Nicolaus Copernicus (d. 1543 CE) was an astronomer whose view that the Earth orbits the sun (heliocentrism) was condemned by the Church.
Galileo Galilei (d. 1642 CE) was the Italian astronomer who was tried in the inquisition for his championing of the Copernican theory of heliocentrism. Deemed guilty of heresy, he was sentenced to house arrest.
Giordano Bruno (d. 1600 CE) was an Italian scientist who viewed that the universe was infinite and believed in a plurality of worlds. His cosmological views were amongst the charges against him in the inquisition, and he was ultimately burned alive at the stake.
Ibn al-Qayyim. Miftah
, pp. 1417-1418
See Ibn al-Qayyim’s discussion in Miftah Dar al-Sa’adah
, vol. 1, p. 533 where he discusses these two categories of signs along with the Qur’anic examples. This work will be cited frequently in the course of this article as many of the reflections and insights of the author on scripture and nature are pertinent to the subject matter of this paper.
There is a narration which states, “Allah created four things with His Hands: the ’Arsh
(throne), the Qalam
(pen which records fate), Adam, and Paradise. Then He said to all other creation: ‘Be,’ and it became.” (Mustadrak al-Hakim
2/349). Al-Dhahabi agreed with al-Hakim’s authentication of this tradition.
7 Sahih Muslim
, 2611. In other narrations, Iblis prods Adam’s lifeless form, taunting him and threatening him, “If I gain authority over you, I will destroy you. And if you gain authority over me, I shall defy you.” See Tarikh al-Tabari
(Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Ilmiya 1987), vol. 1, p. 64.
8 Jami’ al-Tirmidhi
9 Jami’ al-Tirmidhi
This is the dominant reading of Qur’an 4:1. Abu Hayyan al-Andalusi mentions another interpretation, in which the verse is taken to mean “and created from it (i.e., the same clay) his spouse.” Cf. Al-Bahr al-Muhit
(Beirut: Dar Ihya al-Turath al-Arabi, nd) vol. 3 , pp. 154-155.
Ibn Sina, Kitab al-shifa', Al-ilahiyyat
. Edited by Ibrahim Madkour, George Anawati, and Said Zayed. Cairo: al-Hay'a al-misriyya al-'amma lil-kitab, 1975. p. 441. Ibn Sina explains that since human beings cannot survive individually but rather are dependent on one another, they must be able to cooperate and construct communities; this requires law and justice. But given the fact that justice and morality are relativistic and subject to different opinions, there needs to be someone with the authority to legislate principles that will be obeyed and thus, the need for a Prophet. Ibn Sina prefigures the perspective of French Sociologist Emile Durkheim (d. 1917 CE) who saw religion as the fundamental social institution for the function of a moral community.
. p. 443. See also the discussion in Dimitri Gutas, Avicenna and the Aristotelian tradition: Introduction to reading Avicenna's philosophical works
, Brill (2014). p. 345. The Muslim jurist and staunch Aristotelian philosopher, Ibn Rushd, attempted to exculpate the falasifah
and argued that both the discourse of scientific demonstration and religious description are true and applicable in different domains. See Taylor, Richard. Averroes on the Sharîʿah of the Philosophers. In The Judeo-Christian-Islamic Heritage: Philosophical and Theological Perspectives
(Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2012), pp. 283-304.
Ibn Sina, Risalah al-Adhawiyyah fi Amr al-Ma‘ad
. (Cairo: Matba’at al-I’timad 1949).
Ibn Sina, Risalah fi sirr al-qadar
, in Majmu’ al-Rasa’il al-Shaykh al-Ra’is
(Hyderabad: Dairatul-Maarif Osmania 1935), p. 4.
Benedict de Spinoza, The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza
, translated from the Latin, with an Introduction by R.H.M. Elwes. Revised edition (London: George Bell and Sons, 1891). Vol 1. p. 93. Spinoza was directly influenced by the falsafah
tradition through Elijah Delmedigo, a Jewish Averroist. See “Spinoza on Philosophy and Religion: The Averroistic Sources,” The Rationalists: Between Tradition and Innovation
, eds. Carlos Fraenkel, Dario Perinetti and Justin Smith, The New Synthese Historical Library of Springer Academic Publishers, 2010, pp. 58-81.
Al-Safarini. Lawami’ al-Anwar al-Bahiyyah
. (Maktabah al-Islamiya Dar Al-Khani 1991), p. 116.
Al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid. Qanun al-Ta’wīl
. ed. Muḥammad Zāhid al-Kawtharī (Cairo: al-Maktabah al-Azhariyyah li-turāth, 2006), pp. 7-11. Al-Ghazali cautions that one should not affirm one possible metaphorical interpretation over another. This is because once we depart from the apparent meanings of the texts, there is no means by which to know precisely which meaning is intended by God, unless one is able to enumerate every possible interpretation and falsify all of them except for one, which he deems unlikely.
Al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid. Faysal al-Tafriqah baynal Islam wa al-Zandaqah
. (Damascus 1993), pp. 28-33.
Al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid. Ihya ʿUlum al-Din – Kitab Qawa’id al-Aqa’id
. (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm 2005), p. 122.
