Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The Big Bang Theory and the Quran

By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam 8 June 2022 We have discussed the Big Bang theory of creation and the Quranic verses on the same subject in my article: Dr Abdus Salam, Science, the Big Bang Theory of Creation, and the Quran. A reader has pointed out a significant difference between the two as follows: “The Quran's description differs from the Big Bang theory in one significant way. The Quran speaks of bringing together everything before the explosion, while the Big Bang theory is silent about this and in fact, says that nothing existed before. Quran verse 41:11 Moreover, He comprehended in His design the sky, and it had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth: "Come ye together, willingly or unwillingly." They said: "We do come (together), in willing obedience." Science: "At this point of singularity, the physicist Paul Davy said, an extremity was reached and before it, there was nothing - neither matter nor space, nor time or energy. They came into existence at that point. That is the Big Bang creation event." Can you please explain this point of significant difference between the two versions? The Answer: All theoretical science is what we call model-based reality. The models are mathematical models. They represent and describe reality but should not be mistaken for reality itself. Difference between Reality and Model-Based Reality Aristarchus of Samos (l. c. 310 - c. 230 BCE) was a Greek astronomer who first proposed a heliocentric model of the universe in which the sun, not the earth, was at the centre. His theory found few takers, and the geocentric model was retained for 1,700 years afterwards. The geocentric model is intuitive because we don’t experience the earth moving. The belief in the earth as stationary and at the centre, was held by most Greeks since the time of Aristotle. Ptolemy proposed a model in 150 AD, in which the earth stood still at the centre and the planets and the stars moved around it in complicated orbits involving epicycles. Copernicus in 1543, some seventeen centuries after Aristarchus, described a new heliocentric model of the world. Though the idea wasn’t new, its revival was expectedly met with strong resistance by the laypersons but gained wide acceptance from the astronomers. So, was Copernicus right and Ptolemy wrong? No. One can use either model of the universe. As we know from school level mathematics, a difference in the frame of reference is of no consequence. We can assume either the earth, the sun or indeed any other celestial object to be at rest and describe the orbits of the remaining bodies relative to it. Madrassa students are taught the geocentric model because Ahmad Raza Khan Barelvi, a much revered figure in the subcontinent, actively supported it. While I cannot find fault for his support for the geocentric model, his opposition to the heliocentric model was baseless and shows ignorance of the fact that a change in the frame of reference is of no consequence. Those who make fun of the Madrassa products for upholding the geocentric model are as ignorant as the Madrassa products. They also do not appreciate the fact that the difference is only in the frame of reference. A sharp reader may point out that there is no need to even make an assumption of what is at the centre of the universe because mathematically, there is no requirement for the frame of reference to be at the centre. The assumption of what is at the centre of the universe is therefore not required in the mathematical model, although, such an assumption may have influenced the choice of the frame of reference. The Copernican system gained wide acceptance because the equations of motion are simpler in the heliocentric system in which the sun is at rest. If we define more right as that which makes the equations of motion simpler, then in that sense the heliocentric model is righter than the geocentric model. What it proves is that the sun is more of a “ringmaster” than the earth. The reality is that the sun itself is not stationary but is orbiting. However, it does not invalidate the observations made from the assumption that the sun is at rest and all other measurements and observations are made with reference to it. Relative to the sun taken as stationary, the observations and the predictions will remain valid. This discussion is to show the difference between reality and the mathematical model of reality. A frame of reference is a necessity of the mathematical model which imposes certain limitations on modelling absolute reality. The discussion was only to impress that the model is not mistaken for reality. Limitations of the Big Bang Model What mathematicians and therefore theoretical physicists can prove depends on their starting assumptions and not on any fundamental ground truths. The heliocentric model has a starting assumption of the sun at rest. The Big Bang mathematical model of creation unsurprisingly has the Big Bang explosion as the beginning of everything (time, matter, space) before which there was nothing. Using the model, all physical reasoning ceases at the point of singularity. This is the model and not necessarily the reality. There is no way the model can be different unless we can model a cyclical phenomenon of creation, destruction and a new creation built into the starting conditions of a previous creation. Or a model based on the current creation that can accurately predict its destruction followed by a fresh creation from which we can work backwards. We are nowhere near even knowing what the initial conditions had to be that got us our present universe. We are not yet very good at predicting the weather for more than a few days forward or building a mathematical model of consciousness. We are very far from unravelling all the secrets of our universe. If the Quran says that matter did exist before the Big Bang which was brought together and squeezed into a tiny size before the Big Bang explosion, there is no way experimental physics can prove or disprove what was there or not there before the present universe that we know of was created. It is beyond theoretical physics, to model it as we discussed. This is the limitation of science. It is simply not possible for science to know anything about what was there or not there before the Big Bang creation of the universe. It is also possible that the Universe in some other form with life forms existed before it was destroyed and recreated with the Big Bang. These questions are beyond the domain of what science can study and, therefore, prove or disprove. The above, ends the response to the question asked. The discussion that follows explores other related questions of interest. Is Every Quranic Statement Provable/Disprovable By Science Or Mathematics? For example, can there be a mathematical/logical proof of God’s existence? The ability to prove every true statement defines the completeness of science, mathematics and logic. David Hilbert a German mathematician famously declared: “There is no such thing as an unsolvable problem” and “We must know, we will know”. Then came Kurt Gödel a very young and unknown mathematician in his early twenties who proved him wrong immediately and drove the grand old man Hilbert to insanity. Gödel proved for the nth time that age is only a number and not proof of a person’s maturity. Consistency of any formal system of logic implies that if we can prove something, then we shouldn’t be able to prove it’s opposite. If we can prove something and also it's opposite then we can prove nothing and the system is inconsistent and therefore useless. Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem says that any system of logic such as mathematics can be either complete or consistent but not both. So, if it is consistent, then it cannot be complete which means that not every true statement can be proved true within that system of logic. --------------------------------------------------------------------------- Also Read: Theory of Big Bang and Cosmic Egg Is Corroborated By both the Upanishads and the Quran --------------------------------------------------------------------------- It, therefore, means that there will be true statements that can be neither proved nor disproved. This means that these are not apriori truths which can be logically deduced from other known truths but these are other truths for which no logical proof is possible. While all logical truths are theoretically derivable and therefore knowable, we can never be sure of knowing all the remaining truths that cannot be logically derived. The limitation of science and mathematics is therefore that not every truth is provable or logically derivable and therefore we cannot be sure of even knowing every unprovable truth. Those who swear by science, logic and mathematics, must always keep these limitations in mind. The truths that are not provable are not only statements such as “God exists” but mathematical theorems as well. A theorem can be disproved by just one counter example but cannot be proved with any number of examples that fail to disprove it. A formal system of logic can adopt the unprovable truths as axioms but this does not solve the problem of unprovable truths in the new system. Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury first set forth the Ontological Argument for the existence of God in the eleventh century. Mathematicians Kurt Gödel, Leibnitz, and others have also provided ontological proofs of the existence of God. An atheist philosopher such as Immanuel Kant has ironically ended up proving the logical necessity of God in order to make sense out of his “supreme principle of morality”. What can therefore be said with a great deal of confidence is that short of a complete proof, there is plenty of evidence of God’s existence and there is none which proves His non-existence. Remember, disproving is possible with a single example while any number of examples that provide proof are insufficient. A good student of statistical probability will take this to be sufficient proof of God’s existence. Quantum physics has shown us that we cannot be certain of even the material world at the quantum level and have to rely on probabilistic models which have proved most useful. In this is perhaps another sign for those endued with understanding. Will Allah Recreate The Universe? From Alexander Friedmann’s range of idealized solutions including for a contracting universe, based on the mathematics of General Relativity we can imagine the universe may start contracting at some future date. Studies are making such predictions of a time when the expansion will slow down, come to a halt and then start contracting. What does the Quran have to say about the end of the universe and recreating it? There are several verses that speak of repeating the creation and two verses which are more specific and describe the process as folding up the universe as one may roll up a scroll that will fit into the hand of Allah (an allegoric description to say that it will be squeezed into the size of a ball). (21:104) The Day that We roll up the heavens like a scroll rolled up for books (completed),- even as We produced the first creation, so shall We produce a new one: a promise We have undertaken: truly shall We fulfil it.(105) Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): My servants the righteous, shall inherit the earth." (30:27) It is He Who begins (the process of) creation; then repeats it; and for Him it is most easy. To Him belongs the loftiest similitude (we can think of) in the heavens and the earth: for He is Exalted in Might, full of wisdom. (39:67) No just estimate have they made of Allah, such as is due to Him: On the Day of Judgment the whole of the earth will be but His handful, and the heavens will be rolled up in His right hand: Glory to Him! High is He above the Partners they attribute to Him! What the verses mean is that the world will be destroyed and recreated following a process similar to the first creation but perhaps with different initial conditions which means that the new universe can be very different from the previous one. This event will be around the Day of Judgment and the promise that the righteous shall inherit the earth will be fulfilled. The earth in the new creation could therefore be the paradise which the righteous will inherit. Can science predict this event of recreation that the Quran speaks about? If its cause lies in the created universe or in the laws governing it then theoretically it can but not otherwise. If the cause lies in God exercising His will, then it cannot. The Quran says that man can never know when this event will take place and it will come all of a sudden. What this means is that this event will not be predicted from any mathematical model of our universe but by God exercising His will. The other and more elegant way to say the same thing may be to say that the event will take place according to a mathematical model known only to God which will remain undiscovered by man. ----- A frequent contributor to, Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He has spent years studying Quran in-depth and made seminal contributions to its interpretation. URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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