There is a gross misunderstanding that religion and science can never go together. There are people who say “religion does not support science and science does not support religion”. I would agree partially with this statement. But the problem is that too many people, including atheists (from what I have observed), mainly premise their argument on the religious background they come from. Many atheists that I know come from Christian or Jewish families. Others are from Hindu families or just purely atheist families. Many of these people that I know did not look to see if there are other religions out there that not only agree with scientific discoveries but are reinforced further when new discoveries are made.
I’ve noticed whenever an atheist argues that religion and science are mutually exclusive, he or she refers to Christianity as a reference point most of the time. I understand that, historically, the Catholic Church had been at odds with scientific discoveries relating to the cosmos. It even shunned and ex-communicated prominent thinkers, scientists, and astronomers for being heretics. But that was all political. Currently, there are some Christians that do not believe in many of the scientific theories and some who do. I do not know why atheists always use Christianity as a reference for most of their argument, but the only reason that I can think of is that it is because we live in a country that is primarily Christian.
The one major Abrahamic faith that doesn’t cross people’s minds is Islam. It is possible that the political and social propaganda against this religion make people not want to even think about what this religion has to say about anything, let alone scientific information. Nor do they look into Hinduism or other religions to see what their perspective is. All the arguments are mainly centralized around one religion when there are so many others out there.
I will be discussing the Islamic, Hindu, and Greek perspective of science as a part of religion- mainly focusing on the cosmos in this article.
Although the Greeks had discovered the planets, their orbits, constellations, and stars, their discoveries were still limited. I want to talk about discoveries that go beyond the discussion of planets, like: the big bang theory, gravity, meteors and rocks in space, how the Earth’s atmosphere protects against meteors and rocks in space being flung at us, and how the universe continues to expand. Neither the Greeks, nor any other ancient civilization, had records of these types of topics. These discoveries are fairly new.
Muslims (followers of Islam) believe The Quran (Islamic Holy Book) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in the tribal regions of Arabia in stages over a period of 23 years, from 609 CE to 632 CE through the Angel Gabriel. A couple of issues must be understood before I mention Quran quotes. The Prophet Muhammad did not know how to read or write, so it was impossible for him to write the Quran himself. Although he came from a very affluent and prestigious tribe in the area, he was still a layman who had an export/import trading business. He was not a scribe, a scholar, an astronomer, or a scientist. Another important piece of information to know was that there were scientific concepts being revealed to tribal people in Arabia in the 600’s CE who did not know much about their world. They did not have the technology to make discoveries that were revealed in the Quran. In addition, it is believed that the Quran has never been altered or changed. The original copy is located in a museum in Turkey.
Earth’s atmosphere protecting against meteors and other cosmic debris:
“We have adorned the lower heaven with the adornment of the stars and have protected it from every rebellious satan. These satans…are pelted away from every side and are repelled…And if any is able to snatch a fragment, he is pursued by a piercing flame.” Quran 37:6-10
Research has found that our planet’s atmosphere protects us against meteors and other space debris that fly towards us on a daily basis. However, they are burned up even before they reach the Earth. This is because the Earth’s atmospheric gases compress while the cosmic debris pass through. When atmospheric gases compress, temperatures rise so high that the object burns itself up before it hits the Earth.
In order for people to understand this in Pre-Islamic Arabia, the term “Satans” had to be used as a substitute word because no one really knew what a meteor, asteroid, or cosmic debris was. The last line is pretty self-explanatory. It is referring to cosmic objects being very hot to the touch. If this verse was too specific for the times, people would think the Prophet was completely crazy. (Please note that this is my personal interpretation).
The first person to look into gases was Empedocles (492-432 B.C.), who thought that the Earth had four basic substances: earth, water, fire, and air. But there was nothing mentioned along the lines of explaining the burning up of cosmic objects upon contact with the Earth’s atmosphere. Studies about the Earth’s atmosphere and gases did not start until the 1500’s, which was almost a thousand years after the Quran was revealed. The point is that there was no way that Prophet Muhammad could have known this (or anyone at the time or before his time) specific information.
