Saturday, 30 April 2011

God - to believe, not to believe and not to be sure !

There are three main ways to approach belief in God: to believe, not to believe and not to be sure. The latter, agnosticism, is the default position of most in the Western world if we are to accept the surveys. However, the first two — theism and atheism — are both matters of faith. Atheism is a growing trend, and is seen as one of those intellectually superior positions. The theist is often considered an amusing anachronism who is harmless unless they bring their faith to the public realm. From the Islamic viewpoint, even though theism is a position of faith, that faith should not be blind.

Whilst recognising the gift of guidance, and the fact that no one can ‘prove’ God’s existence, we should know that the Qur’an is dedicated to “people who think.” As such, theism in Islam has to be based on a conscious and rational exploration using all our given senses.

 The revelation of the physical world offers us an opportunity for that exploration, and to my mind contemplation of Space makes belief in God compelling. When I look at a star-lit sky (not easy to do, given the light pollution of our cities), I am always awe struck.

Each star is a sun to another world, with planets revolving around it. Each star is the centre of another galaxy, as our sun is the centre of ours. The light from some of these suns takes millions of years to reach us, and thus we see it as a tiny star, barely twinkling in our eyes.

 We should contemplate the fact that we are looking at light from the time of the dinosaurs and before. We cannot count the stars. We cannot know how many planets are out there. We cannot even fully imagine the potential for life. Yet, we can boldly declare that there is no Creator; that this all came into being by accident. For me, this type of thinking is not only arrogant, it is parochial.

 The stars are one of the reasons that compel me to be a Muslim. They remind me of the vastness of the universe, and the potential for life on other planets. They remind me that God is Lord of All the Worlds. They remind me that self-surrender unto God is due because whatever God is, He is the Creator of the whole universe, not just our Earth (even though the Earth holds some amazing realities). And the stars remind me not to be closed-minded, either in confining my faith to some narrow dogma and ritual, or in my dealings with other human beings.

 We can be very parochial and self-interested as a creation. We submerse ourselves with such little problems, yet the glory of creation is out there for us to marvel. We navel-gaze rather than stargaze. Our eyes are fixed downwards, afraid to look up lest we see the majesty.  Muslims of previous generations, freed from the imprisonment of idol worship, contemplated the universe.

They took that freedom, and were able to transform themselves. The vastness of the creation gave them a belief in the Creator, but also a sense of self-belief, and a desire to expand their minds and their beings. We now have telescopes that allow us to see further than ever before, that allow us to peer into the depths of galaxies light years away. But do we stop and marvel? Do we stop to wonder at the ultimate realities of the universe?

I believe that we have to strive to find a balance between not being caught up in the minutiae of the everyday, whilst simultaneously making sure the small kindnesses towards others are fulfilled. But there is a difference between the search for small kindnesses and pettiness. I am struck sometimes at how small-minded we can be. I have seen people snub a wedding because they had not been personally invited with a hand delivered card. I have seen family members stop talking to each other for thirty years because of some slight they cannot even remember. I have seen siblings quarrel whose turn it was to do the washing up. How can we be so trivial when the vastness of the universe is there to contemplate and enjoy?

 The Qur’an reminds us of this when asking us to consider the Heavens, “It is the star that pierces through darkness,” (86:3) and surely our contemplation of the stars should pierce the darkness of our disbelief, our arrogance and the closed-mindedness that can destroy the human condition.

Friday, 29 April 2011

After the Mubahila Oath of Datuk Eskay Abdullah

This is an anouncement.

In keeping with the tradition of Islam, we at People Against Opposition will not be showing anymore of Anwar Ibrahim sexual videos as well as commenting on this subject matter. This is in keeping with the Mubahila Oath invoking the curse of Allah done by Datuk Eskay Abdullah yesterday 29th April 2011.

In keeping with the spirit of Islam as enjoined by the Quran, the curse of Allah will be on those who lied. Datuk Eskay Abdullah has already invoke the curse of Allah upon him if he lied but Anwar Ibrahim did not even turn up for the Mubahila.

As such, we leave it to Allah to be a judge and show us , the people of Malaysia, the truth. Insya Allah.

Quran - Surah Al Maidah - 5: 48 - 49

To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute;

And this (He commands): Judge thou between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, but beware of them lest they beguile thee from any of that (teaching) which Allah hath sent down to thee. And if they turn away, be assured that for some of their crime it is Allah's purpose to punish them. And truly most men are rebellious.

