Creating Heavens and Earth

A while ago, I came across an interesting though pointless debate regarding an apparent contradiction in the Qur’an about the time it took for Allah Almighty to create the heavens and the earth. That debate sent me off on a tangent to philosophically contemplate on the definition of a day.

The Qur’an is replete with verses, which state that the earth and the heavens were created in ‘six days.’ Following is a partial list of the verses that speak about this matter.

Name Chapter # Verse #
Surat Al-‘A`rāf 7 54
Surat Yūnus 10 3
Surat Hūd 11 7
Surat Al-Furqān 25 29
Surat As-Sajdah 32 4
Surat Al-Ĥadīd 57 4

The actual Arabic word in the verses listed above is سِتَّةِ اَيَّامٍ, which is transliterated as ‘sittati ‘ayyāmin’. There is no dispute amongst Muslims and non-Muslims, as far as I see, on the meaning of sittati, which means six for everyone. It is the word ayyāmin that is problematic for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Common-sense dictates that the word day probably refers to the way we define the word in an ordinary language such as English. It can be treated as the 24-hour time period that we in the 21st century are commonly accustomed to. However, I do not know if the people of pre-Islamic Arabia also defined day in the similar 24 hour format.

In my humble opinion, to truly understand the notion of time of pre-Islamic Arabia, it is imperative to know the time-measuring devices that were used by the peoples of the Arabian peninsula. What is defined as day today cannot possibly be the definition of day in Arabia at the time of the Prophet primarily because the standard definition of a second, which subsequently defines minutes, hours and days was established in 1960s. Time, as measured by a sundial, is different as measured by a modern digital watch. The discrepancy is described by the equation of time.

Furthermore, the difference between lunar and solar calendars also complicates matters. The bottom line is that notion of a day becomes terribly complicated if one deeply reflects upon it. So, what does the Qur’an mean by six days? If the six days are defined using the 24-hour format of modern times, then the Qur’anic claim appears to contradict the model of the Universe as described by contemporary science i.e., the Big Bang Theory.

Preachers like Dr. Zakir Naik, obviously have something to say about this. Following is his take on the issue:

This response of Dr. Naik is actually to another question, which is about an apparent contradiction in the Qur’an regarding the length of time for creation. In the verses I have stated before, the earth and heavens appear to be created in 6 days. But verses 9 to 12 of Surah Fussilat, Chapter 41 seem to suggest that the earth and the heavens were created in 8 days. The issue arises primarily due to an incorrect translation of a key word which causes much confusion.

The Arabic word ثُمَّ (thumma) which starts verse 11 of Surah Fussilat is translated as ‘then’ by many translators. But according to Dr. Naik, the correct translation is ‘moreover’ or ‘simultaneously.’ Yusuf Ali is the only translator who has used moreover.

creator-of-heaven-earth-3

Going into the semantics of thumma is another debate and beyond the scope of this blog-post. What I want to stress in this post is that according to Dr. Naik, the word ‘sittati ‘ayyāmin’ refers to six ‘very long periods.’

Of the six English translators I refer to on quran.com, Shakir is the only one who has translated it as ‘six periods of time’ much like Yusuf Ali is the only one who has translated ‘thumma’ as moreover.

This does raise some interesting questions. Firstly, if Qur’an is a clear book, as it claims to be, why did it choose to confuse people in the first place by using apparently contradictory descriptions in different places? Why is the clarity of Qur’an only evident to Shakir in case of translating the word ‘ayyamin’ to (long) periods of time and to Yusuf Ali in translating ‘thumma’ to moreover.

Secondly, what does this numerical division of creation-time mean in any case? What do the ‘six periods of time’ signify? Does it not sound better to say that the creation of the heavens and earth took a very long time instead of saying that it took precisely six, extremely long periods of time to create the earth and the heavens and then leave us to only speculate the exact length of these six so-called periods?

If anything, Qur’an seems to be unnecessarily obfuscating a simple fact about creation. On a personal note, I think it is rather pointless to debate whether the earth and heavens were created in 6 days or not. As scientific knowledge advances and newer theories gain credence, sly Muslims apologists will continue to offer explanations that superficially resolve the seeming contradictions in the Qur’an. However, the debate is pointless insofar as it has no direct impact in making us more ethical i.e., more compassionate and more merciful. The purpose of the Qur’an, as some argue, is to provide healing and mercy and guidance to people.

