In the Spirit of the Gracious and Compassionate
Creator of the Heavens and the Earth
For the scientific community, there are three big mysteries — the beginning of the cosmos, the cause of life, and the origin of consciousness.
Evidence for what came to be dubbed “The Big Bang” was first discovered in 1962 (when I was 16 years old). Since then, more evidence has accumulated for what I prefer to call “The Initial Event” (a simple description which avoids saying that what happened was either big or loud). In the scientific community, there are those who say that this event came out of nothing — contradicting the logical dictum that nothing comes from nothing. And, there are those who are trying to find out what happened “before the beginning”. The question — where did the “Big Bang” come from is still a big mystery.
How did physical matter become living beings, that is the question. The effort to answer this question involves biologists, paleontologists, astrophysicists, and specialists in other fields. The study of other planets includes the search for life in environments other than Earth. The study of ancient rocks here on Earth includes the search for the earliest living creatures. Biologists and biochemists are studying the nature of today’s living creatures partially with the aim of finding how life originated. So far whatever has caused life to emerge from non-living matter remains a big mystery.
What is consciousness? When and how did living creatures become conscious? Perhaps, if investigators arrive at a clear idea, or definition, of what constitutes consciousness, they can make better progress at finding its cause. Depending on how consciousness is defined, and on whatever evidence exists, consciousness in biological organisms may have emerged only a few thousands of years ago (in human beings) or many millions of years ago (in pre-human or non-human creatures). As it stands, the origin (as well as the nature) of consciousness is a big mystery.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)
I love this statement. It is concise. It is straightforward. It has communicated to us for thousands of years of our history.
For tens of thousands of years, every human being — without exception — was convinced that the world is flat. The meaning of the phrase “heaven and earth” was clear. Heaven is up there — the sky. Earth is down here — the ground.
When we learned that the Earth is round — a reality that would have made no sense to earlier ages — we saw heaven as the enveloping celestial realm, in which moved the moon, the sun, the planets, the stars, and the occasional comet, and we saw the Earth as this central, unmoving, and solidly physical reality.
Once we came to realize that the Earth is moving — turning on its axis and revolving around the sun — the distinction between the heaven above and this Earth below created a problem in interpretation. In effect, the Earth is in heaven — in the sky, moving swiftly through the vastness of cosmic space. If we accept the first verse of the Book of Genesis, quoted above, as a statement from the All-Knowing and always truthful Creator, then it is reduced to a poetic conceit. Its all-encompassing message is reduced to clever simplicity.
I am convinced that the deeper message is that the word “heaven” refers to the higher reality — the non-physical reality — and that the word “earth” refers to this entire vast physical reality we call the cosmos. While the books of the Old Testament and of the Hebrew Scriptures contain little to support this interpretation, the New Testament — and common Christian understanding — supports the idea that heaven is a higher, non-physical realm, that has no location in this physical cosmos.
In both the Bible and the Qur’an, heaven is referred to in both the singular and the plural. Both the Bible and the Qur’an refer to seven heavens. I believe the number has symbolic meaning (for which I do not offer an interpretation here). What is important is that we are being told that there are higher realities.
No. I just want to put the questions — the mysteries — in perspective.
In the Qur’an, the Creator is referred to as alive and aware. This means that life and consciousness existed before the physical world was created — before the Big Bang.
I look forward to all of the scientific findings regarding the origin of biological life and regarding how living creatures became conscious, and I love reading about everything scientific investigators learn about the origin of the cosmos. Believing as I do that the Qur’an is the authentic and perfectly-preserved final message from the all-knowing creator and master of all that exists, I would be astonished if investigators find conclusive evidence of anything that contradicts clear statements in the Qur’an about the nature of the world. So far, as documented in The Bible, the Qur’an, and Modern Science by Maurice Bucaille, nothing has been found in the Qur’an that contradicts the findings of modern science.
One thing is fairly certain, that the efforts of scientific investigators to find answers to these three big mysteries will lead to surprise after surprise after surprise.