Scientific Miracles? Not quite

Many educated Muslims are struggling to waft their Quran from its Medieval fossil form to fit into the 21st century age of science and technology. To this end, they are boldly asserting that their book foretold modern scientific findings 14 centuries ago. These portions are dubbed “scientific miracles” of the Quran. We will see if these claims hold up.

The following rebuttals were drawn out from dialogues with several Muslims on this topic. When I asked them to present their strongest “proofs” for the Quran’s divine inspiration, their favourite trump cards were the “scientific miracle” passages. But as it often turns out, the cards quietly slips back into their pockets and the propaganda backfires.

(I) Quran 24:40 says “(The unbelievers’ state) is like the depth of darkness, in a vast deep ocean, overwhelmed with a great wave toppled with (another) great wave, toppled with (dark) clouds, darkness one above another; If a man stretches out his hand, he can hardly see it; for whom Allah gives no light, there is no light.” It’s a miracle that the Quran described layers of darkness in the ocean 1400 years ago. This has now been recently confirmed by marine scientists stating that the ocean becomes progressively dark at very distinct layers of its depths.

Reading through the various English translations of the Quran, it’s clear that this passage is referring to darkness covering the surface of sea, not dark layers within it.

Arberry: “Or they are as shadows upon a sea obscure covered by a billow above which is a billow above which are clouds, shadows piled one upon another…”

Palmer: “Or like darkness on a deep sea, there covers it a wave above which is wave, above which is a cloud – darknesses one above the other…”

Rodwell: “Or like the darkness on the deep sea when covered by billows, above which are clouds; darkness upon darkness…”

Sher Ali: “Or, their deeds are like thick layers of darkness spread over a vast and deep sea, on whose surface rises waves, above which are clouds…”

Pickthall: “Or as darkness on a vast, abysmal sea. There covereth him like a wave, above which is a wave, above which is a cloud. Layer upon layer of darkness…”

There are no clouds within the sea, certainly this verse refers to darkness above the sea. One would have to be so desperate to force oceanography into this banal allegory.

(II) Sura 21:30 says “Have they not who disbelieve seen that the heaven and earth were joimed together (as one piece), then We parted them.” Here, Allah explained a mystery unknown to the greatest physicists and astronauts for centuries. It described the creation of the universe by joining together heavens and the earth and separating them. This harmonizes with Big Bang Theory of the creation of the universe which holds that about 20 million years ago, the universe began with an explosive expansion of a single condensed matter.

I appeal to all Muslims who don’t wish to be exposed to ridicule to read up about the Big Bang theory before including it in their dawah memo. This theory stipulates that about 13.7 billion years ago, a tremendous explosion started the universe. Prior to this, the energy that transformed the matter was contained at one infinitely small point, thus, the explosion supposedly gave rise to the particles that became matter as well as space and time. It proposes that the galaxies were not all clumped together, so the claim of heavens and earth “being separated” as the Quran says is false.

Even more than a point, the Big Bang theory excludes Creationism, so the term “Big Bang theory of creation” is ludicrous. The Big Bang is just that – a theory – not a scientific fact. If it’s true, that means God didn’t create the earth and there were no Adam and Eve. Most believers in the Big Bang theory are atheists and agnostics. Appealing to speculative theories in place of facts is self-defeating.

(III) Sura 78:12-13 says “We have built above you seven strong (heavens) and placed therein a blazing lamp.” It’s clear from this verse that the sun is the only light for our solar system. Astronomers have now established that the moon merely reflects the light of the sun. The Qur’an stated this fact centuries before the astronomers could establish this by their findings

These verses actually prove that the Quran is not from an all-knowing Allah. The idea of “seven solid (heavens)” built up like some storey buildings is absurd. No astronomer will buy such gobbledygook. And finally, the sun is not “a blazing lamp,” that’s what an illiterate 7th century cave man would say. It would have been scientifically accurate if the Quran said that the sun is the star at the centre of the solar system around which the earth rotates.

(IV) Sura 16:68-69 “And your Lord inspired the bee, saying: Take your habitations in hills, on trees, and in (men’s) habitations. Then eat of all fruits, and follow the way of your Lord made easy (for you); There comes forth from their bellies, a drink of varying colours wherein is healing for men; Verily, in this indeed a sign for people who think.” The Quran in this verse used the female form of the verb, thus is stating that the female bee is entrusted with the task of collecting food and making the honey. Muhammad wasn’t an expert entomologist, so he couldn’t have known this 14 centuries ago

There are a number of problems with these verses. One, bees have a more complex navigation, communication and social mechanism. They live in a wide variety of environments and are certainly not restricted to hills, trees and houses. The Muslim who wrote this obviously has a poor information about bees at his disposal. For one, bees are classified into queen, drones and workers based on their responsibilities.

