Romaan Basit, Graduate, Jamia Ahmadiyya UK
For years, we have heard atheists – from Sam Harris to the zealous Richard Dawkins – proudly claim science would have the answers to world problems.
Well, here we are in 2022 with a crippling economic crisis creating unprecedented poverty, endless conflicts across continents, climate tipping points and the rise of right-wing political influence – not to mention the very real chance of nuclear oblivion. The Doomsday Clock strikes 100 seconds to midnight in our faces: “Leaders around the world must immediately commit themselves to […] reducing existential risk”, reads the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists website.
What will “science” exactly do or even say to convince world leaders to hold back and head towards peace? Even though this is the “rational” and logical step to take, as Steven Pinker, Harvard Professor of psychology, would say, how will “science” exactly solve the issue?
It’s also interesting that the atheists who blew the trumpet of the “saviour of science” are now eerily quiet. They have no answers.
The wonder, and limits, of science
This piece is not an attack on science itself – why would it be? After all, Western innovation, discovery and science were off the back of great Muslim scientists and Islamic civilisation.
Science has progressed technology exponentially. Inventions of the enlightenment era were remarkable; science became the “saviour” and provided solutions to long-running problems. Transport was an issue? Science cut travel times with the creation of automotive and aviation vehicles. The spread of knowledge was too slow? The printing press began stacking books, newspapers and magazines in their millions. Even nuclear research was carried out to create lasting, cost-effective and most importantly, clean energy.
But it’s not all roses. Transport modes increased pollution, books promoting hate and violence were published and circulated, and nuclear energy, despite being highly beneficial, turned into a major threat to the survival of humanity and its global habitat.
While science brought about extraordinary advancement to our world, its misuse has also resulted in unconceivable evil; the current affairs of the world prove this point. But it is important to distinguish between science itself and its misusers.
John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University, put this so succinctly in a debate with Cristopher Hitchens: “If I fail to distinguish between the genius of Einstein and the abuse of his science to create weapons of mass destruction, I might be tempted to say science is not great and technology poisons everything.”
The world needs peace now more than ever, but unfortunately, nuclear technology does not seem to have come with a user manual.
Answers to the ‘how’ questions but not the ‘why’
It is commonly known that science has the answers to the “how” questions but not the “why” ones; why questions being the deeper existential ones: Why are we here? Where did we come from? Where are we headed?
For over 85% of the world’s population, it’s not science, but religion, which provides the answers to these profound questions. Science can tell us how much the moon weighs, but not the significance of its existence. New Atheists, however, would still want to differ. Richard Dawkins claims in The God Delusion, “if science cannot answer some ultimate question, what makes anybody think that religion can?” (The God Delusion, Black Swan Books, 2007, p. 80)
So, let us turn to science in our quest for world peace. Does it offer any solution? It can be argued that it was science that landed us in this mess in the first place, but that is an absurd claim to make. On the other hand, let’s see if religion provides any guidance. A critical mind would accept any viable solution, setting aside any prejudice or hate for where it came from. The truth should be accepted as truth.
Where true religious teachings can help
The very first set of laws in human history came through religion. It was the institution of Prophethood that brought about the first dos and don’ts – the foundations of mighty legislative bodies dressed in colourful garments today.
Disputes and conflicts could never have come to an end without the intervention of an external agency – this happened to be the Godsend institution of Prophethood. With the realisation that God is, and that we would be held accountable for our deeds in the hereafter, a subjective moral compass turns into an objective one, with which people can change and navigate towards the better.
Without the fear of being held accountable for actions by a Higher Being, no amount of convincing – or science – can bring humanity to its senses.
Islam gives teachings like upholding absolute justice and leaving undue vested interests, but these teachings only are effective when one believes in God, who is All-Powerful. What is the standard of justice required by Islam? We are told to be just and honest all the time, even if we have to testify against ourselves or our loved ones. The enmity of another nation must never incite us towards evil or injustice. God teaches us to forgive, be it individuals or whole nations, in order to establish greater peace.
Vested interests must be set aside. Values of selflessness, compassion, love and tolerance must be inculcated. This is what religion teaches. Without this, there can never be true peace.
Presenting such teachings to the world
The Ahmadiyya Leadership has always promoted world peace. Presently, it is very active in presenting and proposing these core teachings of Islam to the world. The message: no justice, no peace. Crisis and calamity can only be averted through this. Whilst addressing the Houses of Parliament in 2013, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih V warned that “there is a real risk of a nuclear war breaking out. To prevent such a horrific outcome, we should adopt justice, integrity and honesty”.
Islam teaches us to simply disseminate the message in the best manner, not to force religion down anyone’s throat. Letters have been written to major world leaders, including UK, US, France, China and Russia. Hazrat Khalifatul Masih Vaa explained to Pope Benedict XVI that “there is an urgent need for mankind to recognise its Creator, this is the only guarantor for the survival of humanity.”
Accept the truth, from wherever it may come
Realistically, we must take a step back and think. Are these not viable solutions for world peace? To establish true justice; to dissolve any vested interests; to forgive others, be they individuals or nations. Would these teachings not make the world a better place? If the answer is yes, then religion does have the answers and solutions we so desperately need.
Now that the world is in real danger, we need a way out, and fast. Only religion provides this. If we don’t take heed, the recent words of Joe Biden may become a reality – you and I may witness an “Armageddon” very soon.