Category Archives: Travel

The Book of Nature: A Book Review and Commentaries by a Wildlife Enthusiast

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Mehran Banaei

Virtually all of us are products of an education system that primarily focuses on teaching students how to make a living, rather than on how to live. We are products of an education system, which has missed out the whole purpose of education. It is a bankrupt system that impoverishes the inquisitive souls of students, and has turned the love of wisdom to the hatred of wisdom. In many academic settings the discovery of knowledge is replaced by the concealment of knowledge. As pointed by some critics, the promotion and communal openness to the notion of relativism at academic institutions has led paradoxically to the great closing of once inquiring minds (Allan Bloom, 1987, The Closing of the American Mind). We are products of such an education system that has successfully killed the sense of wonder in observing marvelous natural phenomena and the beauties of nature. In this system, by the time one graduates, the inborn feeling of awe and admiration in witnessing the glories of this vast universe is systematically suppressed in each graduate. How should we expect a biology student to cognitively react to the complex nature of a living cell, when the field of biology is defined as “the study of complex things that appear to have been designed for a purpose” (Richard Dawkins, 1987, The Blind Watchmaker)? We are taught in school that complexity, diversity, design and purpose are all mere deceptive appearances having no meaningful implications. Any natural wonder that one experiences or witnesses is the end result of chance. How do we expect a physics student to react to the notion of an infinite universe, an edgeless universe that never comes to an end, when infinity is conveniently viewed as just a mathematical concept?

Too busy with the hustle and bustle of the everyday life, humanity has lost interest in studying the Book of the Universe and its most fascinating and persuasive chapter: the Book of Nature. Living in concrete jungles engulfed with an insatiable appetite for material consumption, mankind has become totally alienated and amputated from nature. A city dweller may hardly experience the tranquillity of nature, or witness the glorious and serenity of the sunrise and sunset, let alone seeing the wonders of an undisturbed natural world far away from home. Case in point, when a massive power outage struck southern California in the 1990s, many Los Angeles residents reportedly called 911 to express concerns about strange clouds hovering over in sky; the callers were seeing the Milky Way for the first time. Mankind’s self-imposed ignorance of the Book of Nature is the underlying reason for his continual demise. Historically, any manmade socio-political, economical, engineering or environmental policies that were implemented in violation of the parameters imposed by the Book of Nature were doomed at its inception, or along the way. It should not come as a surprise when world leaders and corporate executives ratify policies in boardrooms that result in destruction of nature. Nature is something totally foreign to their psyche.

Life is a grand research project to probe into the ubiquitous wonders, to understand the who, the where and the why of Man’s existence, of our raison d’etre. In conducting such a research to seek the answer to the most fundamental and inescapable existential questions of life, what is a better book to read than the Book of Nature? Nature indeed is the best guiding mentor for those who genuinely observe, hear and reflect on the all-telling signs that are omnipresent to convey a deeper message. When one explores nature, one is then truly gaining real education. I have been keenly studying the Book of Nature for many years, attracted to its majestic beauty and endless colourful diversity. As Plato puts it, beauty is splendor of the Truth, meaning that which is beautiful has the hallmark of the Truth. Therefore, to study nature is to study the Truth and to move on the right path to discover the Ultimate Truth. Good research at times requires one to take field trips far away from libraries, cyberspace and inept learning institutions. To pursue this goal, I decided to go far away from the distractions of this worldly life and spend three months deep in the untamed wilderness of Africa’s bushes and natural landscape. There is nothing quite like studying the Book of Nature; it generates elicit feelings of jaw-dropping awe, it makes one humble and contemplate the idea of a Higher Power. In the hope of being drawn to an endless sense of wonder, in the hope of learning from the non-human inhabitants of this unique planet, that one would encounter in such a journey, I eagerly traveled to Africa’s wild heart: the Great Rift Valley known as the animal kingdom.

It took me 8 hours to fly from Toronto to Amsterdam and 11 hours from Amsterdam to Johannesburg. During my long tiresome flights I could not stop pondering how minute creatures like the monarch butterfly, or a 25-gram northern wheatear songbird would take such a long journey twice a year on their own tiny wings. I was sitting on a comfortable armchair reading a book, sipping coffee with snacks, or napping, but many migratory animals have to take arduous and often treacherous treks without any assistance or rest. A tiny shorebird called the bar-tailed godwit, holds the record for the longest non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean over a distance of 11,000 km in nine days.

I started my journey from South Africa. More accurately from Kruger, then to Cape Town and traveled north approximately 17,000 km, having passed the equator, having checked out almost every National Park, conservation area and game reserves on my way, packed with diverse animals and flora. I picked Africa for its diverse wildlife and multitude ecosystems like lush forest, savannah, montane, tropical rainforest, wetland, woodland, mountains, desert and rich coastal marine life.

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The interesting thing about nature in Africa is that opposing worlds live together side by side in an interconnected web of life. Stunning diverse life forms come and go, yet none could have come and gone without the existence of other necessary conditions.

I wanted to see the pristine nature with my own eyes rather than through television programs written and produced by neo-Darwinists, distorted by their ideological biases. I sought to closely examine the arguments often posed by materialists and ardent atheists that the universe far from being finely tuned by an Intelligent Designer is in fact full of flaws and created without any intelligent thoughts behind it. One frequently cited flaw according to them is that since animals in nature have many wild predators, they live under tremendous stress. Therefore, no Benevolent or Intelligent Creator could be behind the creation of stressful life on earth, and from this they assert that no Creator exists. I never understood why when something is supposedly going wrong in nature, all fingers are conveniently pointed at “God”, but when a credit is due, it is always given to the almighty: Mr. “Natural Selection”.

Regardless of who is to be blamed, this petty and illogical argument is theoretically invalid and can easily be dismissed. If animals in their natural settings are under stress due to the presence of predators that means animals in captivity should enjoy a stress-free life and ought to be always happy. Captive animals are fully protected, provided and cared for. That is to say they are in actuality experiencing an all-inclusive paid vacation for life, not having to be worried about their day to day needs, free room and board, with free healthcare that many humans would be envious of. Yet we know on the contrary, animals in captivity are depressed and have a much shorter life expectancy. They have the zest to be free in their natural environment. Secondly, the fear of predators being around would not apply to all animals at all geographical locations; for instance, it would not apply to animals in ecological niches such as the Galapagos Islands, where animals have no predators. It would not apply to those animals on the upper part of the food chain. Despite what is said above, I still decided to put the proposed argument under observational study, to see if zebras, wildebeests, impalas or fish are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Where could be a better place to study this allegation than in a confined park like Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania?

My observations at Ngorongoro convinced me that both predators and prey do indeed live together in harmony and enjoy life to its fullest. Ngorongoro crater is a 260 sq. km conservation area where animals are surrounded by the crater’s wall which is about 610 meters high functioning similar to the Great Wall of China.  Seemingly, escape from predators in this confined environment is not an option for the prey. On the other hand, the predators cannot ambush the prey in an open treeless field. Both sides can equally utilize their confined environment to their advantage.

Due to this natural physical barrier, animals there cannot leave the crater and their community cannot take any new immigrants from outside. The animals there are literally trapped for life as if they are in Alcatraz. Yet this isolated ecological niche is completely self-sufficient, self-regulated, vibrant and has a balanced ratio between predators and prey. If there were just a few more lions, leopards or hyenas in the crater, the population of the prey would then be totally wiped out in no time. If there were a few less, then there would be an overpopulation of wildebeests and zebras; consequently, the ecology of the crater would collapse. The existence of a perfect ecological balance is indicative of good health. Needless to say, that which is healthy cannot be an outcome of stress.

Far from being under stress, all organisms co-exist in perfect harmony with their surrounding environment rather than struggling with it. There is no malice or remorse in killing to survive. This basic principle in nature is well understood by all participants. Indeed, all animals in Ngorongoro live together in an observable harmony, since the predators do not engage in senseless killing or act out of greed. To quote the British zoologist and ethologist Desmond Morris, there is indeed a respected “Animal Contract” (1990) in existence between the predators and prey. Unlike humans, the predators never betray the terms and conditions of this contract in the quest for more wants beyond their basic needs, leaving the vulnerable party at peace. The crater looks more like a school playground in a verdant paradise; I detected absolutely no sign of any species being under stress.

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Furthermore, consider the following brilliant BBC documentary – Inside the Perfect Predator, an excellent documentary focused on the marvelous design of four superb predators designed to kill.

On the other hand, prey is not without advance defense technology. In nature, it is all a fair game. In viewing this documentary, a fascinating point to note is that in order to maintain the balance of nature, each predator is also intentionally designed with a specific limitation, which prevents it from being successful in each and every hunting attempt. For example, a cheetah can reach the speed of 120 km per hour in a split second to chase its prey, but it can only run for a maximum 15 to 17 seconds, before exhausting all its energy. A crocodile has powerful hydraulic jaws that can easily crush any bones, but when it ambushes a prey, that is during the process of lunging at the prey this hunter is deprived of its eyesight. To protect the eyes, it must shut them. Thus, frequently missing the intended target.

These limitations are indeed an indication of the insightful knowledge of the Grand Designer of the whole of nature. A random process with no insight cannot be mindful of fine and crucial details across-the-board, without which the whole system would collapse in short order. The predators are not designed to be superior flawless killing machines, always-victorious warriors. The objective of design is not on mere survivability of the fittest as suggested by neo-Darwinian evolutionists; it is all on the preservation of a well-established ecological balance. For some other evolutionists, the elegant multifunctional designs used in nature are indicators of purpose, wisdom and a deliberate subordination of means to a greater end (Augros, Robert and Stanciu, George, 1986, The New Biology: Discovering the Wisdom in Nature), and biological evolution is nothing but a directed process (Denton, Michael, 1998, Nature’s Destiny).

Genius designs employed in nature are the envy of the best biotechnology engineers who study biomimicry to advance their career. For instance, consider the optimal design used in the body of a frog, hippo or crocodile. The design perfectly allows them to completely submerge their entire body under water except for their eyes and nostrils. These species are dependent on this essential feature in order to hide and watch for predators and prey. The U.S. military uses the same concept to design amphibious armored vehicles.

Consider the wisdom behind the multifunctional zebra stripes: when a lion attacks zebras, the whole herd consciously runs together. As such the predator is unable to discern a single zebra from the herd, unless one gets separated or falls behind. Zebra’s stripes also act as camouflage, this feature allows zebras to hide it in the tall grass and dead wood of an African savanna. The other function of the stripes is in thermoregulation. In summer, zebras grow more white hairs, thus the white stripes are wider than the black stripes. Conversely, when it is cold, they grow more black hair, thus the black stripes are wider than the white stripes, consequently absorbing more heat from the sun. Stripes also function as barcodes which zebras alone are able to scan for identification. The latest study suggests that the stripes further keep flies away.

Have you ever pondered the structure of elephant feet? Walking on a rough surface for a land creature of that size and weight would be impossible or extremely painful without a shock absorber installed on each foot. The cushions used in their feet allow these giants to walk very comfortably and quietly for miles. On the other hand, for another giant land mammal, the camel, why do its feet not require shock absorbers? The answer is obvious: the camel walks on a smooth surface. Camel’s feet are made wide enough to allow the animal to walk on soft sand very easily without sinking into it. They do however require something that elephants do not need: pads. The pads used in their feet enable them to walk on hot surface without feeling much heat. Who truly deserves the credit for compatibility or adaptability between each species and its environment? Is it blind chance or intelligence? What kind of idiotic exercise is this to attribute the intelligence and wisdom behind the genius designs in nature to a cosmic accident, to random chance, to imaginary concepts like “mother nature”, “mother earth” or to a mindless process called natural selection? This is indeed a sheer exercise in self-deception to the extreme. Design implies a designer, purpose and intents. Evolutionary developments cannot exclude the role of the Prime Evolver who sets the law for things to evolve in a particular fashion.

