Sayyid Qutb, in the eighth chapter of Milestones, suggests that science can advance absent its theoretical foundations. After dismissing philosophy as being, by definition, un-Islamic (the subject of the next post on chapter eight), Qutb turns to what used to be called natural philosophy, or the hard sciences:
Philosophy, the interpretation of history, psychology (except for those observations and experimental results which are not part of anyone's opinion) ethics, theology and comparative religion, sociology (excluding statistics and observations)-all these sciences have a direction which in the past or the present has been influenced by jahili beliefs and traditions. That is why all these sciences come into conflict, explicitly or implicitly, with the fundamentals of any religion, and especially with Islam.
The situation concerning these areas of human thought and knowledge is not the same as with physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, medicine, etc. - as long as these last- mentioned sciences limit themselves to practical experiments and their results, and do not go beyond their scope into speculative philosophy. For example, Darwinist biology goes beyond the scope of its observations, without any rhyme or reason and only for the sake of expressing an opinion, in making the assumption that to explain the beginning of life and its evolution there is no need to assume a power outside the physical world.
In other words, Darwinist biology -- evolutionary theory -- asks questions that shouldn't be asked, puts data together that should be kept discreet and separate, and so on. Forget for a moment the question of whether Darwin was right -- just consider the amount of research his ideas spawned. (Though even inaccurate ideas can lead to scientific advances -- Giordano Bruno, a heretic if there ever was one, was one of the important pioneers of modern astronomy. It didn't matter that he was unable to separate his scientific ideas from his mystical, hermetic notions. The wrong theoretical explanatory framework -- Bruno's hermeticism or, if you prefer, Darwin's atheism -- can yield some right answers.) Absent Darwinian theory, would there be as much paleontology, paleozoology, paleobotany? Would genetic research have advanced as far as it has (potentially providing all sorts of life-extending therapies) absent the stimulus of Darwin's theory?
Today I came across an article on IslamOnline about fossils and the Qur'an. The author tells us,
While geologists and fossil records confirm the fact of all life originating from water, and of sea animals outdating land animals, the difference between the two views is that the Holy Qur'an clearly states that all animals were "created" by Allah in a Divine Act, whereas scientists tell us they "evolved" from a single ancestor over the passage of time.
They have yet to prove this theory of evolution. Inconsistencies in fossil records and missing links between their “connecting groups” deny them this opportunity.
And, their inability to prove their theories is confirmation that all creatures have indeed been "created" by an act of Allah as revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAW), who was both unread and unlettered, fourteen centuries ago.
But why isn't this confirmation of, say, the Mayan myth of the creation of the world? Or, say, the Greek story of Chaos and Gaia?
As for Qutb, he wants all the fruits of Western science without permitting any of the freedoms of inquiry and thought necessary to produce it:
So the practical applications of science are not jahili, but human thought is. Posted by Ideofact at March 25, 2004 11:57 PM
Islam considers that - excepting the abstract sciences and their practical applications-there are two kinds of culture; the Islamic culture, which is based on the Islamic concept, and the jahili culture, which manifests itself in various modes of living which are nevertheless all based on one thing, and that is giving human thought the status of a god so that its truth or falsity is not to be judged according to God's guidance.