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Weaving the Fabric of Scientific Knowledge:  Part 1 of 3
by John Herlihy (Yahya Ahmed)
courtesy:    Ali Abbas Qureshi (aliabbasqureshi@yahoo.com)

Note: John Herlihy (Yahya Ahmed) was born in Boston, MA and educated at Boston University and Columbia University in NY City, became a muslim nearly 25 years ago in 1974, while he was working at the University of Kuwait. He is presently living and working in the Sultanate of Oman.

Taken from Modern Man at the Crossroad
John Herlihy, Suhail Academy Press, Pakistan

CHAPTER ONE

Weaving the Fabric of a Scientific Knowledge

" I was he who mixed up the counsels by senseless utterances. Also I have spoken without intelligence of marvels which are beyond me and of which I am ignorant. " (Job: 42.3)

The last Two centuries have witnessed the gradual emergence of two terms of reference; two provisos of knowledge, two declarations of faith that have come of age during the 20th century as forces that virtually define the parameters of our knowledge concerning the true nature of reality and provide the frame of reference for our .understanding of human origins and ultimate meaning.
As such, they have displaced the traditional dogma and beliefs of the world religions with a dynamic. revolutionary and alluring world? view that not only offers a more modern and progressive angle of vision than the old religious model, but has also altered, perhaps irrevocably, the way we understand ourselves and the world around us. We are referring, of course, to the universally accepted framework of modern science and the theory of evolution. They have altered the collective conscience of the world and revolutionized the way modern individuals perceive and understand themselves within the contemporary setting. 

 

1... Modern science, as the direct descendent of the scientific revolution that commenced in the 17th century. has revolutionized the entire framework within which the mass global population approaches the enigmatic yet vital question concerning the true nature of reality: It provides the subconscious paradigm of mind that serves as an intellectual, emotive and even physical sieve of knowledge, producing concepts and consequences through which we understand and experience the modern world. It releases mankind from the burden of a human responsibility that associates the human being with a sacred trust made between the primordial soul and its Divine Creator by providing modern man with a terrestrial lineage of development that commences with a single replicating cell and ends with the spectacular transition from animal primate to conscious human.
As a result, the theory of evolution has completely recast the mindset and mentality of people everywhere with its 'hypothetical explanation of man's origin and by implication his meaning and ultimate destiny.

Between Physics and Biology. modern science has effectively delivered a comprehensive narrative of the nature of reality, or human origins and ultimate ends. Researchers have mapped out physical reality, ranging from the micro realm of quarks and electrons to the macro realm of planets, stars and galaxies. Physicists have shown that all matter is ruled by a few basic forces: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Scientists have also stitched the weave of their knowledge into an impressive. if not very detailed, narrative of how the universe came to be. The universe exploded into existence 15 billions years ago, give or take a few billion years.
Then, 4.5 billion years ago, the disintegrating fragments of an exploding star, evolved into our solar system. Sometime during the next few hundred million years, for reasons that may never be known, single celled organisms bearing an ingenious molecule called DNA emerged on the plains of a still hellish by human standards earth. The sketchy details of this modern day "myth" allows for these Adamic microbes to give rise and evolve over the course of geologic time into an extraordinary array of more complex creatures, leading through a vast array of species and ultimately culminating in the conscious being of Homo sapiens.

We are living through a scientific revolution that is so effective and so complete we are no longer even moved by some of its disturbing assertions. In addition to the contemporary myth of origins, whole, great, blocks of newly discovered scientific facts are being laid down as foundation stones for a new intellectual world order and we are already taking these assumptions for granted as de facto realities. DNA and subatomic particles have appeared over our horizon and the possibilities of altering the genetic code and cloning human beings are being actively debated  at universities and research centers the world over. So far, we are not shocked by the speed and the diversity of this new founded knowledge that has the power to alter and change irrevocably not only the way we understand ourselves but the very nature of the world around us. Yet we are hardly surprised by these monumental findings, much less do we express feelings of dismay that we are moving in a direction in which angels would fear to tread.

Nothing is without a price, however, and the cost of this extraordinary modern day cosmology has been the loss of the traditional knowledge of the Transcendent Reality and the Supreme Intelligence as an efficacious knowledge in the minds of the people. Thus, the mentality of people around the globe has been irrevocably altered to the extent that modern man would not be recognized by the traditional man of earlier times as a relative and compatriot. Without the Supreme Being and the Universal Creator, there can be no symbolist perspective in which the entire created universe mirrors the Absolute Reality and every living thing serves as a symbol of that reality, nor is there the possibility of a human spirituality through which man can experience the knowledge of the Divinity and express the holy sentiments that will connect him with that Divinity. These ideas are in effect the foundation stones of a metaphysical reality that transcends the limitations of man and the world for the sake of a higher plane of knowledge and a deeper level of experience than we would otherwise know.