But how can people be guided if there is no clarity of thought? The pointless debate continues…

Joining Ex-Muslims – Part One

On Thursday, June 25, 2015, I officially joined the organization called Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA). I coincidentally stumbled across their website while browsing the website of American Atheists Convention.

I became interested in knowing more about them and applied online through their website. I was contacted by one of the members, who arranged a Skype screening interview with the President of this organization commonly known as MoTheAtheist.

The session lasted for almost 2 hours and we ended up chatting about lots of stuff. I narrated my journey away from Islam and my ongoing struggle with faith. I told him about my academic background (that I have studied science) and the factors that have contributed towards my alleged apostasy.

It’s funny but science only reinforced my religious beliefs and, at one point in my life, I belonged to the Zakir Naik camp. I thought modern science is only re-affirming the claims made by Islam 1400 years ago. What actually shook the core of my beliefs was my exposure to philosophy. If there is one writer who has had a long-lasting impact on my life, it is Bertrand Russell.

17th June 1957, British mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970). (Photo by John Drysdale/Keystone/Getty Images)
17th June 1957, British mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872 – 1970). (Photo by John Drysdale/Keystone/Getty Images)

Digressing into the events of the past, I remember reading his book titled “Sceptical Essays” just before starting college. That book, together with my general exposure to philosophy through Internet and a personal incident, which I might narrate in some future blog-posts, radically changed my way of thinking.

I became a skeptic for sometime and realized that any and everything can be doubted including the five senses, science, logic and even reason, which I had, until that point in time, valued the most. With the loss of certainty, however, I realized with certainty that my thinking will never revert back to the pre-philosophy days. This also meant that my religious beliefs especially those pertaining to the rites and rituals of Islam were lost forever.

I could deal with that, I said to myself and this loss of belief in Islamic practices such as praying and fasting didn’t affect me much. It was, however, the loss of belief in God and philosophical questions about the shortcomings of science and logic that perturbed me the most.

The quest for absolute certainty led to an independent formulation of the famous Cartesian maxim: Cogito ergo sum. It also led to what might be considered in Sufi epistemology as “knowledge by presence.”

What was absolutely evident was my capacity to experience. The rest were all inferences and deductions. My task was Spinozian in a sense. I had to construct a coherent picture of reality using the first principles of experiential knowledge instead of linguistic axioms (which Spinoza had used).

Anyway, I’m not sure if what I have just written makes a lot of sense and my personal ambition to reconstruct reality has been lost somewhere in the mists of time.

I did not discuss any of this during my conversation with MoTheAtheist. I have, nonetheless, decided to write all this, so I can, perhaps, have a better understanding of my own-self and see how I have evolved in the last 10 years or so.

I will actually end my blog-post at this juncture. I have emailed MoTheAtheist, to seek his permission, in order to write about the conversation from his side. I believe it is appropriate to do so. I also think that there’s something rather intriguing in a work of art that is shrouded in mystery, that is left hanging in midair.

mysterious-character

It’s like a mysterious character hiding behind a veil in a fiction story, who makes us wonder about his/her/its identity. We long to know the character in full detail yet catch only a glimpse of what the character might possibly be. We continue to remain in the dark even as the story unfolds. As our desire to know the character increases, we begin to form connections, logical and illogical. We try to connect the dots and tie the threads together. We start reading our own interpretations of the character. Whether the character ever becomes known is a question that the author of the story may or may not choose to answer. For us, however, the yearning to know the character is only satiated by our own selves. The character is what we choose it to be. 

To be continued …

Allah is in the error term (or is He?)

The problem of defining the role of Allah in the creation and sustenance of this Universe is not a new one. As a scientist, I do not see Allah as an explanation of any given phenomenon.

Let’s look at an example from biology (a subject I believe I am somewhat qualified to speak about). One of the words frequently used in the Qur’an to describe the creation of human beings is ‘nutfah.’ The following table provides various Qur’anic translations of this word in English:

Translator Translation
Sahih International Sperm-drop
Muhsin Khan Mixed drops of male and female sexual discharge
Pickthall Drop of fluid
Yusuf Ali Sperm-drop
Shakir Small seed
Dr. Ghali Sperm-drop

The word has appeared in many different verses of the Qur’an. The following table, which might not be exhaustive, provides information about the specific verses that contain the word ‘nutfah.’

