by Mansoureh Tadjik for The Saker Blog
Specific target audience for this essay are those who believe themselves to be believers in God. This focused aiming is not meant to be rudely dismissive of the otherwise as readers. It does mean to exclude the latter, however, based on a rational, reasoned, and realistic sieving so that it could precisely target the former with a candid censure. In the interest of transparency, the assumptions and reasons for this specific targeting and differential sieving are clarified with the help of a few familiar and ordinary examples.
The rationale for the exclusion of the otherwise is based on two specific frameworks. The first framework is grounded in the principles of our current approaches and methods in scientific investigations, how they are applied in some instances and misapplied and perverted in other instances in a manner that traps people in a virtual state of spiritual and mental impasse. The second framework is borrowed from specific verses of Quran. Quran is referenced here as an example of one of the scriptures guiding those who believe themselves to be believers in God. However, other scriptures, too, could be explored in parallel to obtain similar inferences. There is a high likelihood that the results would be nearly identical.
The first framework for primary sieving concerns approaches and methods in scientific investigations. Scientific investigations, in our current practices, are broadly based on a couple of most basic well-established approaches. Generally speaking, these approaches are designed to explore and to observe the world, in a systematic way, and to gain deeper understanding about the world, events and phenomena within it, and the relationships among its countless components. The methods are set, as well, to apply the knowledge gained in order to make sense of this world, to improve, correct, and reform how we think, speak, and do things about and in our individual and collective lives.
A critical component in these approaches is the assumption of what is called a state of null (mostly known as null hypothesis). Simply put, when we make an observation, we would assume a default position that nothing significant is happening: that is, “no new” event has occurred to be worthy of our attention; or that, “no relationship(s)” (be it association, correlation, causal link, etc.), qualitatively or quantitatively, exists between and among the entities, events, or measurements under our observation or investigation. Once we clearly state our null, we then move to systematically collect reliable and accurate data and evidence related to our hypothesis.
The analysis and overall assessment of the collected evidence lead us to conclude one of two things. Either our null hypothesis stands (is not rejected), or the probability for our null statement to be true is so significantly low that we must conclude, with high degree of certainty, that there is something going on (e.g., new event, association, correlation, causality, etc.). Therefore, there must be an alternative explanation for the patterns of change we observe in our measurements. Embedded in these approaches is another critical component, the law of probabilities. These probabilities (often expressed in statistical terms) are used to determine if and how much that which we observe could have happened by chance alone, or by some random non-purposeful event.
In the words of late physicist David Bohm, “A wrong question is one which already assumes the very thing that ought to be questioned.” It is not the purpose of this essay to go off on a tangent and discuss how questionable our assumptions really are when we pose our main questions in the manner stated above. Neither is it the essay’s purpose to list the limitations, shortcomings, and the flaws underlying these approaches. Nor will the essay discuss how an active and genuine exploration to come up with better approaches is at a standstill. Those sorts of discussions should occur within the scientific community itself which has regrettably remained stagnant for more than two hundred years. Scientists positioned in universities and research institutes know quite well that research funding for exploring “assumptions that ought to be questioned” is nil. Depths of our thinking in this and related areas are directly linked to the amount of funding. Perhaps that might be one reason why most members of this community, nowadays, confuse science and scientific inquiry with application of science and technology and/or have given up arguing[2, 3] these fine points altogether. The only reason to summarily point out some of these issues here is to present an honest admission about the fragility of the glass houses in which stone-throwing scientists live and to advise the readers to take the approaches discussed here with a grain of salt given that we are using them as one our frameworks for discussion. In any case, real life ordinary examples might be helpful in explaining these approaches and methods for the less familiar.