Without a window to the other side of reality, these two precepts of knowledge .must bear their own logical consequences. Since modern science has completely altered, perhaps forever, the way we think about ourselves and the world, modern and contemporary man has the right to ask questions and to expect reasonable, indeed believable answers from modern science.
Twentieth century man has been bombarded with a dizzying array of facts, figures, theories, and statistical projections concerning the age of the earth, distances within space, the constitution and behavior of sub atomic particles, and the likes of quarks, dark. matter, and black holes.
Having effectively abandoned the traditional perspective, we have the right to ask of modern scientists to develop a consensus in coming to tens with the precise implications of our current knowledge. We need a map of the terrain if you will, a picture of the world, and ultimately a world view that can accommodate the. vast array of scientific information that is being accumulated, unless it falls a victim to becoming merely a philosophy of denial of the values of life and a rejection of the traditional world view without offering modern man a plausible, much less believable alternative.

Increasingly, it seems that we find ourselves in the uncharted territory of an exploratory and descriptive science rather than the revealed and illuminating knowledge of the holy traditions, a knowledge that was the embodiment of a sacred science and a repository of meaning for the enigmatic mysteries of life. We roam through the terra incognito of a frontier wilderness as wild
and uncomprehending as anything encountered beyond the spiritual horizon of our time. More so now than ever before, there is a profound need for a comprehensive world view concerning the nature of reality, and there is a need for a perceptive approach to man's origins and ends that can conceptualize man's perception of self within a framework of comprehensibility and meaning.

We have lost the knowledge of the Absolute, the Eternal and the Infinite. We have lost the traditional message that was implicit in the symbolic image of the horizon, a message that spoke of the duality of man and the world, in which reality itself was shattered into two parts, the one above, the other below, with the horizon as the seam of the world that symbolically united once again the reality of this world into the seamless whole that mirrored the Transcendent Reality. We have lost the symbolic messages of Nature in which every divinely created thing within the natural order expressed the unity of the Transcendent Reality.

We have lost the ability to express the sacred sentiments of an inner spirituality that was once the human expression of higher emotions that reflected the knowledge and presence of the Divine Being. As a consequence, we have lost the baraka or channels of blessing and grace that flow through the arteries of the universe as a perennial dispensation from the Divinity to humanity to preserve the image of the Way.

From the spiritual point of view, there are two great barriers beyond which man will never pass:
They are firstly knowledge of the Divine Mystery within the breast of the universe (Has he penetrated to the Unseen Mystery, or has he taken a contract with the Most Gracious [19: 78]) and knowledge concerning the true nature of the Holy Spirit (They ask thee concerning the Spirit. Say:
"The Spirit is by the command of my Lord. Only a little knowledge is communicated to you [17: 85]). The Divine Mystery will always lie at the heart of the human condition.
The mystery implicit in the creation will never fully reveal itself and the cosmic secret will forever intrigue humanity so long as man remains still man. Secondly, the knowledge of first origins and ultimate ends found within revelation will remain the sole source of knowledge concerning the genesis of the universe and the inception and evolution of life on earth. The symbol of the. veil holds true today as it always has, in spite of sophisticated advances made within all the branches of modern science. The Divine Mystery shall prevail and the knowledge of origins and ends will remain as mysterious and absolute as long as there still exists an absolute chasm between nothing and something.

Two of Three

Modern and contemporary man no longer believes in the Supreme Creator, the Superior Intelligence, and the Lord of the Universe who always was, is, and always will be the One (al Ahad), the Eternal (al Samad) and the Real (al?Haqq). Why this is true perhaps no one can fully explain. Yet the evidence of this disbelief and denial lies visible for everyone to behold with a consequence that assaults the body, the mind, the psyche and spirit of all who live in the modern world. No one can escape the effects of this denial and everyone must live within an ambiance of insecurity and doubt that pervades contemporary life.

Modern science does little to alleviate the fundamental anxiety of people with regard to the underlying questions that occupy human sensibilities at deeper level of existence. We are enamored with a science that is heralded as the pursuit of a knowledge that is provable and quantifiable, rather than the pursuit of a knowledge that will lead to realization and transcendence. In other words, modern man seeks a knowledge for the sake of knowledge only, and does not address the inner needs of traditional man who was perennially in search of a knowledge that would help him to understand himself, transcend his limitations and fulfill the mandate of his being. Scientists want to know: the search for knowledge underlies the entire scientific enterprise. Still, the question must be asked: what kind of knowledge are we seeking, what is the object of that knowledge and is there a limit to knowledge? Scientists want to discover the truth; they want to know the truth presumably, at least theoretically and they feel uncomfortable and vulnerable when they are confronted with the limits of knowledge. Yet science imposes its own limits to knowledge and is very clear about the kind of knowledge that man should seek in his pursuit of an understanding of the true nature of reality.