Another argument often presented by atheists to debunk the notion of the intelligent design behind nature is the example of sand dunes formation. It is proposed that the universe was created just the same way a sand dune is created, a marvelous creation totally based on random chance. The elements such as harmony, mathematical order and beauty are there without any creator’s involvement. In Namibia, I had the opportunity to walk in a hot sandy desert and observe the stunning beauty of countless sand dunes formation. While climbing one of the tallest dunes at sunrise, I could not stop thinking, if we were to take the laws of physics away that form various parameters, i.e. gravity, wind, lack of rain, size, weight and shapes of sands, then would we still see sand dunes forming at all, with or without beautiful patterns. The dunes are like circus, constantly moving from one location to another. Do these skeptics not know that we live in a universe of cause and effect, where nothing is haphazard, even a grain of sand abides by the laws of physics? The atheist argument makes sense if and only if one skips the vital question of where did the constructal law and the prerequisite conditions, which govern the evolving patterns in animate and inanimate nature come from. Furthermore, why is it that we conclusively deduce that sandcastles or the sand patterns in small sand jars sold in gift shops have a designer and creator, but the more complex dunes in Namibia are products of blind chance? How can blind process, devoid on intelligence, in and of itself, designs fabulous art works, engineering wonders and mathematical precision?

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To refute the existence of a Divine Creator, atheists strive in finding flaws in the universe. Another vacuous argument presented by them is that the entire universe is inhospitable to life, including the most regions of the planet earth, which is either frozen or too hot and dry. Thus, such a universe cannot be a handy work of an Omniscient Creator. I spent a few days at the heart of the Namibian desert hiking. Each day I drank at least 5 liters of water without passing a drop. Surely, the desert is inhospitable to Man’s liking and preferred lifestyle, however, even in this harsh barren desert under excruciating heat, life thrives. The “wasteland” is noticeably home sweet home for many species. The desert ecosystem system remarkably sustains life and plays a major role in the overall ecology and climate of the entire planet.


I must admit, the best and the most enjoyable part of my trip was witnessing some very common observations. The daily experience of watching the sunrise and sunset for 90 days, observing phenomenal rainfalls with frequently spotting multitude of colourful rainbows in the sky, can put one in deep thoughts. With each rain, the dry land blooms with perfusion of diverse life. Day after day, seeing the life giving sun going down in style and several hours later reappearing precisely at 180 degrees on the opposite direction can shake down ones belief in naturalism. There is indeed something majestic about sunrise and sunset. It is a profoundly moving and thought provoking experience to witness this natural panoramic show everyday. Each day, I was reminded of the famous saying of the prominent 14th century Persian poet Hafez who had this to say about sunrise: “Even after all this time, the sun never says to the earth, you owe me.” It keeps on shining to sustain life on earth unconditionally.

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When the sun retires, countless stars gradually become visible turning all heads face up. Looking at the starry sky under the moonlight while listening to the symphonies of tiny insects on the background all night, followed by the predawn performance of various singing birds is a wonder that cannot be expressed by pen and paper or words. It ought to be experienced. At some locations like Etosha and Serengeti the usual night recitalists had a few guest performers in their orchestra. The nearby insects chirping all night accompanied by loud sound of lions roaring from kilometers away. Lions were not the only distant performers, there were hyenas and zebras as well. While daytime animals were resting, there were evidently a lot of intense activities throughout the night. The night we camped at Maun, the gateway to Okavango Delta in Botswana. I could say without exaggeration or reservation that there were millions of insects in the vicinity that were so busy singing tirelessly all night along. Their sheer number singing together amplified their sound like tens of thousands of fans in a soccer stadium cheering together for the home team. I stayed up all night listening to this mesmerizing music, enjoying reading another euphoric page of the Book of Nature, thinking about the Composer and Conductor of this impressive symphony of life, trying to connect to this infinitely talented Entity in charge of “the greatest show on earth”. Here is a fundamental difference between the likes of me and the likes of Dawkins. I acknowledge this Entity and am an admirer of His work and further seek to know Him better. Dawkins is a denier of this Entity and an admirer of chance mutation in an accidental universe. No doubt, one of us is most certainly dead wrong.

A few weeks after the start of my trip while resting at a campsite in Namibia, I noticed that it was time to clip my fingernails. I went to an isolated corner in the shade and started to clip my nails one by one. By the time I clipped the 10th finger I noticed ants gathered on the ground below my feet taking all my nails like they were candies. I followed them to their nest; other ants soon joined them to help. I was not surprised at all to see ants having an appetite for my nails. After all, these little creatures are the one that will consume my entire body when I am dead. I was rather intrigued and fascinated at their superior organizational level and how soon they spotted food and collectively acted upon it. A few weeks later, I was in Malawi and it was time to clip my fingernails again. It was not hard to find an ant colony. In the name of science, I ignored the given directive of not to feed the animals. I approached a populated large colony feeling very philanthropic, thinking that their lunch today is going to be literally on me. I clipped my nails and one by one put them at the entrance of a high traffic gate to their colony. To my surprise they were not at all interested in my offerings. I stood there for 30 minutes; it seems that I just littered the gate to the colony. It then occurred to me, of course, these were a different species of ants than the ones I saw in Namibia – different species at a different niche.

The following morning we left the camp and moved on before the sunrise. I packed my tent in total darkness. In the afternoon, we reached a new campsite some 600 km away. As I was trying to pitch my tent, I noticed that there were about 200 ants on the roof of the tent carried over from the previous site. I gently brushed off the ants to the ground, but they were very quick to move up again. I cleaned the tent several times, but each time all the ants moved back to the roof of the tent. It seemed that these ants were being introduced to a new environment that they did not belong to. Reluctantly, I carried these ants with the tent for several days and they never landed until they all gradually died. Right there, there was a strong argument to be made against ecotourism. I became aware that my careless presence there cannot be without consequences, which could lead to environmental disasters similar to the introduction of cane toads in Australia, goats in the Galapagos and zebra mussels in the Great Lakes of North America. The lesson to learn from these cases is that the balance of nature should not be tampered with, and to determine the answer to a deeper question of how such a finely tuned balance was set in the first place?

Walking through a jungle is like walking through a pharmacy, as each tree and vegetation has certain medicinal qualities. It is further like walking to through an architectural exhibition, as one observes different technologies and intricate designs used in animal constructed housing complexes, from various birds’ nests to beehives and ever-present termite mounds. It is amazing to see tiny species possess extraordinary abilities similar to that of human beings.

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It is further like walking through an immense and perfect recycling plant, with absolutely 0% wastage, at zero dollar operation cost.

During my daily hikes in jungles, canyons, desert and beaches, I developed a habit of collecting small rocks, shells, sands, leaves and feathers. I brought with me many samples to Toronto to study them under microscope and X-ray. A rock displays million years of geological history. Have you ever looked at the astonishing symmetrical precision in a seashell under X-ray, or the stem of a flower?

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The geometric shape of a single grain of sand is beyond belief. It is mind boggling to see the fine details of how a feather is designed and woven together to allow a bird to fly. A feather ought to be light, yet strong, and must keep the bird protected from cold and warm temperature, not to mention to be attractive to the opposite of sex. It is more astonishing to compare the differences in structure between the feathers of a bird of prey like a fish eagle and an ostrich, a bird that is not designed to fly. The feathers of the former is all aerodynamic, essential for flying, allowing the fish eagle to fly swiftly with maximum efficiency at minimum fuel cost. However, the ostrich feathers are only decorative and perfect for insulation. The magnified cross-section of a leaf reveals marvels in high-tech engineering. Each leaf is equipped with solar panels, thus always facing towards the sun to absorb the sun’s maximum energy. During each hike or game drive, I could not be more perplexed about how on earth anybody could think that all these amazing complex phenomena are fashioned by a “blind watchmaker” as Dawkins et al. arrogantly suggest. The denial of design in the name of “science” is only a dogmatic patronage to a failed ideology. Such a refusal to accept the obvious is so absurd and so unfair. It displays a great deal of arrogance and ungratefulness.

We drove through Tanzania’s amazing Baobab valley, a forest full of mighty Baobab trees, each one of these giant trees is a state-of-the-art water pump and air purification system which functions up to 6000 years, putting the best civil engineers to shame. What is outmost intriguing here, is that the knowledge and materials required to build this versatile monolithic structure was entirely stored in one tiny seed, something far more advanced than the best available human biometric technology.

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I was in Serengeti just before the start of an epic animal migration. I would estimate that at the time of my visit, there were about 2 million wildebeests along with zebras in Serengeti getting ready for their annual exodus. How do all these animals get together in such an organized fashion? What governs their well-regulated move, year after year? How do they find the promised land flowing with milk and honey?

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was tough, yet not without its rewards, seeing sunset and sunrise when one is above the clouds is a unique experience. From the starting base to the top of the mountain one can experience all nature’s four seasons at different altitude. On my way down I was mostly alone with a guide who was ahead of me. Unlike going up, while coming down, the weather was great and the surrounding panoramic view was breathtaking. The overarching peaceful silence was pushing me to think about the Great Author of the Book of Nature, mostly on the fact that during all my trips across this dynamic planet, I have not met a living being whose sustenance did not depend upon the Author of the Book of Nature. And I did not come across a living being that is immortal, independent of the cycle of birth and death. As a human being, I may be more sophisticated than the rest of the cohabitants of this planet, but I too, am a part of this Book not apart from it, just a passive reader. In studying and reviewing the Book of Nature, it seems that I am actually studying and understading my own mortal existence, a basic task for all sense-making creatures.

The Book of Nature is a book to be thoroughly read; yet it is totally ignored. Indeed true literacy means being able to read and comprehend the Book of Nature. This is the only Book written in a language that is easily understood by all; its message is universal and transcends time and culture. Its breathtaking beauty is the manifestation of Divine origin, in no uncertain terms for those whose eyes, ears and minds are alert and wide open. As one passionately reads this infinitely edifying Book, one becomes deeply stimulated to reflect on the Book’s origin and authorship. No book is ever written without an author(s). Why would anyone think that the Book of Nature could have been written without an Author? Yet, many dreadfully do.

Certainly, in the origination and design of this resplendent universe, in the continuous revolving succession of night and day, infinite evidence exists for those whose minds are alive, who are able to connect and remember their Originator, whilst standing, sitting or sidereally reclined, contemplating on the Book of Nature and Its Author. Only such people are drawn to the logical and profound conclusion, that the integrated laws of physics and biology certainly reveal purpose in the universe. The universe was not originated without a meaningful purpose, or a purposeful meaning, and in this realization do they extol their limitless Originator and Evolver.

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A Desert Dweller with Pre-emptive Knowledge of Haloclines

Mehran Banaei

The modern science of oceanography has revealed that in places where two different seas meet, there is an implicit natural impassible barrier between them described as a halocline. Halocline is a wall made of water between two different bodies of water. This indissoluble aquatic partition divides the two seas where each sea has its own temperature, salinity, oxygen concentration, composition and density. Just like oil and vinegar the two bodies of water are totally immiscible. A case in point is at the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean intersect. The two seas in essence are distinct from each other. In the Mediterranean Sea, water is moderately warm, saline and less dense compared to the water in the Atlantic Ocean. When the Mediterranean Sea water enters the Atlantic Ocean over the Gibraltar sill, it moves several hundred kilometers into the Atlantic at a depth of about 1000 meters with its own warmth, saline and less dense characteristics, thereby forming a horizontal halocline. Despite large waves, tides and strong underwater currents, the flow of the incoming stream from the Mediterranean Sea keeps on traveling most of its way across the Atlantic Ocean intact and undiluted. Haloclines also occur at estuaries or underground river systems. Yucatan Peninsula in the southern part of Mexico has many popular halocline diving sites where underwater explorers and cave divers pass through one body of water into another.

Pictures below show of another extraordinary example, a rare vertical barrier in the Alaskan coastal area as well as in Skagen, Denmark resembling the Great Wall of China. Skagen is the northernmost point of Denmark, where the Baltic Sea and North Sea meet. The two opposing tides in this place cannot merge that is because they have different densities and chemistry. As it is said, a picture speaks a thousand words: the following tapestry of images convey those words of this fabulous oceanographic phenomenon:

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The pictures below show the area where the Rio Negro and the White River (Amazon River) face off in Brazil. Amazon River is silty, while Rio Negro looks like strong dark tea due to high concentration of organic constituents of soil, minerals and vegetation.