In observational studies, for example during archeological diggings, when a piece of clay pottery in some depth underground is found, it could not have been there by chance alone, it is firmly asserted. The archeologists involved see too much of an organization and purposeful crafting in that little piece to immediately assume and claim the null. Their initial assumption is not that perhaps some accidental wind blew some raw material there by accident, then geological folds and core gravitational forces, over time, exerted random pressure from different directions to give millions of clay pieces that particular shape and texture, by chance alone. Then, through natural/geological selection, the fittest pieces survived to the next phase. The extreme heat radiating from molten lava within the earth’s inner core and layers randomly cooked those pieces. Some of the pieces survived the cooking and randomly advanced to the next stage. Upward and sideway thrusts toward cooler upper layers, some of the fittest pieces moved up and cooled down. Of those, through natural selection, one piece was preserved and waited to be discovered, by chance, and by that particular team of archeologists.
It is hardly assumed that the whole mechanism, could be explained by a series of accidents, random chances, fitness of the pieces, and natural/geological selection that made the pottery piece to take the shape, texture, and the quality that somehow looks like something an intelligent being like humans may have made. Now, if the archeology team finds 2, 5, 10, or 50 such pieces in different locations, they would be willing to put their professional lives on the line to claim that those pieces could not have come to those patterns of formations independently, in parallel, and by chance alone.
Elsewhere, in criminal investigations and forensic sciences, to give another example, a chip from a broken nail, a fiber, traces of a chemical compound, a strand of hair, remnants of some bodily fluids could not be where they are found/detected by chance alone, it is firmly assumed. Therefore, the investigators spend hours, days, months, or more and lots of other resources to look for an alternative explanation about whodunit and how the detected items got to the scene of crime. People are condemned, put behind bars, sent to gas chambers, and their possessions seized based on the outcome of these very methods of inquiry.
In experimental studies, too, similar assumptions of null and examination of patterns occur. Let us suppose there is a health institute, or a giant multi-national drug company, or a research entity of the department of offense of an arrogant power, for instance, that has embarked on developing and testing the efficacy as well as the side effects of a promising drug –promising in terms of its profitability for the company and the shareholders, or its deadliness as a chemical weapon, that is— for a study and ‘treatment’ of a costly and highly debilitating disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), let’s further suppose. If the experiments are to be carried out in North America and some Western European countries, the company/institute/department, in line with current usual practices, would conduct lab experiments on monkeys, soldiers, and prisoners (who happen to be mostly people of color, by chance alone). If the tests are to be done on humans, then greedy and/or witless physicians and researchers from other countries, endowed with the title developing or third world, will be enticed and recruited through offers of gifts, paid trips to and fro scientific conferences plus an assortment of other tokens of appreciation, to carry out the experiments. Those trained local serfs, in turn, prescribe, apply, or test the drug on behalf of their patrons to/on their respective unsuspecting, often poor and powerless, local people.[7,8]
Conveniently, with a mafia-style help from the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Health Organization, and the like, the respective countries have rushed to digitize and upload into extremely safe and secure Webistan every bit of their populations’ information from vital statistics to medical information, lab results, prescriptions, and more, all under the motto of progress and development. Everything about everyone, including those in test and control groups of the said experiment, is digitally packaged and virtually delivered. All expenses paid by the local people themselves. [It is a painful shame to be exploited, it is shameful pain though to personally finance one’s own exploitation.]
At this stage, the overlords of the drug experiment go back to their original null hypothesis; they run series of statistical analyses, compare groups and document patterns of change in specific indicators in both the test group (received the drug) and the control group (received some placebo). The conclusion they draw is based on the quality and quantity of the patterns of change they observe in signs, symptoms, and other indicators under the investigation. If they determine the observed changes could not have occurred by chance alone, then they conclude that they must have occurred due to the administration of that particular drug. Of course, it is highly likely that the quality and quantity of the drug’s reported efficacy would be directly proportional to and its reported side effects inversely proportional to its potential for financial profitability for the manufacturer or its deadliness in military applications. But we will not go into details of why and how. Our specific aim in this section was, and still is, to provide some simple, real life examples of scientific approaches for those less familiar.
