Harris Sultan

I wanted to write a little bit about the issue of "Absolute Truth" as a lot of religious apologists use this term in defence of their God.

In my recent conversation with Rahmatullah Nowruz this issue was brought up and obviously we disagreed with each other, but what prompted me to write about this was the fact that some fence sitters and also the people on my side disagreed with my view.

I find myself guilty of not being able to properly explain my position for various reasons, one being not given the opportunity or secondly and more importantly, not being articulate enough to explain what I meant by Science’s goal is to reach towards the absolute truth. So let me attempt again to explain what I meant by that.

Religious apologists and Scientists look at absolute truths completely differently.

Religious apologists use Absolute truth as a statement or a claim that is undeniably correct and requires no further inquiry.

Scientists however generally have a problem with that position as a more respectable position to take would be that there is always room for an enquiry. This is not an admission of not being able to find the absolute truth.

This is where I think religious apologists either lack the intellect to see this fallacy in their position or simply practice intellectual dishonesty when they apply their own definition of absolute truth.

Religious apologists use the second part of the stated scientific position and draw a conclusion that since scientists themselves agree there is no absolute truth hence we cannot obtain absolute truths through science.

This is a fallacious position to take because they are ignoring the logic behind why scientists believe that there is no absolute truth as they are looking at the truth with totally different lenses. Religious apologists do not apply the same logic on their own religious claims such as God exists and he wants us to treat this life as a test. This becomes an absolute truth for them because it is coming from a divine being and requires no further inquiry.

A scientist or a rationalist would not accept that as an absolute truth as it leads you to further enquiries which religious apologists are not willing to accept.

This is a typical example of word salad religious apologists cook up and are guilty of intellectual dishonesty.

I claim, Science’s goal is to lead you to an absolute truth however in the process we get closer and closer to the truth in wider sense but in a narrow sense we obtain many absolute truths along the way. Since the universe is very complicated and when we find one absolute truth, it leads us on a quest to finding another absolute truth and so on. If the quest of this new absolute truth is built upon the absolute truth that is just discovered, then this is a totally new quest. This is not to say that the previously discovered absolute truth is false. This is simply a further refinement of a bigger question and then another question after that and so on.

In short, science is a collection of many absolute truths that lead to other absolute truths. This is like finding mini absolute truths such as: what was person A wearing or what was his blood type in a detective’s murder investigation to find a bigger absolute truth as to who was the murderer. Once you have discovered what the Person A was wearing, it becomes an absolute truth to that question however that does not answer the other absolute truth as to who was the killer. Once you have discovered the killer, the original absolute truth as to what Person A was wearing still stands EVEN if we discover that person A was not the killer and in fact person B was the killer. This is where the lack of intellect or intellectual dishonesty of the nay sayer is applied. They would say “Well, since you got the suspicion of Person A wrong even though you got his clothing right, therefore your finding of the Person B being the killer is also false.” The absolute truth in this example would be the discovery of the colour of Person A’s clothing. There is no denying in that absolute truth. Even though it failed to answer who was the murderer.

Let’s unpack this further from religious and scientific perspectives and use an example.

If you asked a very narrow question such as does the Earth spin around its axis? In scientific terms, we can answer that in absolute terms. Hence, if I made a statement that “It is an absolute truth that Earth spins around its axis”, you would not be able to fault that. Therefore, it is an absolute truth as far as this specific question is concerned. You don’t have to believe this absolute truth on face value and hence you can verify it yourself. However, once verified, this will become an absolute truth. This will be a perfectly standard scientific process.

In religious terms, the absolute truth would be “Earth spins around its axis because it says so in my holy book”. Even though no Abrahamic book says that but even if it did say it, that is not a reason to accept it as an absolute truth as it requires verification. Once verified, that would become an absolute truth as well but then it would be in line with a standard scientific process.

In conclusion, in both perspectives it is the science that led us to the absolute truth.

Now, if you asked a broader question such as what causes day and night then it means you have shifted the goal post and asking a totally different question. This does not mean that science has rejected the previously discovered absolute truth about Earth’s spin however, it means it's a different question and requires further enquiry on top of our already discovered absolute truth of Earth spinning around its axis. In scientific terms we will not find the absolute truth to that question until we discover every possible phenomena in the universe we occupy. This is a monumental task and as we know that we don’t know everything in the universe, hence this specific question may not be answered for a very long time. Such as is there a mini black hole one light year away that is affecting the Earth’s spin and hence playing a part in Earth’s day and night cycle. If that is the case then we need to mention that black hole in an attempt to answering that question hence, we don’t have an absolute answer to that.

In religious terms, the absolute truth would be “Earth’s spin causes day and night because it says so in my holy book”. Now you see why this cannot be taken as absolute truth even though religious apologists will claim it to be an absolute truth as it is coming from a divine source. This has not met the criterion of being undeniably correct as there could be many other phenomenas known or unknown playing a part in Earth’s day and night cycle.

