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Book: Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth
Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge & Truth
Mirza Tahir Ahmad
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Life in the Perspective of Quranic Revelations—A Brief Introductory Chapter
Origin of Life—Different Theories and Propositions
The Jinn
The Essential Role of Clay and Photosynthesis in Evolution
Survival by Accident or Design?
Chirality or Sidedness in Nature
Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest
Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest (continued)
Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest (continued 2)
A Game of Chess or a Game of Chance!
The Future of Life on Earth
Organic Systems and Evolution
The 'Blind Watchmaker' Who Is Also Deaf and Dumb
The 'Blind Watchmaker' Who Is Also Deaf and Dumb (continued)
The 'Blind Watchmaker' Who Is Also Deaf and Dumb (continued 2)
Part VI
Part VII
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Survival by Accident or Design?

THE ISSUE of the survival of all living creatures is not as easy and simple as normally understood by the Darwinian cliché of the 'Survival of the Fittest'. This term can only be understood in depth when applied to specific, concrete examples. Otherwise there is a danger that this popular cliché will mislead people rather than lead them to the truth. The snag lies in the word 'fittest'. Without defining what it means, one cannot put this claim to test. As to its role in advancing life, invariably from lower forms to higher forms, it is certainly likely to fail the test.

To declare a character of life to be better than another is a complex problem which may vary from situation to situation. Many a time it happens that a superior, far more highly placed species of life is far less capable of surviving the challenge of a given crisis than a species of life which is placed at a much lower order. As such, nature would automatically give its verdict in favour of the latter at the hour of struggle and inclement conditions.

At the time of a severe drought, many animal species of the lower order survive easily, while man perishes unable to withstand the pressures. Natural calamities such as sudden unexpected changes in temperature, volcanic eruptions, tornadoes and typhoons, wild fires, floods and earthquakes are seldom partial in their treatment to various species of life.

It is not at all unlikely for them to take away in a few seconds, minutes or hours what it took hundreds of millions of years for evolution to create. Yet, under the same devastating conditions many lower forms of life will flourish and multiply unhindered. The question as to who is the fittest and by what yardstick it could be declared the fittest, remains unanswered.

It is a simple case of survival and no more. It is not the fittest who always survive and whoever survives is not always the fittest. All that we can sensibly conclude is that there are certain species of life that are fittest to survive under certain conditions, and there are some other species of life which are fittest to survive under essentially different conditions. Hence mere survival is no competitive test between the species for judging their respective values. Now we analyse the case of struggle for existence which occurs within a species when members of the same species are put to various trials of natural calamities. Many of them are eliminated, overwhelmed by the dangers they confront. Many others display an innate strength against the befalling calamities; some fare so well as to treat them with scant respect. They happily outlive such trials as had destroyed their fellow members. Consider for example a severe epidemic of dysentery. It is likely for it to kill an eminent naturalist while it may altogether spare a farm labourer with only strong guts to his credit, without any other faculties of head and heart to be proud of. Again the same people who survive a specific epidemic may not be able to survive other contagious diseases. Some may die during a spread of cholera while survivors from it may be despatched to death by the yearly recurring disease of influenza or even lesser diseases.

Such are the trials of life. The survival is only relative to the context of a precise situation which does not always adjudge the survivors to be fittest in all qualities of life. The real reasons why natural selection prefers some animals as against others who are apparently doomed by it are unknown to scientists. There is no single yardstick by which every case can be equitably adjudged. Unconscious natural selection could not take into account all the positive and negative points before it could pass judgement in favour of some or against some others. The most important thing to note is that the laws of life and death are not directly governed by natural selection in the ordinary course of the phenomenon of survival and destruction. The final outcome is influenced by innumerable factors which spare or kill an animal for reasons which are in fact governed by a universal Divine scheme of things. This scheme of things could not have served the cause of evolution without the conscious role played by a Supreme All-Knowing Creator Who governs everything in accordance with His Divine Plan. Those who deny this have to be predetermined in their denial. It is tantamount to the denial of evolution itself, if they honestly recognize the problems involved in believing in evolution without believing in the Creator.

