Thursday, February 9, 2012
Decades of arguments and counterarguments over the question “whether God exists or not?” have gone by with no perceptible result. The arguments still continue unabated as ‘evolution-creationism controversy’. The only way to end the controversy is to find answer to the biggest question scientifically and settle it once and for all. Here I suggest one such method.
We cannot prove or disprove the existence of God directly for obvious reasons. However in situations of this kind in science when a theory cannot be tested directly, scientists look at its predictions. The same approach can be followed here also. We can consider Scriptural revelations about the universe and natural phenomena similar to the predictions of a theory on the assumption the Scripture is from God. In this case, I suggest the Quranic revelation of nonmaterial basis of life as a prediction whose validity can be tested scientifically. As against this Quranic revelation (discussed below), modern biology treats life as material phenomenon. Life is believed to have originated as emergent phenomenon through chance encounters of chemical molecules. Three foundational theories of modern biology namely molecular gene (genome), theories of origin of life, and Darwin’s theory of evolution of species, are developed or explained now on the assumption life is material phenomenon. Biology tells us it is material genome that constitutes the biological program responsible for the phenotype and biological processes. To biologists, an organism is mere bundle of chemical molecules. There is nothing nonphysical or nonmaterial in an organism be it a cell, plant, animal or man.
The Quran reveals to us that life is nonmaterial phenomenon. God created Adam by “breathing rooh into clay model of man” (Q. 15:28-29). The term nafs is also used in place of rooh in the Quran (Q. 4:1). On ‘breathing rooh’, the clay model (nonliving matter) sprang to life (Adam). The Quran thus reveals the cause of life is a nonphysical entity – rooh.
These Scriptural revelations about the invisible rooh as the cause of life can be understood based on computer model of organism (Wahid, P.A. 2003. J. Islamic Sci. 18(1-2):137-147; Wahid, P.A. 2006. The Computer Universe. Adam Publishers, New Delhi). A computer has visible hardware and invisible software. The hardware is constituted by chemical structures (materials). The software is nonmaterial and invisible. It has no chemical structure. The nonmaterial software however requires a physical medium for its storage (e.g., hard disk). The very same way, an organism can be described as natural biocomputer based on the Quranic revelations. The chemical structures including DNA (from cell structures to organs) constitute the biohardware. The invisible nonphysical ‘rooh’ is the biosoftware of the organism. Like the computer software, the nonmaterial biosoftware also requires a physical medium for its storage. The storage device (hard disk) of organism is the chromosome. The ‘breathing of rooh’ mentioned in the Quran is a metaphor and can be understood as the process of installing the biosoftware. Thus when rooh (biosoftware) is breathed (installed) into the nonliving clay model, it sprang to life like a computer springs to ‘life’ when software is installed in it. In this way the Scriptural revelation of ‘breathing of rooh’ into the clay model of man to create living human being (Adam) can be explained. The invisible nonphysical rooh (or nafs) is the soul of an organism. Similarly, the invisible nonphysical software is the soul of a computer. In other words, computer software is the artificial counterpart of ‘rooh’, the natural biosoftware.
The Quran further reveals that it is the removal (in computer parlance, ‘deletion’) of nafs that results in death (Q. 6:93). It is this revelation that holds the key to understanding the phenomena of life and death. Deletion of software from a computer brings its operation to a halt. Likewise, deletion of nafs from the body cells brings the functioning of the natural biocomputer (organism) to a halt. It becomes no longer living. A dead body is therefore like a computer without software. Computers, robots, etc., which run on man-made software, can be considered as forms of ‘artificial life’.
Based on the Quranic revelations, life can be defined as the manifestation of execution of divine biosoftware stored in the body cells; and death, the result of deletion of biosoftware from the body.
Since biosoftware is irreversibly lost from the biosystem at death, it will be impossible to restore life to a dead cell or dead body. The Quran further reiterates that death is a certainty ordained for all (Q. 3:185, 4:78) and the lifespan of every individual has been fixed as if by writing (Q. 3:145) implying that lifespan and death are specified in the biosoftware (nafs) of human beings.