Thanks to science, we can answer the first question in absolute terms but science is not interested in stoping its investigation once it has answered a question as it is more interested in answering the next question such as what else could be causing the day and night. This is why scientists do not like to claim that there is an absolute truth but if we play the game of word salad like religious apologists play, we can make a statement that science has given us an absolute truth that Earth spins around its own axis. There is absolutely no denying in that.

Now the question is, why do religious apologists use this term of absolute truth so passionately in defence of their religious beliefs?

They follow a very simple logic and fall in the God of the gaps fallacy. In their mind as I said earlier, they take the humble stated position of the scientists that there is no absolute truth (for which I have already explained why they take that position) that leads them to a conclusion that since we do not understand everything in the universe then this somehow means we have no absolute truths, therefore God exists. According to their own definition of “Absolute truth” this is obviously a fallacy as it would not require further enquiries because there are no more questions after this. This is where science differs, which has a significant impact on the understanding of the term “absolute truth”. As I just explained, science gives us many absolute truths but it doesn’t stop its investigation as further questions have arisen from the discovery of the first absolute truth. Religious apologists have failed to give us the absolute truth i.e. God exists either physically or metaphysically hence their argument is incredibly fallacious and requires ridicule. Their absolute truth claim of God’s existence itself doesn’t satisfy their own definition of absolute truth as it is a statement that is NOT undeniably correct.

So next time when a religious apologist tries to use this “Absolute truth” trick on you and asks you if science gives us an absolute truth answer it like this:

“Yes, science does give us many absolute truths such as; earth spins around its axis'” or “ Earth orbits around the Sun” Both of these truths and many other scientific truths are absolute truths in their own right.

In conclusion of this piece, let me make a statement as clear as the sunny day in the outback. Science gives us many absolute truths which paves the way for discovering further absolute truths. That is not to say that the previously discovered absolute truths are obsolete.

I challenge everyone who disagrees with this position of mine to come forward and feel free to explain how this is incorrect. I am fairly confident that no scientist would disagree with my position however I’ll get many disagreements from the religious apologists.

I don’t appeal to the authority however, I do agree that certain specialists play a huge part in our understanding on the basis of evidence, not on the basis of their stature. Before writing this piece I consulted the content of this article with my dear friend and physicist Dr. Ben Davis. Logically speaking, it has no conflict with the scientific position. Dr. Ben Davis is a remarkable physicist who is driven by the passion to educate people with science. I personally ask him all my physics question. I encourage you to like his page on Facebook called Ask Dr. Ben. Asking a scientist, a science question is much better than asking a science question to a religious apologist such as Zakir Naik.

Well, until next time, may science bless you.

Comments (6)

Remember - "Absence of Evidence does not account for evidence of absence". What Hitchens says is a logical and philosophical fallacy - "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence".

We are bought up in the way to usually trust people from the very beginning. Actually we trust by instinct - be it parents, teachers, older siblings etc right from our childhood. But of course since we have a twisted nature there are people who are not fortunate to grow up trusting people due to episodes of child hood abuse and things like that.

Also, most of the world works on trust and axiomatic principles. Not empirical evidence. If I tell a person to sit on a chair and that person does it out of trust. The thought of the chair being defective or not quality tested does not arise. There is no question of empirical evidence but just trust. In this article, Harris Sultan has made opinions but not cited scholarly works of people in the scientific community. So for starters, what Harris is saying are his own opinions about the notion of "Absolute Truths".

I watched a video of Harris talking about no evidence to track any Old testament characters like David or Moses (think he was bashing Engineer Mohd ALi Mirza who in my opinion is no better than Zakir Naik. But it alarms me to see that Harris is attacking religious apologists from the sub-continent who are actual whackos and whose audience do not know any better. I am disappointed that Harris Sultan himself has so much of ignorance and bias when he made blanket statements about no Old Testament characters ever existing in the video (Eg: David)! I do not know where to start and where to begin. Once again - "Absence of Evidence does not account for evidence of absence".

Most of the evidence when it comes to the Old Testament character's historicity is either destroyed due to wars being fought in the land over the past two millennia. And lots of it is buried near the Temple Mount and other regions in Palestine and near Egypt. Restrictions are imposed for archeological excavations in most of these areas by Muslim authorities. Much of the archaeological discoveries that have supported evidence of historicity of Old testament characters have been made in the last few decades!

eg: In 1993 after digging for almost 30 years a Jewish archaeologist discovered an inscription written in Hebrew that read "House of David". True this is still under review...similarly naturalists and Biblical minimalist scholars could not give an answer when evidence for the Hittite civilization was found...before this discovery was made, post enlightenment scholars dismissed ancient races like the Hittites as a myth (because no evidence was found before the discovery). This proves how wrong Hitchens was when he said - "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence".

