The three friends met as agreed in the hostel restaurant, and after going through the menu, Michael and Yousef decided on what they wanted to order, while Rajiv contemplated over the list a little longer, and then said:
Rajiv: I noticed that most restaurants don’t bother to offer full vegetarian meals, but anyway, it seems I can order a suitable meal here.
Michael: So you are a vegetarian then.
Rajiv: Yes, approximately 40% of India's population are vegetarian.
Yousef: But is it for religious or health reasons?
Rajiv: Actually, in the Hindu religion, which I used to follow, eating beef is completely forbidden, and in India being a vegetarian is very common among the adherents of Hinduism, despite their dwindling numbers now because that system is so austere. As for me, I prefer vegetarian food for health and environmental reasons.
Yousef (signaling the waiter): Please, we’d like to order.
Michael: So Rajiv, you left your religion for which religion, then?
Rajiv: Not for anything, actually. My studies in Germany have widened my scope and given me the freedom to view Hinduism with a critical, doubtful eye. I wasn't convinced of Christianity and so I am closer to atheism.
Michael: I am closer to your view with regards to such a doubt, but I think that human beings need to have a relationship with a god at times, though this relationship should not dominate or control humans.
Yousef: I think that this view needs to be discussed and examined.
Michael: What view do you mean?
Yousef: The idea of atheism and the place of religion or God in human life.
Rajiv: I believe that human progress in science has revealed to man many secrets which have made him feel that there is no need to rely on metaphysics to explain what is obscure to him. I think that the universe is governed by the laws of science that drives it. It can be said that the universe is a mechanical machine subject to definite inevitable laws, and all that takes place in it has a reason that leads to a specific inevitable result. As long as the mechanical laws are operating the universe according to certain regulations, there is no need for the idea of a god who controls the universe.
Yousef: Science is a great tool in interpreting what surrounds us, but the situation is not so clear cut, for we can't discuss a major issue like this, in fact the biggest issue which has preoccupied human beings since the dawn of history, from only one dimension, even if this dimension appeals to us or is one we trust. There are many dimensions to the subject, including:
Can science explain all the phenomena around us? The answer is of course no - science doesn't have the ability to do that. If we take astronomy for example, theories of astronomy indicate that, even today, we have knowledge of only 5% of the universe, and the rest is dark matter which we do not know anything about. This, of course, solely depends on the ability of the scientists at the present time and what information they have attained; it is very possible that the size of what they do not know could be much larger.
If that is concerning the seen or concrete world, what about that of the unseen?
This makes us wonder: Doesn't science have limits which it cannot pass? We should know that the abilities of science, no matter how powerful they are, are limited and can never be the source that we turn to for the interpretation of everything. The world of the unseen is not within the understanding of science because science is not even able to explain some physical phenomena that happen around us, so how could it explain the world of the unseen, which can neither be subjected to examinations in laboratories nor to ordinary means of perception?
Added to that is the fact that knowing the way something is done should neither lead us to deny its maker nor to belittle the ingenuity involved. If a primitive human sees a TV set and is impressed and puzzled by it, and then later learns its theories and functioning, it should not degrade the value of this invention or deny that it has a maker. Similarly, if we, for example, were able in biology to decipher the cell, discover the DNA, and uncover all the wonders in it, it doesn't follow that there is no miracle in the DNA, or that this creation has no creator behind it. On the contrary, this overwhelming minute thing, in front of which one stands powerless, unable to reproduce it from scratch, or to interpret how it works, although it is very small, leads one to believe that behind this creation there must be a creator.
Take another example: Professor Cecil Boyce Hamann, a U.S. professor of biology said:
”Where the mysteries of digestion and assimilation were seen as evidence of divine intervention, they now are explained in terms of chemical reactions, each reaction under the control of an enzyme. But, does it rule out the existence of God in His universe? Who determined that these reactions should take place; and that they should be so exactly controlled by the enzymes? One glance at a present-day chart of the various cyclic reactions and their interaction with each other rules out the possibility that this was just a chance relationship that happened to work. Perhaps here, more than any place else, man learns that God uses great principles with which He founded the creation of life.”
