I read an article [titled “Review of Nature’s Destiny“] written by a secular humanist friend that contains some arguments against design (and, thus, against a designer) of the universe that science has revealed up until now. Some of them convey somewhat technical scientific information, but I am not necessarily asking for scientific commentary. I ask only for a reply, from an Islamic perspective, to the gist of the material. I summarize the arguments below in two segments:
- Mr. Vuletic, the author of referred article, describes the bio/anthropocentric teleological view as holding “that the designer made the universe the way it is in order to produce ordinary and anthropomorphic life.” He seems to believe that this view is invalidated by
… the objection implicit in John Haldane’s legendary remark about the creator having an inordinate fondness for beetles – for all we can tell, a designer set up things the way they are for the purpose of producing beetles (for instance), with humans merely being an interesting side-effect. After all, there are thousands of species of beetles and only one human species, and beetles have been around for a much longer time, so arguably the universe is more ideally fit for beetles than for man. What’s worse, if our kind of universe is the only kind that can support supernovas, for instance, then it may be that all life–including both beetles and humans – is an inconsequential by-product of a firecracker universe, a universe which was designed to act like a gigantic Roman candle for the pyrotechnic delight of the creator. Pre-Copernican instincts, of course, run deep in the blood of virtually everyone raised in Western civilization, so we reflexively balk at the notion of a cosmic designer who makes something other than us the showcase of his creation, but these impulses should be recognized for what they are – intuitions in need of rational justification.
Of course, the Qur’an provides no information about beetles and supernovas, yet it seems that your opinion is that it is generally in agreement with the anthropocentric view. In your article “What was God’s Purpose of Giving Life?” you write:
According to the Qur’an, God created the heavens and the earth (which apparently implies the physical universe) – Hu’d 11: 7 – and created life and death – Al-Mulk 67: 2 – for the purpose of testing human beings – as to who among them excels in good deeds.
Please correct me if I am mistaken, but it seems that the foregoing statement is in agreement with the anthropocentric view. If so, how would you respond to the stated objection(s)?
- In your article “Convincing Others of God’s Existence,” you edit the standard cosmological argument so that it takes on the following format:
Premise (1): Everything, which is created, must [logically] have a creator.
Premise (2): The universe (the human being, etc.), by its inherent laws and design, is a created thing.
Conclusion: The universe must have a creator.
Regarding Premise (2), you raise the question: “What is it in the universe (or the human being), which leads us to believe that it is created?” In response to this query, you write:
For an answer to this question, we should ask: What is it in a house, which leads us to believe that it is created? I am sure, if you can point out those properties of a house, which lead you to believe that it is created, you should be able to see quite clearly that the same properties, on a much bigger level, are also found in the universe, as a whole.
Although I, personally, am convinced that the universe is the product of conscious design, yet Mr. Vuletic turns our attention to some features of the universe that render it unsuitable for the continuation of life. Keeping with the analogy you employ, we would say that the house possesses certain features that are unsuitable for the sustained existence of its occupants:
The laws of nature do not necessitate the existence of life on every planet and in the vacuum of space
The laws of nature do not cause appropriate collection of molecules to spontaneously coalesce into adult organisms
Conditions on Earth have caused so many species to go extinct
Asteroids and comets are able to smash into inhabited planets, with the possibility of killing everything on them
The universe is doomed to either a collapse that will eventually kill everything, or a heat death that will eventually kill everything.
I might add to (d) that our planet (and, hence, mankind) faces the additional threat of black holes, which unravel stars (such as our sun) through a powerful suction, despite their comparatively small size. If the sun were destroyed, all life on our planet would eventually vanish. Mr. Vuletic remarks:
Although it may seem at first that ‘in science the cosmos has called us home,’ apparently … the cosmos has told us to drop dead.
Although I am no scientist, my response to the above points would be as follows:
That the living creatures on the planet Earth, as far as we currently know, are the only life in the universe does not render our ‘house’ unsuitable. It merely implies that whoever occupies the house has only been allowed to dwell in it because the Architect designed the house in such a way that it would sustain a particular group of occupants, for a particular period of time. The fact that so many conditions had to be delicately ‘fine-tuned’ for us to exist in the ‘house’ at all – irrespective of the house’s size – is adequate evidence of providence on the part of the Architect.
That the occupants do not grow into adults immediately after being born does not refute the house’s suitability. Who would blame an architect for ‘poor design’ simply because juvenile occupants, after entering the house, do not ‘spontaneously coalesce into adult organisms?’ I suppose all people who live in houses that do not allow children to grow into full adults in a matter of seconds clearly contracted the worst architects in practice?
The Architect has not guaranteed that all of His creations should exist forever. All species will, eventually and inevitably, approach their extinction, according to the absolute knowledge and wisdom of the architect. The human race is no exception.
There are indeed threats to the existence of our race and our planet. The Architect himself has warned us that, one day, everything that exists on the planet (and in the house) will be in violent commotion and the present physical world will be destroyed, ushering in a new world. However, the existence of such threats does not render the house unsuitable, for the architect has fixed the time of destruction, and till such time, our race and planet can continue to exist as they normally would, by the grace of the architect. Contemplating these threats, we should be reminded of just how tenuous our existence really is, and should wisely spend our brief existence in the house earning credits for the Hereafter. It should be of some interest to note that the collisions of such extraterrestrial objects were necessary in the early history of the solar system, to provide needed materials for life to eventually come into existence. Also, the large outer planets have protected ours from such collisions by absorbing such objects. It would indeed be a shock, after concluding that God does not exist on the grounds that the universe is doomed to collapse, only to discover the Ultimate Reality at the time of such destruction.
This would be the best I can do. How would you respond to Mr. Vuletic’s points?
The number of species of beetles may be a thousand-fold more than that of the humankind and these thousands of species of beetles may have existed centuries before the inception of the human race, yet it is not the number of species nor the time of existence of a particular creature that determines whether or not it should be considered the central figure on the earth: It is primarily its role on earth, which determines its position.
From a purely layman’s view, no other species even comes close to the humankind in being the central figure on earth. Man is the ruler on this earth. All other creatures are either serving man or are in one way or another playing their role in maintaining the ecological and physical balance, which is necessary to sustain man’s existence.
As for the second stated objection, I do not have much of a difference with the explanation that you have provided.
I hope this helps.
April 1, 2002