Chapter name Chapter number Verse number
Surah Nahal 16 4
Surah Al Hajj 22 5
Surah Al Muminun 23 14
Surah Fatir 35 11
Surah Yasin 36 77
Surah Ghafir 40 67
Surah Al Qiyamah 75 37
Surah Al Insan 76 2
Surat Abasa 80 19

The verses, listed in the table above, unequivocally state that Allah has created human beings from nutfah. However, biologically speaking, every individual’s creation can be explained in terms of certain complex chemical and physiological happenings and changes.

giphy_beavis

Fusion of a sperm with an ovum, followed by cellular divisions regulated by genes, proteins, metabolites and other assorted biomolecules along with a host of environmental factors, for approximately 9 months, is what leads to our development as human beings.

Even though the exact mechanistic details of all the genes, proteins, metabolites and other biomolecules involved in the process of development of a zygote to a fully grown baby are not known, scientists do a have biological framework within which to explain the whole developmental process. Allah, unfortunately for the Muslisms, does not fit as an explanatory variable in the equations of developmental biology.

Also, from a logical standpoint, by invoking the Occam’s razor, it appears much more reasonable to accept that these biological processes are self-regulating than to posit the existence of Allah as the controller of these biological processes.

If Allah has created and set the regulatory rules of biological development, then Allah, at best, becomes a watchmaker, a god of the deists, who is not needed anymore.

If, however, as some Muslims would claim, Allah is actively involved in the process of development, then we must be able to study and quantify Allah’s interaction with the physical world and in particular with the developmental process. Surely, that has never happened and is unlikely to ever happen.

In classical statistics, there is a well developed procedure called Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) that is often used in analyzing biological data. The basic idea behind this procedure is that variance in a given data-set can be partitioned into a linear combination of different sources of variation. One of the sources of variation is called error term (or unexplained variation). This error term basically represents that variation in the data which is not explained by any of the other explanatory variables included in the ANOVA model.

No statistician will ever claim that Allah is source of unexplained variation. Yet the belief of Muslims that Allah interacts and actively regulates behavior of the cosmos (as exemplified by embryonic development) would leave them with no option but to conclude that Allah is in the error term.

The error term is our gap in knowledge. And reducing Allah to the error term makes Allah nothing more than the God-of-the-gaps. If anything can be said conclusively, it is that Allah’s foothold is undermined by quantitative research. Maybe Allah the Generous can show some interest in His self-quantification.

A Case for Allah

Sir Muhammad Iqbal, widely referred to as Allama Iqbal, was a poet-philosopher of the Indian subcontinent, who is credited with proposing the idea of creation of Pakistan. He makes a case for Allah in a lecture titled: ‘The Philosophic Test of the Revelations of Religious Experience.’ The lecture is published as the second chapter of Allama Iqbal’s famous book called The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam.

iqbal_book

I believe it is more appropriate to say that in this lecture, Allama Iqbal tried to philosophically  analyze the nature of human experience in order to probe the nature of Ultimate Reality through clues furnished by the verses of the Qu’ran. In this blog-entry, I will try to summarize the key points made by Allama Iqbal and point towards any potential shortcomings that exist in his thesis, according to my understanding.

Iqbal starts off the lecture by talking about the three traditional arguments given for the existence of God and provides a critique of each of the three arguments. He goes on to suggest that the real significance of these arguments will appear if it can be demonstrated that ‘thought and being are ultimately one.’

Iqbal views thought ‘not as a principle which organizes and integrates its material from the outside, but as a potency which is formative of the very being of its material.’ Therefore, according to Iqbal, ‘thought or idea is not alien to the original nature of things; it is their ultimate ground and constitutes the very essence of their being, infusing itself in them from the very beginning of their career and inspiring their onward march to a self-determined end.

Further into the lecture, Iqbal states that ‘[i]n conscious experience life and thought permeate each other. They form a unity. Thought, therefore, in its true nature, is identical with life.

