Muslim Response by Randy Desmond
Date: Friday, 14 March 1997

Confusing Miracles with Science

Read the Qur'an. This is associated with the miracle(s) given to Solomon. Would you say Jesus raising of the dead was scientifically sound? Or do you propose that this (refer to the verse below) is also "scientifically" wrong?
"I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, a figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God's leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by God's leave." (Surah 3, Ayat 49)
Or do you propose that Moses'(peace be upon him) staff turning into a snake is "scientifically" wrong?

Don't confuse special miracles given to prophets with "scientific" proofs. A miracle, by definition, is something which human reasoning (culminated in science) can not explain, but which the human is made to feel awe at the power of God!

Entertaining the Proposed Arguments Anyway

Besides being an illogical accusation (since the subject matter is a specific miracle given to Soloman - peace be upon him), it seems that the Qur'an may actaully be more correct than you assume. I will, insha'Allah (God willing), explain.

You quote from "The Ants" by Holldobler and Wilson. You quote them as saying "Two froms of sound production have been identified, body rapping against the substratum and stridulation." You then quote the book out of sequence (I suppose to fit your agenda - but I will give you the benefit of the doubt and call it an honest mistake), then you go back a page and quote again, "The signaling pattern is independent of the triggering stimulus That is, the ants do not modify the drumming to identify the category of danger to the nest."

Now, what you have proven (if I can piece the puzzle back in order) is that a sound is used to warn the nest (is that true?). If you have shown that, then thank you! What you try to disprove is that the ant mentioned in the Qur'an did not specify the type of danger to warn the nest. I'll hold out for further scientific studies - just from your quotes I do not know how those studies were performed. What was used to cause a threatening danger to the nest? Does the body rapping against the substratum in conjunction with stridulation specify the type of danger? There seems to be many logical possiblities. Especially when we consider that smell is also used as a means of communication.

Oops! Seems I got caught up in one of your presuppositions, so let me clear that up before continuing. The verse is actually talking about an ant telling the other ants to get into their habitations, not "look out the nest is in danger" (as you presuppose by your quote of page 256). You may be quoting somthing irrelevant to the matter at hand and if so I retrack my thank you above.

What about the Arabic

The word in Arabic for ant is naml and the verbal root word is namila which means "to tingle, to prickle". Could it be that the name in Arabic denotes something with respect to how ants communicate? Could it be inferring stridualtion? Or the sensation of scent? God knows best.

Anyway, the worker ants are female. Neat. The Qur'an uses the feminine gender when talking about this ant! (Another knowledge comes from the Qur'an which I wonder if it was descovered before Muhammad's time - peace be upon him).

Another note to point out is that the Qur'an does not use the word for hearing in Solomons case. It only mentions that the ant "said" and "speech(of the ant)". Interesting, don't you think? How often do we say the newspaper said something, but, in fact, the newspaper never "says" anything.

In conclusion, let me point out that. (1) you have tried to break a miracle from God into scientific rational. (2) you have pointed out something about communication of ants - but not everything and you have not shown what the communication modality(ies) is for the specific situation which is described in the Qur'an.

Other Ant Web Sites

Lastly, anyone interested can do a net search on ants and find out what they can about their communication. The link you provided was strictly to suit your claims. That is not honest scholarship.

Amazing Ants

"Eyes are not of great importance to ants because the antennae help ants smell, communicate and explore."

Department of Behavioral Physiology and Sociobiology

This site is by one of the authors of the book quoted above. In it there is a mention of the Johnston's organ of bees used to pick up sound.

An Introduction to Insect Morphology and Anatomy

See the section on Antennae. The point is that the same organ (Johnston's) is associated with ants as it is with bees. Then if you go to the "Hearing and other Senses" part of the page, you will find in the "Ears" section further mention of the Johnston's organ - it is closely associated with the movement of hairs on the antennal scape.

Then go on to read out the sense of smell. Fascinating. Remember I said that the arabic word is naml and comes from a verbal root which means "to tingle, to prickle"? That is exactly what happens all over the bodies of these ants. Let me quote that web page.

"Most insects communicate using smell or chemoreception and it is not surprising that they have evolved a large variety of ways of detecting the moloecules involved. Insects do not have noses like us which concentrate all our sense of smell in one place, instead they have a lot of small sensory bodies scattered over their body, though they tend to have a concentration of them on their antennae."

Is smell and touch the tingling and prickling of molecules against our sensory organs? Can you imagine the tingling sensation they would get?

Talk Your Feelers Out

Another Excellent site.

So where is the contradicion? Can any other religion offer its adherents such comfort in knowledge and faith?

To show that my whole approach is miguided you write:

Don't confuse special miracles given to prophets with "scientific" proofs. A miracle, by definition, is something which human reasoning (culminated in science) can not explain, but which the human is made to feel awe at the power of God!

I have no problem with miracles, and to a certain extent they are for what you say is their purpose. But Solomon's hearing of ant speech does not fit your own criteria. If it is a miracle at all, then it is one of those "senseless" miracles of the Qur'an.

But it is not presented as a miracle. It is a totally casual event that happened 'in passing by'. Especially the purpose of miracles according to your claim is not achieved, because nobody other than Solomon heard it and therefore nobody could be awed by it.

