Belief in God, the Exalted

Since the earliest times of human history, man had attained faith in God,
worshipped Him alone in sincerity and manifested a deep relationship with Him.
This took place before man reached any stage of purely philosophical reasoning
or the comprehension of the methods of demonstration. This faith was not the
child of class struggle, nor was it the invention of exploiters or tyrants as a
justification of their exploitation. It was not the invention of the exploited
in order to justify their own suffering. This is because faith has preceded all
such conflicts in human history. Faith in God was not born out of fear and the
feeling of awe in the face of natural catastrophes and nature’s unpredictable
behavior. For, had faith been born of fear, or had it been the result of awe,
then the most religious among men throughout history would have been the ones
most given to fear and dread.

Since the earliest times of human history, man had attained faith in God,
worshipped Him alone in sincerity and manifested a deep relationship with Him.
This took place before man reached any stage of purely philosophical reasoning
or the comprehension of the methods of demonstration. This faith was not the
child of class struggle, nor was it the invention of exploiters or tyrants as a
justification of their exploitation. It was not the invention of the exploited
in order to justify their own suffering. This is because faith has preceded all
such conflicts in human history. Faith in God was not born out of fear and the
feeling of awe in the face of natural catastrophes and nature’s unpredictable
behavior. For, had faith been born of fear, or had it been the result of awe,
then the most religious among men throughout history would have been the ones
most given to fear and dread. On the contrary, those who have carried the torch
of faith across the ages have been people of great strength, of character and
will. This faith, rather, expresses a fundamental inclination in man to be
devoted to his Creator. It manifests a pure conscience enabling him to discern
the connection between man and his Lord and between God and the universe which
He created.

In the next stage, man reached metaphysical thinking and inferred from things
around him in the universe general concepts such as being (wujud) and non-being
(`adam), possibility (imkan) and impossibility (istihalah), unity (wahdah) and
multiplicity (kathrah), compositeness (tarakkub) and simplicity (basatah), part
(juz’) and whole (kull), priority (taqaddum) and posteriority (ta’akhkhur) and
cause (‘illah) and effect (ma’lul). Man then tended to use these concepts and
apply them to the construction of arguments in support of his original faith in
God, praised and exalted be He, and to justify and explain it in philosophical
terms.

When, however, scientific experimentation began, to appear, as a tool of.
knowledge; and thinker thus realized that these general concepts in themselves
were inadequate for the study of nature and the discovery of its laws and for
the uncovering of the secrets of the universe, they believed sense perception
and scientific observation to be the principle avenue of any pursuit of these
secrets and laws. This orientation toward sense perception in investigation
generally enhanced human knowledge of the universe and broadened it to a high
degree. This trend began its march by asserting that sense perception and
experimentation are two of the most important tools which human reason and
knowledge must employ in pursuit of the discovery of the secrets of the universe
and its all-encompassing order. Thus instead of a Greek thinker. like Aristotle,
for instance, sitting in his closed room and pondering over the relationship
between the motion of a body in space and the power of a body moving it, and
then deciding that the motion of that body would cease with the cessation of the
moving power, instead of that, Galileo began his experiments and continued his
observation of moving bodies to infer a relationship of a different sort. He
asserted that a body encountering an external force which moved it would not
cease its motion, even when that force ceased until it encountered another
force. which arrested its motion.

This empirical trend meant encouragement for investigators of nature and the
laws governing its phenomena to arrive at their conclusions in two stages. The
first is observation by the senses and experimentation, and the gathering of
results from these. The second is a rational stage consisting of the arranging
and harmonizing of these results and the interpretation of them in a general and
acceptable manner. This trend, however, as a scientific method, was not meant to
take the place of reason. Nor was any scientist able to discover a secret of the
universe or a law of nature simply by observation by the senses and
experimentation without the aid of reason. This is because a scientist must
always analyze the data gathered through observation by the senses and
experimentation in order to reach conclusions through the use of his rational
faculty. We know of no great scientific investigation which has been able to
dispense with the second stage in favour of: the first, or that did not go;
from, the first to the second stage, as .has already been indicated. Thus the
problems of the first stage would be matters of sense perception,., while those
of the second, conclusions based on rational proofs discerned by the mind, but
not matters of direct sense perception.

