The West’s Scientific Obsession

Science, since the industrial revolution era, has risen to such a stature that today it is the deen of many in the Western world. For many, questions such as creation, God and life can only be accurately studied, concluded and deduced through the scientific method of experimentation and deduction. Western thinkers today use science to explain many problems and issues and only accept conclusions when scientific studies have proved so. Whilst science has existed since the dawn of the world, its reverence as seen in the West is unprecedented.

Whilst the West’s expansion of science initially began with the application of chemicals, metals and weapons, this today has expanded to human behaviour (psychology), society, (sociology) and then legislation and even thought itself.

Science against certainty

The West’s embracement of science and almost fundamentalist defence of it, is due to the historical situation Europe faced. The Christian Church was Fidel – in that religious beliefs must be based on faith rather than the mind. A direct reaction to this was the development of the scientific method, which launched what has come to be known as the Enlightenment in the late 17th Century. The ultimate aim of the Enlightenment was freedom, in particular the liberation of people from the influence of religion. It was widely known that the Church had hindered progress in all fields of life socially, economically and scientifically via the intolerance to inquiry it had imposed upon the continent. The intellectual elite of Europe saw this as backward superstition and hoped their own project would smash the domination of the Church and lead to ‘modernity’. The European scientists and philosophers felt reason was the most central human faculty so they argued to be allowed to exercise it by questioning everything through scientific endeavour. They sought to challenge ideas that were held in a dogmatic manner i.e. were questioning was not allowed. This led them to clash directly with Church leaders and the political establishment who both maintained that some things were absolutely certain, sacred and should not be questioned.

Whilst modernists were determined to replace emotion with reason the ‘modernist’ trend went further. Anything that was claimed to be certain (i.e. claimed to be divine), had to be confronted and opposed via reason, questioning and scientific enquiry. The commitment to use reason in all cases was hostile to any idea on life that did not originate from the human mind, this included issues from religion. Enlightenment philosophers refused to give anything an amnesty from the debate and called for people to be brave enough to do without ‘belief’.

Enlightenment philosophers felt being certain was never a possibility. They equated certainty with dogma and felt compelled to fight it. After they won their intellectual clash in Europe, they set about introducing secularism at state level. Secularism is not the absolute denial of religion, as long as religion is prevented from taking part in societal decisions and denied a role in public life. When this was done, the secular liberal democratic nation state had a new model for organising society.

This gave rise to empiricists such as Locke, Berkeley and Hume They saw Science as the height of knowledge since it never left itself open to dogma. Science challenged everything and never ‘lapsed’ into certainty and absolute truths.

Hence from this brief timeline we witness the development of an agenda deep within the modernist project that has filtered through to today’s scientific and philosophical establishments; there is a hatred for absolute certainty. The secular fear of certainty does not prize certainty and as a result it asks an unending, ever-increasing list of questions instead.

The scientific method

The scientific method in its simplest is a hypothesis followed by the design for an experiment, then through testing and observation a conclusion can be deduced. This also means that subjectivity cannot be completely eliminated e.g. linguists argue that the words with which we set out a scientific project reveal inevitable preconceptions. Also any result is speculative due to the probability of error, this is why ensuring samples are representative was exist to minimise such possibilities. Also it is a requirement for identifying a variable so it can be isolated from other variables, subjected to new conditions and observed.

The fundamental issue here is that the scientific model cannot be applicable in all times and places, where no single variable can be identified, isolated, manipulated or observed? This would conclusively disprove that the scientific model is capable of answering every query or even that science is the most evolved form of thinking. This would necessarily lead us to conclude that science is a branch of thinking applicable only in certain instances.

We could ask, for example, how to construct experiments based on the scientific model, was Islamic Spain the most tolerant place on Earth during the 13th Century? To answer this query a single variable that leads to tolerance would have to be identified and scientifically defined. We would then need to be capable of subjecting other societies during the period to laboratory conditions in order to isolate the variable leading to tolerance. A criterion for evaluation, comparison and measurement would be required and the experiment would have to conclude objectively. The scientific model is clearly not built for such types of enquiry.

Scientific theories or laws are formed through repeated observations to predict some as yet unobserved events. Such a process (of making inferences from the particular to the general) is known as induction. An example is to repeatedly observe that the sun rises and sets daily and to conclude that the sun will rise tomorrow.

