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Zakir Naik And The Theory of Evolution

08/07/2016 12:06 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Dr. Zakir Naik, a world renowed Islamic scholar, delivers his speech in Srinagar September 7, 2003. Thousands gathered to listen to Naik who arrived in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday to deliver his speeches and interact with Kashmiri Islamic scholars, during his three-day tour. REUTERS/Danish Ismail FK/FA

Zakir Naik is in the news these days, and a lot of people have, through Facebook, asked me my views about him. So let me respond.

In my opinion, Zakir Naik's views are totally unscientific and stupid, but he's been peddling them successfully for a long time to his followers, who are largely gullible Muslims.

We may here consider just one of his several half-baked, crackpot ideas about Creation and Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

Zakir Naik suggests that all that is written in the Quran is literally true, and so he believes that the Universe was created by Allah, and the theory of evolution is false.

According to the Quran:

"Your Lord is Allah, Who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then settled Himself firmly on the Throne..."(Qur'an, 7:54)

Thus, according to the Quran, the universe was created in sex days. It also says:

"Do not the unbelievers see that the skies (space) and the earth (matter) were joined together (as one unit of creation) and we ( i.e. God ) ripped them apart?" (21:30)

And also:

"Proclaim!

In the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, who... created man, out of a mere clot of congealed blood." (Sura 96:1-2)

All this is hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo.

It is like what is said in the Bible:

"God created the heavens and the earth in six days, starting with darkness and light on the first day, and ending with the creation of mankind on the sixth day. God then rested on, and blessed the seventh day." (Genesis 1:1-2:3).

Again, all hocus pocus and mumbo jumbo.

One is reminded of the famous "Monkey Trial" of 1925 in which American schoolteacher John Scopes was prosecuted for teaching Darwin's theory of evolution to his students, thus apparently violating the Butler Act in Dayton, Tennessee.

All religions are superstitions, false and full of humbug, and the truth can only be known by science.

In this trial, the defence lawyer Clarence Darrow exposed the stupidity of the Biblical version of the creation of the Universe and of man, by his cross-examination of William Jennings Bryan who believed that the Bible contained all the facts.

Darrow said that the stories of the Bible could not be taught as science. He told Bryan, "You insult every man of science and learning in the world because he does not believe in your fool religion."

Bryan, gauging the effect the session was having, snapped that Darrow's purpose was "to cast ridicule on everybody who believes in the Bible," Darrow, with equal vehemence, retorted, "We have the purpose of preventing bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the education of the United States."

The theory of evolution was first propounded by Charles Darwin in 1859 in his famous book The Origin of the Species.

This theory was initially criticized by many persons, but later received overwhelming acceptance by the scientific community. Its chief detractors were religious people. Of course after its enunciation in 1859 it has been developed, just as Newton's physics was developed by Max Planck, Einstein, Heisenberg, etc, but no genuine scientist has reverted to Creationism i.e. the religious theory that man was created by God.

It is universally accepted by scientists that people evolved from ape-like creatures, and these evolved from creatures lower down, and so on.

But how did the simplest forms of life - single-cell creatures -- come into existence ? As yet this is not clear, though several theories have been advanced.

It is suggested that after the earth split off from the sun and cooled down over millions of years; a "primordial soup" was created, from which life evolved. In other words, life evolved from dead matter by certain chemical reactions. Indeed there are certain entities like viruses, which can neither be considered fully living creatures (because they lack cell structure, which is considered necessary to be counted as life) nor dead matter, but something in between.

One cannot change the Vedas or the Bible or the Quran. But scientific theories can be changed, if proof is presented.

As regards creation of the universe, the religious argument that everything must have a maker has an inherent fallacy. If everything must have a creator, then the creator of the universe (god) too must have a creator, i.e. a super-creator, and that super-creator too must have a super-super-creator... and so on. This is known as the fallacy of infinite regress. So the assumption that everything must have a creator is not universally true.

The only reality in the universe is matter (or rather matter-energy, since Einstein demonstrated by his formula e=mc2 that matter and energy are two forms of the same substance, like water and ice). But matter is in motion, and the laws of this motion can be discovered by scientific research.

It may be asked, where did matter come from? The answer is that matter came from matter, but its form often changes. There was no supernatural being which created matter. It always existed.

However, exciting discoveries were made in the 20th century relating to the origin of the universe.

The American scientist Edwin Hubble began to make observations with the 100-inch telescope on Mount Wilson, in the 1920s.

Hubble found that stars are not uniformly distributed throughout space, but are gathered together in vast collections called galaxies. By measuring the light from galaxies, Hubble could determine their velocities. He was expecting that as many galaxies would be moving towards us as were moving away. This is what one would have in a universe that was unchanging with time. But to his surprise, Hubble found that nearly all the galaxies were moving away from us. Moreover, the further the galaxies were from us, the faster they were moving away. The universe was not unchanging with time as everyone had thought previously. It was expanding. The distance between distant galaxies was increasing with time.

The expansion of the universe was one of the most important intellectual discoveries of the 20th century, or of any century. It transformed the debate about whether the universe had a beginning. If galaxies were moving apart now, they must have been closer together in the past. If their speed had been constant, they would all have been on top of one another about 15 billion years ago. Was this the beginning of the universe?

The assumption that everything must have a creator is not universally true.

This resulted in the Big Bang/Expanding Universe Theory i.e. the theory that all matter in the Universe was at one time clustered together at one place, but then there was an explosion of some sort (a big gang), which caused material bodies to be hurled away -- and they are still hurling away, at great speeds.

However, an alternate theory has also been advanced known as the Oscillating Universe Theory. According to this theory, while galaxies may be currently flying away from each other at great speeds and the universe is expanding, there will later be a contraction of the universe, and galaxies will then again start moving towards each other; this expansion-contraction i.e. oscillation will go on endlessly.

So the problem is as yet scientifically unresolved.

But this does not mean we should fall back on religion. All religions are superstitions, false and full of humbug, and the truth can only be known by science. However, unlike religion, science does not claim that what it says is the final word. One cannot change the Vedas or the Bible or the Quran. But scientific theories can be changed, if proof is presented. For instance, the English scientist Newton presented his corpuscular theory of light in 1665, according to which light travels as particles. But later, the Fresnel Principle established that light travelled as waves. Centuries later, in 1900, Max Planck advanced his Quantum Theory, according to which light travels as particles. Still later, the French scientist De Broglie showed that particles can be regarded as waves, and this Quantum Mechanics was developed further by Heisenberg, Schrodinger, etc.

Earlier, J.J. Thomson propounded his "plum pudding" model of the atom, according to which electrons were embedded on the surface of the nucleus in an atom, but later Rutherford demonstrated by his famous gold foil experiment (the scattering of alpha rays) that electrons were orbiting outside the nucleus, like the planets orbiting the sun.

Thus, science is always developing. Many things which were unknown to us earlier are known today, and many things unknown to us today may be known to us in the future.

This post first appeared here.

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