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Confluence of the Thompson and Fraser Rivers in Lytton, British Columbia, Canada.

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Confluence of the Mosel and Rhine rivers in Koblenz, Germany.

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Confluence of Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers in Devpryag, India.

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Confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers in the Canyonlands National Park, UT, USA.

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Aerial view of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in Cairo, IL, USA.

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Consider the following verses in the Quran which were revealed to Prophet Mohammed:

“He has let free the two bodies of flowing water, meeting together. Between them is a barrier which they do not transgress. So which of the favors of your Lord would you deny?” Quran (55: 19-21)

“And He it is Who has made two seas to flow freely, the one sweet that subdues thirst by its sweetness, and the other salt that burns by its saltiness; and between the two He has made a barrier and inviolable obstruction.” Quran (25:53)

“And not alike are the two bodies of water. One is fresh and sweet, palatable for drinking, and one is salty and bitter. And from each you eat tender meat and extract ornaments which you wear, and you see the ships plowing through [them] that you might seek of His bounty; and perhaps you will be grateful.” Quran (35:12)

“Or, Who has made the earth firm to live in; made rivers in its midst; set thereon mountains immovable; and made a separating bar between the two bodies of flowing water? (can there be another) god besides Allah? Nay, most of them know not.” Quran (27:61)

It seems like after all not all religions are incompatible with science as the British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins claims.

Indeed a thinking mind should be perplexed when a high-profile 21st century scientist like Richard Dawkins seems to be totally ignorant about this fact, but how an illiterate bedouin desert dweller in the early 7th century (C.E.), born and raised in the desert, in one of the most primitive and backward societies on earth, who never experienced sea travel nor did any scuba diving, knew about this modern fact of oceanography and oceanographic water chemistry. As proof for its divine origin, the Quran is indeed full of information on a variety of different topics, which were not known to mankind at beginning of the 7th century. What would be the possible explanation for Prophet Mohammad’s source of information and the origin of the Quran?

A: Heard it from someone who knew about this phenomenon and felt like including it in the Quran.
B: Good wild guess and he decided put it in the Quran.
C: Received authentic revelation from the Creator of all that exist.
D: None of the above, the verses in the Quran are inaccurate. As Dawkins states, salt water and fresh water can be mixed.

References:

http://www.helcom.fi/environment2/nature/en_GB/nature/
http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewImage.do?aid=9206&id=18008
http://www.divediscover.whoi.edu/dhabs/halocline.html
http://www.itameriportaali.fi/en/arkisto/sanasto/en_GB/saltwaterinflow/

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From Mecca to the Galapagos: The Memoirs of a Pondering Philosopher of Nature

Mehran Banaei

Jan. 2013, Part One: Before the Trip

I always wondered what would be the differences in the brain activities during sleep, or the quality of sleep between two contrasting occasions: A) When one goes to sleep at night and has to catch a flight at 6:00 a.m. the next morning in order to start an exotic vacation. B) When one goes to sleep and has to face a firing squad at 6:00 a.m. on the following day. As far back as I can remember my position on mind and body relationship was that, I always assumed in case of “A”, one has to be obviously at peace. In case of “B” one has to be in so much agony, sick to death, or to say the least psychosomatically disturbed.

Last night I was the person described in scenario “A”, as I went to bed early and wondered how pleasant my sleep going to be. Since it was the night before my long anticipated journey. I was hoping to be the consummate purveyor of sweet dreams on top of a good night sleep. However, sadly I admit it was not the case at all. Far from being relaxed, I was not even able to sleep for a minute. My anxiety level was so high, plagued by worries about unexpected things that could go wrong. I was tossing and turning all night long like a ship in a perfect storm. In the morning I was so surprised to learn that one of my oldest assumptions was shattered into pieces when it was actually tested. Well, no big deal; I have been proven to be wrong before, and this incorrect assumption was not on a fundamental issue. Nevertheless, it is always better to be corrected than remain in error. For comparison, I hope I don’t ever get to experience “B”; although you never know, in case of “B”, I may be surprised to find myself to be so relaxed and smiling while standing before my erstwhile executioners.

I cannot stop thinking where else I could be wrong and not knowing. For a man who is obsessed with certainty this is bothersome. Yet, the last night experience turned out to inadvertently confirm another cherished belief of mine, that is, Man has to constantly put his faith to test. Yes, relentless confirmation and re-confirmation, this is exactly what I am about to do again. While absolute certainty is obtainable, one should always remain wide open to challenge it. Even if one does not find any flaws, constant confirmation makes one feel more secure. Several times in my life I deleted everything I believed from my mind and started from scratch to re-investigate the Truth without any affinity to what I previously believed. If there is ever going to be a “paradigm shift” in our human understanding of the objective reality, I want to be among the first people who realize it. I am not looking for a prize, just do not want to have a wrong belief, not even for a minute. The last three times I engaged in this exercise I came to the same conclusion, the last of which was during 2011/2012.

Here I am waiting at the Miami airport for my next flight to Lima, Peru to fulfil this enduring mission. Going away to South America for a month. I am on my way to destinations high up on the top of the Andes, and then further deep into the heart of the virgin Amazon rainforest, and finally will follow the footsteps of Charles Darwin and will sail to the volcanic Islands of Galapagos in the Pacific Ocean. The last stop is surely the cream of the pie. Galapagos is one of those rare beautiful group of nearby islands in the world beside of course Kish & Qeshm in the Persian Gulf, that once in there, one does not get distracted by heedless semi-naked girls wearing dental floss for cover. Unlike Cancun or popular destinations in the Caribbean, it is not enticing to average sunseekers and young beach party lovers. The beaches there are crowded by giant fully naked sea lions, tortoises, various species of land and marine iguanas, countless sally lightfoot crabs, penguins and albatross, etc. all reclining in a majestic landscape. Truly, a pristine beauty to be witnessed at a close encounter. Galapagos archipelago is a protected area with a unique and phenomenal wildlife. I picked this spot particularly because; it is said to be the microcosm of life on earth, a complex and delicate ecology evolved over some million years on a solidified volcanic lava piled up from the bottom of the ocean. Right there at these islands diverse multifaceted life started from zero in total isolation.

See BBC Galapagos Series:
http://www.infocobuild.com/books-and-films/nature/galapagos-bbc.html

Nowhere on earth such an abundant of life can be found packed together. Another of its uniqueness is that most Galapagos animals are known to be fearless and approachable.

The trip will provide me with the opportunity to gaze in wonder. I am taking with me a small telescope, a microscope, my scuba diving gear and a newly purchased underwater camera. I am taking this trip alone to think and reflect, more so than mere sightseeing, to reflect on the whole of the universe and Man’s place in it. To reflect upon the incredible complexity and miracle of life, to continue reflecting about life and death, about joy and pain, to reflect upon my own frustrations and failures here and there, to reflect about all my unanswered “Why” questions and so on. To seek meaning and purpose for my own worthless existence. I am not depressed or suicidal, but just being realistic. As Omar Khayyam poetically puts it in his Rubaiyat, the same goes for each one of us considering the overall scheme of things: “My personal existence brought no benefit to the universe, nor does my demise diminishes its majesty and glory”.

Secondly, I would like to probe into how such an experience as claimed by some British naturalists and explorers would possibly lead one to atheism. How can anyone deduce atheism from nature is beyond me? I often hear that the belief in God was acceptable until Darwin discovered evolution. Darwin’s discovery demolished the need for a Divine Planner for the creation of life. I kick my own head to figure out how the theory that one species could have evolved to another would eliminate the role of the Creator and justifies atheism or agnosticism. For instance, David Attenborough, despite his incomparable global firsthand experience in nature is a self-proclaimed agnostic. Mind you, I like Attenborough very much, but never had much respect for agnostics in general, that is those who neither believe nor disbelieve in the existence of a Deity. What do you mean you neither believe nor disbelieve? How could that be? No offense, if I may I be so blunt as to enquire: Are you so unintelligent that after a lifetime of living in time and space dimensions and possessing a fully functioning brain you still cannot figure out what to believe on this most basic issue? When do you think you are going to figure it out Sir/Madam?

For Attenborough after all that he has seen, the stumbling block to believe in God is the so-called “Problem of Evil”. [And I ask them], “Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all-merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually, are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child’s eyeball? Because that doesn’t seem to me to coincide with a God who is full of mercy.” I never felt that this sort of emotional and psychological argument can pose any logical challenge to the existence of God; nor do I really think the view expressed here is an intelligent one. Its flaw is that the premise does not support the conclusion. Attenborough is basically saying, if there is a merciful loving God, the infected child should not get infected and lose an eye. He expects the law of consequences to be inconsequential because God is merciful. Living in the universe of cause and effect, the infected child consequently loses an eye; Attenborough then becomes unsure now if the universe has a Creator. Thus according to him, maybe there is no God. Thereby, he is now an agnostic and does not know what is going on.

There are so many others who formulate similar erroneous arguments arriving at the same conclusion, just using slightly different premises. For example:

If there is a merciful loving God, He would then respond favorably to my sincere outcry. He did not respond to my persistent prayers and left me alone in my difficult time of need. Therefore, there is no God.

If there is a merciful loving God, my wonderful mother did not have to die from cancer. My mother has passed away, suffered so much from a long painful disease. She did not deserve this. Therefore, there is no God.

If there is a merciful loving God, my teenage daughter would not have to die in a horrific traffic accident, my beloved daughter the nicest person on the earth is now gone forever. Therefore, there is no God. All you need to disprove the existence of God is to walk into a children hospital.

If there is a merciful loving God, I would not have to go through an unfair painful divorce experience. After working so hard all my life, I lost everything, my family, my wealth, and my health. Where is justice? Life sucks. Therefore, there is no God.

If there is a merciful loving God, “He would make that gorgeous chick next door to fall in love with me. Is this too much to ask for from someone who claims to be your best friend?” She is not in love with me, does not even notice me, and is too busy to watch The America’s Next Top Model. Therefore, there is no God. “Where is this God when you need him?”

If there is a merciful loving God, He would have prevented, me losing my wallet with my hard-earned paycheck in it. I lost my wallet, can’t find it. Therefore, there is no God.

If there is a merciful loving God, He would not allow slavery and human exploitation to permeate. Therefore, there is no God.

If there is a merciful loving God, and He is as powerful as claimed with foreseeable knowledge, 9/11 should have been prevented. If I had known this is what was going to happen that morning, I would have alarmed the authorities. Wouldn’t you? Therefore, there is no God.

I am not trying to be cute here; these statements are actually what I have personally heard people saying. It seems that if one’s expectation is not fulfilled then atheism is warranted. Why do we fail to see that in everyday ups and downs of life, it is man who is on trial not God? These arguments are all fallacious, and are known as invalid modus ponens or the fallacy of affirming the consequent. There is a profound problem with this line of reasoning. Allow me to explain:

It is like saying: If my husband really loves me, he would then bring me flowers. He does not bring me flowers. Therefore, he does not love me. Or the reverse: if my husband loves me, he would bring me flowers. He does regularly bring me flowers, therefore he loves me. In either case the conclusion made is invalid, what if the husband in question orders for flowers delivered to his wife from his mistresses apartment, or buys inexpensive flowers for his wife, but gives very expensive diamond jewelry to his mistress. Or, maybe a devoted loving husband is just too busy to earn a living in order to provide a comfortable lifestyle for his wife. The point here is giving or not giving flowers cannot be a rational criterion for love.

Another example, if Mehran Banaei wrote the “Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse”, then Mehran is a superb writer. Mehran is a superb writer. Therefore, Mehran wrote the “Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse”. Not so, Mehran did not write the “Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse” nor is he a skilful writer in either English or Persian. Mehran does not even speak French or has ever claimed to have written “Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse”. Further, we know for a fact that “Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse” is written by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. The above reasoning is flawed.