For a more detailed study of Ibn Taymiyyah’s views refer to Yasir Kazi, Reconciling Reason and Revelation in the Writings of Ibn Taymiyya (d. 728/1328), An Analytical Study of Ibn Taymiyya's Darʾ al‐Taʿārụd
, PhD Dissertation, Yale University 2013.
Ibn Taymiyyah. Dar Ta’arud al-ʿAql wal-Naql
. (Riyadh: Al-Imam University 1991), vol. 1, p. 198.
Ibn Taymiyyah explains that acceptable re-interpretation (ta’wil maqbul
) is nothing other than clarifying and explaining the intended meaning of a statement (tafsir wa bayan al-murad
) based on clear evidences. Ibn Taymiyyah, Dar Ta’arud al-ʿAql wal-Naql
, vol. 1, p. 201.
Al-Rāghib al-Isbahānī, Mufradat Alfadh al-Qur’an
. ed. Safwan ʿAdnan Dawudui. (Damascus: Dar al-Qalam, 1992), p. 894.
It is worth also commenting briefly on the spurious claim that historical Muslim figures adopted belief in biological evolution. Figures like Ibn Khaldun and Ibn Miskawayh mention a sequence of plants, animals, then human beings, however this is not in the context of origins. Rather, they were referring to the ancient Greek concept of scala naturae
, or ‘The Great Chain of Being,’ in which every object in existence is placed on a linear scale, beginning with minerals, and ending with God Himself. The purpose of this ‘Great Chain’ was to give legal and moral weight to those higher up in this scale, and there is no suggestion of a progression from one state to another. This error of reading biological evolution into the writings of these authors has been pointed out by many specialists, including T. J. de Boer over a hundred years ago; see T. J. de Boer. The History of Philosophy in Islam
. Translated by E. R. Jonas, B.D. (London : Luzac & Co., 1903), p. 91.
From a linguistic perspective, it is necessary to understand qasas
as historically true accounts. Adnan Zarzour. ʿUlum al-Qur’an. (Maktabah al-Islami 1981), p. 362.
Philosopher Thomas Nagel is one who appears to find this line of argument convincing. He writes, “It is prima facie
highly implausible that life as we know it is the result of a sequence of physical accidents together with the mechanism of natural selection […] given what is known about the chemical basis of biology and genetics, what is the likelihood that self-reproducing life forms should have come into existence spontaneously on the early earth, solely through the operation of the laws of physics and chemistry? […] In the available geological time since the first life forms appeared on earth, what is the likelihood that, as a result of physical accident, a sequence of viable genetic mutations should have occurred that was sufficient to permit natural selection to produce the organisms that actually exist? [...] I realize that such doubts will strike many people as outrageous, but that is because almost everyone in our secular culture has been browbeaten into regarding the reductive research program as sacrosanct, on the ground that anything else would not be science.” (Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False,
It is useful to remember that biological evolution does not describe things progressing in a linear sequence, but rather through various branches in the phylogenetic tree. While the domino example may overemphasize the sequential nature of evolution, one must remember that evolution is not a linear stepwise progression from one species to the next but involves processes of genetic diversification and genetic drift that take place in populations.
Indeed, it is fascinating to note that Islamic theology has already deconstructed this objection—it was none other than Iblis (Satan) who fallaciously accused God of deceiving him into thinking that Adam was inferior to him, due to the latter’s biology and humble origins (he couldn’t fathom how a creation from dust would be preferred over himself—a being created of smokeless fire). See Qur’an 7:16 and 15:39.
Dennett, Daniel. Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life,
1995, p. 21. Dennett himself, however, has been taken to task for his own unexamined baggage concerning rejection of religion and support for scientism, in Leon Wieseltier’s review, "The God Genome." New York Times
, 02/19/06. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/19/books/review/the-god-genome.html
Bas van Fraassen. The Scientific Image
. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980) p. 8.
Hawking, S., & Penrose, R. (1996). The Debate. In Hawking S. & Penrose R. (Authors), The Nature of Space and Time
(pp. 121-138). Princeton University Press. See also Adrian Bardon’s A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time
, pp. 75-76 for other quotations.
While scientists often use the term ‘data’ casually, the term can refer to a diverse array of matters including computer simulations, mathematical models, conceptual analysis, qualitative field observations, chemical analysis, and so on, all of which are epistemically distinct. Just as Ibn Taymiyyah unpackaged the notion of ‘intellect’ (ʿaql
) to scrutinize its contents (including personal opinions, syllogisms, rhetoric, etc.) the same must be done with the term ‘data.’
Bas van Fraassen. The Scientific Image
. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1980) p. 72.
For an excellent discussion of the issue of observability drawing on Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology, providing a refutation of the most common objections to this paradigm from scientific realism, refer to Wiltsche, H. A. (2012). What is wrong with Husserl's scientific anti-realism? Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy
(2), 105-130. For an example of the application of van Fraassen’s views in the realm of evolutionary biology, refer to Sandy Boucher’s discussion on functionalism versus structuralism as opposing epistemic stances adopted by evolutionists: Boucher, S. C. (2015). Functionalism and structuralism as philosophical stances: van Fraassen meets the philosophy of biology. Biology & Philosophy
For an overview, see Frigg, R., & Votsis, I. (2011). Everything you always wanted to know about structural realism but were afraid to ask. European Journal for Philosophy of Science