This essay will become needlessly lengthier than it already is if more examples were to be listed. Fair-minded readers get the gist though. For others, the problem lies elsewhere. By now, there must be a “So what?” lingering in space. So this, these standard approaches and rules of scientific conduct come to a screeching halt when it comes to laws and patterns governing life, universe, and everything within. We see repeated patterns, laws of nature that hold true at subatomic all the way to macro intergalactic levels. Extremely complex events and phenomena governed by same precise rules and regulations are repeated exactly. Any single one of that which we observe could not have just happened by chance alone, let alone for billions of them to have occurred in series of repeated patterns governed by same laws expanding over times, places, and any other imaginable dimensions by chance.
Why, then, must we consider as a foregone conclusion an unreasonable supposition about the most critical, important, and enormous facts of our existence and the existence of the universe while, at the same time, we take costly care to avoid presupposing such absurdity about the most ordinary events of our daily and routine affairs? Why the double standard? This is the ultimate in scientific hypocrisy.
It must be justly acknowledged though there are some who exercise more humility and less arrogance in their contradictory stance. They concede that perhaps there is some universal interconnectedness, intelligent force, and super consciousness spiritual aspects to things. Some may even go a bit further and acknowledge that there is a Creator. A generous concession. But they disregard the possibility that the Creator might or should perhaps have some further say in how things run, regulated, and maintained, thereafter. Is that how things usually work in various aspects of our regular lives?
Currently, millions of products, devices, and machines are manufactured in our world. There are computers we use to type and read essays for/in the Saker blog; the coffee makers we use to brew our coffee; the cars we drive to and from places; the appliances we use in our kitchens; the tools we use in our workshops, companies, and schools; and countless other engineered physical, chemical, and biological products. They all come (or must come) with one important and essential document, the User’s Manual. In fact, there is a branch of scientific and technical writing that deals specifically with this business of writing user guides and manuals. These manuals, written by the makers, tell us exactly what power supplies to use, for example, for a product, whether it needs a DC or AC source, what type of fuel to put in, what standard operating procedures there are for optimal operation, what key cautionary and safety points to follow to minimize the risks and hazards, how to do routine maintenance, and so much more.
Now, if a semi-intelligent being like humans publishes all sorts of instructions for the operation of a small piece of machinery he creates and does not say to the user, “go and figure it out yourself,” and the users demand such documents, too, based on what sensible judgment do we deduce that an All-Knowing, All-Wise, All-Kind, and Just Creator of multi-complex, multi-layered universe(s) and billions of complex beings called humans that are made over times and places would leave all His creation, including us, without any instructions, guides, or cautionary warnings about how to conduct ourselves and how to manage our physical, social, economic, psychological, and mental relationships between, among, in relations to ourselves and the universe(s) that surround us? Does the empirical evidence on what we do/have done to ourselves and to the only habitat in which we can currently live, given our physical limitations, show that we are really capable of figuring things out based on our own wits alone?!
We turn to the second framework for our exclusion criteria, the one borrowed from the verses of Quran. An overall inference drawn from Quran regarding humans is that all human beings in their fitrat, or their core, essence, soul, crux of their existence, are Ilaahi, or Godly. That means, every single human being from the time his/her existence takes shape at conception is endowed with an innate knowledge of God and an intrinsic submission to Him. Willful active acknowledgement of God and sincere voluntary submission to him are considered Imaan, or belief. Mo’min is one who, out of his/her own free will acknowledges and submits to God and God’s commands and regulates his/her deeds accordingly on an ongoing basis. To articulate this in our regular language, innate knowledge and submission to God could be thought of as genes and willful acknowledgment and voluntary submission would be the phenotypic expression of those genes.