Michael: But Darwin's theory of evolution confirmed this concept of ours indicating the inevitability of science and revoking the idea of a God that creates - and confirmed that organisms originated under the law of natural selection and evolution, not by being created.
Yousef: This argument leads us to an important question in relation to this or any other theory: Is a scientific explanation absolute and constant in all cases? Many of those who are dazzled by scientific progress have forgotten that one of the characteristics of science is accumulation and being revolutionary. Both form an automatic character of the progress of scientific knowledge, where knowledge and discoveries accumulate until they reach a degree at which they initiate new facts that review the established knowledge, changing the human being's view of this world.
As for Darwin's theory - which in any case is only a scientific hypothesis that did not live up to the level of becoming a scientific fact, let alone a theory - it was only a mere idea about evolution, which clashed with the discoveries of modern embryology. It also clashed with the results of some excavations which proved the sudden appearance of major groups of animals in a short period of time, which is known as the Cambrian era. This period is often known as the "Cambrian explosion", rather than a gradual development from one state to another, as the theory of evolution dictates.
Rajiv: So, is it not likely that this world has emerged as a coincidence, without the existence of a maker?
Yousef: Let me clarify the significance of the meaning of coincidence through the use of the principles of mathematics and the laws of coincidence, to learn the probability of the occurrence of a phenomenon coincidently:
If we assume that we have a large box full of thousands of alphabetical letters, the probability of the occurrence of the letter g next to the letter o to form the verb go may be relatively large. However, the likelihood of these letters coming together in a certain order to make a long poem or a creative story is minimal, if not impossible.
Scientists calculated the likelihood of the meeting of atoms that make up one molecule of amino acid (which is the raw material that makes up protein and meat) and found that this needs several billion years to happen. Furthermore, it needs an amount of matter which this vast universe is not wide enough to hold. This is for composing a single minute molecule, so what do you think the case would be if we considered all the living organisms of plants and animals, let alone the formation of life itself and of the whole universe! It is simply impossible to think that this could happen just by sheer coincidence.
All branches of science show that there is an accurate and miraculously precise system and order that controls this universe. The basis of this system has been built on constant universal laws and norms that can't be changed or altered. Scientists are working hard to detect and understand these laws and norms; and the accuracy of scientific discoveries has reached an extent by which we can predict solar and lunar eclipses and other phenomena hundreds of years before they occur.
Who made these laws and placed them in every single atom of existence, in fact, in all that is even smaller than an atom, at the beginning of their formation? And who created that system, compatibility and harmony? Who designed so creatively and determined so perfectly? Was all that created without a creator? Or are the people themselves the creators? These are the questions that the holy book of the Muslims, the Qur'an, asks: (Or were they created by nothing, or were they the creators [of themselves]?). Surat At-Tûr (The Mount).
This system and the law according to which this universe proceeds, and that creativity that we perceive in the universe, wherever we direct our sight, indicates that there is a Mighty, All-Knowing, Fully Aware God who created the universe.
Michael: But here the question arises - though I don't support its content - which is: What do we need religion and a belief in God for? Many people live their lives without a belief in God and without embracing any religion.
Yousef: Anthropological (that is the study of human beings) and theological studies have supported that the need for religion exists in everyone, in all ages and all societies. Man, since ancient times, has been looking for a god to worship and to plead to, and believe that he is strong and is the controller of the universe, creator of all, and eternal.
Human nature proves that man has a biological need that urges him to believe in God each time he experiences any hardship or is threatened by danger, or is about to lose hope.
Moreover, without this belief, man, for the most part, becomes an animal governed by desires, with no conscience to control him.
Rajiv: Allow me Mr. Yousef, I've lived in a country full of different religions, then moved to Europe and came to know followers of other religions and found that followers of each religion have a different perception of God from each other, so how do I interpret this difference? And how do I know the qualities that a true God should have? Also: How do I recognize the true religion from other phony religions?
Yousef: I see the waiter is coming with the food. I promise to discuss these issues in the forthcoming debates, but let's agree first on a quotation by the physicist, Albert Einstein: "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."