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The Only Way Out – A Guide for Truth Seekers pdf

Book Title The Only Way Out
Book AuthorAbdullah S. Al-Shehri
Total Pages386
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The only way out


Book contents

  • Chapter One: Confusion and Deviation                   
  • Man: The Inquisitive Creature                              
  • The Position of Religion                                       
  • Religion: An Integral Human Experience            
  • A Working Classification of World Religions     
  • Man-Made Religions                                            
  • Religion Distorted                                                 
  • Religion Rejected                                                 
  • Chapter Two: The Quest for Truth                           
  • The Need for Guidance                                         
  • Truth, Two Needs, and Two Levels of Reality    
  • Existing Through Creation                                   
  • Which is God?                                                      
  • The Philosophical Concept of God                       
  • The Concept of God in Christianity                     
  • The Concept of God in Judaism                           
  • Non-Monotheistic Concepts                                 
  • The Concept of God in Islam                               
  • God’s Lineage                                                       
  • God: Personal or Non-Personal?                          
  • God’s Proper Name                                               
  • The Attributes and Two Major Errors                  
  • Chapter Three: Islam, Science, Creation, and the Human Origin                                                                         
  • On Science, Evolution, and Atheism                    
  • Getting Lost in the Details                                    
  • Evolutionary Creation or Creative Evolution?     
  • Design: Allah’s Univocal Sign                              
  • Primates, Hominids, or Humans?                         
  • Primordial Soup Revisited                                    
  • A reality Check                                                  
  • On Theistic Evolution                                        
  • Allah: Eternally Creative                                   
  • Islam and Science                                               
  • The Origin of the Universe                                
  • Humans: Not a Trivial Detail                             
  • The Quran on Human Origin                             
  • The Quran on Embryology                                
  • Meaning, Purpose, and Human life                    
  • Islam and the Meaning of Life                           
  • The Essence of Man’s Earliest Religion             
  • Unity and Simplicity: Hallmarks of Truth         
  • Chapter Four: Explaining Worship                           
  • What is Worship?                                               
  • Three Levels of Worship                                    
  • Level One: Islam                                                
  • Level Two: Faith                                                
  • Level Three: Perfection                                      
  • Comprehensive Worship                                    
  • Defining the Framework                                    
  • Concerning the Sunnah                                      
  • Islam, Modernity, Postmodernism, and Democracy
  • Chapter Five: Hidden Facts & Deterrent Factors
  • The Road Not Taken                                          
  • Towards Truth                                                    
  • APPENDIX : A Very Short Biography of the Last Prophet        
  • APPENDIX : An Analysis of the Trinity Doctrine                      
  • APPENDIX : A Very Short Critique of David Hume’s Argument and Demonstrating the Plausibility of Arguing for Theism/Design from Human Experience                                                                                          

On Science, Evolution, and Atheism

“There are so many flaws in Darwinism that one can wonder why it swept so completely through the scientific world, and why it is still endemic today”. (Fred Hoyle) (1)

“The atheist – I mean the genuine, absolute atheist, with all his sincerity and devotion – is but an abortive saint and, at the same time, a mistaken revolutionist”. (Jacques Maritain) (2)

Mania for science and the scientific is no less threatening than religious extremism. The mania has sometimes developed into the habit of distorting reality only to meet caprice (hawa)(3).

 Ironically, in doing so, many profess allegiance to objectivity and classify themselves among the impartial elite which, at the end of the day, doesn’t seem to be the case. William C. Chittick explains:

“People believe that science alone is qualified to uncover the secrets of the universe, and not only that, they accept the discoveries as reliable truth, not realizing that they are asserting their belief in the authoritative knowledge of the priesthood of science”(4).

From the realm of mathematics and computer science, Rudy Rucker relates a pathetic human scene:

“Endlessly, we hurry up and down corridors, meeting people, knocking on doors, conducting our investigations. But the ultimate success will never be ours. Nowhere in the castle of science is there a final exit to the absolute truth”(1).

Moreover, an undeniable fact about all scientific practices is that they are, more often than not, emotionally loaded, personally and sometimes spiritually driven behaviours.

 In this sense, the scientific psyche becomes hardly any different from the farmer’s motivation to plough land or the child’s desire to experience adventure at the funfair. As the German sociologist Norbert Elias has rightly observed:

“Like other people, scientists engaged in the study of nature are, to some extent, prompted in the pursuit of their task by personal wishes and wants; they are often enough influenced by specific needs of the community to which they belong.

They may wish to foster their own career. They may hope that the results of their inquiries will be in line with theories they have enunciated before or with the requirements and ideals of the groups with which they identify themselves”(2).

And Mary Midgley whose diagnosis is closely pertinent: “Many, like Darwin and the great geneticist Theodosius

Dobzhansky, have held that an attitude of awe and veneration for the wonders of the physical world is an essential condition for studying them properly. Others have talked in a more predatory way about the joys of the chase and the triumph of catching facts.

Both motives, and many others, are evidently so habitual in science that they are only not mentioned because they are taken for granted”(1).

From another perspective, the debate over what constitutes science is far from settled.

In his provocative essay The Demise of the Demarcation Problem, philosopher Larry Laudan has persuasively shown that there is no reliable way by which we can precisely demarcate the scientific from what is pejoratively termed as ‘the pseudoscientific’.

 The classical convention that science – at least in its positivistic guise – is in possession of a definite territory of its own is now shattered

. Laudan thus advises that “if we would stand up and be counted on the side of reason, we ought to drop terms like ‘pseudo- science’ and ‘unscientific’ from our vocabulary; they are just hollow phrases which do only emotive work for us”(2).

