By Shahfizal Musa
Pix by Ahmad Shahiddan Saidi
BANGI, 9 Mar. 2011 – Religion and Science which has been at odds for centuries, are not incompatible, a University of Cambridge scholar attested here today.
Dr Denis Alexander, Director of the Faraday Institute of Science and Religion at St. Edmunds College Cambridge said what appears to be two opposing ends of the pole actually complement each other.
This struggle between the creationist and evolutionist occurs because of misconception that people have to choose one or the other, while in actual fact they are two separate areas that have to be put in their proper context.
He was giving a lecture on “Evolution and Creation” as part of the series of lectures on Sustainable Development: Safeguarding the Future. Immediately following he gave another lecture on “Human Evolution and Human Identity”.
The lectures were organised by the Institute of Climate Change, National University of Malaysia (UKM) in collaboration with The Cambridge Malaysian Education and Development Trust (CMEDT), Permodalan Nasional Berhad and Sime Darby. The series of lectures try to examine the issue of climate change holistically.
Dr Alexander said there was a misconception that the Darwin theory of evolution throws the whole idea of God from the Abrahamic religion; Islam, Christianity and Judaism out of the window. Such an attempt had ignorantly fit the idea of God into the restricted framework of evolution.
The theory of evolution itself did not pop out of Charles Darwin from nowhere. The concept of evolution can be traced back in history. It did not come from a free thinker or an atheist but from someone who is well versed. in theology.
“We can go back and find theological resources, which helped people to understand why evolution could quickly be brought into the framework of Creation.
In the 14 century Ibnu Khaldun introduced the idea of evolution of man of gradual creation. He quoted a passage from the book Al Muqadimmah by Ibnu Khaldun:
“One should then take a look at the world of creation. It started out from the minerals and progressed, in an ingenious, gradual manner, to plants and animals. The last stage of minerals is connected with the first stage of plants, such as herbs and seedless plants.
“The last stage of plants, such as palms and vines, is connected with the first stage of animals, such as snails and shellfish which have only the power of touch. The word 'connection' with regard to these created things means that the last stage of each group fully prepared to become the first stage of the newest group……. The animal world then widens, its species become numerous, and in a gradual process of creation, it finally leads to man, who is able to think and reflect”.
A similar idea of gradual transition concept can also be found with Christian theologian and the founder of the Methodist movement. And it is an odd coincidence that James Wesley, the founder of the movement spoke of evolution a century before Darwin.
So when Darwin proposed the theory of evolution he was not proposing a new concept. In fact Darwin himself never denied the existence of God and he was of Christian faith. But he suffered tremendously when three of his children died.
He lost his faith in Christianity when his favourite daughter Annie passed away. His dwindling faith, turned him into an agnostic.
Of course, both Ibnu Khaldun and James Wesley are not aware of the theory of evolution and it is doubtful that they both will see Darwin’s theory of evolution which did not see it necessary to include God in the process of evolution.
Dr Alexander said that religion, particularly the Abrahamic religions, deals with the question why humans are created into being. Whilst science deals with how men were created, what mechanism were used and the processes involved.
Quoting from the Quran, he said God created all things that exist. God is the creator of everything and in charge of everything. This include evolution.
All monotheistic religions continually to uphold that all that
exist come from one source.
Once we see it in this framework we begin to see what scientists are doing in different light. So evolution helps us understand the greatness of God better, Dr Alexander said.
God is bigger and greater than what we can imagine, but sometimes reduced to a concept that can be understood by our mind. This is what create the appearance of conflicts.
Basically, conflict will arise in two instances which are based on presumptions of what the other group is. Problems arise when people think God in human terms, when people think God as something that is earthbound. God’s creativity is not like human creativity. His creativity is completely of different kinds.
Another situation is when people think by accepting evolution it means, everything happen by chance. So the natural thing to do is to reject it because it seems to take God out of the equation of
It is obvious that evolution has been discussed by both Islamic and Christian thinkers alike. This shows there is no conflict between religion and science. It only arise when divinity is severed from evolution.
Present at the lecture was UKM Pro-Chancellor, Tun Dato’ Seri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid; Director of CMEDT, Dr Anil Seal, senior members of UKM, lecturers and scientists from all over the country.