Saturday, 9 February 2013

Infallible Errors And Moving Mountains

Don't you just love it when a holy book shoots itself in its foot?

Here's one such passage from the Qur'an. You've probably seen it quoted or alluded to by fundamentalists who've been convinced that the Qur'an is a science book dictated by Allah and therefore whatever it say is genuine science. By that gloriously hilarious circularity of 'reasoning' with which fundamentalist comically reinforce their self-delusion, it follows that because the Qur'an has 'genuine' science in it it must be the word of Allah. It's the same trick Christians use for fooling themselves and their gullible victims with, in respect of the equally absurd Bible. It neatly circumvents the need to look for extra-koranic or extra-biblical evidence for either the god or that the book is real science.

Unfortunately, the test of whether something is genuine science is whether it equates to observable reality... or not.

This one fails that test big time. No one who knows more than the average five year-old about geology could mistake it for real science.
"Have We not made
the earth as a wide expanse,
and the mountains as pegs?"
Qur'an 78:6-7
Um... well... No, actually!

The earth can't really be described as a vast expanse, because it all depends on your relative scale. On a cosmological scale earth is a tiny dot; an insignificant little speck that would go completely un-noticed by the rest of the Cosmos if it were to disapear tomorrow. You can't even describe the entire solar system as vast on a Cosmological scale, or even the entire Milky Way Galaxy for that matter.

But that's not the main problem here. We can maybe forgive the parochialism and lack of appreciation of the real vastness of the Cosmos as mere naivety, what with the state of scientific knowledge when the above was written. From the Arabian desert earth must have seemed both vast and flat.

The main problem is with the description of mountains as pegs.

Pegs to do what, exactly? Pegs to hold the ground down, maybe? Possibly like the wooden pegs in a dhow which held the planks together?

The problem is that we can't even stretch the definition of 'peg' to make it mean anything like what mountains really are and what they are for, if being 'for' something makes any sense when talking about geology. The earth's geology doesn't have function; it has form and what it does follows from that form. Mountains are folded up from the earth's crust by geological forces, mainly tectonic movement but also volcanic action (which is a consequence of tectonic action). There are merely consequences of other geological forces and have no function as such. The uplift of large sections of rock is due to potential energy being released by being converted into kinetic energy, so allowing two plates to move together of for one to slide under the other so the only function mountains could possible described as having is to act as energy dumps.

Mountain formation is not a mystery; it is something well-known to science and it has nothing whatever to do with pegs and mountains have no 'pegging' function by any stretch of the imagination.

Sorry, Muslims, but the only honest answer you can give to the question asked in 78:6-7, when you've subjected it to the test of comparing it to observable reality, is, "No!", or allowing for the superfluous 'not' in the first line, "Yes, you have not!"

In fact, you can only claim this verse equates to anything approaching reality if you give that 'not' a significance not normally accorded such hyperbole and translate this as stating that Allah has not done these things and is simply asking for your agreement. If it's being used in its normal English form as a short-hand for "Do you think I have not...?", then the only sane answer is, "Yes! You have not!". I hope the original Classical Arabic has a more logical grammatical structure than this clumsy English one.

What you make of the consequences of this error is up to you but error it undoubtedly is. There is no sense of the word 'peg' in which mountains can be so described. You can of course continue to pretend that the Qur'an is a book of science and the infallible word of an omniscient god, or you can accept the observable reality and the consequences which flow from it. What you can't in all honesty do, is hold both views simultaneously and claim to be a rational, honest person.

It would be astonishing is a god of truth and honesty required you to be dishonest to yourself, and to call the evidence you believe it created a lie, as a precondition for believing in it.





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6 comments :

  1. I hope the original Classical Arabic has a more logical grammatical structure than this clumsy English one.

    The original reads A-lam naj'ali l-arda mihâdan, wa-l-jibâla awtâdan. The initial a is a question particle and lam makes the following verb negative, so it is indeed making the question grammatically negative, a similar device to English questions such as "Didn't he tell you this already?", with the implied statement being "he did tell you". (I'm simplifying a bit -- Arabic grammar is rather different from English). Awtâd is the plural of watad meaning a tent peg, a stake, or a pole, so it does seem to mean the mountains are like pegs to hold the ground in place. As you say, this is totally wrong.

