Resolution of Religion Vs. Science Conflict

SGGS gives the detailed scientific process of creation of the universe....

Introduction

There is a long history of conflicts between religion and science. On the one hand, the scientist says religion is dogmas, rituals or superstition, which lack logic. He also raises questions whether there is God who created the universe and has a role in its functioning. He claims religious beliefs cannot be tested and hence are not scientific.

On the other hand, a person of religion says everything happens by God's will and that the scientist is in denial of God's ways.

Views have been polarized and court battles fought between the two sides

Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), the scripture of Sikh religion shows that religion and science are compatible and complementary. It is a confluence of faith and rationale, religion and science.

It says the answer to this conflict lies in looking at nature with discernment. 

This is how it resolves the conflict.

Counsel to the Religious

It tells the religious zealot that God is not a deity with supernatural powers to be feared and propitiated. The Divine is the Jot/Jyoti meaning light or Divine Spirit that is present everywhere. It is like a lit candle lights others. Religion is not about worship, rituals, dogmas or prayers. The Creator has created the universe with purpose and every component, animate and inanimate, has a role to play. SGGS says:

ਜੇਤਾ ਕੀਤਾ ਤੇਤਾ ਨਾਉ ॥ ਵਿਣੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਕੋ ਥਾਉ ॥

Jeṯā kīṯā ṯeṯā nā▫o.   viṇ nāvai nāhī ko thā▫o.   

Everyone and everything/place created has a role and applicable law. There is no place without role/use. Japji Paurri 19

The role of religion is to guide its followers to remain focused on this. This provides peace and happiness. SGGS says people pray and ask for benedictions.

ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਤਾਣੁ ਹੋਵੈ ਕਿਸੈ ਤਾਣੁ ॥ ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਦਾਤਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਨੀਸਾਣੁ ॥

Gāvai ko ṯāṇ hovai kisai ṯāṇ.Gāvai ko ḏāṯ jāṇai nīsāṇ.  

ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਗੁਣ ਵਡਿਆਈਆ ਚਾਰ ॥

Gāvai ko guṇ vaḏi▫ā▫ī▫ā cẖār.

ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਵਿਦਿਆ ਵਿਖਮੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥

Gāvai ko viḏi▫ā vikẖam vīcẖār.

ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਸਾਜਿ ਕਰੇ ਤਨੁ ਖੇਹ ॥ ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਜੀਅ ਲੈ ਫਿਰਿ ਦੇਹ ॥

Gāvai ko sāj kare ṯan kẖeh. Gāvai ko jī▫a lai fir ḏeh.

ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਜਾਪੈ ਦਿਸੈ ਦੂਰਿ ॥ ਗਾਵੈ ਕੋ ਵੇਖੈ ਹਾਦਰਾ ਹਦੂਰਿ ॥

Gāvai ko jāpai ḏisai ḏūr. Gāvai ko vekẖai hāḏrā haḏūr.

ਕਥਨਾ ਕਥੀ ਨ ਆਵੈ ਤੋਟਿ ॥ ਕਥਿ ਕਥਿ ਕਥੀ ਕੋਟੀ ਕੋਟਿ ਕੋਟਿ ॥

Kathnā kathī na āvai ṯot. Kath kath kathī kotī kot kot.   

ਦੇਦਾ ਦੇ ਲੈਦੇ ਥਕਿ ਪਾਹਿ ॥ ਜੁਗਾ ਜੁਗੰਤਰਿ ਖਾਹੀ ਖਾਹਿ ॥

Ḏeḏā ḏe laiḏe thak pāhi. Jugā juganṯar kẖāhī kẖāhi.

ਹੁਕਮੀ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਚਲਾਏ ਰਾਹੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਵਿਗਸੈ ਵੇਪਰਵਾਹੁ ॥੩॥

Hukmī hukam cẖalā▫e rāhu. Nānak vigsai veparvāhu. ||3||  

Someone praises God’s powers, another for capabilities s/he owes to God.