Therefore, to truly understand Iqbal’s view of Ultimate Reality, we have to understand how Iqbal defined and described the concept of Life. Toward the end of his lecture, Iqbal concludes his thesis by saying that ‘the Ultimate Reality is a rationally directed creative life.’ Iqbal continues on to say that it is a ‘simple fact of experience that life is not a formless fluid, but an organizing principle of unity, a synthetic activity which holds together and focalizes the dispersing dispositions of the living organism for a constructive purpose.’

This definition of life, provided by Iqbal, appears to be one of the most abstract definitions of life. Whereas traditional biology may define life in terms of certain properties and functions that separate the animate from inanimate matter, life, according to Iqbal, is force of organization with a definite purpose that is more fundamental than matter itself. Iqbal believes that life is ‘foundational and anterior to the routine of physical and chemical processes.’

Iqbal views life as fundamentally incapable of being explained in terms of mechanism. Iqbal believes that postulating the ‘existence of a self-producing or self-maintaining mechanism’ is meaningless because ‘[a] mechanism which reproduced itself would be a mechanism without parts, and, therefore, not a mechanism.

Iqbal views consciousness as a consequence of life. According to Iqbal, ‘[c]onsciousness may be imagined as a deflection from life. Its function is to provide a luminous point in order to enlighten the forward rush of life.’ Iqbal continues on and says that the, ‘consciousness is a variety of the purely spiritual principle of life which is not a substance, but an organizing principle, a specific mode of behaviour essentially different to the behaviour of an externally worked machine. Since, however, we cannot conceive of a purely spiritual energy, except in association with a definite combination of sensible elements through which it reveals itself, we are apt to take this combination as the ultimate ground of spiritual energy.’

Thus, for Iqbal, life is the basic principle of Reality. Furthermore, according to Iqbal, ‘the origin of [life] … must be sought in a spiritual reality revealable in, but non-discoverable by, any analysis of spatial experience.’

To sum up Iqbal’s views, we can say the following:

1) Life is an organizing principle which holds together a living organism for constructive purposes.

2) Life is foundational and anterior to the routine of physical and chemical processes.

3) Consciousness is a deflection from life that illuminates the forward rush of life.

4) Life cannot be explained and understood in a purely mechanistic fashion.

5) The spiritual nature of life can be revealed in, but not discovered by, the analysis of human experience.

All these points seem to suggest a very vitalist conception of life. Contemporary biology does not accept vitalism in any form. Therefore, from the perspective of a modern biologist, Iqbal’s views on life are of no use. Iqbal righty suggests that the sectional nature of science, as exemplified by biology, cannot conceive life as a spiritual energy and cannot explain the ‘factual wholeness’ of life in a purely mechanistic fashion.

However, it is the 5th point about how religious experience can reveal the spiritual nature of life that Iqbal tries to talk about in the last quarter of his lecture.

Iqbal talks about the spiritual nature of life by making use of Bergson’s idea of ‘pure duration.’ As there is constant change observed in Nature, ‘conscious existence means a life in time.’ Iqbal makes a distinction between two modes of conscious experience: the efficient and the appreciative. The efficient side of conscious existence, in the words of Iqbal, ‘enters into relation with what we call the world of space… [It is] the practical self of daily life in its dealing with the external order of things.’ The appreciative side of the self is revealed by a deeper analysis of conscious experience. Iqbal states that ‘[i]t is only in the moments of profound meditation, when the efficient self is in abeyance, that we sink into our deeper self and reach the inner centre of experience. In the life-process of this deeper ego the states of consciousness melt into each other.’

The essential difference between the appreciative and efficient self is how these two modes experience time. In the words of Iqbal, ‘[i]t appears that the time of the appreciative-self is a single “now” which the efficient self, in its traffic with the world of space, pulverizes into a series of “nows” like pearl beads in a thread. Here is, then, pure duration unadulterated by space.’

Iqbal concludes that ‘[a] critical interpretation of the sequence of time as revealed in our selves has led us to a notion of the Ultimate Reality as pure duration in which thought, life, and purpose interpenetrate to form an organic unity. We cannot conceive this unity except as the unity of a self– an all-embracing concrete self– the ultimate source of all individual life and thought.’

The crux of Iqbalian argument for the existence of God lies in Bergeson’s conception of ‘time of the appreciative self’ (as described in Iqbalian terms). Whereas Bergeson considers pure time to be prior to self, Iqbal inverts the argument and states self to be prior to pure time by arguing that pure time cannot ‘hold together the multiplicity of objects and events.’ An appreciative self is required, ‘which can seize the multiplicity of duration– broken up into an infinity of instants– and transform it to the organic wholeness of a synthesis. To exist in pure duration is to be a self, and to be a self is to be able to say “I am.”