Now, without the perception of an Ultimate Intelligence dominating the horizon of our time, there is the perceived need for an alternative explanation to the old fashioned and outdated outlook of the traditional world. We need a world view, a new paradigm, a comprehensive manifesto, or a Weltanschauung to sign the bottom line of our existence, and to provide the background and the vision of a world that simply does not explain itself. We need a credible explanation to resolve the enigmas of the world, to neutralize life's mystery and to provide the world and everything in it with an identity that needs no explanation because it reaches deep within the soul and spirit of man and has about it the feel of truth. In other words: we need a knowledge like the knowledge of old and we need a world view like the one provided by traditional metaphysics and cosmology: We need a knowledge that is more meaningful and applicable than the abstract reasoning and mathematical calculations that are the standard fare of the modern world of science. We need a qualitative approach in our search for. knowledge and meaning that unites rather than shatters worlds, and can substantiate and enliven the quantitative morass we find ourselves in during these times.

The grand architecture of quantum physics, astro physics, and micro biology astound and thrill us with their miraculous window into new worlds of possibility. They take us down avenues of the surreal, yet the findings they uncover leave modern man disturbingly cold and dispassionate on inner levels, because the theories, the abstractions; the mathematics and the conclusions produce a kind of mathematical transubstantiation of matter that confuses and alienates people rather than offering them access to a revealed and essential knowledge with its window on the truth. Unlike the Word and the Logos of sacred scripture, scientific knowledge does not bring with it an enlightened meaning and it does not have the potential of becoming a universal wisdom compressed within words. In addition to the findings that constitute the physical

knowledge of the universe, we need a knowledge that is fused with mystery, a knowledge that is sacred, a knowledge that is intuitive within man, and a knowledge that provides the means of connecting him with the world of the spirit. In a word, we still need the revealed knowledge of the traditions. Because its framework of knowledge is patchwork and developmental in nature, modern science is in search of such an identity and a world's view that is still not fully articulated and thus not fully credible. Like the traditional world's view of old, any knowledge that would lay claim to being a world's view would need to retain a kind of  inner selfhood and a fundamental integrity that would not violate on the universal level what lies within us as natural instincts. Modern science seems unable to synthesize and summarize its body of knowledge into a comprehensive whole. possibly because it lacks elements of the sacred and the mysterious that are as real and truly experienced within man as they are manifested within the external world of Nature. Even when it does attempt to philosophize a perspective of meaning based on its discoveries, the result is far from satisfactory and inspires division rather than consensus.

There is no longer a world's view that people can comfortably relate to because the knowledge of reality and the projection of meaning implicit in any belief system needs to connect the spirit of the world with the world of the spirit. A world's view that contains merely a body of doctrine that amounts to a knowledge for the sake of knowledge alone, a knowledge that does not come to man directly from above through intuition, will remain what it professes to be, namely a knowledge of the physical world only. The theories, the measurable data, and the analysis that come to light will possess no immediate synthesis because they deny the higher levels of reality that have the power to unify the disparate elements of the world. The passion engendered by scientific analysis produces no profound and organic meaning that could in any way point toward a totality of perspective. In other words, there is no center or focal point around which the myriad details of such a knowledge can unify. In order to achieve purpose, meaning, and the kind of vision that satisfies the demands of both wisdom and virtue, the principles of modern science need to take cognizance of and access the Principal Truth.

Because the mystique of modern science addresses only one aspect of life's totality and does not satisfy the emotional and spiritual conditions of man, a contemporary mania has developed that compels modern man and in particular the scientific community to search for an identity, a framework, and a coherent paradigm that can answer the questions and solve the mysteries that strike a profound cord within our beings, not with facts, theories: hypotheses, or a mathematical formula concerning the latest projection of science, but with an intuitive truth that cannot be explained and that actually needs no explanation. There is nothing constant about modern science except the constant state of flux that it considers a virtue.

With the passage of time, science puts forward a new theory or hypothesis, based inductively on a number of disclosed facts, only to discredit it with an unexpected discovery or an alien set of pin i les. "Gone are the days when the authority of physics could be involved in support of a single established world's view! What has happened is that the pre quantum scientific world's view (now termed "classical") has come to be disavowed 'at the top' by physicists capable of grasping the implications of quantum theory. " 2 The sub atomic world of quantum physics has become a realm so alien it is amazing that our best scientific minds can enter it at all. It certainly remains for most people. and most probably will remain for an indefinite future, beyond the reach of ordinary mortals, much less offer a message that can enrich their lives or contribute a world's view that could be both credible and universal.

