God, Rumi’s Poem and the Problem of EvidenceJuly 5, 2008 at 3:54 am | Posted in agama, tuhan | 20 Comments
Tags: agama, evolusi, evolution, popper, religion, rumi, sains, tuhan
I actually have lost the interest in writing these subjects; God and the collision of science and religion. Yes, life is big — although the earth where the days go by is surprisingly small and ephemeral. The question of God is just a tiny portion of life and therefore should never be taken too seriously. Be nice to other people. Have a good sex life. Be happy. That sounds like a good advice. 😀
This post is no more than a fuzzy reflection of a startled believer in dealing with the exasperating (post)-modernity, the epistemic arrogance of science and the vagueness of his own existence. I’m not trying to defend God here. The Muslim and Christian theologians have already done it in the last two millenia. I’m just a suffering modern, lonely individual in a densely populated city of a third world country, trying to defend his humanity for which the notion of God is of great significance. In other words, it’s my belief that I defend.
On the Nature of (My) Belief
As a believer, I believe that God created the universe in a way I do not comprehend and consider irrelevant to my act of believing. Evolution or Intelligent Design (ID), both theories make no difference to me. I believe in God with or without evidence. This is, IMHO, the true nature of faith. If a scientist came to me and showed me millions of evidence that God had never existed I would stick to my faith and tell him: God always exists. Irrational? Perhaps it is. I won’t deny it. In any case, I am not tempted to reconcile my faith with reason, let alone science. It’s not that I don’t use my reason. I have used it for quite long time [more than 20 years? is it long enough?] that I have become tired and bored, and ended up concluding that the existence of the whole universe is extraordinarily irrational. It does not make any sense to me at all. Why is there something instead of nothing? I’m not saying that the existence God will make it more reasonable. It’s just that by believing in God, I surrender myself to that uncertainty, to that flabbergasting incomprehensibility. I respect reason, but when it comes to God, It has to stop.
The Problem of Evidence
Does God really exist? Do I have the corroborative evidence to prove you that God exists? No, I don’t. But as I said above, I need no evidence to believe. Nevertheless, let us examine the nature of an evidence-based inference. We’ll find what is called the problem of induction. Perhaps, we may reasonably believe in God without evidence.
Mind that evidence only confirms the existence, not the non-existence, of something. The absence of evidence, quoting Nassim Nicholas Thaleb, must not be understood as the evidence of absence. Following the tradition of Karl Raimund Popper, he argues that seeing white swans does not confirm the non-existence of black swans. So, with regard to the question of God and science, I may argue that seeing nature works by itself through evolution does not confirm the non-existence of a single intelligent creator. Of course, I cannot provide the evidence for the existence of that “single intelligent creator” but neither can one provide the evidence to prove the otherwise. God, IMHO, is a black swan.
Hey, is it not like saying that we can never confirm things that never exist? Indeed, nothingness can never be confirmed. If it could be confirmed, then it would be something, instead of nothing, wouldn’t it? It could be understood that way, I guess, but we shall bear in mind that it also means that we are basically lacking the capability of making a certain or final conclusion of something that has not yet appeared before us; they are the silent evidence. God, IMHO, is one of them.
Is there really no scientific evidence of God’s existence?
Many believers, mostly out of inferiority before the majesty of science, seem to hold the view that religious convictions always correspond to scientific conclusions and findings. However, if there is any discordance between the two, they believe, the latter must be in the wrong side. Religion is always on the right side, they will insist. This is of course unfair. Non-religious scientists will obviously object to this kind of attitude.
Religion has been in love with science — who sadly never requited that love – since the time of the Abbasids, when the newly-empowered Muslims were exposed to the Indian, Persian and Greek civilizations. Science was once its beloved ally. Jews, Christians, Muslims and Zoroastrians once lived peacefully in the House of Wisdom where the infant science, which was neutral to different kind of faiths, was brought up. They, science and religion, were a perfect couple which kept a sweet love-hate relationship. Small disagreements often strengthened, not loosened, their bond. Scientists and theologians constantly attempted to reconcile the two when they were conflicting to each other.
A few decades after the European Enlightenment, however, the relationship turned excruciatingly sour and it finally ended when Darwin published The Origin of Species. Science — inquisitive, rebellious and free in nature– could no longer live with its conservative, possessive and authoritarian partner. Like an angry boy, it left religion in disdain.
I believe we should let science go. It is unwise to create our own “science” to replace the old science we hate, no matter how ignorant, indifferent and oblivious it is to the notions of God, faith, hope and love without which we are lost animals. We may be able to prove that life is complex and that the universe is set in such a perfect and incredible way that it enables the emergence of living organisms, including human beings. In the light of faith, they must be taken as the sign of God’s grace and majesty. Yet, in the light of science, they are just natural wonders. Period. It cannot be taken as evidence of the existence of “a designer who must have designed it”.
I’m not saying that ID is wrong. I’m not saying that believing God is the designer of the universe and life is incorrect. They are just unscientific because such assumptions are not supported by corroborative evidence. Yes, I do agree that the roses and butterflies are too beautiful and that the eyes we have are irreducibly complex that we know for certain that they cannot possibly exist by chance. Faith and common sense drive our conclusion to a designer, while science, carefully and delicately, offers natural selection. The latter is far more plausible, of course, but the former does not need rational justification; it’s faith. It therefore cannot be regarded as part of science. It may be dressed up in the cloak of science, but it is not.
Is it wrong not to believe in science? Science cannot answer everything – It has limitations. And as I have explained above, it is impossible to find to the evidence of the absence of God. Only through faith can we believe in God. If science is involved than you would have to answer the evolutionists’ question: who designed the designer? That would be a problem, right? You just have to keep your faith with or without science. It is not the only way to get the truth, let alone happiness.
Please, do note that the idolaters in Mecca in the time of Muhammad were critical to what the prophet claimed. They demanded the 40-something guy bring them evidence that he was a true prophet. In the Qur’an, it is said that God has sent them clear evidence but they persist in their infidelity. My point is that no matter how clear the evidence God brought to those idolaters about the prophethood of Muhammad, they kept denying him. So, empirical evidence is not essential to faith. Faith is a subjective choice independent of external forces but God alone. Individuals, according to Kierkegaard, create their own natures through their choices, which must be made in the absence of universal, objective standards. The validity of a choice, Dreyfus said on Kierkegaard, can only be determined subjectively.
The Wisdom of Rumi
The Holy Scriptures are the signs of God. But how many of us understand the language of the Glorious Qur’an? We pray to God, but does he answer? We have no evidence of God’s existence. We don’t understand the scriptures and our prayers have been left unanswered. Why do we believe? Rumi writes a nice poem for that question, at least for me.
One night a man was crying Allah! Allah!
His lips grew sweet with praising,
until a cynic said, “So!
I’ve heard you calling out, but have you ever
gotten any response?”
The man had no answer to that.
He quit praying and fell into a confused sleep.
He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,
in a thick, green foliage.
“Why did you stop praising?” “Because
I’ve never heard anything back.”
“This longing you express
is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from
draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness
that wants help
is the secret cup.
Listen to the moan of a dog for its master.
That whining is the connection.
There are love dogs
no one knows the names of.
Give your life
to be one of them.