Two, bees don’t eat fruits; they feed on nectar and pollen from flowers. That is what they use to produce honey which also results in cross pollination in flowers. If Allah authored the Quran, he should have known this, but he didn’t. Three, how exactly do insects “follow the way of their Lord”? Are they Muslims too? The Quran attributes human thinking or abilities to insects. That’s fairy tale, not science.

The “drink of various colours” from bees alluded to are beewax and royal jelly and they are not for healing; they cause allergic reactions in humans. Allah should have given a disclaimer. Finally, this passage is not a sign for thinking people. Apiculture or bee-keeping has been practiced in ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, so the Quran is saying nothing beyond what a 7th century desert man would have known.

(V) Sura 1:1 says “Praise be to Allah; the Lord of the worlds.” Fourteen centuries ago, the human mind was certainly incapable of thinking about the earth, the solar system or the galaxies. Yet the very first verse of the Quran states that Allah is the Lord of the worlds. Today, mankind knows for a fact that there are other planets besides earth. Allah revealed this to Prophet Muhammad before modern discoveries.

Planets are not “worlds” and no planet is an inhabitable as earth, so they can’t be correctly termed “worlds beyond the earth.” Another absurdity in the Quran is the claim that there are 7 heavens. These “heavens” couldn’t be planets, because there are 9 planets observed so far and scientists are looking at the possibility of a 10th planet which is still too dark to see now. Maybe, Allah should have given us the number of planets instead. Me thinks that would have been the real “scientific miracle.”

(VI) Sura 10:5 “He it is Who made the sun a shining brightness and the moon a light, and ordained for it mansions that you might know the computation of years and the reckoning. Allah did not create it but with truth; He makes the sign manifest for a people who know”

Sura 25:61 “Blessed is He who made constellation in skies and placed therein a lamp (sun) and a moon giving light”

Sura 71:15-16 “Do you not see how God has created the seven heavens in stories, and has set the moon therein for a light, and set the sun for a lamp.”
Quran uses two different words for the sun (siraj or zia) and the moon (noor). It acknowledged that the sun is the source of light and the moon only reflects it

There is a big spoof here. The Arabic word “noor” used for the moon means direct light and it’s scientifically wrong. The Arabic word for an object emitting light is “munir.” The moon doesn’t have its mansions or stations. This nonsense was borrowed from Astrology which is about as scientific as placing garlics on your bed to ward off spirits.

The sun is a star and there’s no scientific evidence that the moon is in the midst of or on the same level as stars. Scientists have observed that stars are much farther away from the earth than the moon. Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the earth, is about 4.3 light years (40 trillion kilometre) away from it. No matter how you slice the cake, the Quran is premodern.

(VII) “And it is He (Allah) Who spread out the earth, and set thereon mountains standing firm, and (flowing) rivers ; and fruits of every kind he made in pairs, two and two. He draws the night as a veil over the day ; Behold ! Verily, in these things there are signs for those who consider.” (13:3) 

Who made for you earth like a carpet spread out, and has opened roads therein, and has sent down water from the sky? With it have We produced diverse pairs of plants, each separate from the other” (20:53)

“Glory be to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces ” (36:36), Centuries before Botanists knew of plant genders, the Quran made it known. How could Muhammad have had this information if he wasn’t inspired by God?

These verses are quite revealing, though not in the way Muslims suppose. Sura 13:3 says that Allah “spread out the earth and set thereon mountains” and that the “earth [is] like a carpet spread out” (20:53). This is teaching a flat earth. It was the belief of Muhammad’s time that the earth was flat. This has been disproved by the Voyages of Discovery and the advent of science. The earth is not flat.

Sura 13:3 speaks of “fruits of every kind He made in pairs.” This is nonsense. Fruits do not have male and female sexes! One doesn’t even need to be a scientist to know this. Sura 20:53 also speaks of “diverse pairs of plants” made. This is not true. Many plant species reproduce asexually. Why was Allah unaware of this?