Apart from doing a biopsy and autopsy on the above ill-posed arguments to determine structural validity, I would like to ask Mr. Attenborough: Have you not seen enough wonders to overcome your fixation over a tiny parasitic worm? Be fair. That is the way nature operates – let’s accept it. One species thrives on another one for its survival, Attenborough knows this well. He would not be complaining about God’s mercy when he is on the driver’s seat having his chicken soup and fish & chips.

A believer in God, however, who loses an eye for whatever reason, is taught to peacefully accept and submit to the bitter reality that he cannot change. What is done is done. He knows that the belief in God, first and foremost, does not give the believer a special status, i.e. a privileged one such as diplomatic immunity against misfortunes and adversaries. Life goes on regardless. Further, he is also taught prevention and science of cure, which he must always be mindful of or pay the price. Furthermore, in the above case God is so merciful to the worm. Isn’t He? This worm is also a part of His creation. What’s ecological diversity without worms? How is this case any different than when a monstrous crocodile devours a defenseless Thomson’s gazelle in one move? Is the gazelle not as “innocent” as the child whom Attenborough refers to? The hunt is good for the crocodile and bad for the unsuspecting thirsty gazelle, depending on your perspective, yet that keeps the whole ecosystem in balance. Is this not what Darwin called the survival of the fittest? Was it not Darwin who introduced the brutality of Nature, “Nature, red in tooth and claw”?

Wait a minute Mr. Attenborough, why are you holding grudge against God? You are agnostic and a Darwinian evolutionist, why as an evolutionist you are assuming one species (man) has more moral and intrinsic value and more rights to life than another (worm)? This is not a scientific postulation, yet alone a Darwinian one. Darwinism or any other disciple in science cannot by any means imply that humans are more important and relevant in the grand scheme of things than worms. Further, if this case really bothers you, should you not be addressing your objection to “Natural Selection”? After all, it is Natural Selection’s fault, which favoured the worm over man. Why double standards? Why when credit is due, it is given to “Natural Selection”, but the perceived problems are attributed to God?

The proponents of the “Problem of Evil” often confuse God with Superman or Genie, and expect Hollywood style intervention. The best of their arguments cannot establish that there is no God, but “Natural Selection”. At most it can only suggest that the Creator is like the universe which is neither benign nor hostile. He is indifferent to all His creation: both large and small, organic and inorganic, living or inanimate, etc. However, this deistic view too, has its own share of predicaments that I will not elaborate here.

I think having experiences such as that of David Attenborough should indeed lead one swiftly to the opposite conclusion. The famous French oceanic explorer, Jacques Cousteau, the Sorbonne University Prof./explorer/Egyptologist/M.D., Maurice Bucaille, the American astrophysicist George Smoot, and his fellow countryman astronomer Owen Gingerich the author of God’s Universe (2006), Australian Biochemist Michael Denton author of Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (1985) and Nature’s Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe (1998) are just a few among many who would have fully agreed with me. We just don’t hear much about what they have to say, as much as we constantly hear from Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawkins.

Cousteau in his last book titled: The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus said: “The glory of nature provides evidence that God exists; those who show no respect for nature show no respect for God.” The statement here resembles numerous verses in the Quran. Interestingly enough Cousteau candidly acknowledges this Quranic point. The first part of the above quote is also exactly similar to what William Paley said 50 years before Darwin. Elsewhere in his book he says: “Faith after faith exhorts its followers to open their eyes to nature as a reflection of God’s grandeur. What a contrast between Attenborough and Cousteau? Gingerich believes we live in a designed universe of purpose and intention. Smoot said “looking into the cosmos is like looking at God.” I say, looking at a minute speck of dust is like looking at God. Do you have any idea how complex a microscopic dust particle is, and the beauty & order it displays? Have you ever marveled at the complexity and beauty of a valueless grain of sand or a bird’s feather? I urge you to check it out:

Sands: http://inspirationgreen.com/magnified-grains-of-sand.html
Dust: http://www.smokyhillbound.com/forum/dust-magnified-22-million-times

Regular sands on a beach magnified 250 timessands

Household dust magnified 22 million times, consists of long hairs, cat fur, twisted synthetic, woollen fibres, serrated insect scales, a pollen grain, plant and insect remains.

dust

Magnified view of a red-tailed hawk feather, looks like a hand knitted fabric

red-tailed-hawk-feather

I have been indeed privileged to witness wonders far beyond dust particles and so grateful, indeed so grateful to comprehend the implications. Having experienced a week deep in the Brazilian part of Amazon, and visited the breathtaking Iguazu Falls in Argentina and Patagonia back in 1999 with my sisters, I recall I felt much closer to my Creator than when I was circling the Kabba in Feb. 2000. Ironically, it was my South American experience, seeing a natural and delicate ecological order in the lavish Amazon rainforest and watching a countless number of bright stars at night which motivated me to take the subsequent trip to Mecca.

I just got back from the Middle East having preformed my 2nd Hajj (pilgrimage) some 13 years later. The end result was not as fulfilling as I was hoping to be. I was yearning to feel that “Allah is indeed closer to [me], than [my] jugular vein” (Quran 50:16). I had an enormous zest to experience what Moses experienced when he went up to Mount Sinai, and I didn’t. I suppose, there may very well be a problem with my expectation, after all I am not Moses or anyone special, nor is Hajj supposed to be a rendezvous with the Divine, but a mere acknowledgment of one’s submission to the Divine. German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, a key figure in the 17th century science had a similar sense of inquisitiveness. He is reported to have said: “There is nothing I want to find out and yearn to know with greater urgency than this: Can I find God, whom I can almost grasp with my own hands in looking at the universe as well as in myself?” It was this strong sense of curiosity that led him to purse science, a means to reach at the Divine.

For me after a lifetime of contemplation, the debate on Causality has reached the level that I would say, I can prove the existence of the First Cause just the same way one proves the Pythagorean theorem, both deductively and somewhat inductively; the clear objective signs are overwhelming. I am hoping to add some personal subjective components to an objective conviction, adding personal touch to a linear verification process, that this is not all belief in abstraction; one can indeed experience it too. I want to experience that which reason dictates. Subsequently, this experience can be kept fresh in my own mind as a reminder for as long as I am alive. I wish to understand the nature of the Divine and His mind, if I may, if I am capable to comprehend this Reality. Or, is it all beyond my comprehension, totally inaccessible to my limited intellect? Is my quest quixotic or supremely rational?

In Mecca, I felt I was in presence of an Entity that knows my past, present and future. It really felt like, there is no point to put up my best side, this Entity knows me so well and can see straight through me. I kept telling myself, “so Mehran just be who you really are.” When I entered the Harram (sanctuary), at the beginning I was a bit fearful, fearing: is the Almighty pleased with me or displeased and is perhaps going to get me for all my wrong-doings. However, my fear very soon disappeared, for I felt that despite all my past shortcomings, I was invited and welcomed there. For weeks I entered the two historic Mosques in Madina and Mecca, made never-ending supplications and was so sure that the Incomparable Master of the universe would hear me. However, Just like Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham), I wanted to see or hear a reply that can be certain it is directly from Him. An individual customized message addressed to me, a message in a bottle, flung from eternity to me. So far I have not, or have been unable to decode His envisioned communication to me. “Patience is a virtue”, that is what I keep telling myself. It will come, it will come. I should know better, the importance of patience is the first thing one learns in reading Aristotle as well as Persian poetry.

A scene in the Ten Commandments movie had a tremendous effect on me. That is the part when an Egyptian solider kills an old Hebrew slave in a mud field. Moses grabs the man and tries to comfort him in his dying moments. The man not knowing who Moses is, tells Moses that he has no fear of death nor has any regrets; his only disappointment in life is that God never answered his prayer. Moses curiously asks him: what was your prayer old man? The man replies all my life I prayed that before I die I get to see the “Deliverer”. How ironic it is that, the man then dies in peace in Moses arms. I would not be so impressed with this probably fictional scene if I could not personally relate to it. The lesson here is that we too often just don’t see the obvious, or if we see it, we tend to easily forget it. I keep asking myself, what kind of a message would really convince you Mehran that the message is directly from the Divine. What convinces you that He is indeed closer to you than your jugular vein? Honestly, I have absolutely no idea and don’t really know. I guess, I would know when I receive it.

So on this trip to South America, I would try to decode or should say remind myself of His general message, where the objective is to get closer to Him. Furthermore, I intend to test one more time which of my two back to back, dissimilar Truth/soul searching trips, would drastically increase my Taghwa (God-consciousness) and brings me near to the Most Merciful. Mecca in a hot barren desert or the lavish Galapagos? Although I already know the more one is in contact with nature, the more one sees the glorious signs of the Big Bang Originator. There is a famous and profound saying of Prophet Mohammed that “An hour of contemplation on the work of the Creator is better than seventy years of prayer.” This saying makes a lot of sense. If you have the proper perspective and are well-focused, being in nature is like having a one on one dialogue with the Creator. By observing signs in nature, you can easily become aware of many of His attributes. This approach is more logical than going to a retreat in an isolated cave, meditating for a number of years with the sound of one hand clapping, or travelling to India or Tibet to meet the famous Yogis or Dalai Lamas, asking them to show me a mystical path to Nirvana. I have no interest in shopping for a new manmade organized religion; to me organized religion is no different than organized crime. All religions have turned into a moneymaking business and a means to control the masses. However, unlike atheists I would never negate the Deity for the crimes constantly committed in His name. I have no interest in following a “spiritual leader”, for they are all crooks. I trust my own brain more than someone else’s, and that which I do not know yet, is no obscured secret; it can be acquired. Reality should not be mysterious and inaccessible to ones intellect, understood and preached by the supposed “chosen few”.

When I observe the inherent behavior of any species in its natural habitat, I feel like I am observing a proper behavior of a truly upright monotheist who is in total submission to Allah. I even sense that this bird, or ant or a tree is acting as a TA (Teaching Assistance), purposely trying to lead me to something, teaching me a 101 course on how to drop my human arrogance, selfishness and be in harmony with the rest of nature. Telling me, if you really want to be free you must be in submission to none, but the Master. To have this dialogue with the Divine you must tune your reception on the proper frequency in order to receive the ubiquitous Divine signals. The signals given have a message for all attentive individuals whose radio receiver is left on. The message is: nothing is random, the universe is designed; it follows certain laws and is perusing an intention. The universe is not created in vain. Everything in the universe points to an Intelligent Designer and a Programmer.

“Indeed, in the origination and design of the universe, and in the alternating succession of night and day, evidence indeed exists for those who use their minds, who remember their Creator, while standing, sitting and reclining on their sides, and contemplate on the creation of the universe, exclaiming: “Our Sustainer! You have not created all this without a meaningful purpose. Glory be to You!” Quran (3:190-191)

Fast-forward the evolutionary processes of the creation of the Galapagos in your mind. From when the lava surfaced and cooled off to a paradise that it is now and then tell me, if it can be all due to an unguided processes of “Natural Selection”. Take one step back; just the same way imagine the processes involved in the creation of the earth from some 4 billion years ago to present. Take one more step back; visualize the creation of the universe from the Big Bang some 15 billion years ago to present. Although many atheist evolutionists do not wish to use the term “accident”, but according to them, it all seems that we had a long sequential chain of favourable accidents one after another in order to be here. This is utterly impossible, accepting it is a sheer exercise in self-deception and outright stupidity.

“Have they never cast a glance at the firmament above? How We have set it up and decked it out! And how there are no rifts in it. And the earth ¾ We have spread it out; have cast forth stabilizing mountains and caused to grow on it, in complimentary pairs, all kinds of palatable vegetation. All these signs merit deep reflection and reminiscence by every penitent votary.”  (Quran 50: 6-8)

“He created seven universes in layers. You do not see any imperfection in the creation by the Most Gracious. Keep looking; do you see any flaw? Look again and again; your eyes will come back stumped and overstrained.” Quran (67: 3-4)

In respond to William Paley’s elegant argument, watch (life) and the Watchmaker (God), Dawkins in his book: The Blind Watchmaker argues that the blind forces of physics are responsible for all that exist, referring to “Natural Selection” as a sightless process having no intent. He says: “A true watchmaker has foresight: he designs his cogs and springs, and plans their interconnections, with a future purpose in his mind’s eye. Natural selection, the blind, unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life, has no purpose in mind.” … “It has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all. If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker.” The conclusion of his book is, thanks to “Natural Selection” anything in nature which does look designed is not really designed, only appears to be designed. Wow, what a load of sugarcoated crap coming from someone whom the world regards as one of its most eminent scientists. Please pardon my English, I honestly cannot express my true feelings any differently. Note how far a naked Emperor goes to deny the obvious.

