by Humza Asad
“They muddy the water to make it seem deep”
We have established that language, once misused, can become a dangerous tool. Wielding a semantical labyrinth which, at times, can become extremely difficult to navigate. Thus, a closer introspection of the use of language in specific spheres is necessary.
Before diving head-first into answering the questions posed to us, sometimes it can be much more useful to just prod at them from a distance – analysing their depth of discourse. Because many a times “they muddy the waters to make it seem deep.” And it’s safe to say that diving head-first into shallow waters probably isn’t the wisest of ideas. We often fall into the trap of trying to answer flawed questions. And in doing so we fail to see through the presuppositions which settle themselves onto the surfaces of our conversations – obscuring the real depth of discussion which is taking place.
For further clarification, let’s take the question “Why do you believe in God?” The natural knee-jerk reaction is parroting all the proofs which you possess. And why not? The question is essentially beckoning you to supply evidence. Amongst the myriad of responses some popularise arguments from teleology while others prefer kalam or cosmology. Now you may find satisfaction in these rebuttals – and in some cases so may your interlocutor. But, sadly, the continual use of such arguments causes ignorance on the real issue. Remember. Question the question before questioning your own beliefs.
As it is evidence which is being beckoned, it becomes pertinent to then ask what constitutes it? The scientific method relies heavily on empiricism. Progressing its knowledge and understanding through observation, construction of hypothesis, continual experimentation, refinement and then putting forward new theories. Thorough? Of course. Rigorous? Absolutely. Yet such rigour and thoroughness can never justify the flimsy foundations which they are so naively built upon.
You see, the premise on which science is so firmly constructed on is inductive logic. Moving from particular statements (describing the world around it), towards universal ones (producing new hypothesis and theories). As the waters muddy, and the depths are no longer discernible, such movement from particular to universal is veiled guileless. Going unnoticed…unless prodded of course.
The philosopher of science, Karl Popper, put it perfectly, “Thus the principle of induction must be a synthetic statement; that is, a statement whose negation is not self-contradictory but logically possible. So the question arises why such a principle should be accepted at all, and how can we justify its acceptance on rational grounds.” We just aren’t logically justified to adhere conclusively to inductive logic. Portraying it as if it were hard concrete fact. With history being the greatest witness, any new empirical evidence put forward would undermine any such conclusions we draw from the premises we observe.
Everything which is inferred from scientific knowledge is just that, inferred knowledge. All concluded tentatively, not deductively or conclusively as they may make it seem. The irony of this? For science to believe in the ‘truth’ of its findings, it requires – in every instance – to take a large leap of faith. Faith that new empirical evidence will not be discovered otherwise. Yet it is this very faith they belittle. And it is this very faith they are so unwilling to accept.
As Allah swt says in surah Al-Anam: “And if you obey most of those upon the Earth, they will mislead you from the way of Allah. They follow not except assumption, and they are not but falsifying (6:116)”