You might claim it as a continual miracle that Solomon understood the animal speech [he is talking to birds as well which is as unscientific as the other one] but the Qur'an does not call it a miracle but instead seems to assume that these animals communicate on a highly intelligent and sophisticated level. And it is clear that neither ants nor the birds are able to communicate (among themselves) information as structured and sophisticated as claimed by the Qur'an. You would need to claim two miracles. Namely the miracle that Solomon understood (this I would grant you as a Qur'anic claim) and the miracle that these particular animals are even able to talk with such sophisticated content as presented in the Qur'an. But the latter is not described as a miracle. This seems to be assumed as reality.

Feel free to believe so, but for my taste, this is the stuff legends are made of.

Was Aesop also a prophet because animals talked and behaved like humans in his stories?

As to the name of the ant in Arabic, derived from "tingle, prickle", it should be obvious to everybody who has ever been bitten by ants where this comes from. Furthermore, the name of the animal was not revealed but the Qur'an used the name that was there in the Arabic language before the Qur'an and you would have to claim that the earlier idolatrous Arabs had miraculous knowledge about the behavior of ants when you want to make a point on that. It certainly would not be an argument for the Qur'an since the word was not originated through the Qur'an.

In summary, I do sure see that you are able to invest great imagination into this. It does not convince me and I prefer to read the Qur'an in its plain text and the meaning the Arabs in Muhammad's time would have understood. After all, it was for them first and foremost. Allegorizing it afterwards can be done with any text.

Muslim Response by Randy Desmond
Date: Friday, 14 March 1997

You said, "I prefer to read the Qur'an in its plain text and the meaning the Arabs in Muhammad's time would have understood."

Do you know Arabic? If not, then why are you even questioning and/or saying that this is not a miracle? Read the verses of 27:15 and 16 too! The Arabs of Muhammad's (peace be upon him) times would have know this was a miracle from Allah.

That should be a sufficient response, but I still have to address your latest presupposition when you say...

"Was Aesop also a prophet because animals talked and behaved like humans in his stories?"

Can't you see the error here with your use of logic? What you've said is just like as if I said the earth is round, and you were to reply, "Was the baseball also an Earth because it is round?" You are simply making an argument confusing attributes of two incomparable objects with the objects as a whole. And so your point is unestablished. But perhaps the reason for this use of poor logic is inherent in maintaining your position. Having been a Christian, I know a common loaded question with great logical fallacies; "Was Jesus either a lunatic, liar, or God?" As if those are the only possiblities! An Muslim scholar (Ghazali) wrote a whole treatise regarding logic and where Shaytan gets in and causes misunderstandings and illogical conclusions. Your example is one such case, and the "lunatic, liar, or God" example is another such case. In fact, in hypnosis, the "lunitic, liar, or God" is a common type of question used to give the illusion of choice. In other words, tricking people!

Furthermore, the Qur'an is revealed in Arabic on purpose. That means that the Arabic language (with all its grammar, word derivations, and definitions) was chosen for a reason for the Last Prophet (peace be upon him). Think about it. Don't accuse me of delusions. I had only put forth possibilities with reagrd to the name "naml" for ant. But I don't expect you to understand this point anyway. But to clarify, I had talked with an Arab brother when discussing the root "to tingle" and he said that same root is what is used when the Arabs describe the tingling sensation when something like an arm or leg falls asleep.

What I can't figure out is how you come up with these ideas for what is a contradiction. I mean I would like to know what is your specific criteria for establishing a contradiction. I don't want vague answers like "if equal positions are deliniated to dissimilar meanings". I want to know what is your methodology? Do you read a verse and say, "how could this be a contradicion?" and then only look for evidence to support that? When I look for contradictions, I test it against the criteria I had mentioned in a previous response. Why don't you do the same, or at least post a web page detailing your methodology. Perhaps you could get comments on your methodology which would refine your methods.

Yes. I would love to see a detailed webpage of your method of finding contradicitons. Maybe in a step-by-step laid out plan. That way, I can test your methodology to see how it works and test it also for soundness. Would you be willing to do that?

About logic: I never presented your above alternative of "Lunatic, liar, or God?" You are building up straw men. Yes it is a common type alternative and it is a correct alternative when you present the whole argument and not only part of it. For example it is presented in "A Case for Christianity." I trust that when you read it you will see how you misrepresented the argument. "In other words, tricking people" by misrepresenting their true arguments? Think about it.

As to logical fallacies, Muslims are masters of presenting invalid alternatives. I am constantly presented with them. I just started to record them at Common logical falllacies of Muslim apologetics.

If you want to have meticulously logical defenses of Christianity, here are two book recommendations. I have never seen anything from the Islamic side coming even near this quality of presentation:

Dr. William Lane Craig: Reasonable Faith

Dr. J.P. Moreland: Scaling the Secular City

Does Islam have anything to present for it on a similar level? I am really interested to know about it.

Method of finding contradictions? I don't have a method. I read the Qur'an, I read books about the Qur'an, I read many other things and I make connections between them. Every once in while, things don't fit together. And then I record it. That is all.

Contradictions in the Qur'an
Answering Islam Home Page

Last edited: March 17, 1997