Quran - Surah Al Maidah - 5: 54

O ye who believe! if any from among you turn back from his Faith, soon will Allah produce a people whom He will love as they will love Him,- lowly with the believers, mighty against the rejecters, fighting in the way of Allah, and never afraid of the reproaches of such as find fault. That is the grace of Allah, which He will bestow on whom He pleaseth. And Allah encompasseth all, and He knoweth all things.

Quran - Surah Ali Imran - 3: 61

If any one disputes in this matter with thee, now after (full) knowledge Hath come to thee, say: "Come! let us gather together,- our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves: Then let us earnestly pray, and invoke the curse of Allah on those who lie!"

Kemudian sesiapa yang membantahmu mengenainya, sesudah engkau beroleh pengetahuan yang benar, maka katakanlah kepada mereka: "Marilah kita menyeru anak-anak kami serta anak-anak kamu, dan perempuan-perempuan kami serta perempuan-perempuan kamu, dan diri kami serta diri kamu, kemudian kita memohon kepada Allah dengan bersungguh-sungguh, serta kita meminta supaya laknat Allah ditimpakan kepada orang-orang yang berdusta".

Biomimetics: Drawing inspiration from the design in living things

There is instruction for you in cattle. From the contents of their bellies, from between the dung and blood, We give you pure milk to drink, easy for drinkers to swallow.
(Qur’an, 16:66)
And there is certainly a lesson for you in your livestock. We give you to drink from what is in their bellies and there are many ways in which you benefit from them, and some of them you eat; and you are conveyed on them and on ships as well.        
(Qur’an, 23:21-22)


Biomimicry or biomimetics is the examination of nature, its models, systems, processes, and elements to emulate or take inspiration from in order to solve human problems. The term biomimicry and biomimetics come from the Greek words bios, meaning life, and mimesis meaning to imitate. Other terms often used are bionics, bio-inspiration, and biognosis.

Before scientists and research and development experts embark on new projects, they usually look for models in living things and imitate their systems and designs. In other words, they see and study the designs created in nature by Allah and, inspired by these, go on to develop their own new technologies.
This approach has given birth to biomimetics, a new branch of science that seeks to imitate living things. In recent times, this branch of science has come to be widely applied in the world of technology. The use of the word “ibratan,” (to learn from, advice, importance, important thing, or model) in the above verses is most wise in this regard.

Biomimetics refers to all of the substances, equipment, mechanisms, and systems that people produce in order to imitate the systems present in nature. The scientific community currently feels a great need for the use of such equipment, particularly in the fields of nanotechnology, robot technology, artificial intelligence, medicine, and the military.

Biomimicry was first put forward by Janine M. Benyus, a writer and scientific observer from Montana. This concept was later analysed by many other people and began to find applications. Some of the comments made regarding biomimicry are as follows:
The theme of "biomimicry" is that we have much to learn from the natural world, as model, measure, and mentor. What these researchers have in common is a reverence for natural designs, and the inspiration to use them to solve human problems.
David Oakey, product strategist for Interface Inc., a company that uses nature to increasing product quality and productivity, says:
Nature is my mentor for business and design, a model for the way of life. Nature's system has worked for millions of years … Biomimicry is a way of learning from nature. 2
Scientists who began to favour this rapidly spreading idea accelerated their studies by using nature’s incomparable and flawless designs as models. These designs represent models for technological research, for they provide the maximum productivity for the least amount of materials and energy, and are self-maintaining, environmentally friendly, silent, aesthetically attractive, resistant, and long-lasting. The High Country News newspaper described biomimetics as “a scientific movement” and made the following comment:
By using natural systems as models, we can create technologies that are more sustainable than those in use today.
Janine M. Benyus, who believed that models in nature should be imitated, gave the following examples in her book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature (Perennial: 2002):

• Hummingbirds cross the Gulf of Mexico on less than 3 grams (one tenth of an ounce) of fuel,
• Dragonflies outmanoeuvre our best helicopters,
• Heating and air-conditioning systems in termite mounds are superior in terms of equipment and energy consumption to those made by human beings,
• A bat’s high-frequency transmitter is more efficient and sensitive than our own radar systems,
• Light-emitting algae combine various chemicals to illuminate their bodies,
• Arctic fish and frogs freeze solid and then spring to life, having protected their organs from ice damage,
• Chameleons and cuttlefish change the pattern of their skin to blend instantly with their surroundings,
• Bees, turtles, and birds navigate without maps, and
• Whales and penguins dive without scuba gear.
These astonishing mechanisms and designs in nature, of which we have cited only a few, have the potential to enrich technology in a wide range of fields. This potential is becoming ever more obvious as our accumulated knowledge and technological means increase.

