How can we answer those who attribute the origin of existence to nature or the laws of nature or to matter or to chance or necessity?
False arguments about the origin of existence
Mediaeval European conceptions about the nature and existence of the universe were strongly underpinned by the authority of the Church which in turn relied upon arguments from scriptures that had long since deviated from their true originals. As modern scientific thinking developed, it met a great deal of hostility from the Church whose authority it challenged. The rift in European culture between science and religion deepened steadily until the two became irreconcilable. Eventually, religion came to be seen as a domain of blind beliefs and consolatory rituals about which science could have nothing to say. To think or work scientifically entailed refusing to even allude to God, let alone deferring to the authority of Divine Revelation. The Darwinian account of evolution sealed and popularized a tendency to regard existence as self-originated and self-sustained, a process which unfolded by itself according to laws which would, sooner or later, be understood fully (and therefore to some degree manipulable) by human beings. Many scientists (by no means all) have in principle and practice maintained that natural causes or so-called laws of nature are sufficient to explain all phenomena.
Before passing on to discuss this viewpoint, we should point out that unlike the Prophets who, despite living in different places and at different times, were unanimous on how existence originated and is sustained-as indeed they were on all other essential issues pertaining to life and existence-and again unlike a considerable number of scientists who agree with the Prophets on this matter, scientists and philosophers who favour naturalistic and materialistic views of existence differ greatly in their explanations. Some of them attribute creativity and eternity to matter and attribute life and consciousness to it. Others argue that nature is eternally self-existent and claim to explain everything by natural causes and laws. Still others, unable to explain the origin of life, ascribe existence, living and non-living, to what they call chance and necessity. Without going further in detailing assertions such as those mentioned, we shall deal with the naturalistic or materialist viewpoint.
The argument we have so far brought forward against the view that natural laws and causes are self-existent, self-sustaining, even, in some sense, eternal, holds true for related views which attribute creativity to chance and matter.
Whether defined according to the principles of classical physics or new physics, matter is obviously changeable and susceptible to external interventions: it cannot be eternal or capable of origination. Also, matter is deaf, blind, lifeless, ignorant, powerless, and unconscious; how can it be the origin of sensible life, knowledge, power and consciousness? It is evident that something cannot impart to others what it does not possess.
When there is in the universe such abundant evidence of purposive arrangement, organization and harmony, it is irrational to speak of chance or coincidence as its cause. There are trillions of cells in a human body and a single cell contains about one million proteins. The possibility of a protein occurring by chance are infinitesimally small. Without One who has the power of choice to prefer its existence and the absolute power to create it, who has an absolute, all-comprehensive knowledge to pre-arrange its relations with other proteins, with the cell and all parts of the body and place it just where it must be, the existence of a single protein is not possible. It is when they admit this One-God, the Creator of all thing-that the sciences will find their true course. (One day they will have to do so.)
Whereas, in the next world, which is the realm of Power, God will execute His Will directly without the ‘medium’ of causes so that everything will happen instantaneously, the Divine Name, the All-Wise requires that in this world, which is the realm of Wisdom, Divine Power should operate from behind the veil of causes and laws. Because:
1. Opposites are mingled in this world: truth with falsehood, light with darkness, good with evil, white with black, and so on. Since man, in whose nature are ingrained inclinations towards both good and evil, is tested in this world whether he will use his free will and other faculties in the way of truth and good or otherwise. Divine Wisdom has required that the veil of causes and laws should he drawn before the operations of Divine Power. If God had willed He could be training the planets with His ‘hands’ in a way observable by us, or He could have them administered by angels whom we could see openly, and we would then not be speaking of the laws or causes involved such as gravitation. Or, in order to communicate His Commandments, He could, without sending any Prophets, speak to each individual directly. Or, in order to compel us to believe in His existence and Oneness, He could write His Name with stars on the face of skies. But in this case man’s earthly existence could not he, as it is, an arena of trial. As a result of this trial, good and evil have, since the beginning of man’s worldly existence, been flowing through this world into the next one to fill its two mighty pools of Paradise and Hell.
2. Like the two sides of a mirror, existence has two aspects or dimensions, one visible and material, the realm of opposites and (in most cases) imperfections, and the spiritual realm which is transparent, pure and perfect. There can be, and actually are, in the material dimension, events and phenomena which appear disagreeable to man. Those who are unable to perceive the Divine Wisdom behind all things may go so far as to criticize the Almighty for those disagreeable events and phenomena. In order to prevent that, God has made natural laws and causes a veil before His acts. For example, so that man should criticize neither God nor His angel of death, for the loss of his beloved ones or for his own death, God has placed between Himself and the phenomenon of death (among other ‘agents’ or ‘causes’) diseases and natural disasters.
Again, on account of the essential imperfection of this world of testing and trial, man encounters, and suffers from, many deficiencies and shortcomings. In absolute terms, every event and phenomenon is good and beautiful in itself or in its consequences. Whatever God does or decrees is good, beautiful and just. Injustices, ugliness and evils are only apparent or superficial and arise from the errors and abuses of humankind. For example, a court may pass an unjust sentence on you; but you should know that Destiny permitted that judgement because of a crime of yours which has remained hidden. Whatever befalls a man is usually because of self-wronging, an evil he himself has done. However, those who lack the sound reasoning and judgement necessary to understand the Divine Wisdom behind events and phenomena, may impute directly to God the apparent ugliness or evils, the imperfections and shortcomings, experienced in worldly life. Whereas God is absolutely free from any kind of defect or imperfection.
Therefore, to prevent people from ascribing to God the ugliness and evils they encounter in life, His Glory and Grandeur have required that natural causes and laws should be a veil before His acts, while belief in His Unity demands that those causes and laws should not he ascribed to any kind of creative power.
3. If God Almighty acted in the world directly, without the ‘medium’ of causes and laws, man would have been unable to develop scientific knowledge, nor live even an instant of happy life, free of fears and anxieties. It is thanks to God’s acting from behind natural causes and laws, that man is able to observe and study patterns in phenomena. Otherwise, each event would be a miracle. The regularity within the flux and mutability of events and phenomena makes them comprehensible to us, therefore awakens the desire in us to wonder and reflect which is a principal factor in the establishment of sciences. For the same reason we are able, to some degree, to plan and arrange our affairs in advance: consider how life would be if we were completely uncertain whether the sun would rise tomorrow!
4. Whoever owns such attributes as beauty and perfection desires to know them and make them known. God owns absolute beauty and perfection and is independent of all things, needing nothing. He owns also a holy, transcendent love and therefore a sacred desire to manifest His Beauty and Perfection. If He manifested His Names and attributes directly without the ‘medium’ of causes and laws, human beings could not endure them. He manifests them from behind causes and laws and by degrees within the confines of time and space so that we can build a connection with them, reflect on them, and perceive them. The gradual manifestation of Divine Names and attributes is also a reason for our curiosity and wonder about them.
These four constitute only some of the reasons why God acts through the ‘medium’ of natural laws and causes.