Iqbal further continues that ‘only that truly exists which can say “I am”. It is the degree of the intuition of “I-amness” that determines the place of a thing in the scale of being.’

From this point, Iqbal immediately moves to talk about the Ultimate Self and says that to ‘[t]he Ultimate Self… the not-self does not present itself as a confronting “other”, or else it would have to be, like our finite self, in spatial relation with the confronting “other”. [The Ultimate Self’s] “I-amness” is independent, elemental, absolute. Of such a self it is impossible for us to form an adequate conception.

Iqbal’s argument for the existence of Allah appears to be a kind of solipsism at best. The Ultimate Reality is an organic unity which is formed via the interpenetration of thought, life and purpose. What is unclear is how the existence of Ultimate Self is derived from the experience of finite, appreciative self. Based on my careful perusal of the lecture, Iqbal does not seem to provide any philosophical argument to derive the existence of such an Ultimate Self from the experience of the finite, appreciative self. He only quotes verses of the Qu’ran to speak of and support such a Self.

Furthermore, and in line with the interview of Muhammad Asad that I had shared on my blog few weeks ago, Iqbal too admits that it is not possible to form any proper conception of the Ultimate Self. Yet, paradoxically, Iqbal has devoted an entire lecture in trying to philosophically justify the religious claims about the Ultimate Self.

Iqbal not only claims that the Ultimate Self is ‘independent, elemental, absolute’ but also states that the Ultimate Self ‘is unthinkable without a character, i.e. a uniform mode of behaviour.’ According to Iqbal, ‘[n]ature is to the Divine Self as character is to the human self.’ Such descriptions of the Ultimate Self appear to contradict the idea that no proper conception of the Ultimate Self can be formed. In fact, the very statement that “it is impossible for us to form an adequate conception [of the Ultimate Self]”, ends up being a definite conception of the Ultimate Self.

Iqbal does not seem to address this apparent problem in his lecture. To conclude this rather long blog-post, I would say that the appearance of a finite, appreciative self is fairly self-evident. However, to say that there is an all-embracing concrete Self as the ultimate source of all individual life and thought needs further warranting. Iqbal, unfortunately, did not seem to have provided satisfactory reasons for accepting the existence of such an Ultimate Self a.k.a Allah.

I will, however, give credit to Allama Iqbal for attempting to grapple the topic of Allah’s existence in light of the science and philosophy of his day. The sincerity and intellectual energy that went into the preparation of this and other lectures is highly commendable. In a future blog-post, I will try to present a critique of Iqbal’s conception of life in light of contemporary science and see what conclusions can be reached. 

The Road to Allah

Muhammad Asad is one of the most cultured Muslims scholars (or apologists, depending on one’s perspective) of the 20th century. I read his book, “The Road to Mecca” during the my freshman year and found it to be an extremely interesting narrative of his spiritual journey towards Islam.

As he admits in the book, and also the video interview that I’ll be sharing and discussing in this blog post, he embraced Islam through an Arab cultural immersion of sorts and after spending a substantial time with Muslims in Arabia and elsewhere.

What characterizes a scholar like Muhammad Asad is the sincere effort he made in understanding Islam in as much depth as possible.

In this post, as stated earlier, I will try to analyze the conception of God and role of reason in speaking about God, as discussed by Muhammad Asad in the following interview:

When Muhammad Asad was asked about his conception of God, he says the following around 2:57 into the video:

“My concept of God is that God exists and that I cannot understand Him and I cannot comprehend Him. That He is Infinite. My brain cannot operate with concept of Infinity or in time or in space. I can have no idea what God is and how is. I only know that He is. And that He is the Creator, All-Powerful and He embraces everything in His knowledge.”

My question to Muhammad Asad, which the interviewer didn’t ask is the following:

If God cannot be comprehended or understood, how can one even make the claim about God’s existence and other attributes such as being infinite in compassion, mercy, creative power, majesty, knowledge, so on and so forth?

