, they imagine that one causes the other. In their determination to deny the Creator they make claims like: water causes plants to grow. They never ask how water knows what to do, how it does it and what qualities it has that enable plants to grow?
Does water possess the knowledge and power to grow plants? Does it know the laws or properties of the formation of plants. Or, if we attribute the growth of a plant to the laws themselves or nature itself, do the laws or nature know the properties of the formation of plants? While some sort or amount of knowledge, will and power are absolutely necessary to make the least thing, for example, to build a cottage, to write an article, should it not be necessary an all-encompassing knowledge, and an absolute will and power to make this universe, so complex, amazing and miraculous that in the ‘age of information’ our knowledge about it is very scanty.
Consider a flower. How does its beauty come about and who has designed the relationship between it and man’s senses of smell and seeing and faculty of appreciation? Can the unconscious, ignorant and deaf seed, or soil or sunlight have done this? Do they have the knowledge, the power or the will even to make a flower, let alone make it beautiful? Can man, the only conscious and knowledgeable being on the earth, make a single flower? A flower can only exist with the whole universe in place first: to produce one single flower, therefore, one must be able to produce the whole universe in which it exists, that is, have absolute power, knowledge and will, which are the attributes of God alone.
This article has been adapted from Risale- i Nur Collection.