Someone thanks God for benedictions received as sign.

Someone praises God’s virtues.

Some think God can create and destroy, and then revive. Some see God far and some near.

There is no end to how people describe the Creator, and then ask for benedictions.

But God keeps giving without asking until their death and provisions like crops, water continue.

Everything happens according to God’s commands, the laws of nature.

The Creator is happy doing that, as is Divine nature. God is carefree, i.e. does not supply only for those who pray. Japji Paurri 3.

These are the virtues of the ‘Impersonal God’, who does not react to entreaties. Everything happens according to laws of nature. A ‘Personal God’ is like a human.

Counsel to the Scientist

SGGS tells the scientist to realize that there are certain things beyond human comprehension, reach and capability. However, people give their opinions, one trying to be wiser than another. It makes a clear statement that the Creator who made the laws of nature is not subject to them. The laws apply to the created. So whatever happened before the universe came into being, including the process of creation is not subject to laws of nature. Just to give an example, the moon revolves around the earth without a rocket launching it. On the other hand, science learnt from this natural phenomenon and launched rockets carrying satellites. Observation of natural phenomena enables science to deduce laws of nature, and use them for forecasting and development. This is the role of science. However, scientists like Stephen Hawking, laws of nature can dispense with God.

God’s virtues and powers are infinite. The more a seeker reflects, the more s/he finds lying ahead. Similarly, scientific knowledge is ever tentative and the search continues. This shows compatibility between religion and science at the basic level.

We have seen in our own lifetimes, how more and more elements have been continuously added to the Chemistry Periodic table, more and more celestial phenomena discovered by the Hubble telescope and increasing numbers of species are being discovered. This verifies the SGGS statement:

ਜੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਸੁ ਏਕਾ ਵਾਰ ॥

Jo kicẖẖ pā▫i▫ā so ekā vār.  

God created everything in one go. Japji Paurri 31.

This confirms detailed planning of the universe by the Creator.

God is the Spirit that binds the whole universe together through laws of nature. God is the source of laws of nature. Nothing is beyond the ambit of these laws. People pray to God, but He is not a person whose heart would melt listening to entreaties. The only payer that works is requesting God to enable doing things the right way. For example, a student needs to work hard for success in examinations. An employee must perform to get a promotion. One needs to work hard to earn money. People pray for these, but prayer cannot replace action.

ਜੇਤੀ ਸਿਰਠਿ ਉਪਾਈ ਵੇਖਾ ਵਿਣੁ ਕਰਮਾ ਕਿ ਮਿਲੈ ਲਈ ॥ 

Jeṯī siraṯẖ upā▫ī vekẖā viṇ karmā kė milai la▫ī. 

ਆਪਿ ਨਾਥੁ ਨਾਥੀ ਸਭ ਜਾ ਕੀ ਰਿਧਿ ਸਿਧਿ ਅਵਰਾ ਸਾਦ ॥

Āp nāth nāthī sabẖ jā kī riḏẖ siḏẖ avrā sāḏ.

Let anyone in this world achieve anything without working for it. Japji Paurri 6.

God is not a dogma. SGGS says nothing that cannot be verified, except that certain happenings, like disasters, are beyond comprehension.

SGGS warns against the concept of miracles saying,

ਆਪਿ ਨਾਥੁ ਨਾਥੀ ਸਭ ਜਾ ਕੀ ਰਿਧਿ ਸਿਧਿ ਅਵਰਾ ਸਾਦ ॥

Āp nāth nāthī sabẖ jā kī riḏẖ siḏẖ avrā sāḏ.

The whole universe is one single system controlled by laws of nature, like a string that controls the beads of a rosary.  Japji Paurri 29.

It goes further and tells one claims to perform miracles.