The closest verse that I found in the Bible relating to this topic was in Revelations 7:1-17, but it still is not specific as to objects being repelled or pelted away that are really hot.
“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree. Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” Revelations 7:1-17.
While there is a lot in Rig Vedas (Hindu scriptures) about planets and astronomy, the only verse I found that mentioned meteors was located in Hymn LXVI. Visvedevas. Book 10, part 6:
“As the Sun dews with meath the seat of Order, and casts a flaming meteor down from heaven. So from the rock Brhaspati forced the cattle, and cleft the earth’s skin as it were with water.”
This mentions meteors but does not state how the Earth’s atmosphere protects against meteors.
Big Bang Theory:
Next, I want to talk about the Big Bang Theory that started developing in 1927 which theorizes that the universe was in an extremely hot and dense state and began expanding rapidly. Some say it exploded and some say it expanded to the point where there were separate galaxies that formed. Regardless of whether there was an explosion or expansion…something happened which caused the gases to separate into galaxies.
“Did the disbelievers not realize that the heavens and the earth were one solid mass, then We tore them apart, and We made every living thing of water?” Quran 21:30.
We see that the term “heaven” may be referring to a gas and “earth” referring to a solid. Both were combined as one solid mass and then “torn” apart. Whether there was an explosion, expansion, or a tearing apart- the point is that there was a separation of these solids and gases that created different planet and galaxies that we know of today. Some planets became solids like Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury, and some became planets of gas like Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune.
I did not find any theory such as this one from Greek times. However, the closest verse I found from the Bible was in Genesis 1:1-31:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.”
These verses are older than the Quran, so the form and style of the language had to be more symbolic so the people of the time were able to understand them.
In Hinduism, The Nasadiya Sukta, the Hymn of Creation in the Rig Veda (10:129), Hymn 109 and Hymn 129 mentions the world beginning from a point, through the power of heat.
“Then neither Being nor not-Being existed, neither atmosphere, nor the firmament, nor what is above it . . . The One breathed windless by its own power. Nought else but this existed then.”
“In the beginning was darkness swathed in darkness: all this was but unmanifested water. Whatever was, that One coming into being, hidden by the void, was generated by the power of heat.”
This theory contributes towards one of the aspects of the Big Bang Theory. Although, this verse is not specific regarding the exactness of the beginning of the world that we know of; it must be understood that Hinduism is one of the oldest (probably the oldest) religion in the history of mankind. The explanations will be suited to the times in which they were revealed.
Expansion of the Universe:
Scientists have recently discovered that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate. The Quran says:
“And it is We Who have built the Universe, and behold, We are steadily expanding it.” (Quran 51:47).
“We” is referring to the royal plural God in this verse. Edwin Hubble’s discovery of an expanding universe was in the 1930’s, whereas the Quran was revealed in early 600 C.E.
“All the planets of the universe, from the most evolved to the most base, are places of suffering, where birth and death takes place. But for the soul that reaches my Kingdom, O son of Kunti, there is no more reincarnation. One day of Brahma is worth a thousand of the ages [yuga] known to humankind; as is each night.” Bhagvad Gita (VIII, lines 16-17)
These verses have been interpreted to mean the universe is expanding. Brahma is the God of Creation in Hinduism and one day of Brahma is equivalent 4.32 billion human years. When you double this number to get the number for a day and night of the Brahma, you get 8.64 billion years. This was theorized by Aryabhata in the 6th century. This analysis suggests that the universe is expanding.
God says in Isaiah 40:22 that God “stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.”
This verse suggests that the universe was expanded or “stretched out” and the term “spreads” seems to be implying that the “heavens” are still expanding. This verse can be interpreted as God expanding it or is perhaps continuing to expand it.
The discussion here is just a glimpse of what other religions say on scientific topics. If people are truly interested in what God has to say in different religions regarding different scientific topics, they should do their research before outright dismissing the possibility of an infinite supreme Creator and generalizing all religions as rejecting science.
How can science and the study of the world be separate from religion when it is religion that tries to explain the human relationship to the Creator and all of His Creations?
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