All animals possess many features that amaze human beings. Some have the ideal hydrodynamic shape that allows them to move through water, and others employ senses that appear very foreign to us. Most of these are features that researchers have encountered for the first time, or, rather, that they have only recently discovered. On occasion, it is necessary to bring together prominent scientists from such fields as computer technology, mechanical engineering, electronics, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology in order to imitate just one feature of a living thing.

Scientists are amazed when confronted with the incomparable structures and systems they are discovering with every passing day, and use that amazement to inspire themselves to produce new technologies for humanity’s benefit.

Realising that the existing perfect systems and extraordinary techniques applied in nature are far superior to their own knowledge and intellect, they became aware of these matchless solutions to existing problems and are now resorting to the designs in nature to resolve problems that have eluded them for years. As a result, they will perhaps achieve success in a very short time. Moreover, by imitating nature, scientists are making very important gains with regard to time and labour and also to the targeted use of material resources.

Today we see the developing technology gradually discovering the miracles of creation and using the extraordinary designs in living things, as in the case of biomimetics, in the service of humanity. Benyus has stated that “‘Doing it nature's way’ has the potential to change the way we grow food, make materials, harness energy, heal ourselves, store information, and conduct business.”  The following are just a few of the many scientific papers to have considered such subjects:
“Science is Imitating Nature,”
“Life's Lessons in Design,”
“Biomimicry: Secrets Hiding in Plain Sight,”
“Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature,”
“Biomimicry: Genius That Surrounds Us,”
“Biomimetics: Creating Materials from Nature's Blueprints,”  and
“Engineers Ask Nature for Design Advice.”
In the nineteenth century, nature was imitated only in aesthetic terms. Artists and architects of that time were influenced by nature and used examples of the structures’ external appearances in their works. Yet the realisation of nature’s extraordinary designs and that these could be used to benefit human beings only began in the twentieth century with the study of natural mechanisms at the molecular level. Scientists today are learning from living things, as revealed in the Qur’an 1,400 years ago.

The Golden Mean 1.618 - The Number of Allah's Creation - Al Hisab fi Khalqillah


“Allah has appointed a measure for all things..” (Surat at-Talaq, 3)

…You will not find any flaw in the creation of the All-Merciful. Look again – do you see any gaps? Then look again and again. Your sight will return to you dazzled and exhausted! (Surat al-Mulk, 3-4)

He to Whom the kingdom of the heavens and the earth belongs. He does not have a son and He has no partner in the Kingdom. He created everything and determined it most exactly. (Surat al-Furqan, 2)


•    The ratio of the total length of the two front teeth in the upper jaw by their height

•    The ratio of the width of the first tooth from the center by the second

•    The ratio of the length of the face by its width

•    The ratio of the distance between the lip and where the eyebrows meet by the length of the nose

•    The ratio of the length of the face by the distance between the tip of the chin and where the eyebrows meet

•    The ratio of the height of the mouth by its width

•    And that of the width of the nose by the distance between the nostrils all produce THE GOLDEN RATIO.









The first House established for mankind was that at Bakka [Mecca], a place of blessing and a guidance for all beings [the Kaaba].


47/1.618 = 29



This extraordinary ratio which prevails everywhere in the world is major evidence that Allah has created everything within an order, measure, symmetry and perfection. The whole universe is a sign leading to faith displaying Allah’s sublime and matchless works. There is no doubt that Allah is mighty and powerful enough to create an even more sublime and immaculate artistry.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the Hindu Scriptures

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was chosen by God to communicate his message, he was the prophet and the messenger but he was not the creator of the religion, he was not the negater of the other messengers but the updater of the message of God “to live in harmony and balance” delivered by the messengers in every, tribe, communities and nations.
Islam is not a religion of Muhammad (pbuh), it is a religion of oneness of the creator, oneness of mankind and oneness of the universe, when the whole world acts as one family, the Tauheed, then there will be synergy, one feels the joys and pains of others and focus will shift to living in harmony; the ultimate of the universe and the creation for its survival and continuation.

The advent of Prophet Muhammad is mentioned more than once in the Hindu scriptures. Hindu scriptures are divided into three basic categories: Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas. There are differences about the age of those scriptures; some people believe that they go back almost 4,000 years.