'Classical' physics, in comparison with the abstract and hypothetical quality of quantum and astral physics, now seems not only inaccurate, but primitive. It inspired dreams of omniscience among the emerging scientific elite of that time with its new, enlightening knowledge concerning the nature of reality. The new physics of modern times, however, counsels caution and sobriety: or perhaps more relevantly because we don't really know any longer what we are dealing with. Like the search for the origin of life, physicists probe deeper and deeper into the inner sanctum of . the atom without being able to identify its fundamental building block. They can no longer speak of "fundamental particles" because they may not even exist as such. 3 Scientific brains and their mathematical calculations seem strained to the breaking point, as they deal with a complexity seemingly too deep for anyone to fathom. One theory leads to another until the entire edifice takes on the unreal quality of an assumed reality and a hope for truth.

No field of modern science would be more likely to grasp the banner of truth concerning the true nature of reality than the realm of particle physics. Quantum theory. and its attendant quantum enigma, has taken on the aura of the fantastic and the sublime. Physicists speak of quantum fluctuation. for example, and like all things in quantum theory. there is some confusion whether the behavior of sub atomic particles should be described as either a particle or a wave. Just as scientists talk about the wave function of the electron, they now talk about the wave function of the universe, assuming that a set of mathematical tools used to explain the nucleus can be applied to the whole of creation. And yet. as sublime and ethereal as these fantasies may be, amounting to a virtual cosmology of quantum physics, in which the atom represents, not the universe but, a universe, there is actually nothing behind the reflections of our experimental mirrors but the magnitude of our own observations and the virtuosity of our own abstract calculations.

The abstractions of 'real' truth may require a quantum leap of another kind.  If quantum theory can tell us so much about the Minnner cosmos of atoms, what then can it tell us about the most fundamental particle of all, namely the infinitely dense pinpoint whose mysterious explosion is said to have given rise to all we see and imagine. How do you get something, indeed the entire universe and everything in it, from nothing? Once again the search for both knowledge and meaning takes us back to primal origins and the fundamental mystery at the heart of the universe.

In view of our modern? day search to comprehend the whole through the study of an infinite number of particularities, we have turned to the heavens in our hypothetical exploration of the universe. We have managed to draw an extremely vivid picture of the heavens, with its stunningly brilliant quasars, its infinitely deep and dense black holes, and the mysterious and ominous dark matter.


Through creative documentaries, the ,mass media have dramatically portrayed these findings to a fascinated and expectant world, leading credulous layman to believe that these things actually exist. "Detecting black holes requires immersing oneself deeply into the wells of theory. And even then, the only black holes one can unambiguously see are those within the equations of Einstein's general theory of relativity, which imply that if a collapsing star is massive enough it will go on collapsing forever, tearing a dimensionless pinhole into the space time fabric. 4 Judging from these and other incredible astronomical findings, together with the facility and familiarity that astronomers speak of the time/space axis of light years and infinite distances, you would think that we earthlings had traveled great distances across the span of galaxies. In fact, we have sent space probes no farther than just beyond the solar system, and although we have stepped on the moon, we have not stepped beyond it. The rest of the picture is built from the photons that happen to come our way that are magnified by telescopes and that astronomers sift for patterns.

Through popularization of recent scientific findings and their glamorization through films and the media, the cosmological model that modern science has constructed has become so firmly lodged in the brain that mere humans can be heard to speculate confidently about the very origin of the universe. Serious books have been written on the first three and the last three minutes of creation, 5 in the wake of the big bang theory of the origin of the universe.  The media refer to the Big Bang theory itself as a proven fact and do not identify it as the creation myth ? that it really is, a myth incidentally that does not contradict in any substantial way the well known creation doctrine of the various world scriptures, particularly with respect to its spontaneity and absoluteness. 6

The truth is. that in the meticulous weave of the fabric of scientific knowledge, the big bang theory is very much a working hypothesis and not the de facto representation of the creation of the universe that we are systematically led to believe. Once again, we are not attempting to discredit the veracity of such a theory.

On the contrary, since it is in keeping with the religious perspective of a spontaneous and absolute transition from nothing to something initiated by the Hand of the Divinity, we merely wish to point out that the claim of an approximation to comprehending the origin of the universe under the guise of scientific principles are confessedly beyond the ability and scope of the scientific enterprise. We search from the moon, to the sun, to the stars. The farther we move from earth, the deeper our measurements become embedded within our theories of stellar physics, which are based in turn on thermo dynamics, quantum mechanics, and the principles of nuclear physics that we believe energize stars. "Extrapolating a cosmos from pinpoints of light also takes great ingenuity and imagination. Over the years we have slowly developed, a grand picture of the universal scheme the big bang theory. But . inevitably the universe refuses to be squeezed into our formulations: And so; as in particle physics, ire end up honing and revising, stacking abstraction on top of abstraction, always striving. For a better fit. Nevertheless we are no tone step closer to understanding the nature of reality; our origins, our end and/or the essential knowledge that lies within and between these perennial mysteries.

 

 

 

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