RELIGION
  1.  ISLAM :
  2. Rise & Demise of  Natural Christian Theology:
  3.  CREATIONISM :
  4. Theism:

Introduction:

This section is integrated into holism as the subjects of evolution and holism force one to consider how religious people will look upon this subject. It is important to emphasise that this is an empirical essay that in no way questions religious practice. The fact of material evolution in no way affects the spiritual laws brought to us by God's Prophets. Somewhere, there must be a meeting between science and religion. This whole theory of evolution may be wrong, but until the fossil record is explained by some other theory, it remains the explanation for what humanity has found. Just as we try to explain suffering, starvation, war and other human travails, there is a need for the thinking person to reconcile science and religion. This book has not at all challenged my faith and its purpose is to reveal with some awe how small we are before God. It is a rational thesis that calls for a rational response in like manner - that is, the pen. I simply look with awe at God's Creation as I travel through the earth. This is my freedom and right as a Muslim.

What I do show in this book is that God's Creation is a universe of peace. Peace is the natural order. The inclination to peace is a natural law. As Thomas Hobbes discovered, those who seek peace get free passage. In this light, a knowledge derived from a study of the evolutionary process of natural selection, all forms of war are wrong. Only self-defence can be justified. Blowing up strangers, whether using the high technology of smart-bombs or the chemical mixes mixed in a madman's garage, is against the law of nature and against God. In Islam we are taught that saving a single human life is like saving the whole of humanity.

1. ISLAM:

I provide a physical mechanism for natural theologians and deal with the physical constitution of humanity. In this web page, I seek to establish in scientific terms, what is the mysterious, holistic, organising power within nature, that so many feel intuitively. Instead of this drifting away from the recognition of God as the Creator, I attempt to find the common ground between evolution, ecology and divine revelation. However, this is a scientific and empirical thesis that deals with the observable world and does not affect religious practice.

In the Islamic Holy Quraan, we are warned of the disastrous effect of destroying ecosystems, "The example of the life of this world is like this: The water We (God) poured from the heavens caused the vegetation to grow upon the earth as food for people and animals, until the earth became full of decorations and began to look beautiful, and the people upon it thought they were its masters. Our command reaches it by day and by night. And We made it like a harvest, clean mown, as if it had not flourished only the day before!" (QsXv24). Note the sequence of events here:

water - vegetation - people and animals - beautiful diversity - human interference - ecological destruction - species extinction.

Islam is an ecological religion that respects nature and living forms that are God's Creation: "Do no mischief on the earth after it has been set in order" (QsVIIv56). This book in no way challenges nor questions religion, the spiritual constitution of humanity, or the prophets of God. It aligns with the saying (hadith) of the Holy Prophet (SAW) of Islam who advised one to travel to China in search of knowledge if necessary: "Ponder over the Creation of Allah (God) and don't ponder over Allah, because you will never be able to catch His Power" (Abu Nayeem, Mishkat-ul-masabih).

Many people will reject the idea of evolution. This is their right. I would welcome anybody who could give a convincing explanation for the fossil record that is not based on evolutionary principles. I have taken our creation from clay as a metaphor for evolution (Allah says, "Verily, I created man from soil"). Allah has blessed us with two forms, the Khalq and the Khulq. The Khalq is our external, physical form known as Soorat. The internal or spiritual form is known as Seerat or Akhlaaq. The Seerat has a higher status than the soorat, as the former is who you really are, while your body is a vessel. This book looks at the creation of the physical body.

2.  Rise & Demise of Christian Natural Theology

From a historical context, this book aligns with the old Christian tradition of natural theology where the study of nature and the worship of God is combined, but has an epistemological emphasis. Revealed theology has its foundation in God's revelation to His Prophets, preserved as the various Scriptures.  Natural theology serves to seek God and his knowledge in contemplation of the natural world (Livingstone, 1987). Xenophon (430?-355? B.C.) saw nature as designed for the benefit of humanity (Bowler, 1992) and expressed an early form of natural theology.


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Nature, a stable world, operating according to the laws of economics, was seen as created for use and exploitation by humanity and provided to serve human needs. Intellectuals of the late seventeenth century founded learned societies to collect animals and plants, and to study of the natural world. A book, "The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation" (John Ray, 1691) marks this period. Ray described in detail the universal feature of how an animal's physical structure related to its way of life. Instinctive behaviour kept it to its God-intended lifestyle.

In the eighteenth century much of the motivation to study nature was based on the firm belief that the Creator's influence is evident in the amazing adaptations of the multitude of life forms to their environment. Teleological proof for the existence of God was seen in the way animals were designed to perform specific functions in nature. A bee is suited to the flower, the flower to the bee. God's hand adapts fish to water. This was a teleological view, in that people saw the whole world as provided by God for humanity to inhabit and exploit.  This non-scientific perspective led to the study of nature becoming fashionable. Wealthy amateurs supported this social framework. Books on the natural history of local regions and particular groups of organisms sold widely. Entrepreneurs marketed natural history specimens, birds, insects, flowers, shells and so forth. These collections were fashionable and a sign of social status. In the 1720's floral decorations and botany were popular. Ladies painted flowers and insects. This motivation and social interest led to financial support and required serious naturalists who gathered specimens and described and classified creation. There was a passion to classify species, while religion shaped the emotional attitudes towards nature (Bowler, 1992).