Sura 36:36 is totally false. The lizard Cnemidophoras reproduces asexually. All members of the Monera kingdom reproduce asexually. Higher fungi (Fungi imperfecti), as well as various plants and single-celled organisms also reproduce asexually. They were not created “in pairs.” Why did Allah not know these facts? You see, Muhammad was a good observer, but he wasn’t all-knowing. These blunders (ironically been presented as “scientific miracles”) actually prove that the Quran is entirely man-made.

On Christmas and Unsound Arguments

At every Christmas period, the social media is awash with anti-Christmas zealots. The spectrum ranges from dye-in-wool fundamentalists to heretical sects (like Jehovah’s Witnesses) to the Hebrew-Roots adherents who present Hanukkah as a viable alternative. Here, I will be responding to the unsound sticks of one Femi Aribisala who heads the Healing Wings sect (actually a cult).

Since 2012 when I first came across Femi Aribisala’s articles, he has carved a niche for himself as a critic of the Bible, Christianity and Christian holidays. His articles are often well-circulated by Muslims and other anti-Christians who are always eager to throw any media propaganda trash at the Bible. I will be responding to his article titled “Why Christians Should not Celebrate Christmas” and I appeal to all those who loll out their tongues at his write-ups to double-check them and think critically before accepting his claims. His words will be in bold.

Jesus never told anyone to celebrate his birthday. If he wanted to do so, he would have told us when and how. He did not.

Typical anti-Christmas talking point. This argument presumes that every celebration that is not directly commanded by Christ must be an innovative error. Did Mr Femi receive a command from Jesus to start writing newspaper articles before he did? Did the Lord command him to start his “Healing Wings” group? Did Jesus tell him when and how? I’m sure He didn’t. In the same vein, the Lord Jesus doesn’t have to command His birth to be celebrated before its deemed acceptable. Celebrating Christmas is a personal decision, and as much as non-essential matters are concerned, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” (Rom. 14:5) God does not structure us into a labyrinth of rules or produce Christians on a factory assembly line.

Moreover, we know from the Scriptures that the early church never celebrated Jesus’ birthday. There is no such record in the Acts of the Apostles. We are told to remember the Lord’s death (Lk. 22:16) and not to celebrate his birth.

This is straight out of Watchtower writings. The hypocrisy here is that, Aribisala believes apostle Paul was never a true Christian, that the Epistles are his perversions of Christ’s teachings. Yet the very Acts of the Apostles he is appealing to offer credible evidences to the contrary. If the book of Acts is a reliable account of the early church, it must also be reliable enough to prove apostle Paul was a true Christian.

Now, if Jesus’ birth was as insignificant as this man wants us to believe, there would have been no need for the Gospel writers to record them. His conception was announced by an angel; His birth heralded by angels and His infancy was protected by God. The events surrounding Jesus’ birth were fulfillment of Bible prophecies just as His death. Aribisala goes on to parrot the Jehovah’s Witness argument that celebrating birthdays is bad because Pharaoh and Herod executed people on their birthdays (Gen. 40:20-22, Mt. 14:6-11). Nice try, but Pharaoh and Herod were basically evil people who killed people on every other day, not just on their birthdays.

December 25 celebrations actually started with sun worshippers during the time of Nimrod, the man who supervised the building of the tower of Babel. His widow, Semiramis, said to be queen of heaven had a son called Tammuz; venerated by many as the god of the sun.

This drivel is straight out of Jack Chick’s tracts and comics. In his crusader comic, The Force, we read: “The queen of Babylon (Semiramis) ordered the world to celebrate the birth of her son, ‘Tammuz.’ He of course, was the sun god, Baal…” (p 26). This sensational story suffers from a host of problems:

a) There is no Biblical evidence that Nimrod supervised the building of the tower of Babel. The Bible says little about him and there is no historical record of him. The Chickian tales of Nimrod starting a religion or killed by Shem should be taken with a pinch of Abakaliki salt.

b) Nimrod didn’t live in the same century as Semiramis, so its impossible for them to have been husband and wife. No reference work – Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Americana, Encyclopedia Judaica, Encyclopedia of Religion or World Book Encyclopedia – puts Nimrod and Semiramis as contemporaries let alone as a couple.

c) Semiramis was never worshipped as a goddess or the queen of heaven. In fact, there is no trace of Semiramis in Sumerian or Babylonian records. She ruled over Assyria, not Babylon and lived in 9th century BC. Worship of the queen of heaven goddesses predates Semiramis by many centuries. For example, an inscription on Asherah (queen of heaven) shows it dating as far back as the 18th century BC. (Anne Baring and Jules Cashford, Myth of the Goddess, 1991, 454)

d) Tammuz was a Sumerian deity who was a lover to Inanna (later Ishtar) and a child to Enki and Ninsun. Tammuz is never described as an actual person and never mentioned as the son of Semiramis or Nimrod in any standard encyclopedia. Its a shame that a writer would still be publicly peddling old, discredited fictions in this Information Age.