Am I supposed to accept that i.e. the rampant Fibonacci sequence and golden ratio in nature/cosmos are an outcome of a blind purposeless process? Am I supposed to accept the Double Helix geometric shape of DNA, the molecule of life is an outcome of a blind process having no thoughtful origin? Each human DNA molecule is comprized of chemical bases arranged in approximately 3 billion precise sequences, which Dawkins claims, is all work of blind forces of nature, I guess having nothing better to do for leisure. Is Mr. Dawkins cognizant of how much mathematical computation being processed so spontaneously in our brain, when the brain commands a simple task to our body like to lift a cup of coffee or to start walking? Am I supposed to ignore that if the precise value of many physical constants had been different, the universe would not have supported carbon-based lifeforms? For example, if the rate of expansion of the universe from the Big Bang to present time was as small as 1/1,000,000,000,000,000,000 different (either above or below the cosmic constant), then the universe as we know it would not be here today. Subsequently, life on earth could not have evolved. Blind watchmaker eh! If this alone is not a proof for the existence of a Designer and a Creator, then I wonder what is. Whenever my belief and confidence weakens or I fail a trial, all I need to do is to remind myself of the above facts, or think of the complexity and beauty of a grain of sand or dust particles. I am swiftly rejuvenated and able to re-focus and overcome distractions.

Just a couple of days before I left Toronto, I went to see a friend mine who was in the hospital. The poor soul suffers from a number of serious medical complications and has been regularly in and out of hospital for the past 10 years. Some of his vital organs are either already removed or are not fully functioning. His last operation lasted 8 hours. When I saw him unconscious in the recovery room, he was connected to so many equipment, each piece was doing the task of an organ that he has lost or is impaired. There was a nurse seated next to him around the clock to monitor his condition. All those equipment that were connected to his body to keep him alive each one of us possess a small portable one in our body, made of the best technology there is. In the hospital I praised the Creator and prayed for his recovery, and thought only an arrogant fool would deny purpose and design. Why when an artificial heart or a kidney dialysis machine is manufactured by GE, Siemens or Philips, it is considered designed to serve a function, but a natural heart or kidney is not? How is it that teeth are not designed to chew food, but denture specifically is, a knee is not designed for movement, but knee arthroplasty delicately is? Consider another example; that of an injured Bald Eagle. Scientists have recently devised a prosthetic beak for this poor helpless eagle in the picture below.

BaldEagleAccording to atheistic Darwinian evolutionists, Dawkins et al, the original beak was not designed; it only has the appearance of design. However, the manmade imitation of the original, which can never look and function as good as the original, has been designed. What an incredibly irrational, and hence unscientific claim.

The whole biomimicry industry revolves around copycat design of what nature does best. The creative capacities of nature and the whole of universe are mind-boggling. Indeed, Dawkins makes absurd arbitrary distinction.

So, the origin of a watch is with a watchmaker who is supplied with the parts. The origin of anything is with its originator, this is not rocket science. Dawkins erroneously assumes that every self-proclaimed believer in “God” is a mindless fundamentalist fool. His arguments often lack rational muscle. He aims but fails to convince a thinking person that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it isn’t a duck. Yup, sure.

If this assertion is true, then, Mr. Dawkins, you, Darwin and all other atheist evolutionists, your brains, thoughts, views, writings, etc. are not valid and true, or a concomitant result of a free intellectual inquiry. They are mere product of a blind, unconscious, automatic, mindless and mechanical process. For a man who argues: “the basic idea of The Blind Watchmaker is that we don’t need to postulate a designer in order to understand life, or anything else in the universe,” would that “anything else in the universe” not include his own brain, all his academic postulation the product of that brain being void of purpose, thoughts, design and intelligence.

Further, let’s assume the processes of cosmic and earthly Natural Selection from when it all started until the end of time is blind. That means it also has to be blind to future, not aware of the outcome of a chain of events 15 billion years later. From the Big Bang to present we can assume that the evolutionary processes involved were unguided and totally blind, but we cannot assume that they were not goal-oriented. The passage of time confirms this to be a fact. A goal oriented process is not blind, cannot be blind, it ought to see and recognize the goal to aim at it. It ought to constantly stay on track. As physicist Freeman Dyson puts it: “The more I examine the universe and the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense must have known we were coming.” Therefore, if the processes involved were goal-oriented with foresight, they could not have been blind as Dawkins assumes. It is no surprise that he dismisses the notion of purpose in design as a silly notion. The atheists are unable to tackle this issue using science or any other tools. No scientist can argue that the outcome of creation, from the Big Bang origin meant to be anything other than what it is now without deviating from the realm of empirical science. This would lead me to my next thought.

If you put all the necessary groceries in a fully equipped kitchen with high-tech appliances, the meal still will not be prepared in a zillion eons if there is no chef with a recipe who is willing to cook. For sake of argument let’s stretch our imagination, suppose in the morning you wake up and see your favorite omelet and coffee is ready just on time for your consumption without anyone preparing them. You don’t need to drive yourself crazy to figure out who prepared this meal; you are spared the agony to resolve the mystery. There is indisputable evidence on how did this happen, a convincing note on the table saying:

Good Morning,

Enjoy your favorite breakfast, will be back on time to fix your most desired supper.

Love & Hugs,
The blind wavering, but caring and dying to please forces of physics

P.S. You can call me Natural Selection

Well, blind forces or not, where did these forces come from? Where did the law that if you apply heat to meat or egg it will be cooked come from, what if it did evaporate or disintegrate instead. We would then have had a completely different universe. Why is there cause and effect, why action and reaction, why stimulus and response, why harmonious order as opposed to chaos? Why is there something as opposed to nothing? Why is there “Natural Selection” at work as opposed to “unnatural rejection”? Where did evolution and inescapable domination of the principle of evolvability come from? Who set the rules and safeguards them? Where did all the matter and energy in the universe come from? How did consciousness popped into the picture with matter and energy? Would any materialist evolutionists dare to tackle these core relevant questions? The point is, the so-called “Natural Selection”, if it exists at all, is not a conscious process, acting on its own volition. It operates based on existing pre-determined laws. Anyone who attributes order and fine-tuning of the universe to the natural physical laws of nature has said absolutely nothing, so long as he or she has no sound explanation and proof for the original source of regularities and applied physical laws. The term law denotes regular orderly operation, not an ad hoc procedure. The explanation offered begs the question when ignores the Regulator and Lawgiver. Therefore, evolution (process) is not a challenge to the notion of the Creator, because a process must have a cause. Interestingly enough the materialist atheists question who created God, but never pose the question who designed and created the Darwinian mutating replicator.

Further, if “Natural Selection” is indeed responsible to feed us every day and is the underlying reason for the survival of all species, shouldn’t we be so grateful to this process, rather than constantly trivializing the intelligence behind this mechanism. If there is no God, but “Natural Selection”, we should then start to worship “Natural Selection” as our sustainer, a worthy god to worship. That would be a good first step in the right direction.

Denying or covering a causal/intelligent factor in the creation of the universe is like attempting to suck air out of existence, an impossible task to achieve. The intelligent factor keeps on popping up somewhere else down the line. The scientists who dismiss intelligent design behind universe/nature are indeed far more dogmatic and fanatical about their belief than those religious zealots who worship rats and cows or drink their own urine for longevity. More is expected of those who should know better, yet they advocate magic wrapped in a science package. To quote Molière the 17th century French writer, “A learned fool is more a fool than an ignorant fool.” The irony of it is these arrogant atheists are under the illusion that they are the intellectual elite of the society. They cannot comprehend that those individuals who seek the Truth and are obsessed with certainty would never settle with the “hope of the hopeless.” The ancient Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero said: “If anyone cannot feel the power of God when he looks upon the stars, then I doubt whether he is capable of feeling at all. From the enduring wonder of the heavens flows all grace and power. If anyone thinks it is mindless then he himself must be out of his mind.” (On the Nature of the Gods, Penguin Classics, 1972, 2.55)

Christopher Hitchens in an interview before his death said that when he was a kid, he once heard from his elementary school teacher that among all colours in the world, blue and green have the most calming effect on human psyche. The teacher concluded that this is perhaps why God picked the colour of blue for sky and green for vegetation. Hitchens laughs at the teacher’s inference, since according to Darwinian evolutionists our liking of blue and green is all because of our adaptation to these colours. So, if sky was pink and vegetation happened to be bright yellow, red or black we would still have felt just the same way. Imaging saying or hearing: “What a lovely gorgeous day today, just look at the beautiful pinky sky and that pretty black park in sight.” Well, this is an interesting theory, but is there any proof anywhere. Did our scientists suddenly forget that an explanation is not a proof? Or, is it all matter of a giant leap of faith in the all-mighty “Natural Selection”, and it must be true, because the Imam Richard Dawkins et al. have said so. Even if the offered explanation is valid, where did I get this handy, convenient and effortless ability to adapt to whatever is above and around. How can anyone skip this pivotal question? Why human species after 400,000 years or so still cannot adapt to the irritating sound of their own baby’s cry, but easily get use to any given colour? It seems that some desired adaptations are unachievable. Hitchens’ attitude is an example of a faulty, off tuned receiver not detecting primordial broadcasted signals. He and other materialists persist to observe the universe by looking at the wrong end of the telescope. Their arrogant attitude reminds me of the repeated verse in chapter 55 (Al-Rahman) of the Quran: where after a marvelous example similar to the above is given, then It asks: “Which one of the favours of your Lord do you deny?”

On this trip to South America, I also intend to visit the roughest neighborhoods in Lima and Quito to sense the real social fabric of these societies, although I have been warned not to. I will see, it cannot be worse than parts of Sao Paulo or Mexico City. I like to observe the socio-economic ills in faraway lands. I just hope I do not run into some of those criminals that I barred or deported from Canada over the years whom may recognize me. “Hey Señor Policia, it is payback time.” If in trouble, I guess my best defense would be my well-known Client Eastwood Dirty Harry imitation that should scare off all those South American punks.

I hope to stay healthy throughout this trip; I am a bit concerned about how my body would handle high and low altitudes, the humidity of the rainforest, etc. So much for being healthy and strong, a tiny mosquito (malaria) bit can knock me down for good. If that happens, God willing not, I recognize mosquito’s rights to life and procreation.

I have to go now, they are boarding. In the name of God, the Beneficent and the Merciful, let the journey unfold, see what it will teach and where is it going to take me to. I may not be able to update my log regularly as I will certainly have no, or limited access to the Internet. “Ya Haque” and God willing “hasta luego”.

Part Two: During and After

Life in our unique planet is manifestation of something truly extraordinary. Things that appear so “insignificant” have substantial properties and purpose(s). Existence of things such as mankind that are distinct in every sense of the word must have the outmost significant purpose, after all we appear to be so special compared to other species. I am trying to comprehend the dynamics of life, first and foremost my own life. Every experience in life has a purpose. My existence must have a reason and purpose; my personal experiences good and bad must have reasons behind them. I want to know what that purpose is. I do not want to be a passive observer of life, which I get to live it only once. The unfinished quest for awareness is driving me outside libraries, books and Internet to the various parts of the globe. I am anxiously looking for the Divine that my intellect verifies Its existence.