In fact, what do words such as ‘is’ or ‘to exist’ mean when applied to God? The inability to conceptualize and clearly speak about God yet making assertions about the existence and attributes of God is extremely problematic. I do not think there may be a satisfactory solution to this problem based on the language and logic we humans rely upon.

During the second part of the video interview, as shared below, Muhammad Asad also shares his views on the relationship between reason and faith. On hand, he claims that “reason plays an enormous role” and shares an anecdote, at the start of the following video, wherein he talked to a Jesuit priest about how Islam encourages one to “use your reason and you will gain faith.”

At the same time, he says, around 3:28 in the interview that:

“Science can only judge, calculate, connect fragments which are visible or measurable and cannot give you the insight into the deepest Reality. That can only come through faith.”

Prima facie, his ideas didn’t make much sense. However, after some contemplation, I reached the conclusion that, according to Muhammad Asad, reason leads to faith and faith leads to an insight into the deepest Reality. This line of reasoning seems to suggest that faith plays an intermediary albeit an indispensable role in relating reason to the insight into Reality.

It’s really difficult to comment on this point because a lot of questions arise in the mind. For example, what is an “insight into the deepest Reality?” How is faith related to the such an insight? In fact, are there any operational definitions of the terms “reason,” “faith,” and “insight?”

Whereas Muhammad Asad’s sincerity and honesty regarding Islam is unquestionable, he appears unable to provide satisfactory answers to questions about the existence of Allah and relationship between faith and reason. The search for satisfactory answers must continue…

On Time

Before reading this post, please bear in mind that this post is not about physics. It is rather a philosophical reflection on the concept of time, as defined by physics.

With regards to time, my views are similar to those of Leibniz and Kant, who, according to Wikipedia, consider time as “part of a fundamental intellectual structure (together with space and number) within which humans sequence and compare events.”

My reasons for believing time to be more of an intellectual structure rather a part of the physical world much as chairs, tables and lamps stems, primarily, from my propensity for philosophical thinking as well as the definition of time provided by modern science.

For example, the SI definition of a second is as follows:

the duration of 9192631770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom.

According to this standard definition, a second is defined in terms of “duration of a fixed number of periods” making the whole definition of time extremely circular. What is a period? Nothing but time. The definition, therefore, according to my understanding, defines time in terms of time and fails to provide an independent physical referent for time.

Einstein said that “time is what a clock measures.” What does a clock measure?

A simple, analog clock measures time down to the smallest unit of a second. Each second is, in turn, measured in terms of the movement of the sweep hand between two second tick-marks on the face of the clock.

So, what becomes evident is that time is measured in terms of the observable movement of an object, be it the shadow on sundial, hands in analog clock or cesium atoms in an atomic clock.

It would seem erroneous, from the perspective of physics, to equate time with motion for motion is measured in terms of time. Time appears to have a physical correspondence with motion but is not the motion itself.

Time, itself, therefore, appears more of an intellectual construct having a physical correspondence with the movement of objects characterized by their change of position/state/spatial coordinates.

It is a useful intellectual construct insofar as it is used by humans to order and manage their lives. It definitely lacks a physical form similar to objects in the physical world such as trees, cars and buildings.

Debating Hamza Tzortzis

Hamza Tzortzis is one of those Muslims, who truly believe in the heavy use of rationality and logic to “prove” the veracity of Islam. I had heard him before debating Dr. Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy and recently came across another one of his debates with Lawrence Krauss.

Even though I have some knowledge of contemporary theoretical physics (through pop-science documentaries, articles and books), I usually do not prefer to talk or write about physics. This is because theoretical physics is extremely technical and unless one truly knows the subject inside out, one has a fat chance, I believe, of making a complete fool of one’s self. Hoodbhoy and Krauss both suggested that Hamza Tzortzis did not understand physics well enough to be speaking about it.

So, instead of speaking about physics, I’d like to talk about certain philosophical shortcomings that I believe exist in the arguments set forth by Hamza Tzortzis in his debate with Krauss called “Islam or atheism: which makes more sense?” (Hamza Tzortzis’ part starts from 7:12)

Whereas there are a lot of points presented by Hamza Tzortzis that I do not agree with, I will, in this post, address only a few of them.

Hamza Tzortzis starts off by saying, from 7:14 to 7:21:

If we use our reason, our rational faculties we will definitely come to the conclusion that Islam makes more sense.