In fact, the word Kufr in Quran, which is translated into English as “disbelief in God,” means “to cover up.” A kafir, translated as an infidel or a disbeliever of God, literally means “he who covers up and hides,” in this case, the truth of his essential and innate knowledge about God and an ongoing willful non-submittal to God. Therefore, in this framework, the default factory setting for this intelligent, organic, earthly-heavenly machine we call humans is belief in God. Disbelief in God comes through practice, constant and costly cover ups as consequence of mismanagement of one’s kibr, or arrogance and egotism. It is very simple and straight forward.
وَ إِذْ أَخَذَ رَبُّكَ مِنْ بَنِي آدَمَ مِنْ ظُهُورِهِمْ ذُرِّيَّتَهُمْ وَ أَشْهَدَهُمْ عَلى أَنْفُسِهِمْ أَ لَسْتُ بِرَبِّكُمْ قالُوا بَلى شَهِدْنا (Quran, 7:172)
“Recall when your Lord took from the children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants and had them bear witness to themselves [when He] asked, ‘Am I not your Lord?’ They said, ‘Yes, we testify’.”
فَأَقِمْ وَجْهَكَ لِلدِّينِ حَنِيفًا ۚ فِطْرَتَ اللَّهِ الَّتِي فَطَرَ النَّاسَ عَلَيْهَا ۚ لَا تَبْدِيلَ لِخَلْقِ اللَّهِ (Quran, 30:30)
“Then direct your face toward the just and pure religion. This is the fitrah of Allah upon which He has created people. Nothing will change in the creation of Allah.”
Within this definitional framework, therefore, it appears those who believe themselves to be nonbelievers in God, more than with anyone else, must constantly struggle and grapple with their own innate ‘selves’ and ‘forces’ to regularly convince themselves of their disbelief. A true cognitive dissonance. Constant calling upon them and arguing with them yields very little results. They have ears but not the will to listen to or hear the truth, they have tongues but not the will to speak the truth, and they have eyes but not the will to observe and see the truth: <
إِنَّ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا سَوَاءٌ عَلَيْهِمْ أَأَنذَرْتَهُمْ أَمْ لَمْ تُنذِرْهُمْ لَا يُؤْمِنُونَ (Quran, 2:6)
“Indeed, those who practice kufr [disbelief and cover up], it will be the same for them whether you warn them or not; they insist on not believing.”
خَتَمَ اللَّهُ عَلَىٰ قُلُوبِهِمْ وَعَلَىٰ سَمْعِهِمْ ۖ وَعَلَىٰ أَبْصَارِهِمْ غِشَاوَةٌ ۖ وَلَهُمْ عَذَابٌ عَظِيم (Quran, 2:7)
“[As such] God put a seal on their hearts and their ears; and on their eyes, there is a cover [blocking of vision] and for them, the consequence/outcome is a great disaster/torment.”
وَمَثَلُ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا كَمَثَلِ الَّذِي يَنْعِقُ بِمَا لاَ يَسْمَعُ إِلاَّ دُعَاءً وَنِدَاءً صُمٌّ بُكْمٌ عُمْيٌ فَهُمْ لاَ يَعْقِلُونَ (Quran, 2:171)
“And the example of those who practice kufr (disbelief through regular cover ups) is that of someone whom is shout at but he has no understanding of what he hears except calls and cries. Deaf, dumb, and blind; they fail to employ reason.”
If God Almighty, the Creator, has left them to their own devices, who are we to become “a stepmother more compassionate than a mother”? Leaving them be and learn through their inner struggles is perhaps the most reasonable thing we could do. Unless, of course, they are actively blocking the believers from practicing their belief in God, in which case resistance would be the most reasonable response. As far as the premise of this essay is concerned though, it would be silly to try to target someone who actively denies God with a criticism that requires belief in God as its core assumption. Thus the exclusion.
Up to this point, the essay has worked on clearing the path for targeting those who believe themselves to be believers in God. These are people who actively and willfully acknowledge God as their Creator and submit to Him with regard to their thoughts, words, and deeds. This essay does not aim to single out any particular individuals, groups, or denominations like Shi’s Muslims, Sunni Muslims, any and all other groups in Islam, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, Zoroastrians, Majus, and more. Anyone who believes himself/herself to be a believer in God is included as the target here.