The British atheist Peter Atkins, one of the most arrogant and closed-minded atheists in the world while reclining in the comforts of his academic ivory tower claims: “only those with lazy mind would believe in God,” in a God which he defines as “the hope of the hopeless”. “The real thinkers” would come to believe in what he believes: in a self-created accidental universe. All my adult life as well as partial childhood I have tormented my mind to figure out what is the Truth. It seems like a never-ending exhaustive task. For a real thinker in my opinion, the zest to understand the nature of the universe gets greater and greater as one accumulates more experience and knowledge, as one gets closer and closer to death. “A priori” reasoning (justification independent of experience by sole usage of reason alone) no longer quenches my insatiable thirst. Now in my early 50s, I have come to appreciate “a posteriori” knowledge (discovering after experience) far more than I used to. I want to see, I want to feel, want to touch, want to experience. I am not willing to settle for mere rational cognitive analysis. Experience should support what reason dictates; it is like double locking method to feel really secure. Obsessive compulsive disorder may be a better sarcasm to use than calling people like me “lazy”, an obsession with certainty and Truth.

I arrived in Lima at night, there was a “G Adventure” driver waiting for me in the airport’s arrivals area with my name written on a placard. He took me from the airport to my hotel located in an affluent part of Lima known as Miraflores. On the way to the hotel, I noticed the barbwires and broken bottle glasses on the walls of almost all houses. Further I was very surprised to see so many casinos in Lima. The driver told me that all casinos in Lima are privately owned and runned. I would say there are more casinos in Lima as there are mosques in Isfahan. Next morning when I took my first walk around Miraflores I noticed there were 2 or 3 fully armed police officers in front of each bank and ATM machines. I had the intention to go and take a look at the impoverished areas of the city, but I realized that these observations alone are sufficient to provide me with a good sense of the real social fabric of Peru. It is a place that one has to constantly look at ones back. I realized that here I don’t have to look for trouble, if not careful trouble will come to me.

As careful as I was, in my first day in the city of Cusco located near Andes I was pickpocketed. I left the hotel to exchange some money. The exchange place was not far from the hotel. After exchanging money I was followed without knowing. At a crowded area, in split second two men made body contact with me, one coming from front another from behind. One of them stole my wallet with about $500 cash, all my IDs and credit cards in it. I instantly realized what really happened, but it was too late. They both disappeared in the crowd.

Naturally I was very upset, could not stop wondering why among all those tourists this should happen to me. The incident caused considerable difficulties for me and put a bitter taste in my mouth right at the onset of my journey. I was incredibly excited about this trip for so long and now this. I had my scuba diving license in my wallet without which could not dive in the Galapagos. How can I go on with this trip without having enough cash or credit cards? The wallet itself was gifted to me with some personal items in it. The wallet had a great sentimental value to me. I felt violated, cursed the two thieves and demanded justice. This experience was the epitome of when something unexpectedly goes wrong in life. Often a horrible accident at the worst possible time, leaving one with no choice, but to bitterly accept what has happened. Everything is fine and dandy, in a split second, things can change to a nightmare that may overshadow everything in one’s life and future. You had it all along, now you don’t, be that a loved one, good health, beauty or basic worldly possessions.

It took me a couple of days to get over this and tried not to allow this unfortunate incident to ruin my trip. However, in the next few days, I got even more disturbed by realization of my own deficiencies. Far from being a God-seeking poster boy, it seemed to me that I am just too phony. I should have looked at this incident from a much broader perspective, but failed to. Could this not have happened for a reason, which may unfold in future? May be there was wisdom behind this incident, which time will reveal. I kept telling myself: “You are full of it”, “You are as fake as Ahmadinejad”, …. I criticized myself for becoming revengeful. Why did I curse the two thieves? Why did I get angry beyond a couple of hours? I suddenly realized a huge gap between my ideal self and the real self. My conscious started to really bother me that I could not be a little bit forgiving. You may not understand why, but I myself know the reasons well. Let me try to explain these reasons.

First, I should have been grateful that the damage was not worse, it could have been much worse. I still had my passport and some cash left. Back on the eve of Christmas 2004, many people went on a vacation of lifetime and never returned. They were suddenly washed away into the sea by a massive Tsunami as they were walking on the calm beautiful resort beaches of Thailand, Indonesia, etc. On that fateful day, over 250,000 people died in 14 countries, one third of them were children. What is my loss compared to theirs? People go to Hajj to get closer to the Divine, some would not make it back. Every year so many pilgrims die due to heat exhaustion, disease, or accident, i.e. stampede or fire. Indeed, I failed to be a bit considerate and thankful in the realm of things.

Secondly, back in 1978, I saw a powerful movie titled “Les Miserables” based on Victor Hugo’s famous novel. By the passage of time I almost forgot about the plot and the main story in the movie, only 10 minutes of the movie always stayed fresh in my mind and left an everlasting impression. The movie is about an impoverished jobless man during a bad economic time in France who steals a loaf of bread because he and his family are hungry. He is caught and the court unjustly sentenced him to prison for 5 years, which later extends to 20 years, until he escapes. This helpless fugitive on run is so bitter about life and angry with God for what he went through, until destiny crossed his path with a God-conscious wiseman who created a turning point in this man’s life. The wiseman that I always envied to be. The wiseman who had a much better understanding of life and the Divine than I ever had. Indeed, how rich are those who have the proper understanding of life and man’s place/role in it.

(I recommend watching the whole movie or please watch from minute 27 to 37).

A few of years ago while watching the following CBC news this sentiment once again rejuvenated in me:

Once again I remembered the 1978 movie and wondered how would I react if I ever find myself in the same situation to that bishop or storeowner. Well, in Cusco I did find myself in that situation, and found out that I deserved a big fat “F”. The experience was a disappointing lesson in self-actualization. But is the self-actualization not what life is all about? Is this not why God puts man in tests and tribulations? Life is full of unpleasant surprises. What is the purpose of learning and accumulating knowledge if that knowledge does not manifest itself in ones behaviour and conduct? So in this sense I learned a valuable lesson worth more than $500 that was long overdue.

When I returned to Toronto, I looked for the movie which I watched back in the late 1970s, and have watched the said part several times. Each time it brings tears to my eyes and shame to me heart.

Andes

I began my journey from a small village of Sernanp, Piscacuch and followed the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. Starting point was the Huascaran National Park. We entered the park by crossing the Urubamba River on an old suspension bridge, gradually gaining altitude towards Machu Picchu. For five days I walked for about 85 Kilometers going up and down through the stony mountains of Andes, climbed as high as 4,200 meters above the sea level. Often the altitude was high enough for us to walk through the clouds and surpass them. Luckily, high altitude had no effect on me, however, I walked and climbed on a very slow pace, often too busy taking pictures and enjoying the view. I took about 1000 pictures during my trip, and actually wrote this diary paragraph by paragraph in my mind on route as I witnessed and experienced life in high and low places.

From the top of a high mountain, looking down at valleys below and other mountains in the horizon makes one feel how insignificant (size wise) one is on this vast planet. On the way, one can also enjoy seeing various neon butterflies, centipedes, millipedes and herds of llamas. At a clear night I could see one of the things that I actually came to see: millions of stars. Unfortunately throughout the night sky was often foggy.

At some part, I came across what would appear like pigeonholes in the mountains from far away. Once we got closer we were told that the holes in the mountains are actually graveyards where Inca people used to bury their mummified deads.

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The local tour guide kept talking about the greatness of Inca Empire. I certainly could see the greatness of their civilization, but on my mind it was those amazing neon butterflies, which I saw while climbing not on the big civilization that used to live in these mountains some millenium ago. The Machu Picchu only verified to me the Quranic verses, which state that there were people and advanced civilizations before us, but are no more.

“Have they not traveled through the land and observed how was the end of those before them? They were more numerous than themselves and greater in strength and in impression on the land, but they were not availed by what they used to earn. And when their messengers came to them with clear proofs, they [merely] rejoiced in what they had of knowledge, but they were enveloped by what they used to ridicule.” Quran (40: 82-83)

Where are those Inca people today? None left. Machu Picchu ruins is a reminder that big and powerful civilizations or the whole of humanity for that matter may not last forever.

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Up in the Andes it can get really cold at night, particularly if you are not moving and it is raining or snowing. You may get dizzy at times and experience difficulties in breathing. You have to be very careful and avoid slippery edges on steep mountains or you may fall to your death. Just a week before I got there an American tourist died after falling 300 meters into a ravine. Mountains are beautiful but inhospitable for city dwellers. Yet, some of the most inhospitable places on earth are home suit homes for some species, life cannot be any better elsewhere.

At the end of the trail we reached the beautiful town of Aguas Callientes. From there we took the train back towards Cusco. Train ride was through the mountains at the base level. I was thinking that the trip to Andes as valuable as it was, it did not really provide me with a sense that Allah is indeed closer to me than my jugular vein. I had the fear that may be I am just chasing my own tail, trying to experience the impossible, something that my brain is not even able to handle. That is, the nature of the Deity Itself is not subject to human experience. If I know that very well, then what am I looking for? After over an hour and half of train ride, deep in my own thought, I suddenly noticed that we just passed that suspension bridge over the Urubamba River. I could not believe that I had actually walked that far over the mountains. The trip brought me to a literal realization of the famous Chinese proverb that “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one small step.” It encouraged me to be patient and keep on searching on this long journey which may very well go beyond this trip and next.

Amazon

Rainforest is an excellent place to study the interconnectivity of the ecosystem and fine-tuning of the universe. Amazon is a vast region functioning as the earth’s lungs and the world’s icon of biodiversity. One cannot help not to notice wisdom behind everything one observes. A week in Amazon could surely persuade most visitors that the Power behind nature is an Intelligent Designer, an Educator, a superb Engineer, a talented Artist, a Choreographer, a music Composer, a Gardner, a skilled Medicineman, a Mathematician and…. When you walk through the rainforest, it is like you are walking through an art gallery, a popular concert venue, a pharmacy, an industrial engineering trade fair on advanced biotechnology, and the greatest recycling facility on earth where absolutely nothing goes to waste. To grasp all these features, you only need to fully open your mind otherwise all your eyes detect is just a huge leaf depot in a worthless place better suited for reckless and abusive human pastime. Particularly its most favorite one, that is habitat destruction to accumulate wealth.

IMAX Amazon HD

In my previous trip to Amazon in Brazil, I stayed in a large treehouse built on the top of big tall trees. In Peru, I stayed in a cabin like eco-lodge built a couple of feet above the ground, yet various animals were still able to get in. I had frequent visitors every night. Aside from mosquitoes, bats were flying in and out of my cabin all night. I slept in a net bed for protection and cautiously avoided walking without my shoes. Hookworm can be contracted through soles of feet if one walks barefooted on infected soil. Psychologically, I was more concerned about scorpions and snakes than invisible hookworms. At the same time I also did not want give any excuses to the likes of Attenborough to become agnostic.

The best part of my Amazon trip was the night walks throughout the jungle, encountering night shift animals and insects living in harmony. Witnessing profuse lifeforms on the forest floor, on the branches of trees, in the sky, with plenty of resources for everyone. One night after we walked about 1.5 Kilometers away from the lodge, the local tour guide asked us to turn off our flashlights and keep silent for 5 minutes. He said just try to look at the starry sky blocked by the branches of the trees, look for stars through the holes in the canopy of the forest and listen to the forest’s peaceful melodies. It was like symphony of music preformed by insects, amphibians, monkeys, etc. in a total darkness with shining stars that one could detect above the canopy. Florescent fireflies glowing in the dark lighting up the forest like flashing dim lights in a discotheque. Five minutes of therapeutic serenity that one never encounters in a manmade urban settings.

Daytime walks through the jungle were completely a different experience, seeing different species. Humidity is usually much higher during the day. The area that I went to is known to be the habitat for giant anacondas. Regrettably, I did not see any. It is amazing to see one while having its meal. Average adult anaconda is about 25 to 40 feet long, could weight around 230 Kg and can easily devour a prey 3 to 4 times wider than the size of its mouth without the need to chew it. It is no surprise that I did not see one during my weeklong stay in Amazon. Anaconda is usually hiding in the water to ambush its prey, only its eyes and nostrils are above the surface water level. They are known to hold their breath and can submerge under water for about 20 minutes. Our guide told us that a week ago he spotted one in the same area. He even showed us the film that one of the tourists took of him while he was wrestling with that big snake.

