One Can Either Be A Mullah, Or Modern. Not Both
Responding to an earlier article by Umer Farooq on Naya Daur, Justice Markandey Katju argues that religion and science are diametrically opposed to each other and those who believe that ‘Mullahs, if they so wish, or if they can be so persuaded, can stop opposing and start supporting modernity’ are ‘under an illusion’.
I read Umer Farooq’s article ‘Will Pakistan’s Mullahs ever stop opposing modernity’ published on nayadaur.tv. The writer has referred to the opposition by Mullahs to women’s empowerment, minority rights, and modern political ideas. Perhaps what was in Mr Farooq’s mind was the recent statement of Maulvi Tariq Jameel blaming women dressed ‘immodestly’ for the spread of COVID-19 in Pakistan.
Mr Farooq’s question creates the impression that according to him Mullahs, if they so wish, or if they can be so persuaded, can stop opposing and start supporting modernity. With all due respect, I submit he is labouring under an illusion. So I may present my views.
Religion and Science are diametrically opposed to each other. They are poles apart, and it is nonsense to say (as some people contend) that they complement each other. Mullah, as a man of religion, can obviously not support modernity, which is the product of science, and will always be a reactionary, as long as he is a Mullah.
Religion says that there is a supernatural entity called God, which is immortal, permanent, all-powerful, merciful, all good, etc.
Science does not believe in supernatural entities. It does not believe that anything in the Universe is permanent. Everything in nature is changing and in flux, by some laws, which can be discovered by scientific research.
Science holds that there are no supernatural entities like God, angels, fairies, demons, witches, or soul (and therefore there is no such thing as the transmigration of the soul or resurrection on Judgment Day) and that nothing is permanent, everything is changing.
Science holds that the only reality is matter, which is in different forms and is in motion according to certain laws.
Some people ask: who created matter? The answer is: there is no creator of matter. The matter came from matter, though the form keeps changing.
With every step science advances, religion recedes. Thus, people at one time thought that smallpox is due to the anger of a goddess (mata), but now we know it is because of a virus and can be prevented by inoculation. People at one time thought that rains are caused by a rain god, Indra, and so if there is drought we have to propitiate that god in some way (many people in India still believe that). Today we know that rains are caused by the buildup of low-pressure areas over a heated land. At one time people believed the sun is a god, but now we know it is a huge furnace in which nuclear reactions are taking place by the fusion process, emitting radiation energy. People at one time believed that Adam and Eve were created by God. Later Darwin, in his book ‘Origin of the Species’, argued that men evolved from the apes.
Religion relies on faith and divine revelation. Science relies on observation, experiment, and reason. Religion claims to say the final word, and cannot be changed. Thus, the Vedas, the Quran, the Bible, etc cannot be changed.
In science, there is no final word, and scientific theories can, and have been, regularly tested and changed. For example, Newton said in 1666 that light travelled as particles (the corpuscular theory). But in 1678 the Dutch scientist Huygens’ propounded his Fresnel principle that light travelled as waves.
Much later Max Planck propounded his Quantum theory which said that light travelled as discrete particles. Still later, Quantum mechanics, as propounded by De Broglie, and as developed by Heisenberg, Schrodinger, etc, said that particles can be conceived of as waves (and vice versa)
Religion says that the Universe was created at a particular time by God, with all living beings. But Darwin proved by his theory of evolution, that creatures have evolved.
Religion says that there has to be a Creator of the Universe, which is God (the Creationist theory). Science says that there is no such Creator (the Evolutionist theory). The only reality in the Universe is matter (or rather matter-energy, since matter and energy are two forms of the same substance, as Einstein proved by his formula e=mc^2), and matter is in motion, under certain laws, which can be discovered by scientific research. If it is asked where matter came from, the answer is matter came from matter.
If it is said that everything must have a creator, then that creator too must have a creator i.e. a super creator, and that super creator too must have a creator, i.e. a super-super creator, and so on. This is known as the fallacy of the infinite regress.
Some scientists indeed believed in God. But that only proves that scientific and unscientific ideas can co-exist in the same head, and it will take a long time, probably several generations, before unscientific ideas are altogether eliminated
The truth lies in science, which is constantly developing.
If we are to progress, we must go over to science. No doubt science does not have the answers to all problems today, e.g. the cure of many kinds of cancers, but by scientific research, the answers can be found in the future. At one time TB was regarded as an incurable disease. Later, streptomycin and other antibiotics were found which could cure it. So science never claims to be final but is always developing.
The answer to Mr Farooq’s question is in the negative. Either one can be a Mullah, or one can be modern. One can’t be both.
Markandey Katju is a former judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was also the Chairman of the Press Council of India.