It was believed Tammuz died on December 22 and rose from the dead three days later

More powdered sparrow eggs from the stables of Hislop and Chick. The Easton’s Bible Dictionary under Tammuz says: “In the Chaldean calendar there was a month set apart in honour of this god, the month of June to July, the beginning of the summer solstice.” Fausset’s Bible Dictionary says “An annual feast was kept to him in June.” Aribisala obviously has a very poor information source at his disposal.

Emperor Aurelian of Rome proclaimed the sun god Tammuz to be principal patron of the Roman Empire on December 25, 274 AD. The date corresponds with the winter solstice when pagans celebrated the renewed power of the sun.

Aurelian’s institution of the pagan festival on this date seems to have been to rival Christians who observed the date. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes an old tradition that fixed the date of Christ’s birth by counting 9 months after March 25 (or April 7), the vernal equinox on which some early Christians celebrated His conception giving rise to December 25. Early church writers before Aurelian, like Julius Africanus “argues in his Chronicle (A.D. 221) for a date in the winter, December 25.” (Everett F. Encyclopedia of Christianity, 1999, 251)

December 25 had no significance in the Roman pagan festal calendar before Aurelian. Thomas Talley notes that although Aurelian dedicated a temple to the sun god, “the cult of the sun in pagan Rome ironically did not celebrate the winter solstice nor any of the other quarter-tense days as one might expect.” (Michael Anderson, Symbols of Saints, ProQuest, 2008, 42-46).

Constantine…forced all the pagans of his empire to be baptised into the Christian church…December 25, the date of Tammuz’s alleged rebirth was then designated as also the birthday of Jesus.

There you have it. Constantine forced all pagans into the church, even though the emperor himself is depicted on the Arch in Rome sacrificing to pagan deities! This man uses one myth to prop up another myth but he missed one fact: setting up a Christian holiday to replace a pagan holiday is not equivalent to marrying Christianity to paganism. What ancient pagans did on December 25 has no relevance to what modern Christians do on this date.

“For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.” Jeremiah 10:3-4

This is allegedly condemning the Christmas tree, but these folks all stop the quote at vs 4. Verse 5 says “Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.” This is referring to gods made out of wood. Nothing here describes modern Christmas tree.

The same scenario is described in Isaiah 44 about carpenters shaping wood “in form of man…that it may dwell in a shrine…he makes a god, his idol; he bows to it and worships it.” (vs 13, 17) That pagans in the past worshipped a tree doesn’t mean Christians who decorate a Christmas tree today are doing the same thing. I don’t see Christians bowing and praying to Christmas trees. If they were idols, no one would be throwing them out in the trash after a while.

[Pagan Greeks] used it [decorated trees] to worship their god Adonia. They claimed Adonia was killed and brought to life by the serpent Aessulapius

What has this man been reading? National Enquirer? Aliens? Adonia is the name of a festival, not a god. The proper name is Adonis. Asklepios (Latin: Aesculapius) is a Greek god of healing and medicine depicted holding a staff with a coiled serpent. Again, Aribisala can’t get simple spellings or facts right. The feast of Adonia was not celebrated during winter and obviously not with “Christmas trees” either.

Smith’s Bible Dictionary says “A festival in honor of Adonis was celebrated at Byblus in Phoenicia…It took place in July, and it was accompanied by obscene rites.” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says “The women of Gebal used to repair to this temple [of Venus] in midsummer to celebrate the death of Adonis or Tammuz.” Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible says the river named after Adonis “was fabled to run blood at his festival in August. The women of Phoenicia, Assyria, and Judea worshipped him as dead, with deep lamentation, wearing priapi and other obscene images all the while…”

That Aribisala had such chutzpah to publish this gobbledygook on at least two national newspapers speaks a lot of volumes. He seems to know his fans on the social space too well – ignorant, gullible and fanatical. But there is one thing I’m certain of, if you have truths on your side, you don’t need to bend facts or resort to fictions.