As we study life at all stages from its beginning to its ultimate culmination when humans were formed, what we observe is that survival is an exception, and the rule is death. But the factors which cause death are innumerable and very often go hand in hand with the factor of chance. These factors, if identified and located, would make life miserable if not impossible. The living would have to suffer through a state of fear and terror constantly hovering over them. Fortunately death moves stealthily and man remains most often forgetful of its impending threat. But for his propensity to live in a state of oblivion to the inevitable decree of death, man's life would turn into a perpetual nightmare.

If bacteria of which drinking water is seldom free, were visible to man, to quench one's thirst would become a punishment rather than a pleasure. If we begin to see what living organisms we inhale with each breath of air we take, breathing would become a torture.

If we could somehow see with the naked eye the creatures which jump into the air with every step we take upon a well cleaned Persian rug, for many, the ordinary process of breathing would become a torture. Little do people know that the common household mite in carpets, if magnified to visible proportions, would appear more horrendous than the ugliest of the dinosaurs that ever grazed upon planet earth.

The air we breathe abounds in so many different forms of bacteria which, if they happen to take root in our system, could cause tuberculosis, pneumonia, lung cancer, liver cancer, all forms of dysentery, diarrhoea, septicaemia, eczema and other deadly diseases related to all major human organs. Yet we inhale them and most often do not fall prey to them. There has to be a protective system to keep them at bay from us without their free unrestricted access to our inner organs. This is fitness which is precisely designed to safeguard survival—survival is not a chance product of fitness.

There is far more to it than we have briefly indicated. Each movement we make, each thought that crosses our mind bequeaths to our nervous system a waste residual of consumed energy which, if not immediately taken care of could cause instantaneous death. Hence, during every fraction of our living seconds we confront and survive death. This is the true meaning of the survival of the fittest. And this fitness is not a product of a mere game of chance.

AT EVERY STEP, highly intricate and complex measures are taken which must be well-designed to ensure protection to life from the innumerable threats surrounding it. The case of the role of oxygen in plant and animal metabolism presents an ideal example to help understand this phenomenon.

The term metabolism is subdivided into two categories, anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism is instrumental in building new living tissues out of available nutrients. It is also responsible for the storage of extra energy in the form of fats. Catabolism is the opposite of anabolism. It breaks down complex molecules into simpler ones with the consequent release of energy.

Complex molecules which are rich in calories, when broken down into smaller constituents release energy, a process during which the sum total of their mass and weight is reduced and the apparent loss is gained in the form of energy which the living organisms utilize for their survival. Although catabolism is referred to as destructive metabolism, it is highly essential for the maintenance of life, because it is through this process that all the daily needs of energy are met. All physical movements, emotional agitation and mental processes require energy. It is catabolism which provides this vital need.

All lower forms of biotic organisms, even those which have neither lungs nor blood vessels, have somehow been provided with an alternative arrangement for respiration. Hence their need of oxygen is also met with in a manner similar to the animals which possess lungs.

The mere availability of nutrients is useless without catabolism. The importance of catabolism is apparent in the daily human experience. Man can live without food for weeks and without water for days but without breathing he cannot survive even for a few minutes. The moment the supply of oxygen is cut off, catabolic activity ceases forthwith and all living cells begin to die—the first to be hit is the brain.

Before we begin to discuss the extremely harmful effects of oxygen and describe how highly effective protective measures are taken against them we would like to remind the reader that oxygen is vitally essential for life in every sphere of its activity. This presents the fantastic measures adopted by nature to create balances. Everything which is beneficial may also have harmful effects to a degree that if not kept at bay they will entirely wipe out the beneficial effects. This paradox, paradox as it is, is still highly essential for the existence of life on earth. This is the story of creation which is repeated on and on limitlessly. Not a single faltering step can be heard even by the keenest ear of a merciless critic. The subject of oxygen will be discussed at greater length later on.