Getting Lost in the Details

Some scientists and philosophers have become so entangled in the countless particulars of reality that they have missed a level of meaning only accessible through observing the big picture.

To further clarify this point, I would like to borrow a concept frequently used in Learning Theory(3). It has to do with two modes of perception individuals use when they set out in acquisition of knowledge.

When we learn, we can, either, start from the details (bottom), collate particular pieces of information, and synthesize them as we ascend towards a more comprehensive and integrative body of knowledge (up).

 This is called the bottom-up mode of perception because we start from the details and end up with the governing generality or the bird’s-eye view. Or, we could opt for the top-down mode of perception.

Here, we start from the big picture, from the bird’s-eye view, and descend in search of more detail until we reach a level of intense variety just as if some gigantic intelligent being had magnified planet earth from outer space only to see the extreme diversity of life on the ground.

Some scientists and philosophers never appear to rise above the bottom level. They are completely embroiled in the details of a given phenomena.

They never seem to proceed away from the molecular, genetic, subgenetic, atomic, and subatomic level and ascend towards a coherent image of the whole, the final outcome observable to the naked human eye.

When we reach this level (the big picture that is), we inescapably mount a cognitive platform that allows us to appreciate the meaning of existence as a unity and thus arrive at a genuine appreciation of ourselves in the larger scheme of reality(1).

 Realizing this fact may partially explain why many scientists, in the last five decades or so, have become increasingly curious about the Fitness of the Cosmos for Life(2).

Only recently in human history has the universe been explored at smaller scales undreamed of (atomic, subatomic (quantum); genetic, subgenetic). Past generations, lacking in advanced technology and curious to know there position in the vast venue of existence, had nothing before their eyes but the big picture (top-down).

The world to them was more meaningful than it is for contemporary generations. They observed a uniform reality, a coherent kaleidoscope of phenomena before their eyes.

Deluged by such awe-inspiring Ayat (signs), very few, if any, were those who were ready to exclude the involvement of an omnificent Creator.

Human beings are part of a huge and complicated ecological system which, directly or indirectly, affects their choices and actions.

Yet, all thanks to Allah we are intrinsically self-conscious beings, endowed with the sophisticated ability to detect subconscious agencies and align them with our conscious goals(1). Not only that, but we also enjoy multilevel reflexive thinking, a capacity that can never be simulated artificially(2).

As Daniel Dennett wrote, reflexive thinking is most evident in our use of meta-language, the ability to “represent one’s representations, reflect on one’s reflections, and react to one’s reactions”(3).

As far as ecological systems are concerned, the ‘butterfly effect’ may provide a good clue as to what it is like to live in a complicatedly interrelated system. The butterfly effect, a phrase coined by scientists, is equivalent to the more technical notion of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in the chaos theory.

 This notion states that small variations at the initial condition of a dynamical system may produce large variations in the long term behaviour of that system.

For instance, the butterfly’s flapping of its wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that may ultimately alter the path of a tornado, delay it, accelerate it, or even prevent the occurrence of a tornado in a certain location(4). Interestingly, behavioural psychologists say that a similar principle underlies the process by which human beings develop certain habits over prolonged periods of time.

The germ of an idea is entertained in the subconscious; it becomes bigger and more vivid, develops into will, transforms into action, and with repetition becomes an established habit. In cosmology, many scientists believe that the critical properties of the initial state of the universe (i.e. big bang) are directly responsible for the kind of universe we see today.

Evolutionists too hypothesize the arguable notion of primordial soup, the initial matter out of which all living organisms have evolved.

 No matter what the initial states of life may have been, they should not entirely defy the grasp of human understanding; otherwise the Quran’s injunction would be pointless:

“Tell them (O Mohammad): Journey across the land and see how He (Allah) has begun the creation”(1).

Learned Muslims see no reason at all why authentic science should supplant correct belief in the Creator. Whether the laws of the cosmos are demonstrably complicated, detailed, and deterministic, or (seemingly) chaotic(2), random, and indeterministic, all is the work of Allah; all changes therein flow from His eternal creative activity:

“To Him belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: no son has He begotten, nor has He a partner in

(1) Quran: 29:19.

(2) It should be noted that ‘chaos’ is only the superficial status quo apparent to the human observer, who is by nature limited and finite in time, space, instrumentation, and sophistication.

As mathematician Roger Penrose and others have shown, chaos has no intrinsic reality, lest it would be utterly inconceivable that chaotic conditions should breed continuous uniformity at a macrocosmic scale.

This view, adopted by physicists like John Wheeler, “has stressed”, relates cosmologist Paul Davies “how lawlike behaviour can emerge from the apparent lawlessness of random fluctuations, because even chaos can possess statistical regularities” (Davies, Paul (1992) The Mind of God: Science & the Search for Ultimate Meaning, Penguin, p. 193).

His dominion: it is He Who created all things and measured their creation in due proportions”(1).

Belief in the unity of creation(2) and unity of knowledge – hence Edward O. Wilson’s Consilience(3) – naturally emanates from Tawheed: firm belief in the absolute Oneness of the Creator and acting according to this belief. As William Chittick had observed, “Islamic thought was characterized by a tendency toward unity, harmony, integration, and synthesis.

The great Muslim thinkers were masters of many disciplines, but they looked upon them as branches of the single tree of tawheed. There was never any contradiction between astronomy and zoology, or physics and ethics, or mathematics and law, or mysticism and logic.

Everything was governed by the same principles, because everything fell under God‘s all- encompassing reality”(4). “The history of European thought”, Chittick adds “is characterized by the opposite trend”(5).

A perennial philosophical question for which the Quran provides a relieving answer is: How can we explain a universe that seems to function autonomously and, at the same time, acknowledge the continuous involvement of divine action?

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