Science in the Quran

(Kelsey Gaston) #1

I am a Christian. I have recently run across this interesting scientific knowledge in the Quran. I did not believe that Allah is the One True God of the Bible. But if Allah is not God, how did Muhammad get this knowledge?

(SeanO) #2

@cajunrig The short answer is that the Qur’an contains both true and false scientific statements, so this argument for the divine origin of the Qur’an is self-defeating. If the seemingly advanced scientific statements point to a divine origin, the clearly false scientific statements point to it not being of divine origin.

Also something to think about, many ancient cultures had more knowledge than we generally give them credit for, so before you could conclude that a particular scientific claim was miraculous, you would need to look for similar knowledge within other ancient cultures.

In addition, sometimes ancient peoples used a phrase that may look to us like a scientific statement, but was actually simply a literary device. For example, they might describe the heavens expanding without literally meaning that the universe is expanding. They might simply have been saying something poetic or referring to a cultural understanding of which we are unaware. We have to be careful about reading our modern Western understanding back into the text.

Anyone who has had even a mild exposure to Islamic apologetics will have encountered the argument for the Qur’an’s divine origin based on its purported scientific miracles — that is, scientific assertions contained within the Qur’an which have only been validated by modern science. Out of all of the arguments for the Islamic religion, this is the one which, in my judgment, comes closest to being a real argument. Indeed, this is probably the best they’ve got, and it is frequently a lead argument by Muslim polemicists. Nonetheless, the argument has always appeared very strange to me. If the Qur’an is unrivaled at anything, assuredly it is only in its ability to conceive of a Universe so wildly disconnected from reality.

One problem with the positive Islamic argument is that it can only be falsified if one allows both correct and incorrect scientific statements to potentially validate or refute the Qur’an’s divine origin. If correct scientific statements provide evidence for the Qur’an’s divine origin, then surely incorrect scientific statements provide support for the opposite conclusion. For the argument to work, therefore, one must demonstrate not only that the Qur’an contains specific scientific information that could not have been known by a seventh century Arab, but also that the Qur’an does not contain demonstrable scientific errors that we might expect from a seventh century Arab. Unfortunately, it is usually the case that only the passages that are believed by Muslims to comport with modern science are presented in Muslim polemical literature.