At present we should like to draw the attention of the reader to an allotropic form of oxygen called ozone. Ozone (O3) is the only gas among gases which possesses a molecule with three atoms—a unique property which is not shared by any other gas. This is a most highly needed life supporting element which at the same time is most lethal against it. This is another example to illustrate that the survival of life on earth is not left to chance, but adequate and precise measures are taken, not only to support life, but also to protect it from the very factors which are required to support it.

There was once a time when the atmosphere close to the earth was kept free from unlocked available oxygen. This has become common knowledge now, but when Haldane first brought it to light it created a great stir of excitement among scientists who were searching for clues which could resolve the mystery of the beginning of life. An extremely long time had elapsed prior to the beginning of biotic evolution which kept confronting scientists with a most puzzling enigma. If the atmosphere, as it then prevailed, had any freely available oxygen, the type of organisms which must have preceded biotic evolution should have been completely destroyed by their interaction with oxygen. If precise steps were not taken to protect them from oxygen, no organism could survive on earth. The discovery that during that period there was no free oxygen was, therefore, an epoch-making discovery. To conceive the surrounding atmosphere close to earth as completely empty of free oxygen was a great breakthrough. Yet at the same time other problems arose out of this solution which were even more puzzling.

The solution suggested by Haldane took care of unlocked oxygen roaming about freely in the atmosphere close to earth. But what of the preventive measures against constant bombardment of cosmic rays, a problem which was further highlighted by the absence of free oxygen. How could they be taken care of? The cosmic radiation could only be prevented from destroying organisms on earth if free oxygen had existed in the earth's atmosphere. This presents an apparently insoluble paradox. The choice is simple but lethal either way. If you decide to protect organisms by removing free oxygen altogether from the atmosphere this will naturally result in their being destroyed by lethal cosmic rays instead.

As will be presently shown, it is the presence of free oxygen in the atmosphere which becomes indirectly instrumental in preventing destructive cosmic rays to reach the earth. It should also be remembered that like all other gases oxygen contains only two atoms to each molecule—being lighter by one atom to its allotrope ozone. One should normally expect that, being heavier, ozone should be close to earth, while oxygen, even if present, being 'lighter' should have been hurled to the higher stratosphere. That is one dilemma, but another even more perplexing is the fact that if there was no free oxygen at all, how could it give birth to its child ozone and toss it up to the very top of the stratosphere where it was so direly needed? Riddle as it is, it is also a joke. In the Punjabi language they say:

'Man jammi naeen, te put kothe te.'

This literally means that the mother is not yet born while the son is already running about on the top of the roof. In Punjabi it is an unrealistic joke indeed, which highlights the impossibility of an opponent's proposition. But here we face a proposition which is impossible, yet exists according to scientists. This problem could not have been resolved without a set purpose and creative design. During the period we are discussing, oxygen, the mother of ozone, was not yet born but its child ozone was running about at the top of the stratosphere.

It is of special interest to note, here, that ozone is not permitted to destroy ultraviolet rays altogether. At their broadest wavelength, the ultraviolet rays are permitted to pass through the ozone barrier and reach close to the global surface because at this wavelength they do not pose any threat to the dwellers of earth. On the contrary at this wavelength, they are beneficial being largely responsible for the synthesis of vitamin D in mammals including human beings. One really wonders as to how many billions of chaotic chances must have colluded to create this wonder, and how? Everything is so precisely calculated, so superbly designed and so dextrously executed!

The scenario of natural selection as against the scenario of purposeful design, would require hundreds of thousands of variant atmospheres, accidentally created by the interplay of billions of chances over millions of earths, of which only one could be rightly proportioned to support life on earth. Another interesting aspect of ozone relates to its synthesis. Ozone is created by intense ultraviolet rays striking at oxygen. As they do so, the oxygen molecule is split into its ionic form—that is atomic oxygen. The free atoms of oxygen then merge with each other creating a molecule of O3 which is ozone. While ozone is synthesized by the direct effect of ultraviolet rays on oxygen, the ozone in turn destroys its benefactor—ultraviolet rays—in the process. What a fantastic scheme indeed, to make the two prime enemies of life come to grips with each other and get locked in a grim battle of mutual destruction while neither can gain supremacy over the other—an amazing parity is maintained.

