Sunday, November 15, 2009

501) The 19 Grand Ideas Of Science: What Is The Universe Made Up Of And How Does It Operate? Quotes Of Aga Khan IV And Others.

"The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being"(Aga Khan III, April 4th 1952)

In the 21st century these 19 grand ideas represent the solid known facts about our universe, what it is made up of and how it operates:

This core idea provides the very foundation for all of experimental science. In some ways, it is impossible to prove this notion, but in others it is proven by every moment of every day. The universe behaves in a consistent fashion. Every day the sun rises and gravity continues to function. The surprises that come our way tend to be either from incomplete information or inaccurate interpretation of information, not from an inherent chaotic nature to the universe itself. Since the entire rational nature of scientific inquiry is built on this idea, if one does not understand it (or does not believe it), then they will obviously have difficulty fully appreciating the findings of science.

This principle is known as the first law of thermodynamics and is fundamental to the manner in which energy flows in our universe. It provides the basis of the law of conservation of energy, which is that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but only transferred from one form to another.

This idea is also known as the second law of thermodynamics and is closely tied into the notion of entropy, or the measurement of disorder within a system. In the simplest form, this means that, over time, any thermodynamic process will lose energy (frequently in the form of waste energy) and, therefore, a perfect engine or "perpetual motion device" cannot be created.

Nineteenth century scientist James Clerk Maxwell discovered a key insight into the nature of the universe - that electricity and magnetism were actually manifestations of the same underlying phenomena, which came to be called electromagnetism. For example, a moving particle with an electric charge produces (or induces) a magnetic field. This and other concepts were codified in a series of equations called Maxwell's equations.

A concept which was put forth as far back as the ancient Greeks, the core idea of atomism is that the matter we interact with is composed of still smaller things which we cannot see. While the Greek conception of this was that the atoms would be smallest constituent of matter, modern particle physics is, in fact, a very rich field of study which has shown that the atom itself is composed of many constituent particles.

Or, in the precise words Trefil uses, "The properties of materials depend on the identity, arrangement, and binding of the atoms of which they are made." The nuclear structure of the atom determines what element it is, while it's outer electron structure determines how the atoms can bond together. This is the core of chemistry, chemical physics, and other areas of study.

One of the most unexpected findings in all of scientific history, in the tiny realm of quantum physics the line between observer & observed is very fine indeed, to the point of being non-existent. One of the best examples of this issue is in the quantum double slit experiment, where the time of a measurement has a direct impact on how the system behaves ... even in cases when one wouldn't normally expect it to have any impact.

This was the great insight of Albert Einstein, which led to the development of his theory of relativity. Basically, if the laws of nature are the same, regardless of how different observers are moving, then he determined that there had to be a way to translate all observations so that they were consistent. In doing so, he discovered some quite unexpected properties of reality, such as space and time itself appearing inconsistent depending on how two observers were moving.

As Einstein developed his theory of relativity, he came to realize that there was an intimate connection between mass and energy. In fact, he discovered that mass was really just another form of energy and that it was actually possible to write an equation - the famed E = mc2 - which related the mass (m) to the energy E, which was based on the speed of light (c) squared. Well, the speed of light is a very large number, so the energy contained within the atomic nucleus is correspondingly also very large (even though the mass itself is very small).

Though it was once believed that atoms were the smallest constituents of matter, it has been known for nearly a century that this is not the case. Atoms are composed of a nucleus surrounded by negatively-charged electrons. The nucleus itself contains protons (particles with particle charge) and neutrons (particles with neutral charge). In addition, the protons & neutrons appear to be composed of even smaller particles called quarks.

It was once believed that the heavens were eternal and unchanging, though this notion was thrown out the window by Galileo (and by ample evidence prior to Galileo). Today we know that stars are formed when hydrogen gas draws together in space and the gravitational pressure causes nuclear fusion to begin. Similarly, when the nuclear fuel of the star runs out, the star will die, possibly in a massive supernova that results in a black hole.

Or, as Trefil says it, "The universe began in a hot, dense state about 14 billion years ago and has been expanding ever since." This is certainly the scenario that is outlined in the Big Bang Theory, although even alternatives (such as the cyclic model provided by Paul J. Steinhardt & Neil Turok in their book Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang) would have to account for the same extensive evidence. No matter what the theory that ultimately proves most successful, the general outlines have been established and heavily proven and are highly unlikely to prove faulty.

Just like the heavens, it was once believed that the Earth itself was constant and unchanging, except for superficial changes such as erosion. In the years since plate tectonics was first put forth, the field of geology has grown immensely, discovering a wealth of information about how the Earth's surface continuously changes.

There are a variety of cycles in how the Earth functions, from the hundred millions of years of the rock cycle to the much shorter cycles involved in weather patterns (the atmospheric cycle), nitrogen cycles, wetland cycles, ice ages, and the like.

From birth to death, life is entirely dictated by chemical processes. Reproduction is a chemical process and, on the other end, aging and death are processes whereby the chemistry that keeps the cells going breaks down. Every stage in between is similarly dictated by the biochemical processes that take place within our bodies.