One of the amazing prophecies in these Hindu scriptures is the one on the tongue of Maharshi Vyasa, a Hindu saint, that states that the land of Arabs will be corrupted by the evil doers — maybe a reference to the pre-Islamic pagans; and that Mahamad — a slight adulteration of the name Muhammad — will come and guide those who went astray. He will be circumcised, bearded, eloquent; he will create a great revolution; he will announce the call for prayers; he will eat of the meat of lawful animals but not of the swine; and he will fight against irreligious nations. All these descriptions meet Prophet Muhammad (Vidyarthi).
Prophet Muhammad Mentioned in the Bhavishya Purana
Bhavishya Purana, one of the most important Puranas, includes another prophecy that states that in a foreign country a spiritual teacher whose name is Muhammad will come; he will be a dweller of Arabia; he will gather a large force to fight or kill the devil; and God will protect him from his opponents.  

Prophet Muhammad Mentioned in the Upanishad

Some Hindu scholars consider the Upanishads scripture to be superior to the Vedas, because they impart divine knowledge and teach how the human soul can get nearer to its Maker and Master.
The most important  prophecy in it is the one that mentions the coming of Prophet Muhammad by name, and the Muslim testimony of faith — there is no God but Allah — is repeated more than once in it.
As a result of the clarity and explicitness of that prophecy, some Hindus actually enter into Islam, which has led some Hindu scholars to claim that perhaps this prophecy was written by a Hindu pundit who converted to Islam. But this is refuted because this prophecy was referred to in some of the ancient Hindu books that predate the advent of Islam or Muslims to India (Vidyarthi). 
In the Allo Upanishad, the following description of God is given: the name of the deity is Allah, He is one, the King of all the world, He is the Magnificent, the Greatest of all, the Best, the Most Perfect, the Holiest of all, the Nourisher of the whole world, the Manifester of the earth and the space, and the Lord of all creation.

He created the sun, the moon, the stars, and the heavens. He is the Nourisher of all the birds, beasts, animals that live in the sea and those that are not visible to the eye. He is the remover of all evils and calamities, and Muhammad is the apostle of Allah.

Prophet Muhammad Mentioned in the Vedas
The third basic category of Hindu scriptures is called the Veda. In the Atharva Veda, it is mentioned that the praiseworthy among people shall be praised; it is known that the name Muhammad in Arabic actually means "the praiseworthy."
It also states that the promised prophet will be a camel rider, which is interesting because Indian prophets were forbidden to ride camels. Prophet Jesus, according to the New Testament, rode on an ass but not on a camel, but it is well known that Prophet Muhammad rode a camel.

The seventh mantra also speaks about someone who is going to be a guide to all people, and Prophet Muhammad always emphasized that he was not sent to a particular people, like Israelites alone or Arabs alone, but to the whole world.
The sixth mantra speaks about some of the brave people who vanquished without a battle and that the number of their opponents was 10,000, which could be a reference to the battle of the allies or the trench that took place during Prophet Muhammad's time.
The number of the people who put a siege around Madinah were indeed 10,000, and they were vanquished without a battle because God sent a hurricane that finally, after a long siege, forced them to leave.

In the Rig Veda, it speaks about a person who is described as truthful and trustworthy, powerful and generous who will be famous with 10,000. All these are the characteristics of Prophet Muhammad, and the number 10,000 could be a possible reference to the number of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad who entered Makkah victoriously.  

Works Cited
Vidyarthi, Abdul Haq. Muhammad in World Scriptures. New Delhi: Adam Publishers, 1990

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Muhammad The Prophet of Islam in the Christian Bible !

Those who follow the Apostle, the unlettered Prophet, Whom they find mentioned in their own Scriptures, in the Torah (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus)... (Holy Qu'ran: VII - 157; Translation: Abdullah Yusuf Ali)


Abraham is widely regarded as the Patriarch of monotheism and the common father of the Jews, Christians and Muslims. Through His second son, Isaac, came all Israelite prophets including such towering figures as Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus. May peace and blessings be upon them all. The advent of these great prophets was in partial fulfillment of God's promises to bless the nations of earth through the descendants of Abraham (Genesis12:2-3).Such fulfillment is wholeheartedly accepted by Muslims whose faith considers the belief in and respect of all prophets an article of faith.


Was the first born son of Abraham (Ishmael) and his descendants included in God's covenant and promise? A few verses from the Bible may help shed some light on this question;

1) Genesis 12:2-3 speaks of God's promise to Abraham and his descendants before any child was born to him.