Returning to the scenario of the pre-biotic age when life was just about beginning to take shape, the absence of the ozone layer must have created an enormous problem. An uninterrupted bombardment of cosmic radiation must have constantly kept destroying pre-biotic organisms. Hence some ozone had to be formed in the upper stratosphere before the beginning of biotic activities. That must have been, but how, is the question which is conveniently avoided. This brings us to the conclusion that life is indeed surrounded by diametrically opposed forces which are simultaneously friendly and inimical. Yet the presence of both is essential for life, so somehow it must have been carried across these hazards in the lap of Divine protection.

He among you who conceals his word or pronounces it loudly and he who hides himself under the cover of night or walks openly during the day, each one is equal in the sight of God.

For each there are those who constantly move along in front of him and behind him protecting him by the decree of God... 1

There are many other similar verses in the Quran to the same effect that life has to be protected by God, every moment of its existence, or it will cease to be.

If man looks down from the dizzy heights he occupies on the ladder of life, at the innumerable steps below him in the chain of evolution, seldom will he realize that for him to have survived the hazards he faced at each of these steps, was no less than a grand miracle. We owe gratitude to the many generations of dedicated biologists who with their hard work have helped us to understand, to some degree, the inexhaustible mysteries of life! But alas, few among those who themselves unravel the mysteries ever realize how much they owe to the infinite mercy of God and His limitless creative Wisdom.

To further illustrate the case in point, once again we invite the attention of the reader to the extreme intricacies of human physiology. In fact every human is a microuniverse in himself. This microuniverse does not survive by itself, but requires millions of protective, well-designed, precise measures at every level of its existence.

Physiologists have discovered a host of factors within the human system which could severally or collectively cause spontaneous death, if countermeasures had not been designed. These difficulties and challenges are, in fact, oversimplified. To devise and implement a plan to take countermeasures against all the hazards confronting life is an immensely formidable challenge which requires many a lifetime of research on the part of future generations of scientists.

TAKE FOR EXAMPLE the impending dangers to the inner chambers of every living cell from the surrounding liquid in which it is suspended in the form of colloidal solution. Nature has worked out plans to the minutest detail to save the nucleus from random adsorption of water through osmotic pressure which could prove fatal. Also, it has devised an exquisite plan to transport into the inner chamber, the much needed sugar along with the required amount of insulin. Again, it has perfectly designed the system for the excretion of waste material which occurs during the continuous chemical reactions within these cells.

It should be clearly understood that the watery solution of the blood in which the cells are suspended, can cause their instantaneous death if it is permitted to penetrate into their inner chambers. To eliminate the threat of stray entry of water molecules into the cellular chambers, a double cover of lipids are created with a masterly design. They can prevent unwanted material entering the cells with perfect efficiency. Yet they do not obstruct the passage of the required food supply etc., which has to be constantly transported across the lipid covers into the inner chambers. But this defensive step in itself poses other very serious problems. If the double protective layer of lipids will not permit any liquid to penetrate, how can sugar and oxygen be transported into the cell where they are vitally needed is the most crucial question which arises here. In each millisecond of their existence, cells require a constant supply of sugar, insulin, oxygen and other essential salts for their survival. Considering the extremely minute size of the blood cell and the paradoxical nature of the problems involved, it requires a profound knowledge of the laws of nature and highly advanced technical know-how to successfully meet this challenge.

On the one hand the nuclei and the protoplasm in the cellular chambers are fortified by this impervious double protective layer of lipids against the possible penetration of the surrounding plasma. On the other hand they need a constant supply of energy to be transported across the lipid covers. To meet this essential requirement, the measures taken by nature are so amazingly profound and intricate as boggles the mind.

It is inconceivable for these measures to have been planned and executed by a mere blind collusion of chances. In fact, the intricate internal structure and order of arrangement of the transporter protein, which delivers glucose molecules to the cells, had to be exactly designed to do the needful. Again, complementary measures had to be taken for each recipient cell to harmonize perfectly with the working of the transporter protein. As some readers unfamiliar with scientific terminology may find it difficult to keep track of this subject, every effort is being made to make it generally comprehensible even for the lay reader.