ਰਿਧਿ ਸਿਧਿ ਜਾ ਕਉ ਫੁਰੀ ਤਬ ਕਾਹੂ ਸਿਉ ਕਿਆ ਕਾਜ ॥ ਤੇਰੇ ਕਹਨੇ ਕੀ ਗਤਿ ਕਿਆ ਕਹਉ ਮੈ ਬੋਲਤ ਹੀ ਬਡ ਲਾਜ ॥੧॥ 

Riḏẖ siḏẖ jā ka▫o furī ṯab kāhū si▫o ki▫ā kāj.  Ŧere kahne kī gaṯ ki▫ā kaha▫o mai bolaṯ hī bad lāj. ||1||  

If someone can perform miracles, s/he would achieve everything and not care to show to others.

What to talk of your claims, I am ashamed even to talk of it. P 1103

The scientist who ever talks about the laws of science. What is science? It is observation of natural phenomena, seeing their repetitive patterns and deducing laws of nature from them. The scientists discovered and called them laws of science. The scientist did not make them, God did.  

Basis of the Conflict

This conflict has mostly been in the western world where the concept of God and religion is derived from the Bible consisting of the Old Testament (OT) and the New Testament (NT). The former is similar to the Hebrew Bible of the Jews. The OT is followed by the Jews, Christians with references to it in the NT, and partly by the Muslims with references in their scripture, the Quran.

The OT describes God creating the world, doing everything and issuing commandments. There are many miracles mentioned in it. In the NT Jesus describes God as ‘my father in heaven’. So people believe God created the universe and has withdrawn from it. Jesus clearly stated he had come to uphold the law of the OT, but people like John and Paul declared that the law is not necessary as Jesus himself is God. So the concept of the trinity of God the father, the son and holy spirit was introduced. The NT also describes crucifixion, burial, rising from the grave of Jesus and later physical ascension to heaven. NT shows him being born of a virgin mother.

The process of creation given in the book of Genesis says “In the beginning God created the heaven and earth”, and later says “God said let there be light and there was light” and so on. It also says God worked for six days and rested on the seventh. This is the concept of the ‘Personal God’, like a person.

While the faithful stuck to what the bible says, people like Stephen Hawking and Richard Dawkins declared themselves as atheists.

Scientists’ Concept of what God and Religion should be

The thoughts of great scientist Albert Einstein (1879-1955), a Jew, is encapsulated thusly: 

Albert Einstein stated that he believed in the pantheistic God of Baruch Spinoza.[2] He did not believe in a personal God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings, a view which he described as naïve.[3] He clarified however that, "I am not an atheist",[4] preferring to call himself an agnostic,[5] or a "religious nonbeliever." (Wikipedia)

A more recent scientist Stephen Hawking (1942-2018), a Christian, said in his book “Brief Answers for Big Questions” (Bantam Books USA 2021).

“If you like, you can say the laws of nature are a work of God, but that is more a definition of God than proof of his existence.

One could define God as the embodiment of the laws of nature. However, this is not what most people think of God. They mean a human-like being with whom one can have a personal relation."

As may be seen the scientists’ views are similar to the contents of SGGS above, except in respect of belief in God. That shows that the Sikh religion is a confluence of religion or spirituality and science.

Let us now discuss the two vexed issues of ‘origin of the universe’ and ‘origin of life’.

Origin of Universe – God or Big Bang 

  1. Scientists say that the Big Bang was caused by the explosion of a black hole, or singularity marked the origin of the universe. According to the theory, the Big Bang created matter, energy and space, and the universe came into being. However, an explosion needs space, matter and energy to take place. But nothing existed before the universe came into existence; this is what ‘origin’ means. So, the theory is problematic. It puts the cart before the horse. 
  2. It also violates the law of conservation of energy, which says “Energy can neither be created or destroyed” so the Big Bang could not have occurred. Another way of looking at this “Nothing comes out of nothing”. 

