It’s been a long and tough life. The days of the earth when it was still so hot, the day when humanity was created, and the day you, humans, invented fire… I witnessed them all. Though you may not know me, I know you people very well. Let me continue my story, then you’ll know who I am. That day, as we were descending with my other companions, we were watching your fellow humans in their amazement and joy over the invention of fire. As a matter of fact, it was something they had already observed in the sun and in lightning, but now it was under their control. From that day on, things changed greatly. With my companions, we used to have a calm and serene life; but with the control of fire by humans, our lives became very turbulent and sometimes full of shocks. Look at that now; a fighter aircraft is coming with its jet engine swallowing 100 kilograms of my fellow air particles every second. It is going to be here in a bit. Some of us are going to serve this aircraft through its wings, and some of us are going to serve in its engine. I beg your pardon now; I’ll continue after my service …
Hi, I am still alive. Yeah, I was talking about how we serve an aircraft. By adjusting our distribution, we provide the necessary forces for the aircraft to fly and maneuver. Some of us help the engines burn their fuel; and the heat released from this combustion is again used to provide thrust to the aircraft. Although the duties we perform may sound harsh, it is our pleasure to do them; because this is what our Lord wants from us: to serve humans. The only contention we have is the way we are treated by humans. As all other creatures in this universe, for the continuation of all the services we provide, we need some food for survival. Your fellow engineers call this food “air resistance,” which disappoints us. They are talking as if we are stealing their property from them without any return. They do not give credit to the continuous service we provide. Moreover, they delineate the lift force as something that they came up with, disregarding our major role in it. I, and my other fellow air particles, hope that one day you will learn to consider us as living organisms just like you; then you will change your vision of your and our lives.
Reading these sentences of the air particle changed my vision of science about which I have been learning for the past 18 years. The new vision I have now has sent me on a journey in which I have started to criticize and, if necessary, amend the scientific understanding of nature. So it is my intention now to convey some of the milestones of my journey. Aside from a personal discourse, you can also consider the following discussion as a conversation between your heart and the air in your lungs. The air is very close to us; it functions in our bodies at every moment. But on the other hand, we are very distant from it as we fail to use our hearts to communicate with it. We consider it to be an unconscious slave, and therefore do not respect it. Even if the air particle cries out to us, we do not hear it, because we consider it to be inanimate.
This situation is the result of what we have been taught over the past few centuries. The materialist philosophy, with the scientific advancements of the 19th and 20th centuries, concluded that we humans are alone in this universe to make our way, and that our survival is dependent on the strength we display in the conflicts that make up life. Is it only the understanding of life that exhibits the characteristics of the materialist philosophy? One’s perception of reality depends on the paradigms that are built in one’s mind. Therefore, a person raised in the atmosphere of materialist philosophy develops a perception accordingly, which tells us that it is possible to find the materialist paradigms not only in the positive sciences but also in all of the fruits of the same mentality: individual and social life, scientific models, religious philosophy, etc.
Individual and social life
A contemporary thinker from the materialist age, although himself not a materialist, Nursi summarizes the materialist philosophy’s view of the individual life as follows.1 According to the materialist philosophy, every thing that exists in this universe stands as a separate entity on its own, and its life has a meaning only for itself. The formations in the universe are results of a deterministic succession of events in the macroscale and non-conscious coincidences in the microscale. Hence, life is another accident which we experience. In terms of the continuity of life, the past is a completely lost domain of time, and the future is constantly under the threat of a sudden death that will bring life to a halt. As a result, the present is the only slice of time that humans can enjoy; hence the phrase “carpe diem - seize the day.” Being the sole zone of influence, the value of the day is only as great as its benefits to the individual.
In terms of social life, the value of individuals for each other is measured by their mutual interest. The continuity of friendship is therefore based on the continuity of interest.2 Each individual and every part of nature in general,3 by considering its own existence as the ultimate criterion, tries to optimize things according to its own self. This motive ultimately leads to the destruction of the bonds that keep a society intact. In order to re-establish the connection, a relation based on action-reaction is considered between the individuals. This consideration suggests “do unto others the way they do unto you,” instead of “do unto others as you would have them to do unto you.” The emphasis on the individual ego along with the action-reaction principle leads to the result that “might is right”; i.e. “get the power to have the right,” instead of “be righteous to have the power.”
The ideal gas theory and the Ideal Individuals’ society
The ideal gas theory was primarily developed based on two famous laws of Newton: the 1st law, defining the inertia of an object, and the 2nd law, which relates the force acting on a body to the consequent acceleration. The purpose of the ideal gas theory is to explain the relationship between various gas properties (e.g. pressure, temperature) under stable conditions. Although the development of the formulation continued with the emergence of quantum mechanics, the core of the theory, which was based on the deterministic view, was completed between the 17th and 19th centuries with contributions from several scientists, such as Robert Boyle, and Gay-Lussac. The ideal gas theory is still in use for many engineering applications.4
The following is a sample explanation of the ideal gas theory. The gas molecules fill the space provided for them in a container. This means that they form a continuum between the boundaries of the container. If the boundaries undergo some changes due to heat transfer or wave propagation, the gas molecules communicate these changes to their fellow gas molecules. The ideal gas theory explains the communication among the gas molecules in terms of mutual collisions. Therefore, according to the ideal gas theory, a gas is made of individual molecules that are either traveling with constant speed (inertia) or changing properties due to collisions. The existence of other interactions, such as gravitational, electric, or magnetic, are potential causes of divergence from the ideal gas behavior. Therefore, a real gas will manifest ideal gas behavior only if the inter-molecular forces do not exist or have a negligible effect as compared to the effect of the collisions. From this, it can be concluded that strong collisions form the basis of an ideal gas.