This system of transportation is such a masterpiece of scientific designing and structuring as to keep complete silence over it may indeed be unfair. The Creator has specifically designed this system so that each transporter protein is interwoven in the lipid covers and consists of a chain of 492 amino acids which are arranged in 25 segments. Thirteen of these segments are hydrophilic which means that they have a special affinity for water. The remaining 12 are hydrophobic, which means that they detest and repel watery solutions. The hydrophilic segments promote the absorption of liquid and welcome the outer watery surroundings, while the hydrophobic segments repulse water and prefer the inner cellular environment. Together both are organized to weave back and forth twelve times2 within the space of two lipids changing their conformation, during which whatever proteins, sugars etc. they carry are delivered first into the protoplasm across the membrane through a special porous arrangement. Then whatever is to be transferred from the protoplasm to the outer bloodstream is done through this spiral conformation which transfers the specific material from the protoplasm to the outer lipid wall which through another complex porous arrangement delivers the material to the bloodstream. Thus the transporter oscillator:

'... shifts the binding pocket for glucose between opposite sides of the membrane. Kinetic studies, including several performed at Dartmouth Medical School... indicate that such oscillation is extraordinarily rapid... When glucose is bound to the transporter, the rate is even greater, about 900 times per second.' 3

Without a Perfect Knowledgeable Organizer, whose existence they do not recognize, this scheme of 'hows' could not be designed and precisely executed by itself. Spectroscopic evidence has established that the entire protein is coiled into a helix, and in this helical-cylindrical arrangement the hydrophilic segments are arranged on one side of the cylinder and hydrophobic segments on the other. The methodology of this exercise is highly intriguing and fascinating! This complex mechanism is by no means a product of chance, but had to be purpose-built.

Apart from the energy requirement of the cell, there is an additional problem of maintenance of the ratio of salts inside and outside the cellular chambers. The essential salts present in the cell have to maintain a certain proportion. This ratio is different by a large margin from the one found in the electrolyte solutions surrounding the cell. Sodium ions, for example, are ten times more concentrated outside than inside the cell. If a simple open pore arrangement were made for the transportation of glucose into the cell it would simultaneously promote the free access of sodium ions as well, thereby disturbing the ratio by a factor of ten, which could prove disastrous. A constantly controlled supply of sodium ions is also essential for the survival of the cell which is well taken care of—a technological miracle of no small magnitude! Special inlet valves are created in the lipid covers, which when opened, permit about ten million sodium ions per second across the cell membrane. This is one hundred thousand times faster than the glucose transportation.4 Some speed indeed! And the story is not over as yet.

IT BECOMES MANIFESTLY CLEAR from this study that life, even at its most rudimentary level, needs to be constantly protected. In another area of operation of natural laws, however, we observe a different design to serve the same purpose. There, death is repeatedly employed to serve the cause of life in an entirely different manner. Here, death outnumbers survival by enormously large proportions. This apparently is the opposite of what we have discussed above, but in reality it further supports the contention that in the story of life nothing is left to chance or accident.

Every law which is created, every process that is designed, is to support life in one way or another. What we have in mind here is the Darwinian principle of the 'Survival of the Fittest'. According to this principle, for the advancement of the quality of life, nature has worked out an automatic method of sifting. This slow continuous process of selection becomes pronounced when a species confronts challenges to its survival. It works in every area of animal activity. The predators, when they chase their prey in air or on land, continue to eliminate the weaker and less capable of survival among them. Of course they do not discriminate intentionally, but the stronger, the faster and also the comparatively more clever members of the species naturally stand a better chance of escape.

Likewise, in the area of reproduction, the stronger and more powerful male members of a species at a time of mating, stand a much higher chance of succeeding than those who are weaker or suffer from other disadvantages. Hence, in the ultimate analysis, it is the hand of death which serves the cause of life. At this level this phenomenon is easy to observe and natural to operate, requiring no specific design for it to prevail. But this principle is not only at work in relation to the competition between members of different species; it also operates more subtly and far less perceivably in an inner area of the functions of life.