Thus, for instance, with regard to the law of gravity, Newton did not feel
directly the gravitational force of two bodies. Nor did he feel that this force
was proportional to the inverse of the square of the distance between the
centres of mass of the two bodies, and directly proportional to the product of
the masses of the two bodies. [3] Rather he perceived the stone as it came down
towards the ground and the moon rotating around the earth and the planets around
the sun. He pondered all this and endeavoured to interpret these phenomena,
relying on Galileo’s theory of the uniform acceleration of bodies falling or
rolling down inclined planes. [4] He likewise made use of Kepler’s laws of
planetary motion, the third of which states, "The square of the period of
rotation of a planet around the sun is proportional to the cube of its distance
from it." [5] In the light of all this Newton discovered the law of gravity. He
supposed that, "A gravitational force of attraction between two particles is
always determined by the masses and the distance between them. " [6]

It should have been possible. for this empirical trend as a method of
investigating the order of the universe to present a new and illuminating
argument in support of faith in God, exalted be He. This should have been
possible, in view of the fact that this method has uncovered aspects of harmony
in the universe which can be used as proofs of an intelligent and wise Creator.
Scientists, inasmuch as they are concerned with natural phenomena, have not
interested themselves with the clarification of this problem, which has for long
been considered as a metaphysical matter outside the scope of strictly
scientific concern. Soon, however, new directions appeared within the discipline
of philosophy, outside the scope of natural science, which endeavoured to
"philosophize" this empirical, method and present it in the terminology of
formal logic. This new philosophy declared that the only means of knowledge is
sense experience, and where sense perception ends human knowledge ceases. Thus
whatever is inaccessible to the senses and cannot, be verified by direct
experimentation, cannot be proved by any other means.

This. empirical and experimental trend was used to counter the idea of faith in
God, the Exalted. Since God is not a being subject to sense experience, capable
of being seen and felt, there is no way of proving His existence. The method was
not employed by scientists, who practised the experimental method with success,
but by people with different philosophical and logical inclinations, who
attempted to interpret, but misapplied, the empirical method. They used it in
accordance with their own inclinations. Gradually, these extreme approaches fell
into conflict. Prom the philosophical point of view, for instance, they found
themselves obliged to deny objective reality, that is to say, to deny the
reality of the universe in which we live, as a whole and in its details. This is
because, they argued, there are no means of knowledge other than the senses. The
senses introduce us to things as we perceive them, not as they are in
themselves. Therefore, when we perceive something, we can assert its existence
in our sense perception. As for its existence outside our consciousness, that
is, its objective existence in itself, independent of and prior to our act of
experiencing it, we have no proof. Thus when one sees the moon in the sky, for
example, one is able only to assert his perception of the moon at that instant.
But the advocates of this new philosophy were unable to ascertain or demonstrate
fully whether the moon exists in the sky in reality, or whether it had an
objective existence before the viewer opened his eyes and saw it. This is like a
cross-eyed person seeing things which do not exist in reality: he can assert his
own perception of these things but is unable to ascertain their actual
existence. This new empirical trend in the end destroyed sense experience itself
as an epistimological method, by making it the final arbiter of the limits of
human knowledge. This meant that sense knowledge became a mere phenomenon of the
mind, lacking objective existence independent of our consciousness and
perception.

With regard to logical aspects, the logical positivist school, the most recent
current school in the development of empiricist philosophy, came to the
conclusion that every sentence the truth or falsehood of which cannot be
verified by sense experience is simply, a cluster of empty words. It is like
haphazard sounds of the alphabet repeated endlessly. The sentence, on the other
hand, whose truth or falsehood may be verified, must be made up of meaningful
words. If sense experience can ascertain the agreement of its purport with
reality, then it must be considered a true sentence. Thus the sentence, "Rain
comes down from the sky in winter" is a true sentence. The sentence, "Rain comes
down from the sky in summer", while being a meaningful sentence, is false in its
purport. The sentence, "Something comes down during the `Night of Power’ (Laylatu’l-qadr)’
[7] which can be neither seen nor felt", has no meaning regardless of whether it
is true or false. Thus any report whose truth cannot be verified by the senses
is nonsense. Therefore, with reference to the above sentence, it is like saying
‘daas’ descends from heaven on the Night of Power (‘daas’ being only a nonsense
syllable).

The reference to a subject such as `daas’ adds nothing to the truth value of a
sentence. Hence, both sentences tell us nothing, even though the second provides
a subject. From this it , Follows that the sentence, !"God exists" like saying "Daas
exists", and the two reports are equally meaningless. This is so because . the
existence of God, the Exalted, cannot be known through sense perception or
experimentation.