2) Genesis 17:4 reiterates God's promise after the birth of Ishmael and before the birth of Isaac.

3) In Genesis, ch. 21. Isaac is specifically blessed but Ishmael was also specifically blessed and promised by God to become "a great nation" especially in Genesis 21:13, 18.

4) According to Deuteronomy 21:15-17 the traditional rights and privileges of the first born son are not to be affected by the social status of his mother (being a "free" woman such as Sarah, Isaac's mother, or a "Bondwoman" such as Hagar, Ishmael's mother). This is only consistent with the moral and humanitarian principles of all revealed faiths.

5) The full legitimacy of Ishmael as Abraham's son and "seed" and the full legitimacy of his mother, Hagar, as Abraham's wife are clearly stated in Genesis 21:13 and 16:3. After Jesus, the last Israelite messenger and prophet, it was time that God's promise to bless Ishmael and his descendants be fulfilled. Less than 600years after Jesus, came the last messenger of God, Muhammad, from the progeny of Abraham through Ishmael. God's blessing of both of the main branches of Abraham's family tree was now fulfilled. But are there additional corroborating evidence that the Bible did in fact foretell the advent of prophet Muhammad?

The Prophet Like Unto Moses

Long time after Abraham, God's promise to send the long-awaited Messenger was repeated this time in Moses' words.
In Deuteronomy 18:18, Moses spoke of the prophet to be sent by God who is:

1) From among the Israelite's "brethren", a reference to their Ishmaelite cousins as Ishmael was the other son of Abraham who was explicitly promised to become a "great nation".

2) A prophet like unto Moses. There were hardly any two prophets ,who were so much alike as Moses and Muhammad. Both were given comprehensive law code of life, both encountered their enemies and were victors in miraculous ways, both were accepted as prophets/statesmen and both migrated following conspiracies to assassinate them. Analogies between Moses and Jesus overlooks not only the above similarities but other crucial ones as well (e.g. the natural birth, family life and death of Moses and Muhammad but not of Jesus, who was regarded by His followers as the Son of God and not exclusively a messenger of God, as Moses and Muhammad were and as Muslim belief Jesus was).


Deuteronomy 33:1-2 combines references to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. It speaks of God (i.e. God's revelation) coming from Sinai, rising from Seir (probably the village of Sa'ir near Jerusalem) and shining forth from Paran. According to Genesis 21:21, the wilderness of Paran was the place where Ishmael settled (i.e. Arabia, specifically Mecca).

Indeed the King James version of the Bible mentions the pilgrims passing through the valley of Ba'ca (another name of Mecca) in Psalms 84:4-6.

Isaiah 42:1-13 speaks of the beloved of God. His elect and messenger who will bring down a law to be awaited in the isles and who "shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgement on earth." Verse 11, connects that awaited one with the descendants of Ke'dar. Who is Ke'dar? According to Genesis 25:13, Ke'dar was the second son of Ishmael, the ancestor of prophet Muhammad.


Habakkuk 3:3 speaks of God (God's help) coming from Te'man (an Oasis North of Medina according to J. Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible), and the holy one (coming) from Paran. That holy one who under persecution migrated from Paran (Mecca) to be received enthusiastically in Medina was none but prophet Muhammad.
Indeed the incident of the migration of the prophet and his persecuted followers is vividly described in Isaiah 21:13-17. That section foretold as well about the battle of Badr in which the few ill-armed faithful miraculously defeated the "mighty" men of Ke'dar, who sought to destroy Islam and intimidate their own folks who turned -to Islam.


For twenty-three years, God's words (the Qur'an) were truly put into Muhammad's mouth. He was not the "author" of the Qur'an. The Qur'an was dictated to him by Angel Gabriel who asked Muhammad to simply repeat the words of the Qur'an as he heard them. These words were then committed to memory and to writing by those who hear them during Muhammad's life time and under his supervision.

Was it a coincidence that the prophet "like unto Moses" from the "brethren" of the Israelites (i.e. from the lshmaelites) was also described as one in whose mouth God will put his words and that he will speak in the name of God, (Deuteronomy 18:18-20). Was it also a coincidence the "Paraclete" that Jesus foretold to come after Him was described as one who "shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak (John 16:13)

Was it another coincidence that Isaiah ties between the messenger connected with Ke'dar and a new song (a scripture in a new language) to be sang unto the Lord (Isaiah 42:10-11). More explicitly, prophesies Isaiah "For with stammering lips, and another tongue, will he speak to this people" (Isaiah 28:11). This latter verse correctly describes the "stammering lips" of Prophet Muhammad reflecting the state of tension and concentration he went through at the time of revelation. Another related point is that the Qur'an was revealed in piece-meals over a span of twenty three years. It is interesting to compare this with Isaiah 28:10 which speaks of the same thing.