But the universe, matter, energy and space are a reality. The only way they could have come into being is creation by the Creator, whose actions are not subject to the laws of nature that God Himself created, and apply to the creation. This confirms the SGGS statement that 

ਜਿਨਿ ਏਹਿ ਲਿਖੇ ਤਿਸੁ ਸਿਰਿ ਨਾਹਿ ॥

 Jin ehi likẖe ṯis sir nāhi.

The laws of nature do not apply to the Creator who made them. Japji Paurri 19.

  1. Celestial bodies remain in space without any support by overcoming the forces of gravity. Science has learnt this and launched satellites into space with rockets leaving the earth at a velocity that overcomes gravity of the earth. The Big Bang did not launch the earth, moon and other planets with rockets. The Creator planned the whole system and implemented it. The scientist needs to acknowledge that. SGGS says 

ਗਾਵਹਿ ਖੰਡ ਮੰਡਲ ਵਰਭੰਡਾ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਰਖੇ ਧਾਰੇ ॥ 

Gāvahi kẖand mandal varbẖandā kar kar rakẖe ḏẖāre. Japji Paurri 27

ਜਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਾਣਾ ਤਾ ਜਗਤੁ ਉਪਾਇਆ ॥ ਬਾਝੁ ਕਲਾ ਆਡਾਣੁ ਰਹਾਇਆ ॥ ਬ੍ਰਹਮਾ ਬਿਸਨੁ ਮਹੇਸੁ ਉਪਾਏ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹੁ ਵਧਾਇਦਾ ॥੧੪॥ 

Jā ṯis bẖāṇā ṯā jagaṯ upā▫i▫ā.  Bājẖ kalā ādāṇ rahā▫i▫ā.  Barahmā bisan mahes upā▫e mā▫i▫ā moh vaḏẖā▫iḏā. ||14||  

P 1036

The galaxies and the universes existing in space without support are testimony to powers of the Creator. Japji Paurri 27 and p 1036.

  1. The scientist thinks of one thing and focuses on it. However, a look at the cosmic system shows that it is designed as a composite system to enable the creatures to play their roles. 

ਰਾਤੀ ਰੁਤੀ ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰ ॥ ਪਵਣ ਪਾਣੀ ਅਗਨੀ ਪਾਤਾਲ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਧਰਤੀ ਥਾਪਿ ਰਖੀ ਧਰਮ ਸਾਲ ॥

Rāṯī ruṯī thiṯī vār.   Pavaṇ pāṇī agnī pāṯāl.   Ŧis vicẖ ḏẖarṯī thāp rakẖī ḏẖaram sāl.  

The phenomena of air, water, fire, days, nights, seasons, rains support life to enable the creatures to do their duties” Japji Paurri 34. 

The Big Bang did not plan and implement these.

5. The scientists have engaged in estimating life in the universe. They found that galaxies are moving away from the observers. They assume the Big Bang as a reality and attribute movement of galaxies created by the Big Bang away from the point of the explosion. There are some unanswered questions.

  • The universe is an orderly system. How did an explosion plan and cause this to happen? The sun provides light and heat. The moon draws light from the sun and lights up the earth at night. The system of sun, earth and moon together create days, nights and seasons. How did the Big Bang do that? Anything that an explosion can produce would be random. 
  • The Hubble telescope orbiting around the earth discovered galaxies moving away. Does that mean the explosion took place where the earth is now? But what created the galaxies? 
  1. Scientists have calculated life of the universe at 13.8 billion years by observing the speed of the galaxies and distance from the telescope. It assumes that the velocity with which the movement started has been uniform for billions of years. Hubble also observed that galaxies farther away are moving faster than the ones nearer. This is attributed to expansion of space. So, the premise for calculating life of the universe based on uniform speed fails. SGGS says 

ਕਿਵ ਕਰਿ ਆਖਾ ਕਿਵ ਸਾਲਾਹੀ ਕਿਉ ਵਰਨੀ ਕਿਵ ਜਾਣਾ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਆਖਣਿ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਆਖੈ ਇਕ ਦੂ ਇਕੁ ਸਿਆਣਾ ॥

 Kiv kar ākẖā kiv sālāhī ki▫o varnī kiv jāṇā.   Nānak ākẖaṇ sabẖ ko ākẖai ik ḏū ik si▫āṇā.   