This means that a scientific idea could never be proven true, because no matter how many observations seem to agree with it, it may still be wrong, If it is never possible to infer the course of the future by examining past regularities then the very basis of the scientific method is in doubt.

The Scientific Question
It is also important to note that the scientific model is concerned with questions of how things work rather than why. So science would be interested in answering how the universe began, not why the universe began. How does a scientist begin to answer why the universe began? The questions of how and why are completely different but scientists unable to answer why often answer how instead. They then expect it to be sufficient.

Science can answer how things rust, not why and how we see the colour orange. Take an example of grass. Why is it green not bright blue or deep red? The scientific answer is that chlorophyll absorbs blue and red light while reflecting green. Of course, this is an answer for how but we are expected to accept it as the answer for why as well.

All of this shows that science has a place and cannot be used to answer every question. The scientific method is fantastic when dealing with technology which must always be challenged. Imagine no entrepreneur ever sought to build safer motorcars since they were certain they had the safest or if attempts to eradicate all known diseases ended in hopelessness and despair. The scientific model provides us with the framework necessary to deal with these and other inconclusive matters. However it has definite limitations that render it incapable of tackling other questions. Science could never answer why we are here why are we here? The scientific model cannot apply in a discussion of “why we exist?”

Rational Method
Emotional faith and the scientific model have both been found wanting when answering the greatest question. This is since emotion confirms absolutely nothing and the scientific method does not apply to questions of why things happen, only how and only in instances where the subject matter is tangible, variables can be isolated, manipulated and repeated testing can take place.

What is needed is an alternative method of thinking. If anyone looks around themselves the images of what you see transfer into your head. Reach out and touch an inanimate object such as a wall, a chair, a desk, a PC, a book. Your senses are transferring impressions into you so you can ponder over them.

What stages of the process of thought can we determine from this?
Sensation took place, without which one could not ponder over things. There is also a need for reality as our senses can only be aware of things if they exist in a tangible form. There is definitely some transfer of the sensed reality, as the sensation must get to your mind so you can ‘think’ about the sensed reality. Lastly, there’s a judgement.

However, something intrinsic is missing from the steps outlined thus far. This is so as sensation alone is not enough to understand a reality. One could sense a new reality forever and still move no closer to comprehension if one had no information on the issue to explain the reality. Both sensation and some degree of information are necessary.

The following examples should illustrate this. Let us begin within an example of language. If one were to pick up a book in classical (fusHa) Arabic and stare at the letters, word after word, page after page without having some understanding of Arabic (the previous information) it would not matter how much sensation took place. Reading and understanding Arabic would be impossible if one did not have the slightest appreciation of the Arabic language. Sensation alone is not enough.

Let us imagine one who had never left a primitive village and had absolutely no idea of life outside of the rural sphere. What would a complete newcomer to a big city make of simple things like road double yellow lines, zebra crossings and post boxes using sensation alone (i.e. without having any previous information on them)? Completely alone on the street at night a set of traffic lights could be sensed but would make no sense. The sensation of the sequence (red man, green man for pedestrians and red, amber, green, amber, red for vehicles) would take place but what next? In order to comprehend them the villager would be forced to look elsewhere for information either by asking others or by attempting to collect some information. Observing (sensing) the response of pedestrians and traffic to the lights would provide the information. What happens when the lights go red? Why do some stop and others go? What was the flashing light when a car speeds through a red light? What was that loud, beeping sound from that angry driver?

Once the information was collected the villager could face the reality (lights go green), sense (see the green light), transfer the sensation to the brain, link it to the information already held (green man means walk as the vehicles are not free to go) and would lead to judgement (the villager would cross the road).

What about a grown man who had been kept in a cave from birth, had never even seen daylight and only been subjected to the most rudimentary ideas and information on life. He would surely struggle in the cockpit of a Boeing 747 or operating the safety controls of a nuclear power plant as without previous information no thought could take place.

What is missing from all the examples above is the previous information that explains the reality. Linking this previous information to the sensation is what leads to thinking. Sensation alone is not enough. This is also solves the problematic question of what the mind is. The mind is the previous information. From this, we can now place the five stages of the method of thinking in correct order.