The great thing about being in the Amazon is that one can get to see so many different animals. Every animal and insect is fascinating in its own way. As strange as it may seem to the reader, I spontaneously conversed with every animal that I closely encountered, sometimes even with other life forms. I called each a brother, a follow teammate in the finite universe of time and space. The team of mortal carbon based lifeforms. I would say the best species that I encountered and got close enough to take pictures was the beautiful owl butterfly, colourful hamming birds and boisterous macaws, piranhas. As well as having encountered a jaguar from the opposite side of the riverbank.

Owl butterfly particularly interests me so much because the theory of evolution fails to explain its appearance and defense mechanism. This butterfly as its name suggests resembles owl. It has eyespots on the lower part of both sides of its both wings. When a predatory bird or lizard approaches, the butterfly turn itself upside down and closes and opens its wings quickly which makes it look like an owl winking its eyes. It sends out a strong warning message to the approaching bird or lizard. The message is: I know what you are thinking. Do you really want a piece of me? Well, do you, punk? If you dare, go head, make my day. I am an owl, well capable of making a meal out of you. You are better to keep off. The trick effectively fools all predators.

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Well, how this tiny insect is fully aware of the details of its own physical appearance? She certainly could not have learned this from looking at herself in a mirror. How does this so fragile insect know that she looks like a bird of prey that its very own predators are afraid of? How does the insect know that in order to mimic an owl she has to first turn upside down otherwise the trick would not work? I encountered several owl butterflies and got so close to them to take pictures. In fact, I deliberately got too close for comfort, hoping that the butterfly perform its usual trick on me. But they knew that I was no existential threat to them, thus none preformed its defensive act. Finally when they had enough of me, they just moved on to another tree. How did evolution equip this insect with ingenious conscious awareness to come up with complex imitations as defense mechanism? I submit that it could not have.

The whole thing in this case is nothing short of an empty bluff in a face-off. What is most amazing about this bluff is the butterfly’s remarkable confidence level that this trick is always effective. Butterfly has to have enough inside information about its predators’ “IQ level” to be able to pull it off and deceive them. After millions years of evolutionary processes to finally have an insect look and mimic a bird of prey, now what is left for this trick to pay off, is that the butterfly’s predators have to be fearful of owl, as well as so naïve. Otherwise this impersonation defense approach has been a huge waste of evolutionary time. Further, they must never realize that their opponent is just a paper tiger and cannot withstand challenge. This vital secret must never leak out. When you are bluffing you better make sure that your opponent never picks up a slightest cue that your defenseless, or else that would cost you your life. The owl butterfly seems to have a guaranteed insurance policy in this respect. When deadly predator approaches, she never seems to be too concerned, for her it all seems like just another boring day at the office.

Well, is this a coincident that the butterfly’s predators are cognitively inept at identification as they ought to be? Intelligent predators would easily put this species on the verge of extinction since it has no other means to defend itself. For natural selection to claim responsibility for this defense strategy is to acknowledge that natural selection was equally responsible for, first the butterfly to evolve to have such an appearance and the know-how. Secondly, its predators ought to simultaneously and deliberately evolved to be ignorant. But according to rational behind evolution this cannot be so. The evolutionists deny that evolution is designed or is pursing an intention. These are two distinct separate categories of species, one is insect the other is either bird or reptile. Secondly, why should a species, which preys on owl butterfly evolve towards a direction, which does not contribute to its increased survivability? It seems that it is doomed to remain in a relative sense “stupid” in the ecological food web. However, this is contrary to the Darwinian theory of evolution.

Examples like this are overwhelming in nature, which one species could only survive at the expense of the naiveté of another species. For instance, cuckoo birds do not bother building their own nest or raise their own family. Perhaps they do not know how to, or not programmed for that task. Female cuckoo birds lay their eggs in the nest of another bird like warblers, sparrows or robins. She has the ability to alter the appearance of her egg, make it look similar to that of the host. When the nest owner returns she does not realize that one of her eggs had been replaced by a cuckoo egg. She does not come to this realization, not even when the eggs are hatched that this is not my chick, not even when the chick grows several times bigger than Mom and Dad. In order to get the maximum parental care and attention; the imposter chick instinctually immediately dumps all the unhatched eggs or the other chicks off the nest. Did the biological mom coach the chick to do that? The unsuspecting foster parents are totally unwary of the murder committed raises this brood parasite just as their very own offspring, ensuring the survival of another species rather than their own. This evolutionary trick would only work if the foster parents are both “stupid” enough not to suspect a thing all the way until the cuckoo chicks have reached maturity, “stupid” from human perspective.

To me the explanation that there is an Intelligent Creator who designed this defenseless butterfly this way, and her predators that way makes more sense that a farfetched idea of self-regulated processes of blind natural selection. Natural selection cannot account for the creative directional changes in species – for these are tied to something much larger, which involves the whole system of nature wherein camouflage for deception and specialized structures that fit in with the environment within each genera are there to ensure the total systemic balance. Let’s not overlook that if these thoughtful systems are not in place the interconnected food web will be disrupted. This requires Design with a Capital D and teleology with a capital T. This smacks of not blind processes, but an instigator of the processes that must be imbued with intelligence; one that that oversees the processes from outside, as it were. Indeed the Watchmaker is not blind. It is a witnessing All-intelligent Watch-evolver aware of the interconnectivity of that which is unknown to mankind. Consider an iPhone for instance, most people admire this “smartphone” and its practical functions, praise the genius who came up with the idea and design, but the same attitude is totally missing when it comes to examining the real complexity, i.e. the universe and natural world within.

One of the most incredible things that I saw in the Amazon which had no idea it even existed is what commonly referred to as “walking tree” (Socratea exorrhiza). I had seen this tree before in the Costa Rican rainforest, but did not pay much attention to until I questioned its peculiar shape. It occurred to me that if there is a difference in design, then there must be a difference in function. Hence I begun to wonder why this tree unlike any other tree is not monolithic, but looks like a huge tripod, more accurately multiplepod. So I learned that, Socratea exorrhiza a tree that can gradually move around in order to obtain the highest possible sunlight and nutrients. It moves by developing additional roots at the direction that it “wishes” (if I can use this word) to end up, and kills its own roots where it wants to move away from. That is to say, if you circle where a “walking tree” is located in January and check it out again at the end of December, you can see that a year or so later it has moved out of the circle. It moves, if and only if the sunlight and nutrients outside the circle are better-off.

I knew about plants, which are carnivorous and plants which are amazingly able to communicate with each other by sending off chemical messages through the air, warning of hungry predators approaching, but for me a “walking tree” was unheard of.

According to natural selection theory the reason that a “walking tree” moves to a better location is because it extensively contributes to its survival. This implies that at one time a “walking tree” was just a regular tree, pretty much stationary and did not employ such a genius strategy – but gradually came up with the “idea”. Likewise carnivorous plants, the flesh eating vegetation at one point in the evolutionary history were just regular plants that somehow deviated from botanical norms and “decided” to take a drastically different path to increase their survivability. The same goes for “talking plants” which evolved to possess abilities to communicate and mobilize themselves against predators. However, such a ridiculous evolutionary claim can never be empirically tested as it is required by scientific standards. There is definitely a scientific problem here when scientific principles are not upheld, yet still theories are propagated as though they are established facts. Empiricism is supposedly that which fundamentally distinguishes science from non-science, i.e. it refutes the existence of God. God’s existence cannot be empirically verified as some scientists propose, therefore it cannot exist. Moreover, nor does natural selection explain if a tree can “learn” why and how to shift its position, or how to communicate with other plants, or in case of a carnivorous plant what to consume, why other trees and vegetation lack this handy quality.

Furthermore, if an animal behaves in an intelligent manner, biologists are often quick to attribute the intelligent element to instinctual reaction. Obviously the presence of consciousness and intelligence in above case cannot be attributed to an unconscious living organism like a tree which even lacks instinct. So, who or what should then be credited with consciousness and intelligence involved in this case? This is a headache for the materialist evolutionists who dismiss intelligent design. They are unable to satisfyingly explain these questions. Thus, based on a single paper published in 2005 by a Costa Rican biologist Gerardo Avalos in the Journal Biotropica, they have started to argue that although Socratea exorrhiza keeps on growing new roots to replace the old ones, it actually does not walk. The notion of a “walking tree” is mythical. Well, no kidding. Of course a tree cannot wander around on the forest floor the way animals and humans do. No one ever claimed that this particular tree could walk from Peru to Ecuador. Why appeal to “Red Herring” fallacy and caricature reality?

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Socratea exorrhiza shifts to where there is a better access to sunlight and nutrients, just the same way as any tree branches out, moves up higher above all other neighboring trees and vigorously competes with adjacent trees for sunlight. The new roots of Socratea exorrhiza are not developed where the old roots are located and are still alive. The slight gradual change in the location of this tree is due to its unusual rooting system which causes what can be best described as re-location, shifting or adjusting its position. The tree does not develop new roots at its center, but always at the edge. For Socratea exorrhiza not to shift at all, its new roots ought to develop precisely at the same pin point location as the old one, which is logically impossible. Imagine a chair that it constantly replaces its own legs by death and re-birth of new legs, obviously by the passage of time the chair is not going to remain at its initial spot. There must be a reason in the first place for that chair to possess such a quality, i.e. it is designed that way and is pursuing a goal. Likewise, the Socratea exorrhiza invariably shifts as it grows. The point is, the fascinating feature of a Socratea exorrhiza is its unique ability to grow horizontally as well as vertically for a specific reason. And further, its unusual ability to develop new roots driven by its capability to identify more sunlight and nutrients in its surroundings. What is amazing for a tree is to have an unlike-tree characteristic, be that flesh eating or ability to communicate, or ability to shift its roots. It has become a career for atheist evolutionists to argue against intelligence in design. For them, typically there is no limit into skepticism, things that are amazing and complex always just appear to be amazing and complex, or just happen by sheer chance without any cause. Our existence is just a glorious accident. If intelligence in design cannot be denied, the other option would be to belittle it.

Galapagos

There are so many different species of birds in the Galapagos, different in size, shape and colouration. Galapagos is a paradise for birdwatchers. There, you don’t really need a binocular, as one can get so close to them without scaring them away. They fly right above you, take off and land near you. If you walk on the edge of a cliff, you can see so many birds almost motionless above the ocean that are suspended up in the air only by having their wings opened without absolutely doing anything else. They patiently remain almost still in the air for a long period of time. When a fish is spotted, their brain quickly and accurately calculates the deflection of light from two different mediums (water & air) to precisely locate the position of that fish, then they shrink their body and make a sudden sharp plunge into the water to catch that fish. It is so easy to notice how they expand and counteract their body size to suit their needs. Wind and their bodily design combined with simple laws of aerodynamic keep them up like a weightless kite held by a long string, and when they dive, it is just like a bullet being fired off. I spent hours and hours watching and admiring the physical law by which an object of a few kilos or heavier can so effortlessly be suspended in the air without any support. By achieving zero buoyancy birds defy gravity. They demonstrate that within the physical law, there is a law to beat the law. Indeed, what a breathtaking beauty to witness such a defiance. Unlike human’s actions of defiance, bird’s defiance enhances the environment rather than diminishing it.

One fascinating feature to notice about all birds in general is that their “engine” and “landing gear” does not make noise during flight, take off or landing. You compare this feature with a turbine engine of any aircraft, which the level of noise generated is deafening. The reason why a flying metal makes so much noise is because its engine is not efficient, thereby it wastes so much energy by creating heat and noise. For instance, compare a design of an Albatross with a manmade bird like Concorde. Back in the 70s, after spending 2.5 decades of research and development the top aerospace engineers from France and UK introduced the first supersonic commercial aircraft: Concorde. At the time it was assumed that Concorde for centuries to come would remain as state-of-the-art aircraft in aerospace industry, an engineering marvel, an everlasting aviation icon. The Americans not wishing to fall behind their European counterparts initiated their own project. However, the expectation was premature, as many major international airports around the world would not give landing rights to Concorde due to the loud noise generated. From 1976 to 2003 this aircraft ruled only the sky over the Atlantic connecting just a few major capitals. Yet despite billions of dollars spent in gradual modifications finally Concorde had to go for an early retirement due increasingly identified flaws in the design, poor safety record, environmental hazards and above all high maintenance cost. The failure of Concorde made Boeing to abort their Boeing 2707 project, a supersonic aircraft similar to Concorde developed by the best U.S. engineers. At the time, Boeing had 120 pre-paid orders from 26 airlines to manufacture this aircraft.