How can anyone who was not present then describe how and when the universe came into being. But people must say something, one trying to be wiser than another. The Creator who created it alone knows”. Japji Paurri 21.

SGGS reinforces this with an example

ਪਿਤਾ ਕਾ ਜਨਮੁ ਕਿ ਜਾਨੈ ਪੂਤੁ ॥ 
Piṯā kā janam kė jānai pūṯ.

 “How can the son know about the birth of his father?” P 284. 

Only his grandparents who produced the father can tell. Similarly, only the Creator who created the universe knows about the creation.

  1. All this was realized by practical scientists like Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Newton’s findings became laws like gravity and motion. Newton whole-heartedly saw the Creator's role in this. Similarly, Albert Einstein saw the complementary relationship between religion and science when he said 

"Science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind". 

But scientists like Hawking and Richard Dawkins just remain in denial of God; their views have not found any application.

Origin of Life – Creationism vs Evolution

The other aspect is the origin of life, which the scientists attribute to the process of evolution. This is based on Charles Darwin's book "On the origin of species by means of natural selection" published in 1859. Darwin wrote this book after he returned from a five year long voyage on HMS Beagle in which he noticed various natural phenomena like changes in species in different areas and also collected fossils from wherever he went. He complains in his book that records of fossils had not been kept. He seems to be telling the world, you should have thought of evolution and kept records to prove it!

He also put across the concept of a common ancestor from which all life has evolved based on need. But he did not explain where that ancestor came from. If he did, he would have to acknowledge the Creator.

There are reptiles, animals, marine life, fliers like the sparrows and falcons. There are load carriers suitable for different terrains, donkeys in the plains, ponies in hilly areas, camels in the desert. Darwin would have us believe they evolved from one ancestor.

He even suggested that the various organs of the body can independently evolve, but himself found it troubling. In ‘chapter VI –Difficulties about the Theory’, he writes about the eye, a complex organ of the body.

To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of Spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree. 

But then goes on to say,

Reason tells me that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, --- then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.

This clearly is speculation, but is sought to be passed on as science. The very definition of science is that the idea should be testable. But this has not been proved. 

The concept of “irreducible complexity” applies to the body. The concept of gradual evolution of the organs is not scientific because a body cannot function with partial organs. Then there is the interconnection between organs. For example, in the human body the heart, lungs and the kidneys are all associated with purification of blood and disposal of waste. Who designed this and the other systems like the digestive and respiratory systems involving multiple interconnected organs? This is a major point of contention in the Evolution - Intelligent Design debate. Gurbani had rejected the view about development of individual organs more than five centuries ago saying the body was created whole:

ਸਭੁ ਜੀਉ ਪਿੰਡੁ ਮੁਖੁ ਨਕੁ ਦੀਆ ਵਰਤਣ ਕਉ ਪਾਣੀ ॥ ਅੰਨੁ ਖਾਣਾ ਕਪੜੁ ਪੈਨਣੁ ਦੀਆ ਰਸ ਅਨਿ ਭੋਗਾਣੀ ॥ ਜਿਨਿ ਦੀਏ ਸੁ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਆਵਈ ਪਸੂ ਹਉ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਣੀ ॥੩॥

Sabẖ jī▫o pind mukẖ nak ḏī▫ā varṯaṇ ka▫o pāṇī.   Ann kẖāṇā kapaṛ painaṇ ḏī▫ā ras an bẖogāṇī.   Jin ḏī▫e so cẖiṯ na āvī pasū ha▫o kar jāṇī. ||3||