Linnaeus (1707-1778), a Swedish naturalist, established the principles of classification now applied to modern biological taxonomy. He described the economy of nature; where the whole of nature was a vast, carefully structured machine operating according to the laws of economics. There were thus two main lines of study, the classification of species and the study of their natural economy. Natural theology emphasised individual species adapted to their way of life, while the emerging taxonomy, based on the materialistic principles of classification using visible structure only, sought a pattern revealing the rational order to various species.

Linnaeus sought the divine order of creation through reason. He was a pious man and natural theologian who wrote a theological essay, "The Oeconomy of Nature" (1749) to show the hand of God in nature (Worster, 1994). People saw nature as a mechanical system that the Creator intended us to take charge of and utilise for our benefit. "All things," he said, "are made for the sake of man" (Worster, 1994). His essay had an ecological theme, recognising for example food webs, with God as the designer creating creatures in peaceful coexistence. He recognises the niche of a creature, in that every creature has its "allotted place", consisting of both its location in space and its function or role in the general (divine) economy of nature. His view was also holistic, but without an inkling of an evolutionary mechanism. He notes, "By the Oeconomy of Nature, we understand the allies disposition of the Creator in relation to natural things, by which they are fitted to produce general ends, and reciprocal uses" (Worster, 1994). In nature he saw that creatures "are so connected, so chained together, that they all aim at the same end, and to this end a vast number of intermediate ends are subservient."

Later we will see that the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) also speaks of "ends" in nature in his "Critique of Judgement" (1790). More than 2,000 years earlier Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) also spoke of ends in nature: "But Nature flies from the infinite, for the infinite is unending or imperfect and Nature ever seeks an end."
Perhaps, the most influential natural theologian was Gilbert White, whose book, "Natural History of Selbourne", published in 1789, has had more than one hundred editions published to date (Worster, 1994). As an early ecological text this book showed the great economy, complex unity and diversity of nature, yet he also saw "the wisdom of God in Creation." White's book seemed to provide inspiration to the originators of Holism .

Worster (1994) observes that these writers had two intentions: "first, to endow each creature with a freedom of will and action that would defy analysis by chemistry and physics; and second, to study nature as a single integrated unity, held together by a mysterious organising force."

I provide a physical mechanism for natural theologians and study the physical constitution of humanity. A scientific approach to holism also removes any "mystery" to the "organising force." Holism, as a theory, however has many origins and many interpretations and definitions. In this book I seek to describe in scientific terms, the mysterious, holistic, organising power within nature, which so many  feel intuitively.

In 1802, William Paley published a book called "Natural Theology", continuing Ray's style of argument from design. This was a time of the progress of science and the development of natural theology. In this age of Enlightenment of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, naturalists ceased to include natural theology as part of their scientific development or motivation. Bowler (1992) ascribes this to an increased confidence in control over and lack of fear of nature, the recognition that the earth was not very stable, and a certainty in the power of human reason as materialism advanced.

As natural history became fashionable, the Scientific Revolution also led to the "age of reason." Rationalism, which goes with science and reason, appears to have been a key influence in the shift away from natural theology. Materialism, and then the increasing pace of industrialisation in the late eighteenth century detached people from nature. Darwinism in the mid nineteenth century showed that Nature operated according to natural laws not necessarily ascribed to God. Darwin provided a mechanism for Creation that was mechanistic and scientific. Objective science in a materialistic world could explain and describe mechanisms and causative factors without including any mention of God. People saw nature as a utility.

All the ingredients for the discovery of holism were percolating in the minds of natural theologians. However, by the time Darwin published his theories on evolution, reductionist "modern" science, (by which I mean the tradition of reducing all things to smaller parts for study), had such a cold and detached hold on the minds of scientists, that there was no chance of holistic thinking. Dennett (1995) disclaims the seriousness any such trends, claiming that "According to the preposterous readings, reductionists want to abandon the principles, theories, vocabulary, laws of the higher-level sciences, in favour of the lower-level terms." However, for an ecologist the destruction of ecosystems is evidence that humanity is reductionist by nature. People saw nature as a utility and were unable to comprehend the necessity to allow the maintenance of natural systems and the laws that apply to these systems. Throughout our history, we have had a fairly destructive impact upon ecosystems, acting as predators upon every usable or edible life from (Kingdon, 1993).

Humanities' shift away from this reductionist approach is only effectively emerging onto a new paradigm at the end of the twentieth century! We are returning, with the maturity of hard-earned experience and science, to the holistic views of the early natural theologians, so that observations of the eighteenth century again have some meaning and we can see: "that perfect order and just subordination of all the several parts of nature, by which they are rendered mutually subservient to the conservation of each other, and of the whole" (Pulteney, 1781 in Worster, 1994).

3. CREATIONISM:

Creationism is discussed within the context of teleology, so although it forms a part of religious discussion, I have included it within the detailed discussion of Kantist Teleology .


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by Laurence Evans 1998 - 2008

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