For every child which is conceived by a mother, billions upon billions of chances of conception are sacrificed. Most people do not know the fact that every healthy male has been gifted with a reproductive potential capable of producing billions of offspring during an average life span. But it is only a few sperm during the entire lifetime of a man which are fortunate to succeed in fertilizing a female ovum which results in the possible birth of a child. Even if a man can boast of having produced a hundred offspring in a primitive society, where unrestricted polygamy is practised, the number of his reproductive sperm, potentially capable of fertilizing a female egg, outnumber the actual conceptions by an enormously large proportion. But even the billions of sperms which fail the test of natural selection, do not die in vain. Their death guarantees that only the most competitive and the most worthy of survival is ushered into the next generation of species. Incidentally, it leaves one to wonder by what stroke of chance only one ovum is created in the female instead of billions, like the sperms created in the male. If it had so happened, the number of offspring which every married or unmarried couple would gift to the world would have created some problems for the already overburdened economics of the world, struggling hard for their survival in the modern competitive world.

Hence, in the course of the struggle for existence, a very large number of contestants had to be sacrificed for the sake of every small gain in the quality of life. Yet, once the threshold of death is crossed successfully, it is not the end at all. Every living moment of their lives, those who pass the test of survival once, continue to face death. It is this perpetually impending danger from which the Quran declares that the living are saved consciously at the command of God by the angels of life. Hence, neither death is accidental, nor life. They go side by side like night and day to weave the yarn of conscious existence.

The protective system which we are discussing covers the entire span of the operation of life, both at its visible outer level as well as the invisible deep recesses. This complementary design of advancement and protection along the course of evolution is an all-pervasive law covering the entire scheme of things. As we look back at the journey of life from the time of its origin to the present day, we observe it to have travelled through many a different unfriendly, even hostile, terrain. It could also be portrayed as attempting to move across a large expanse of quicksand with stepping stones at convenient distances. If the traveller was a blind, senseless creature, how many chances, if at all any, would one give him to move safely across, step by step, in the right direction, without wavering and without making a single faux pas? If the distance to be covered is a billion steps across this lethal journey—where every stepping stone is surrounded by the quicksand of death—who would bet on him reaching safely across to the shore of his ultimate destination? Always stepping in the right direction, never failing to plant his feet firmly on the next pedestal of survival has to be the greatest miracle performed by the ancient blind traveller of chance.

It is evolution of course, but not blind evolution. At every cross-section of their journey, it was never the living who made their choices as to the bearing they should take. There was no fixed destination, if there was no conscious Designer and Creator of life. Hence, every step which life took, could have moved in any direction. A single step to be taken in the right direction is an outside chance. For each step to move invariably in the right direction, a billion times over and to pursue unfalteringly the course which could only lead to the creation of man, is something so bizarre and unreal that even the phantom figures of fairy tales would not believe in it. Yet, there are some scientists who do!

If God is removed from this intricate scheme of things the only identity which remains to be fixed is that of the Creator. Let alone the mysteries of the inanimate universe, the living wonders of the tiny planet Earth will cry out for the Hand that shaped them and filled their existence with fathomless intricacies. Rule God out and their cries will forever remain unheard, unanswered. Man can only be sure of one thing, that Life did not create itself, and Death could not create Life.


  1. Translation of 13:11–12 by the author.
  2. LIENHARD, G.E., SLOT, J.W., JAMES, D.E., MUECKLER, M.M. (January, 1992) How Cells Absorb Glucose. Scientific American: p.34
  3. LIENHARD, G.E., SLOT, J.W., JAMES, D.E., MUECKLER, M.M. (January, 1992) How Cells Absorb Glucose. Scientific American: pp.36–37
  4. LIENHARD, G.E., SLOT, J.W., JAMES, D.E., MUECKLER, M.M. (January, 1992) How Cells Absorb Glucose. Scientific American: p.37
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