This logical approach has its own inner contradiction because its own general
premise cannot itself be verified by direct sense experience. In addition, it
is, in its assertion, a meaningless premise. This logic, which claims that any
report which sense experience cannot verify is meaningless, makes a general
claim. Every generalization, however, ipso facto goes beyond the realm of sense
experience because senses can only perceive at any given moment individual
objects or parts of a whole. This approach, therefore, is not only
self-contradictory, but also contradicts all scientific generalizations which we
employ to explain natural phenomena in general terms. This is because
generalization in any form cannot be verified by sense experience: It is rather
inferred from observation of concrete and, limited phenomena of sense
experience. [8]

Fortunately, however, science did not lend such philosophical trends ;any
appreciable attention in its forward march and continuous evolution: Instead,
scientists always began with sense perception and experimentation in their
endeavour to discover the universe, but then went beyond this narrow approach
which such schools of philosophy or logic had imposed on scientific
investigation. Science must in the end endeavour to rationally arrange these
phenomena within the framework of general laws and then go on to discover and
explain their inter-relationships.

The influence of these extremist philosophical schools has greatly diminished
even over the materialistic schools of philosophy. The new materialistic
philosophy, as chiefly represented by the advocates of dialectical materialism,
has clearly rejected these trends. Dialectical materialism gave itself the right
to go beyond the framework of sense perception and experimentation with which a
scientist begins his investigation; it sought to go even beyond the second stage
with which a scientist must conclude his investigation. This was necessary in
order for the investigator to be able to compare the various results `of
scientific theories and arrange them under a general theoretical set of rules
and specify the relations between natural phenomena which these results
presuppose.

Dialectical materialism, which is heir to materialistic thought down through
history, has itself become an abstract philosophy from the point of view of
these modern empirical extremist philosophical positions. The new materialistic
philosophy has finally arrived at a view of the world within a dialectical
framework. This means that both materialistic and theistic thought have reached
a consensus on the need to transcend the limits of sense experience, by which
the new extremist materialistic schools advocated that science and philosophy be
bound. It then becomes possible for investigation and knowledge to utilise two
stages. The first consists of collecting the results of sense experience and
experimentation and the second of interpreting these results theoretically and
rationally. The actual disagreement between the theistic and materialistic
approaches is concerned with the way in which the conclusions reached in the
second stage are to be interpreted. Materialism rejects any interpretation,
which presupposes the , existence of wise Creator, while theism insists that the
interpretation of these results can never. be ultimately convincing without the
assumption of a wise Creator.

We shall now present two modes of demonstration of the existence of the wise
Creator, praised and exalted .be He. In each, the results of sense experience
and experimentation will be presented on the one hand, and the rational
influence in proof of our argument on the other. We shall call the first mode
the scientific or inductive proof (ad-dalil al-istiqra’i) and the second the
philosophical proof (ad-dalil al-falsafi) We must first, however, explain what
we mean by scientific proof.

Scientific argument is any proof which depends on sense experience and
experimentation. It follows, moreover, the method of inductive demonstration,
which is based on the principle of the computation of probability (hisab al-ihtimalat).
Hence, the method we shall follow, in demonstrating the existence of the Creator
is scientific proof based on the method of inductive argument, which itself
rests on the computation of probabilities. (The method of the argument is not
the argument itself. One may, for instance, demonstrate that the sun is bigger
than the moon because scientists say so: The method `employed here is the
acceptance of` the statement of scientists as a proof of the truth. You may
argue that someone will die soon because you saw in a dream that that person
actually died. The method employed here is the use of dreams as an argument for
the truth. Likewise, you may argue that the earth is a big bipolar magnetic
field, possessing two poles, one negative, the other positive. The argument in
this case is based on the fact that the needle of a compass which is set in a
horizontal position faces north and south. The method followed here is the use
of the experiment as proof. Thus the validity of any argument is fundamentally
related to the method on which it depends.) For this reason we refer to the
scientific argument for the existence of the Creator as the inductive proof. It
will be our task now to clarify this method.

Notes:

[3]. On Newton’s law of gravitation, see Classical Mechanics, H. Goldstein (
Redding, Mass.: Edison Wesley), fifth printing, 1957, p.65. (Translator’s
footnote)

[4]. Galileo’s law of uniform accelerated motion is also Newton’s second law of
motion. See ibid., p. l . (Translator’s footnote)

[5].On Keppler’s laws of planetary motion, see ibid., p.80. ( Translator’s
footnote)

[6]. ibid., p.65. (Translator’s footnote)

[7]. No one exactly knows when this night occurs, but tradition. has it that it
comes during the month of Ramadan, perhaps the twenty-seventh. On .the essential
significance of Laylatul – qadr, see Qur’an, chapter 97. ( Translator’s
footnote)

[8]. For greater detail, see our book al-Usus al-mantaqiyyah li’l-Istiqra’,
p.489.

Taken from the book
‘The Revealer, The
Messenger, The Message’
authored by the illustrious pen of Shaheed
Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir Al-Sadr.

Check Also

Without piety, one’s heart cannot realize the truth

From the words of Ayatollah Khamenei: As long as one is not pious, he or …