1. Reality
2. Sensation of the reality
3. Transference of the sensed reality to the brain
4. Linking the sensation with the previous information, this is the mind. The linking is the actual process of thinking leading to thought
5. Judgement upon the reality

This is the process we use to think about things. We would not utilise emotion or the scientific model to read a magazine, visit the WC or work out if the car was out of petrol. We would use the five-stage process outlined above and it is necessary to use this rational method to answer the greatest question.

The rational method is the basis of all thinking, even science. No experiment could be constructed without previous information (e.g. how to operate a bunsen burner, how to read and write etc.). In fact, the rational method can be found directly in many of the social sciences such as sociology and psychology. Science is incapable of testing human behaviour, as it requires tangible matter to experiment on. Social scientists either resort to prescribing Prozac for depression or follow a model of observation. Psychologists and sociologists make multiple observations of subjects over set periods without attempting to scientifically subject them to new conditions. An example of how to do so would be to take the human being out of the natural environment into a controlled environment and attempt to isolate what makes the human behave in certain ways. Periodic observation leading to a conclusion, without any manipulation, is a part of the rational method not the scientific. This coincidentally solves the issue of induction mentioned earlier and proves why we assume the sun will rise tomorrow. Specific elements of the social sciences are also not scientific. Psychoanalysis (studying dreams etc.) fails as a science as its answers can never be verified and depend upon repeated observation.

The rational method is clearly the natural thinking process at the base of other forms of thought (logical, philosophical, legislative etc.). It is the only method of thought that leads to certain knowledge, definite answers and truth.

When we examine everything within the range of our sensations we come to the following two conclusions:

1. We cannot sense (see, touch, hear, smell or taste) a Creator

2. Everything we can sense is dependent on something else and has a limit of some kind that it cannot surpass

We must be clear on the first point. We cannot sense a Creator. Some would have us believe in aliens or in ‘mother nature’ but this cannot be accepted as we have already denied emotion and blind imitation a role in this endeavour. Others would have us end the discussion here since no Creator can be sensed. Such people cite the phrase ‘seeing is believing’. The predicament with this is that this implies the opposite (i.e. ‘not seeing equals nothing to believe in’). This is blank, vacuous and weak.

Sensing a Creator is not a prerequisite to prove a Creator exists and never has been. We see many things in our daily lives without knowing who exactly is responsible but the result leads us to believe something definitely was responsible e.g. a sculpture requires a sculptor etc. The material cause of the sculpture would be clay but the efficient cause of the artwork would be the sculptor.

The proof of a Creator is in whether we can find evidence of creation.

This can only be proved or disproved by applying rational thought. So far the first conclusion (cannot sense a Creator) is of little help. So any answer will have to come from the second conclusion which is the enlightened view on all we sense i.e. everything is limited and dependent.

Something is limited if it is contingent and requires something peripheral to it in order to bring it into existence i.e. a cause. It is limited if it depends on something else. Whatever is limited has a dependency somewhere or how. It cannot sustain itself forever and deteriorates accordingly. We can find or deduce either a beginning or end point or both. The space it occupied can be measured. It has boundaries it cannot exceed and obstacles it cannot overcome. It is conditional; unable to prevent itself from being affected and swayed by external factors. It can be contained and is subject to constraints and thresholds. It is limited since its constituent parts are limited as they can be measured. In addition it can produce or reproduce but cannot create something else out of nothing. It can be increased and/or reduced. In short, it is finite since its restrictions are inherent and unavoidable. Such a thing can be marked out as limited.

We human beings are limited as there are actions we cannot undertake (e.g. we cannot fly), see into the future or escape death. Space, and the entire universe, consists of limited things such as planets, stars and comets which themselves are measurable and we know the sum of limited things must be limited.

This leaves us with the conclusion that that limited things were bought into existence by an unlimited first cause (Creator). This cause has to be eternal, without bounds otherwise it would be limited and dependent. The Creator is something unlimited and independent that every other thing ultimately depends upon. For this independent force to exist then it must be other than limited, i.e. other than quantifiable and definable. Therefore this independent thing must be unlimited. This necessitates that this unlimited, independent force chose to create and was not forced to create. Choice signifies will and intelligence. As a result we come to the rational conclusion that a limitless, infinite, intelligent force created the universe.

This is the proof that there is a Creator. Which is can only be proven through the rational method, which is the only method that gives decisive results on creation. Whilst science is a very useful model of thought, its lacks the certainty provided by the rational method.

Adnan Khan

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