It may be recalled here that the original proposal of the gene made by Wilhelm Johannsen in 1909 was nonphysical gene. He had also cautioned against perceiving gene as physical entity and against distinguishing gene for particular character. Both these warnings have now been proved correct. Horace Freeland Judson (Nature, 2001, 409:769) notes: “The phrases current in genetics that most plainly do violence to understanding begin “the gene for”: the gene for breast cancer, the gene for hypercholesterolaemia, the gene for schizophrenia, the gene for homosexuality, and so on. We know of course that there are no single genes for such things.” Fogle observes: “Today, in the era of genomic sequencing and intense effort to identify sites of expression, the declared goal is to search for genes, entities assumed to have physical integrity. Ironically, the sharper resolving power of modern investigative tools make less clear what, exactly, is meant by a molecular gene, and therefore, how this goal will be realized and what it will mean” (Fogle, T. 2000. In Peter Beurton, Raphael Falk, and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger, The Concept of the Gene in Development and Evolution. Historical and Epistemological Perspectives, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 3-25). The original proposal of nonphysical gene by Johanssen agrees well with the Quranic revelation. Organism is analogous to a computer system with material biohardware and nonmaterial biosoftware.
The universe may be considered to run on two divine programs namely the abioprogram (chemical information), which is encoded by chemical structure and is responsible for the characteristic properties and behavior of nonliving things; and the invisible nonmaterial bioprogram (biological information) stored on the chromosomes of organisms, which is the driving force of life. This bioprogram decides the phenotype and biological functioning of an organism. Thus we find the dead body and its living counterpart are materially (including genome) identical but yet the former does not show any sign of life. This anomaly cannot be explained in terms of material biological program (genome) but can be elegantly explained based on the Quran, which reveals to us that at death nonmaterial biosoftware is deleted from the body. This will explain why genome, like any other hardware element, is intact in a dead body. It also indicates genome does not encode the biological information. By treating material genome as the biological program, biologists are superimposing biological information over chemical information. More surprisingly, the concept implies that DNA is the only molecule in the whole universe to have the dual property of encoding both chemical information and biological information! Biological information cannot be encoded by chemical structure. The DNA technology is biohardware technology and not biosoftware technology. By altering DNA, biologists are trying to find hardware solution for software problem.
The revelation of nonmaterial nature of life by the Quran assumes special significance in the present context of numerous studies going on to create life from nonliving materials. Against this backdrop, it is possible to examine whether life is physical or nonphysical phenomenon. If we compare the Quranic and scientific viewpoints about the phenomenon of life, it will be clear that they are diametrically opposed to each other. In other words, if one of these is proved true, the other automatically gets invalidated. The experiments being conducted at several universities and research institutes in the world are attempts to create life from nonlife on the assumption life is material phenomenon.
Presently biologists try to chemically synthesize living cell in the laboratory. Instead of trying to synthesize cell from scratch, which is impossible with the available molecular tools, biologists can as well use dead cell as starting material in experiments to create life chemically. A dead cell is natural equivalent of prosthetic cell as it has all the material structures including genome except life. If life could be created through chemical synthesis or restored to a dead cell by chemical means without involving a living cell or organism at any stage during the process that will invalidate the Quran and prove the nonexistence of God. On the other hand, if the attempts fail, it will not only prove the validity of the Quran and existence of God but will also mark the end of atheism and modern biology. In this way, the existence or nonexistence of God can be confirmed scientifically. (For detailed discussion please see post 4 at my blog http://quranscienceblog.blogspot.com and post 4 at http://atheismpseudoscienceblog.blogspot.com
There used to be comments by Quran-bashers that whenever a discovery is made by scientists, Muslims will immediately start shouting that it was mentioned in the Quran 1400 years ago. There are of course several discoveries of natural phenomena that are consistent with the Quranic revelations. But by that, nobody is saying the Quran is book of science. The revelations about the phenomena of life and death quoted here are also verses of that kind. This means the verses have scientific significance. In fact the phenomena of life and death can be defined and understood only in the light of the Quran. The very fact that these phenomena remain undefined and unexplained in biology even today is the proof of that. These Quranic revelations challenging the material concept of life are brought to public attention here well ahead of the discovery of life as nonmaterial phenomenon by scientists rather than after its discovery.
This is the golden opportunity for the scientific community to establish scientifically there is no God instead of simply arguing against God and His Scripture – the Quran. By proving life is material phenomenon by creating it from nonlife, scientists will not only be falsifying the Quran but also be confirming the nonexistence of God. Until that time, however, in the true scientific tradition, the Quran and existence of God remain unchallenged. Any argument against the Quran and God will be deemed unscientific till that time scientists create life from nonlife. It is just a matter of time scientists realized the impossibility of creating life from nonlife and quit. The failure to create life from nonlife will mark the end of modern biology and more importantly, atheism. That will settle the question of God or no God for good.