If the adherents within any of these groups refer to primary, secondary, and tertiary principles of their, as well as the others’, belief systems and scriptures, they are very likely to observe patterns and a strong common threads in nearly ninety nine percent of those principles shared within and among all these denominations. There is a high likelihood that they would also find general categories of commands or edicts that forbid (make Haram, warn against doing) similar things (generally referred to as sins) as well as commands or edicts that mandate (order, make mandatory, Waajib) doing some other similar things. They might also find similarities in highly recommended (Mustahib) deeds (better to do but is not mandatory) as well as in cautionary advice to avoid (Makrooh) some deeds (better not to do but is not a sin if done).
More specifically, they would see commands that forbids, for example, harming, exploiting, and killing self and other innocent people as well as aiding and abetting in any such acts; or, predatory financial transactions that lead vulnerable people into ruins (like usury, hoarding of essential goods to create and/or exploit scarcity, etc.); or, predatory approaches in social interactions that destroy social standing, honor, and reputation of people (gossip, defamation, false allegation, slander, etc.); lying, cheating, and deception that damages human relations, family structure, and social interactions. They would see mandatory deeds, for example, like respect, kindness, and responsibility towards one’s mother and father, family, close kin, neighbors, those in need, the poor and dispossessed; some form of prayers, worship rituals, and fasting; hard work, etc. Although there might be some diversity and variation on the surface but the core and essence in all of them are the same. There are more examples but point is made.
If we were to conduct a systematic and comparative study and analysis of all these patterns, we would find the quality and quantity of commonalities that unite us as believers in God far exceed those which divide us. Yet, majority of us, trapped in our silos and fragmented sects, get duped into supporting programs and deeds that are clearly and unequivocally forbidden by God. We get duped to support plans that clearly ignore what are mandated by God. The ones who do the planning and impose it on the people of the world have zero real interest in what God says and wants from us. But we have gotten ourselves so tangled up in our divisions over that one percent difference that we have relinquished our responsibilities over the ninety nine percent shared values and commands to those who have no interest whatsoever in our or their own long-term salvation.
If a handful of lying, cheating, deceitful, corrupt, irresponsible, selfish, immoral thieves, non-believing thugs and organizations, bankers, and gamblers make decisions, control, and impose upon us wars, conflicts, chaos, contracts, transactions, and laws related to our financial, education, sexual, social, and life affairs that run counter to, and exactly opposite of, what our God, and our wisdom and reason, and our fitrat tell us, is it a surprise then?
Most readers of this blog are all too familiar with examples of how people of various belief systems (in the US, UK, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Occupied Palestine, and more) are deceived to support corrupt leaders in their ungodly misdeeds and aggressions in the name of a given religion. The solution, some suggest, is to do away with religion, that is, “to throw away the baby with the bathwater.” I see. Instead of demanding deep awareness, accountability, and authenticity in doing all the constructive things God tells us to do and avoiding all the destructive things that God warns us against, we should do away with the words of God altogether. Which genius came up with that solution?
To that end, I would like to say, shame on those of us who believe ourselves to be believers in God, yet, we continue our spiritual, mental, and intellectual lethargy and ineptitude that keep us victims of, and active participants in, deceitful plans to divide and destroy us because we do not know our religions and our shared values well enough. Double shame on us for our hypocrisy, saying we believe in something and behaving exactly opposite of that. From where I stand, religious hypocrisy of those who believe themselves to be believers in God is just as ugly as scientific hypocrisy of those who think themselves to be real scientists. Fortunately for us, this coin has another side: deep awareness of our religion, authenticity in following its edicts in our thoughts, words, and deeds are just as beautiful and praiseworthy as true scientific awareness and authenticity. They are two wings with which we could ascend. والسلام.
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