    Some Muslims do seem convinced that the Koran anticipated many discoveries of modern science, but of course all there is is a few statements which vaguely resemble modern science if you really stretch the interpretation. There are no cases of the Koran clearly and unambiguously stating a scientific fact which would have been outside the ordinary knowledge of people at the time it was composed. It reflects the ignorance of that time, just as the Bible does.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks.

      It's interesting to see the same grammatical device used in two unrelated languages.

      Delete
  2. " Awtâd is the plural of watad meaning a tent peg, a stake, or a pole, so it does seem to mean the mountains are like pegs to hold the ground in place."

    It doesn't necessarily follow that if the mountains are described as 'pegs' then they are doing job of pegs. The word watad - does simply mean stakes. In appearance that is all what they are.

    Stretching this to "stabilisation" is stretching what a short verse says. If you simply replace the word "peg" with "stake" . . . it is one way of making all troubles go away.

    - - -

    "What you can't in all honesty do, is hold both views simultaneously and claim to be a rational, honest person."

    This just points to your close-mindedness. It is obvious you will come up with such hyperbole as you are an atheist - with VESTED interest in declaring religion silly.

    An interesting point to note is the objections against this verses are commonly found on the net. Their source? Fundamentalist Christians - they got there first!

    - - -




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry you were unable to explain how you can hold two opposed views simultaneously so needed to be abusive in an attempt to transfer guilt to the person who makes you think so you can more easily avoid thinking. This is of course why religions generate so much hate in their sufferers as a way to avoid the questions opposing opinions raise. Just hate the questioner and you can feel smugly self-righteous about holding an opinion you can't justify.

      Did you intent to reinforce the impression that Islam, like other religions, is a delusion carefully maintained with these sorts of self-deceiving strategies, or was that just an incidental effect of being unable to avoid demonstrating it?

      Don't you just hate people who ask you questions you're embarrassed to answer?

      Delete
    2. "Sorry you were unable to explain how you can hold two opposed views simultaneously "

      Only if they actually are 2 opposing views. It is your opinion. I explained its basis are wrong. Hence - they are not 2 opposing views.

      - - -

      "so needed to be abusive in an attempt to transfer guilt to the person who makes you think so you can more easily avoid thinking."

      Then my dear, what about YOUR abusiveness? Ever given that a going over?

      And try keeping the ego in check whilst you are at it.

      - -

      "This is of course why religions generate so much hate in their sufferers as a way to avoid the questions opposing opinions raise"

      Sure. . .but why does atheism generate similar hate?

      Proof? Start a conversation with an atheist in Twitter. See the level of abuse.

      The assumptions are laughable and ridiculous. The pretence and the lies.

      - - -

      "Just hate the questioner and you can feel smugly self-righteous about holding an opinion you can't justify. "

      See - in YOUR hate towards me - you have completely lost the point. Which opinion is it that I cannot justify?

      People like you ABUSE religious people - on the basis that they ARE religious. The truth of a particular matter, generally, has nothing to do with it.

      - - -

      "Don't you just hate people who ask you questions you're embarrassed to answer?"

      Is this the reason . . why you feel the BURNING need to preach atheism?

      - - -

      My dearest - we [the religious] have thousands of years of history at preaching. . .

      If anyone faces difficult questions it is us.



      Delete
    3. >Only if they actually are 2 opposing views.<

      Indeed. The belief that the Qur'an is the inerrant word of an infallible god, and that it has mistakes in it, are opposing and mutually contradictory views. Mountains are manifestly not pegs for holding the ground down, as the Qur'an claims, therefore the Qur'an has at least one mistake in it.

      This will remain a fact no matter how abusive you become, no matter how much you hate people who point it out to you, no matter how violently you react towards them and no matter how often you tell yourself that hatred and violence are peaceful acts.

      Deal with it.

      Delete

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