Although the ideal gas theory has significant success in explaining gas properties in equilibrium conditions, it has difficulty in explaining the behavior of gases during a flow process. The reason is one of the manifestations of the intermolecular forces: viscosity. In terms of the macroscale properties of gases, viscosity is explained as the resistance of the gas particles against deformation, or in other words, their resistance against flow. This means that during a flow process, the gas particles rip off useful energy from each other and convert it to their own personal energy. That is why we have to burn fuel continuously while driving or flying. So, we consider viscosity as an adverse effect because of its cost, but it is also a problem for scientists because of the complications it causes in formulations.
Having identified the fundamental characteristics of the ideal gas theory, which are inertia, neglect of intermolecular forces, and strong collisions, let’s look at the corresponding image of the same fundamentals in social life.
1) Selfishness: This is the corresponding image of inertia on personal life. Individuals do not share their wealth with others unless they are physically forced to do so. The wealthier they are, the higher their inertia, and the less they are affected by their interactions with others, as they have the power to do as they wish.
Another way to see this is the pursuit of individual interest rather than communal interest. This is a result of neglecting moral values that tie individuals to each other (a neglect of intermolecular forces). Individuals pursue their own benefit regardless of the morality of the means they use to achieve it. In other words, they try to maximize their personal interest despite the poor condition of other people. Ideally, they indulge in this so much so that they do not care about the misery going on in the lives of others, which reflects the level of corruption in their hearts. This state of interaction is depicted by the famous Adam Smith (1723-1790) model5 in economic theory that idolizes individual interest as the source of ultimate good in society;
2) Conflict and clash: This mode of communication among people is the same as the collisions in the ideal gas theory. Every individual is supposed to retain its personal power and wealth as long as possible (inertia). As a result of neglected moral values, there is only one way for these to be transferred to others: to clash. The members of society have to clash with each other to achieve equilibrium. This is how wealth and power are distributed among the members of society. This conclusion is in parallel with the famous theory of the clash of civilizations,6 which foresees such a future for humanity.
The materialist understanding of science and consequent religious understanding
One of the very first scientific facts most of us learn is from the Newtonian mechanics, originating from the 18th century. This formulation was able to explain the motion of both particles and heavenly bodies. Newtonian mechanics is based on a deterministic view of nature, which sets everything on a predictable path of change. Witnessing the capability of this theory to explain nearly all of the existing natural phenomena in the heavens and on the earth, many scientists denied the role of God in the universe. This meant that, at best, God created the universe at the beginning and everything has progressed since then on its own. It also meant that God is not capable of changing the fate of the universe, since we can predict the future of natural events successfully.
Later in the early 20th century, with the development of quantum mechanics, the indeterministic, i.e. unpredictable, character of nature on a small scale was revealed. Although this theory broke the strength of the deterministic view, it further inculcated the materialist philosophy. This was to say that God does not and/or cannot interfere with micro-scale events. Urged by his religious sensitivities, Einstein replied: “God doesn’t play dice.” With the support of several experimental results that confirmed the quantum theory, some scientists later argued: “Indeed He does.”
The theory of evolution was the reflection of the same phenomena on biological sciences. This suggested that accidental events at the micro level, which are out of God’s control (!), gave birth to life. So, living beings have nothing to do with God, since they came into being out of His control. The theory of evolution also propounds the “survival of the fittest”; hence, living creatures are reflected as enemies to one another, as the survival of one means the death of the other. Therefore, they are in a continuous clash. What is more, God has nothing to do with this struggle for survival, which He started, but which is now out of His control.
As a result, the deterministic views expulse the concept of God from the macro-scale universe, and the indeterministic views do the same at the micro-scale. Both views, as explained above, are used to free humans from their responsibility to God; or at least, they are used to impair the understanding of God in our minds.7
The Reflection of Materialist Philosophy on Science-Fiction
Science-fiction is an art form that was inspired by scientific developments. Therefore, science-fiction is another domain where the impact of materialist philosophy can be observed. The topics of such movies and novels are dangers coming from unknown creatures, or people who are trying to conquer the entire universe at the expense of the lives of millions. Both themes reflect the same characteristics that we have been observing so far: absence of moral bonds between individuals and communication through clashes. The underlying reason for these violent and selfish motives is that every individual living being in the universe is thought to have an instinct to modify things according to its own interests, which again brings us to emphasize the individual ego. In other words, it is assumed that every individual creature idolizes its own ego so much that it can sacrifice everything else for the sake of this ego. This is what is depicted for us by current science-fiction. Therefore, materialist philosophy is not only influencing us today, it is also outlining a horrible future image for humanity through science-fiction.
Model people for new understandings
The above discussion may trigger many questions concerning all human endeavors, such as science, economy, education, etc. Although a materialist perspective of nature and life is presented in this article, there exists a moral understanding of the same phenomena as well; these have been explained and discussed in detail in many articles and books. However, what is missing from the moral view is a modern representation in real life; i.e. actual achievements by those people who both sincerely practice moral values and participate in the advancement of science and technology. Without these achievements, all of the good words about a new and better understanding of nature and life are going to be no more than romanticism or another “once upon a time” story. We hope that the days for the appearance of such scientists are close.
- Nursi, S., The Words, “23rd Word”, The Light, Inc., New Jersey: 2005.
- ibid, “12th Word-3rd fundamental.”
- ibid, “30th Word-1st aim.”
- Cengel, Y.A., Boles, M.A., Thermodynamics – An engineering approach, 5th edition, McGraw-Hill, p. 137.
- Smith, A., Cannan, E., Krueger, A., The Wealth of Nations, Bantam Books, 2003.
- Huntington, S.P., Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group, 1998.
- Nursi, S., The Words, “30th Word-1st aim,” The Light, Inc., New Jersey: 2005.