This insight helps us understand why enzymes and proteins are so important in the chemistry of life. They allow the molecules within the body to assume shapes which are more appropriate for certain jobs and, therefore, to more readily perform those jobs. Without the right chemicals, such as insulin, produced (or introduced) into the body in some fashion, some of these jobs wouldn't be able to get done.

One of the greatest conjunctions of chemistry, biology, & physics was the discovery of the double-helix structure of DNA molecules. At the most basic level, the important thing to remember is that DNA is a long molecule which contains coded information which is used by some cells to produce other chemicals, which in turn perform jobs such as creating new cells, attacking germs, and the like. Without this coding, our cells would never have any instructions on how to act and would, in effect, be like a computer with no operating system ... a pile of useless junk.

While this may be a miraculous finding, it's true. All life (on Earth, at least) encodes its genetic information in the form of DNA. This provides us with a connective thread throughout all of life, but also provides the foundation of genetic engineering, which is a topic which will only increase as biotechnologies become more adept at manipulating the genome of various plant & animal species.

Biological evolution is a fact and even the scientists who espouse "intelligent design" must account for the wealth of data in support of evolution. Even if you believe there is an intelligent designer, a realistic look at the evidence tells that the designer must, by necessity, be using evolution by natural selection as the primary production process. Still, on both sides of the Evolution/Creationism debate, it is a highly emotionally charged issue ... really more so than any other on this list. Regardless, it remains necessary for a scientifically literate education.

Quotes of Aga Khan IV and Others:

"The God of the Quran is the One whose Ayats(Signs) are the Universe in which we live, move and have our being"(Aga Khan III, April 4th 1952)

"Islam is fundamentally in its very nature a natural religion. Throughout the Quran God's signs (Ayats) are referred to as the natural phenomenon, the law and order of the universe, the exactitudes and consequences of the relations between natural phenomenon in cause and effect. Over and over, the stars, sun, moon, earthquakes, fruits of the earth and trees are mentioned as the signs of divine power, divine law and divine order. Even in the Ayeh of Noor, divine is referred to as the natural phenomenon of light and even references are made to the fruit of the earth. During the great period of Islam, Muslims did not forget these principles of their religion." (Aga Khan III, April 4th 1952)

"It (Surah of Light from the Quran) tells us that the oil of the blessed olive tree lights the lamp of understanding, a light that belongs neither to the East nor West. We are to give this light to all. In that spirit, all that we learn will belong to the world and that too is part of the vision I share with you"(Aga Khan IV, Speech to the Asia Society, New York, USA, September 25 1979)

"Islamic doctrine goes further than the other great religions, for it proclaims the presence of the soul, perhaps minute but nevertheless existing in an embryonic state, in all existence in matter, in animals, trees, and space itself. Every individual, every molecule, every atom has its own spiritual relationship with the All-Powerful Soul of God"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

"In Shia Islam, intellect is a key component of faith. Intellect allows us to understand the creation of God"(Aga Khan IV, July 23rd 2008, Lisbon, Portugal)

"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God. "(Albert Einstein, circa 1950)

"Astronomy, the so-called “Science of the Universe” was a field of particular distinction in Islamic civilization-–in sharp contrast to the weakness of Islamic countries in the field of Space research today. In this field, as in others, intellectual leadership is never a static condition, but something which is always shifting and always dynamic"(Aga Khan IV, Convocation, American University of Cairo, Cairo, Egypt, June 15th 2006)

"God has given us the miracle of life with all its attributes: the extraordinary manifestations of sunrise and sunset, of sickness and recovery, of birth and death, but surely if He has given us the means with which to remove ourselves from this world so as to go to other parts of the Universe, we can but accept as further manifestations the creation and destructions of stars, the birth and death of atomic particles, the flighting new sound and light waves. I am afraid that the torch of intellectual discovery, the attraction of the unknown, the desire for intellectual self-perfection have left us"(Aga Khan IV,Speech, 1963, Mindanao, Phillipines)

Chapter 30, Verse 27: He originates creation; then refashions it - for Him an easy task. His is the most Sublime Symbol in the heavens and the earth(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

Chapter 21, Verse 30: Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together before We clove them asunder, and of water fashioned every thing? Will they not then believe?(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

Chapter 51, verse 47: We built the heavens with might, and We expand it wide(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

Chapter79, verse 30: And then he gave the earth an oval form(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

Chapter 86, verse 11: I swear by the reciprocating heaven.....(Noble Quran, 7th Century CE)

"The Intellect is the substance of (God's) unity and it is the one (al-wahid), both cause and caused, the act of origination (al-ibda) and the first originated being (al-mubda al-awwal); it is perfection and perfect, eternity and eternal, existence and that which exists all in a single substance"( Hamid al-Din al-Kirmani, 11th centuryFatimid Ismaili cosmologist (Kitab al-Riyad, pp. 221-222))

"In sum the process of creation can be said to take place at several levels. Ibda represents the initial level - one transcends history, the other creates it. The spiritual and material realms are not dichotomous, since in the Ismaili formulation, matter and spirit are united under a higher genus and each realm possesses its own hierarchy. Though they require linguistic and rational categories for definition, they represent elements of a whole, and a true understanding of God must also take account of His creation. Such a synthesis is crucial to how the human intellect eventually relates to creation and how it ultimately becomes the instrument for penetrating through history the mystery of the unknowable God implied in the formulation of tawhid."(Azim Nanji, Director, Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, U.K., 1998)