No bird has ever experienced such a tragic destiny. The decision made by the British, French and American authorities coined a new terminology in social philosophy and economics discourses known as Concorde fallacy. It refers to attempts that may lead to bad decisions, a notorious shortsighted theoretical error made by business executives and governmental policymakers alike. It amounts to investing further in a bad project, product, etc. simply because one has already heavily invested in it and feels that cannot back off, rather than because of potential future return on the investment. In short, once one realizes that one is in a quicksand, it is best to cut ones losses and get out as quickly as possible before it is too late. My point is that “Nature” has never committed a Concorde fallacy in its 4 billion years history of the so-called evolutionary “trial and error”. How is that possible in a system that is said to have evolved based on a “trial & error” and random mutation? Where was the error? There has never been such a thing as “bad design” or “a failure” in nature. We cannot even refer to extinct species as a “bad design”. Many species did not survive due to natural causes than manufacture’s defect. Mass extinctions meant to happen, we can never conclude that dinosaurs did not survive because they were poorly designed. Further, humans are largely responsible when some species of flora and fauna become extinct, endangered or threatened. It is due to our harmful activities and interference with the natural processes i.e. with the climate, expansion of urban areas, commercial overfishing, overhunting and poaching that threatens many habitats resulting in the extinction of species.

Those who study biomimicry attest that when it comes to design and manufacturing, the best of human technology does not even come close to what nature can produce. Materialists tend to easily overlook this fact. For instance, atheist physicist Leon Leaderman once remarked that give me matter and motion, and I will construct a universe for you! Some evolutionary biologists have also made similar proclamations that all they need is a living cell to create life from scratch. According to their view God is totally unnecessary, a superfluous obsolete concept to explain the universe and how it was created. Oh, really? Talk about condescension, the degree of arrogance displayed here is colossal. Gentlemen, wake up, you are dreaming again. Forget about creating a universe with complex life forms, you fellows cannot even produce a basic toaster from scratch.

Suppose that after all you do create a universe with various life forms, well then thank you very much, you have just made a solid case for intelligent design.

Compare this conceited attitude with that of tribal Iranian carpet weavers. After working on a fine handmade Persian rug for a couple of years, the weaver initially feels that his silk rug is a prefect masterpiece. A small rug that can be auctioned in Sotheby’s or Christie’s for well over $25,000. This humble craftsman with no formal education thinks twice about his feelings. Upon reflection he concludes that I am a fallible mortal human being incapable of creating perfection. I should know better where my place is in this universe, for perfection comes only from the Divine. So it is that he deliberately introduces an obvious noticeable flaw into his work, either in the use of colours or in the designed pattern. This act of meekness resulting in a conscious error is known as “Persian Flaw”. Do you see such a humility in Leon Leaderman, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Krauss, Daniel Dennett, PZ Myers, Dan Barker, Sam Harris, or in any other hotshot gurus of atheism, the pioneers of “Bright Movement”? On the contrary, the noticeable common feature among all of them is sheer arrogance with self-inflated ego.

These materialists act like an ambitious entrepreneur with no money and connections yet wishing to create a business empire from scratch. Suppose that the Divine provides them with matter and energy, as well as with a living cell, suppose that they do even create a fine and dandy universe profuse with life in a separate manmade time and space dimensions. So what? Having done that, do they then want to claim the credit for their “achievements” to discredit God? What did they do here that gives them a sense of “accomplishment”? Matter and energy are the two essential ingredients in the creation of the universe plus the physical laws, which turn matter and energy into an expanding universe. Matter, energy and living cell are no trivial components, they are everything there is. Nevertheless, having them is pointless without the governing physical laws that initiate the process from zero to completion. Since the beginning of recorded history for atheists to resolve the origination problem, has always been a headache for which there is one and only unique solution exists, the rest being escapism.

Further, if this hypothetical manmade universe is somehow created, it would be Leon Leaderman who triggered the process. He is the one who had the intelligence and know-how to construct a functioning universe. Let’s say with the help of an intelligent biologist complex life is also installed in this universe programmed to evolve from a single cell to a variety of higher life forms. By the same logic, who then triggered the construction of our universe, which gives birth to his? Where did the essential matter, energy and the first living cell required in this exercise come from? Surely, I cannot be the only one who sees a clear case of paralysis of analysis in the atheists’ view.

Moreover, consider this example, to incubate an egg all needed is the egg. However, what would you do with that egg and a high-tech electronic incubator if there was no physical law to turn the egg into a chicken. Has the factory-farming industry been able to eliminate the notion for God because chickens are now massively and mechanically hatched? I suppose for an atheist it has.

One sunny morning during our group hike in the uninhabited island of Española, I accidentally found a 1998 Canadian penny in the middle of nowhere. Paley’s argument immediately came to my mind. The only rational conclusion anyone can make out of this, is that a tourist coming from Canada must have dropped this penny. We all agree with the old adage that money does not grow on the trees. Canadian pennies do not evolve in the Galapagos and “Natural Selection” cannot be responsible for this penny being there. Therefore evolution must follow precise rules that allow simple organic compounds to evolve to complex forms, but prevents bacteria and algae to evolve to Canadian pennies. If we agree with this, then we should ask the next questions who set these guidelines?

One afternoon we were moving on our yacht from one island to another. As I was enjoying the ocean view from the top deck, I noticed two flies approached the yacht one after another and landed on a vertical beam next to where I was sitting. Without any hesitation they immediately started mating which lasted a few minutes, then they left separately. It appeared to me that a consensual agreement about copulation was already reached prior to arrival. The issue left for the two to resolve was to find a mating ground.

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During my trip I witnessed mating ritual and act of several species, i.e. turtles in the water, llamas in the mountains, birds but this one was the most extraordinary one. I was puzzled that how a fly in the middle of ocean first finds a promising mate then a hard surface to engage in the act of mating. This certainly requires intelligence and a know-how to find both just at the right time, which apparently tiny flies are well equipped with.

Lying down on the deck provided me with the opportunity to observe several species of birds, which were constantly following the yacht to fish. For hours these birds were cruising like a glider behind us at the speed of 35–55 mph without flapping their wings. How is that for energy efficiency? A cheetah would never stop chasing a gazelle if it could run at no cost. Thanks to the wisdom in nature, there is a reason why most predators are conscious of their fuel expenditure, it has to do with the conservation of shared resources and predator-prey ratios. In order to maintain the intricate balance of nature, different rules are applied in different niches. For a cheetah too, it is not worth the extra drive if the price of gas is more expensive than the price of food obtained. So cost efficiency of hunting is calculated before each attack.

Once at night and once early morning, I saw several species of sharks circling the yacht when it anchored. There was something attractive about our yacht to the fish. May be the kitchen’s wastes. Sharks came so close for the fish. I encountered sharks face to face several times during snorkeling, they seemed totally indifferent to human presence. Jellyfish on the other hand would sting easily whenever came to contact with swimmers. It is pretty fascinating to see a jellyfish closely, a transparent creature with no bone, blood or brain which is %98 made of water. If a dead jellyfish washed up on the beach, its carcass will disappear as the water quickly evaporates. I wonder what this beautiful creature uses for eyes or brain. They look like bizarre extraterrestrial creatures from out of deep space.

In the Galapagos most animals, do not have predators, therefore they only die from natural causes, i.e. old age. In case of baby seals, if the mother is killed by sharks, the baby dies too since the mother is no longer there to feed him/her. You can see the carcass of many dead animals on the trail during any hike. One can witness that the death of one animal ensures the survival of another. It is also a reminder that even in this earthly paradise death is an inescapable end result of life for all.

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Scuba Picures 136

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The best part of my Galapagos Island tour was the visit to Bartolomé Island, one of the youngest Islands in the Galapagos collection. A major part of this Island is covered by volcanic lava plates roughly from 150 years ago laid down on top of the existing lava from over a million years ago. The relatively recent lava is like black layer of rock covered the surface fertile land. The old lava is all red already turned into stiff clay. It really resembles the surface of Mars. The black lava is orderly formed into a beautiful geometric pattern as it erupted and flattened on the surface. The contrast is fascinating, it seems like you are walking on a different planet. The red part hosts life while the black part is barren wasteland.

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During my hike on the black lava I came across a few weeds and lava cactuses here and there, sign of life coming back to this part of the Island. Seeing a cactus growing in a most inhospitable place was like witnessing life evolving on earth back a few billion years ago. The function of this unique plant is to pave the way for other vegetation and animals to grow. Somehow I felt that cactus is telling me: “Hey kid, come closer and take a good look at me. I am alive and growing on a lifeless solidified lava rock, hardly need any water or nutrients, yet I supply both to others. Am I not miracle enough? Am I not what you came here to see? This is as close as you are ever going to get to the Divine. Is this not close enough? You cannot remove the barrier between human and the Divine. Praise your Lord.” Indeed I praised Him. How could I not? I saw one of the ubiquitous signs designed in nature and ironically one does not require a high definition vision or magnification to detect these signs. This observation reminded me that I myself used to be stardust evolved into a living organism with ability to feel, to grow, to think, to learn, to love, to laugh, to die and finally to turn into dust again. All these signs indicate the Creator’s close and tangible presence. It felt just like what Moses could have experienced on Mount Sinai, an experience within everyone’s reach. The message that I picked up from this cactus is the same universal message that one would receive from the jellyfish, “walking tree”, owl butterfly that I encountered, the same message, which I had already received from a feather, dust particles and a grain of sand.

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At the end of my trip I was able to reconfirm what I had already learned in my previous trips elsewhere. It seems that the universe is not only more amazing than what we know so far, but even more than what we can ever suppose! Everything in the Andes, Amazon and the Galapagos points to and glorifies the Creator of life, be that a jellyfish, butterfly or lava cactus. They are all a sign from the Creator. If you can connect with animals, you then connect with the whole of nature, thereby are able to connect with the Creator of nature. You can testify that every species involuntarily follows a certain law, every species except humankind. Man may wish to exercise his free will and voluntarily follow this pattern just like the rest of earth’s co-inhabitants. Or, he may shut off his faculties and follow his whims, a choice that each one of us has to make.

I learned that the earth and the whole of universe cannot be a remarkable place if it is product of a giant accident, if its remarkablity has just the appearance of design, but is not at all designed. How can anyone be deeply moved by looking at the Milky Way through a telescope, be impressed by the beauty of a butterfly, or by smell of a rose, if all you observe and experience is an outcome of a sheer accident, or at the most work of blind forces at large.

As for Mecca or the Galapagos, which of the two can bring one closer to the Divine. It should make no difference, if one can see the Divine signature in a minute speck of dust, in a grain of sand, in the fabric of a bird’s feather or in the geometric patterns of a snowflake. The Divine can be found everywhere. I yearn to be able to re-visit both places at least once more.

I have learned to be more thankful for everything that I have and understand that there is a reason for losing everything that I once had, or could never have. Life is a trial full of ups and downs, requires knowledge, patience and appreciation. Those who understand this are truly the successful ones. We are living in a universe where galaxies and solar systems are constantly colliding. Yet this horrifying phenomenon has never happened to our galaxy, life on earth is so peaceful. I do not recall that I personally have ever expressed gratitude to the Power responsible for not allowing this so common destructive occurrence to happen to our galaxy. Only if one stays focused, one can then bear witness that this is no accident, and we all have so much to be thankful for. To be mindful of this fact, is to realize that the Power responsible is indeed closer to us than our jugular vein. When you think of it, no one cannot thank this Power enough.

My discovery/confirmation journey will soon continue on another continent. I am preparing for my next trip to Africa, destinations: Etosha, Kalahari, Kruger and Serengeti.

May the Divine cast His endless mercy on all of us, and guide the seekers closer to the Truth.

Peace,
Mehran

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