Qur’an, Psalms and astrophysics

During Medieval times Christian theologians accepted the Ptolemaic earth centered Greek view of the universe as an absolute universal truth; even though both the Hebrew Bible and the Qur’an do not affirm such a human only centered view of God’s creation.

Some Christians still think that humans must be at the literal center of God’s creation. Thus they believe that the rarity of life in our universe proves that God must have created life only on this planet.

The Qur’an and the Hebrew Bible however teach that the Living God created the whole universe to be conducive to the universal evolution of life. The Qur’an says, “We have not sent you but as a blessing for all the worlds.” (Al-Anbiya 107) Commentators say this refers to the 18.000 (populated) worlds created by Allah. Our world is one of them. (Mir’at-e-Kainat, vol.1, p.77).

The Hebrew Bible says in the Zaboor of Prophet David, King of Israel; “ Your kingdom is a kingdom of all worlds; and Your dominion is for all generations.” (Psalms 145:13) Two recent studies support this Islamic-Jewish view.

One study in the journal Nature reported by Science Daily (Oct. 26, 2011) found that organic compounds of unexpected complexity exist throughout the Universe. Thus. complex organic compounds are not the sole domain of living beings, but can be made naturally by stars themselves. This means that life is not a random fluke; the universe itself is formed to produce life.

Organic substances commonly found throughout the Universe contain a mixture of ring-like and chain-like components. The compounds are so complex that their chemical structures resemble those of coal and petroleum. Since coal and oil are remnants of ancient life, this type of organic matter was thought to arise only from living organisms.

The team’s discovery suggests that complex organic compounds can be synthesized in space even before life forms have evolved on planets. These complex organic compounds can then seed planets in the “habitable zone” that have water on them and produce life.

Now (July 2015) the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star capable of hosting life has been confirmed according to a NASA report. The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet of a G2-type star, like our sun.

Now on the 20th anniversary year of the first discovery of an exoplanet that proved that other suns host planets, NASA announced that the Kepler exoplanet explorer has discovered a solar system with a planet and a star which closely resemble the Earth and our Sun.

Kepler-452b is 60 percent larger in diameter than Earth. While its mass and composition are not yet determined, previous research suggests that planets the size of Kepler-452b have a good chance of being rocky like earth itself. While Kepler-452b is larger than Earth, its 385-day orbit is only 5 percent longer; and the planet is only 5 percent farther from its parent star Kepler-452 than Earth is from the Sun.

Also the sun of Kepler-452 at 6 billion years old, is 1.5 billion years older than our sun, yet it has the same temperature, is 20 percent brighter and has a diameter 10 percent larger. So Kepler-452b is an older, bigger cousin of Earth. The Kepler-452 system is only 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus.

Since during Medieval times Christian theologians had accepted the Ptolemaic earth centered Greek view of the universe as an absolute universal truth the Catholic Inquisition even punished those who dared to voice other ideas. Some Christians still think that only the earth’s life forms can be at the center of God’s creation.

Thus, even in America today, many Christians avoid learning about new scientific discoveries. According to a recently (February 2015) completed study “Religious Understandings of Science”, among members of non-Christian religions; 42 percent of Jews, and 52 percent of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus (taken as a group) are twice as interested in new scientific discoveries compared to only 22 percent of Protestant evangelicals.

Before I decided to become a Reform Rabbi, I was studying to become an astrophysicist. I still follow scientific developments closely; and I can safely state that the majority of astrophysicists think that by the end of this decade dozens of earth like planets will be found much closer to us than Kepler 452b.

And before the end of the next decade we will have evidence of more than one planet with an atmosphere that not only contains clear signs of the water needed for life to develop; but also the levels of oxygen that can only be produced by large numbers of living creatures. As the Qur’an says “From water We made every living thing. Will they not then believe?” (21:30)

Indeed, all scientists do believe now that every living thing on our planet is descendant from creatures that first originated in our planet’s oceans more than three billion years ago.

As it is written in the Zaboor of Prophet David, King of Israel; “The heavens declare the glory of God. The universe proclaims God’s handiwork.” (Psalms 19:2)

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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