"The creation according to Islam is not a unique act in a given time but a perpetual and constant event; and God supports and sustains all existence at every moment by His will and His thought. Outside His will, outside His thought, all is nothing, even the things which seem to us absolutely self-evident such as space and time. Allah alone wishes: the Universe exists; and all manifestations are as a witness of the Divine Will"(Memoirs of Aga Khan III, 1954)

"In Islamic belief, knowledge is two-fold. There is that revealed through the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) and that which man discovers by virtue of his own intellect. Nor do these two involve any contradiction, provided man remembers that his own mind is itself the creation of God. Without this humility, no balance is possible. With it, there are no barriers. Indeed, one strength of Islam has always lain in its belief that creation is not static but continuous, that through scientific and other endeavours, God has opened and continues to open new windows for us to see the marvels of His creation"(Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan University, 16 March 1983, Karachi, Pakistan)

"Human history, as conceived in Ismailism, operates cyclically. According to this typological view, the epoch of the great prophets mirrors the cosmological paradigm, unfolding to recover the equilibrium and harmony inherent in the divine pattern of creation. Prophets and, after them, their appointed successors, the imams, have as their collective goal the establishment of a just society. The function of the Prophet is to initiate the cycle for human society and of the Imam to complement and interpret the teaching to sustain the just order at the social and individual levels."(Azim Nanji, Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, 1998)

"Here is a relevant verse from the Noble Qur'an, cited by Nasir-i Khusraw, hujjat-i Khurasan in his Khawaan al-Ikhwaan : "It is He who created you from dust, then from a sperm drop, then from a blood clot, then He brings you forth as a child, then lets you reach your age of full strength, then lets you become old - though some of you die before - and then lets you reach the appointed term; and that haply you may find the intellect (la'allakum ta'qilun)."(Nasir Khusraw, 11th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist-philosopher-poet)

"In fact this world is a book in which you see inscribed the writings of God the Almighty"(Nasir Khusraw, 11th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist-philosopher-poet)

"O brother! You asked: What is the [meaning of] `alam [world] and what is that entity to which this name applies? How should we describe the world in its entirety? And how many worlds are there? Explain so that we may recognize. Know, O brother, that the name `alam is derived from [the word] `ilm(knowledge), because the traces of knowledge are evident in [all] parts of the physical world. Thus, we say that the very constitution (nihad) of the world is based on a profound wisdom"(Nasir Khusraw, 11th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist-philosopher-poet, from his book "Knowledge and Liberation")

"Tarkib' is composition as in the compounding of elements in the process of making more complex things, that is, of adding together two things to form a synthesis, a compound. Soul composes in the sense of 'tarkib'; it is the animating force that combines the physical elements of the natural universe into beings that move and act. Incorporating is an especially apt word in this instance. It means to turn something into a body, as in 'composing'. But it is actually the conversion of an intellectual object, a thought, into a physical thing. Soul acts by incorporating reason into physical objects, the natural matter of the universe and all the things composed of it"(Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani,10th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist, d971CE, from the book, 'Abu Yakub Al-Sijistani: Intellectual Missionary', by Paul Walker)

"Every particle of the Creation has a share of the Command of God, because every creature shares a part of the Command of God through which it has come to be there and by virtue of which it remains in being and the light of the Command of God shines in it. Understand this!"(Abu Yakub Al Sijistani, 10th century Fatimid Ismaili cosmologist, d971, Kashf al-Mahjub("Unveiling of the Hidden"))

Related posts:
Tiniest matter: The strange world of the Quantum; harbinger of the world of spirit?

What Do You Get If You Divide Science By God? A Cosmopolitan Sampling of Opinion;Quotes of Aga Khans IV+ III,Al Sijistani,Nasir Khusraw,Azim Nanji

20 things you need to know about Albert Einstein, the smartest scientist of the 20th century; Quotes of Aga Khan III.

Albert Einstein and Faith; Quote of Aga Khan III.

Einstein=Genius squared: the man who taught us key insights about the Universal "Soul that sustains, embraces and is the Universe".

A Collection of Posts on Astronomy; Quotes of Noble Quran, Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan III, Nasir Khusraw, Abu Yakub Al Sijistani and Aristotle

Ismaili Philosophy

Allegories in Nature: "....a Cosmos full of signs and symbols that evoke the perfection of Allah's creation and mercy"; Quotes of Aga Khans.

No. 7: Ayats(Signs) in the Universe series. How are proteins made inside living cells and what does this have to do with religion?

A Collection of Posts on Charles Darwin,a Scientist Way Ahead of His Time; Dynamic vs Static Creation; Quotes of Noble Quran, Aga Khans IV and III

Easy Nash

The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The Holy Qu'ran's encouragement to study nature and the physical world around us gave the original impetus to scientific enquiry among Muslims: Aga Khan IV(1985)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)