There are more discoveries which have taken place both archaeologically and literally to give non-biblical support to the existence of many Biblical characters in the Old testament - King Ahab (prophet Elijah or Hazret-Ilyas's enemy) (9th century BC), King Nebuchadnezzar's annexation of Judah and war with the Egyptian king Necho and many other sources. Although I have to admit some claims of authenticity are still under dispute. People like Moses, Abraham etc are yet to be proven as historical characters (i.e. Biblical characters beyond 1000 BC).

Also about Moses - nothing to prove that (at least not yet) but discoveries are getting close. eg: This talks about the existence of Semitic Nomadic tribes that identified themselves as worshipers of YHWH (Yahweh is the name people in Old testament referred to God as). There are objections to this claim but even they are being refuted

For a list but not complete list refer -

Then secondly, look up the sources and the scholarly literature from both sides of these discoveries (objectively) and not with a biased-naturalistic lens favored towards one side. Of course, you can say that I will look at the same thing with a biased religious lens and draw my conclusions. But every time a piece of evidence to support the Bible has been discovered the naturalists and materialists (who have effectively hijacked the scientific community) come up with suppositions (that do not even agree with each other) to make it fit into their proposed model of ancient cultures. They fail to see that either their model was wrong all along or this is an outlier in the model. And these suppositions/supposes or assumptions made by them to question the authenticity of the archaeological sources do not have a strong existing foundation or source of knowledge to stand on. The only supposition or assumption a religious person or theistic scientist has to make is that God exists but the Biblical minimalists, naturalists, materialists etc have to make a lot of assumptions to even reject the evidence. Further, these assumptions cannot agree or come to a consensus.

As a computer scientist and software engineer this is part of something you would call data modeling. We collect data and based on patterns come up with a model i.e. an interpretation of how data/evidence comes together and we derive a truth. However, if new data is found that does not fit into the existing model of the system, it is an exception and considered an outlier. But if more data is formed that do not fit the existing model (i.e. interpretation of evidence), we have to reject the old model and construe a new one by once again aggregating the data. That's how things like the atomic model has moved forward. And this my friend is how anything we see in nature is interpreted. But as of the late 19th century the naturalist world view has hijacked the scientific community. Things that do not conform to the naturalistic model of ancient civilizations is rejected without even being treated as an outlier or the existing model being questioned. Likewise Science is not a fact - it is an interpretation of facts around us based on their observation and examination of variables contributing to those facts. Scientific "laws" get revised and re-modeled based on how the same thing operates in different conditions or if new sets of facts/evidence/data was found that do not fit the existing model. eg: Pluto is now a "planetoid", the snow leopard was not considered to be a panther but lately is considered closer to the original panthera genome than even the leopard.

Now these so called scientific "scholars" who have enforced this majority view of certain concepts like Darwinian evolution do not like people questioning it. This makes them no different from a religious extremist when it comes to questioning dogma. Do not get me wrong here, I believe evolution but the Darwinian theory has major non-reconciled holes. Contemporary evolutionary proponents of Darwin's time had their theories about evolution not make it mainstream because they questioned some holes which the naturalistic view upheld. (I can talk about this via email if you want to and point out the sources)

I have research published papers. To get a paper published, I have seen PhDs, academics and post-docs even changing the variables of their experiments so that the data that is produced better fits their hypothesis (why do they do that - to keep their jobs as academics). We thought there was 1 sun in a solar system but wrong now there are systems that have three or more suns!! We say it is "Science" - wrong. It is only our interpretation at the end of the day which is fickle and subject to change based on data and different conditions (like Atif Khaja pointed out the difference between classical i.e. Newtonian Physics and Quantum Physics). And by the way Newton believed in the Christian God and made certain doom's day prophecies based on analyzing patterns and numbers in the Bible (according to Newton the world will not end before 2060). So much for science and religious views not being upheld by the same mind.

For Harris Sultan, he grew up thinking Islam is the final frontier and then when he came to the shock of realizing its not what he thought it was, he developed a bias and started applying it to every other religion. Harris is an anti-theist, not an atheist. An actual atheist is someone like the guy who runs the Apostate Prophet channel. He left Islam, admitted he had become anti-theist first and then an actual atheist i.e. someone who does not believe in God but does not have a problem with people who believe in God. Why is he still an atheist after studying every world view? It is due to reasons related to Determinism and Free-Will i.e. philosophical questions.

And unfortunately philosophy which is a foundation on which scientific reasoning was originally built on for a long time has been separated by the naturalists and materialistic scientific community in the last 100 or so years. Who is the liar - not Science but the popular scientific community (As a student of science and engineering for nearly 20 years, this is the conclusion I have come to). The people who have hijacked the scientific community today can be compared to the far-left of western society since their view is dominant when it comes to free speech and hijacking media and public opinion. They have made "scientific" dogmas which they do not want to be challenged but give staunch opposition if anyone questions it.

Atheism & Islam