The Creator has given the soul, body, mouth, nose and water for use; Food to eat, clothes to wear as well as avenues of enjoyment; Caught in ego the animal-like instincts, the human does not acknowledge the Creator. P 167

Conclusion

Our whole universe is one composite system. It is comprised of the sun, moon, earth, with air, water, space and energy for the creatures to exist and work. Take out any of these and the system will fail. SGGS gives the detailed scientific process of creation of the universe. Its inclusion will make this paper too long so let us leave that for another time. SGGS also gives a synopsis detailing how the Creator planned and implemented as follows:

There is an old Indian belief that a white bull supports the earth. Similarly, the Greek believe that Atlas supports the heavens. SGGS takes notice of this saying: 

ਧੌਲੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਦਇਆ ਕਾ ਪੂਤੁ ॥ ਸੰਤੋਖੁ ਥਾਪਿ ਰਖਿਆ ਜਿਨਿ ਸੂਤਿ ॥

Ḏẖoul ḏẖaram ḏa▫i▫ā kā pūṯ. Sanṯokẖ thāp rakẖi▫ā jin sūṯ. 

ਜੇ ਕੋ ਬੁਝੈ ਹੋਵੈ ਸਚਿਆਰੁ ॥ ਧਵਲੈ ਉਪਰਿ ਕੇਤਾ ਭਾਰੁ ॥

 Je ko bujẖai hovai sacẖiār. Ḏẖavlai upar keṯā bẖār.

ਧਰਤੀ ਹੋਰੁ ਪਰੈ ਹੋਰੁ ਹੋਰੁ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਤੇ ਭਾਰੁ ਤਲੈ ਕਵਣੁ ਜੋਰੁ ॥

Ḏẖarṯī hor parai hor hor. Ŧis ṯe bẖār ṯalai kavaṇ jor.  

ਜੀਅ ਜਾਤਿ ਰੰਗਾ ਕੇ ਨਾਵ ॥ ਸਭਨਾ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਵੁੜੀ ਕਲਾਮ ॥

Jī▫a jāṯ rangā ke nāv. Sabẖnā likẖi▫ā vuṛī kalām.

There are (jeea) creatures of numerous (jaat-i) types (rangaa) hues and (naav) names. The creator’s (kalaam) pen (vurri) moved and (likhiaa) wrote the laws for the role of each of them.

ਏਹੁ ਲੇਖਾ ਲਿਖਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਲੇਖਾ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਕੇਤਾ ਹੋਇ ॥

Ėhu lekẖā likẖ jāṇai ko▫e.  Lekẖā likẖi▫ā keṯā ho▫e.

ਕੇਤਾ ਤਾਣੁ ਸੁਆਲਿਹੁ ਰੂਪੁ ॥ ਕੇਤੀ ਦਾਤਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੌਣੁ ਕੂਤੁ ॥

Keṯā ṯāṇ su▫ālihu rūp. Keṯī ḏāṯ jāṇai kouṇ kūṯ. 

ਕੀਤਾ ਪਸਾਉ ਏਕੋ ਕਵਾਉ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਤੇ ਹੋਏ ਲਖ ਦਰੀਆਉ ॥

 Kīṯā pasā▫o eko kavā▫o. Ŧis ṯe ho▫e lakẖ ḏarī▫ā▫o.

The bull is a myth; the earth and other planets including the earth exist in space by faithfully obeying the cosmic laws.

If someone reflects, s/he would realize that the bull cannot bear the weight of the earth. Then there are more planets and many more still farther. What supports them?

The earth has creatures of various hues; roles of all of them have been written down. It is hard for anyone to detail all this.

Who can fathom powers of the Creator and beauty of the creation?

The wherewithal provisioned by the Creator for the creatures is beyond estimate.

The Creator planned then created all this with a single command, and it spread in millions of streams, i.e. the composite universe came into being in one step, in millions of streams. Japji Paurri 16.

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