Hamza Tzortzis goes on to make the following two claims:

  1. Islam makes sense of the origins of the Universe.
  2. Islam makes sense of the nature of the Qu’ranic discourse.

In order to discuss his first claim, Hamza Tzortzis says the following around 8:15:

If the Universe is eternal, it implies it has an infinite past. Can we have an infinite past? Does the infinite make sense in the real world.

Hamza Tzortzis then goes on to speak, quoting a number of thinkers, about how infinity does not exist in the physical world and exists only as an abstract idea. He concludes his points with the following statement, around 9:50:

The mathematicians Kasner and Newman said “the infinite certainly does not exist in the same sense that we say there are fish in the sea.”

Around 10:10, Hamza Tzortzis says:

To deny a valid and sound deductive argument is equivalent of denying reality.

Now that I believe is a huge claim. To deny a valid and sound deductive argument is tantamount to denying the so-called rules of logical reasoning i.e., those of deduction. It’s nothing more than that. Reality is much greater and more complex than deductive arguments and incorporates all sorts of reasoning methodologies as well as irrationality and emotions. So, to equate the whole of reality to deductive reasoning is a bit too naive, if not outrightly wrong.

In fact, recent advances in paraconsistent logic and dialetheism seem to suggest that there are true contradictions. This view opposes the traditional, so-called Law of Non-Contradiction, which seems all too obvious and intuitive. The bottom-line is that human knowledge and experiences are much more than just deductive reasoning.

Around 10:18, Hamza lays down the premises for his deductive argument as follows:

  • Premise 1: An actual infinite cannot exist.
  • Premise 2: An infinite history of past events is an actual infinite.
  • Conclusion 1: Therefore, an infinite history of past events cannot exist.
  • Conclusion 2: Therefore, the Universe is finite.
  • Conclusion 3: Therefore, the Universe had a beginning.

This first premise is itself highly problematic since it is based on induction (which is something Hamza Tzortzis heavily uses to dismiss science).

Hamza Tzortzis seems so opposed to inductive reasoning that he states the following between 20:21 and 20:29:

You’d never take an inductive argument over deductive one. Only someone intellectually challenged will do that in my humble opinion.

I believe Hamza Tzortzis went too far with this claim. We, as humans, for all practical purposes, live our lives on the basis of induction rather than deduction. For instance, when one feels thirsty, one drinks water or any other beverage of liking, to quench the thirst. Now, from the perspective of someone who argues against induction (such as Hamza Tzortzis), one has not encountered an infinite number of events of feeling thirsty to conclude that water will quench one’s thirst.

However, every sane and rational person will drink water or some other fluid to quench his/her thirst simply based on prior experience with water (which is based on induction). 

So, even though the inductive reasoning is highly empirical, let’s just consider its philosophical shortcomings, for arguments sake, and move on. If we accept the problem of induction, we can clearly see the flaw of Premise 1. Just because we have, so far in Nature, not encountered an actual infinity does not mean that an actual infinite does not exist.

The second flaw, I see with the first premise is with Hamza Tzortzis’ treatment of time. From a purely philosophical perspective, there is no reason to believe that time cannot be infinite because time is not a physical entity like an apple or a chair or a table. It is, crudely speaking, a “measure of durations of events and the intervals between them.”

Defining time without circularity of definition and with ample precision and clarity, is extremely problematic and there seems to be no universal consensus in philosophy on what time really is.

However, if, from a philosophical perspective and following the footsteps of Leibniz and Kant, we treat time as “fundamental intellectual structure” rather than a “fundamental physical structure,” I see no reason why time cannot be viewed as infinite.

Why would I argue for time to be a intellectual structure is the subject of another blog-post I have written.

Suffice to say that if time is conceived to be infinite, then one can surely argue that the Universe might have existed forever albeit in a form/configuration/state that we don’t truly know of prior to the so-called Big Bang.

It is, therefore, more intellectually honest to acknowledge the possibility of the existence of such a Universe rather than to completely deny its eternal existence.

I will not elaborate on Premise 2 and Conclusion 1, 2 and 3 for, I believe there is no need to talk about them, if the appropriate contentions about Premise 1 have been properly articulated.

I will end this post here. I will also try to contact Hamza Tzortzis to see if he can respond to the objections I have raised. Let’s see if he replies back or not.