Up to the time of Jesus (peace be upon him), the Israelites were still awaiting for that prophet like unto Moses prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:18. When John the Baptist came, they asked him if he was Christ and he said "no". They asked him if he was Elias and he said "no". Then, in apparent reference to Deuteronomy 18:18, they asked him "Art thou that Prophet" and he answered, "no". (John 1: 1 9-2 1).

In the Gospel according to John (Chapters 14, 15, 16) Jesus spoke of the "Paraclete" or comforter who will come after him, who will be sent by Father as another Paraclete, who will teach new things which the contemporaries of Jesus could not bear. While the Paraclete is described as the spirit of truth, (whose meaning resemble Muhammad's famous title Al-Amin, the trustworthy), he is identified in one verse as the Holy Ghost (John 14:26). Such a designation is however inconsistent with the profile of that Paraclete. In the words of the Dictionary of the Bible, (Ed. J. Mackenzie) "These items, it must be admitted do not give an entirely coherent picture."

Indeed history tells us that many early Christians understood the Paraclete to be a man and not a spirit. This might explain the followings who responded to some who claimed, without meeting the criteria stipulated by Jesus, to be the awaited "Paraciete".

It was Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who was the Paraclete, Comforter, helper, admonisher sent by God after Jesus. He testified of Jesus, taught new things which could not be borne at Jesus' time, he spoke what he heard (revelation), he dwells with the believers (through his well-preserved teachings).

 Such teachings will remain forever because he was the last messenger of God, the only Universal Messenger to unite the whole of humanity under God and on the path of PRESERVED truth. He told of many things to come which "came to pass" in the minutest detail meeting, the criterion given by Moses to distinguish between the true prophet and the false prophets (Deuteronomy 18:22). He did reprove the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgement (John 16:8-11)


Following the rejection of the last Israelite prophet, Jesus, it was about time that God's promise to make Ishmael a great nation be fulfilled (Genesis 21:13, 18)

In Matthew 21:19-21, Jesus spoke of the fruitless fig tree (A Biblical symbol of prophetic heritage) to be cleared after being given a last chance of three years (the duration of Jesus' ministry) to give fruit. In a later verse in the same chapter, Jesus said: "Therefore, say I unto you, The Kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruit thereof" (Matthew 21:43). That nation of Ishmael's descendants (the rejected stone in Matthew 21:42) which was victorious against all super-powers of its time as prophesied by Jesus: "And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder" (Matthew 21:44).

Is it possible that the numerous prophecies cited here are all individually and combined out of context misinterpretations? Is the opposite true, that such infrequently studied verses fit together consistently and clearly point to the advent of the man who changed the course of human history, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Is it reasonable to conclude that all these prophecies, appearing in different books of the Bible and spoken by various prophets at different times were all coincidence? If this is so here is another strange "coincidence"!

One of the signs of the prophet to come from Paran (Mecca) is that he will come with "ten thousands of saints" (Deuteronomy 33:2 KJV). That was the number of faithful who accompanied Prophet Muhammad to Paran (Mecca) in his victorious, bloodless return to his birthplace to destroy the remaining symbols of idolatry in the Ka'bah.

Says God as quoted by Moses:
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:19)

Dear Readers:
May the light of truth shine in your heart and mind. May it lead you to peace and certitude in this life and eternal bliss in hereafter.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Creation of a National Institute for Analytic Methods - Learning from US Experiance

Toward Improving Intelligence Analysis

Steven Rieber and Neil Thomason

Traditionally, analysts at all levels devote little attention to improving how they think. To penetrate the heart and soul of the problem of improving analysis, it is necessary to better understand, influence, and guide the mental processes of analysts themselves.
— Richards J. Heuer, Jr.

The United States needs to improve its capacity to deliver timely, accurate intelligence. Recent commission reports have made various proposals aimed at achieving this goal. These recommendations are based on many months of careful deliberation by highly experienced experts and are intuitively plausible. However, a considerable body of evidence from a wide range of fields indicates that the opinions of experts regarding which methods work may be misleading or seriously wrong. Better analysis requires independent scientific research. To carry out this research, the United States should establish a National Institute for Analytic Methods, analogous to the National Institutes of Health.

While much has been written about how to improve intelligence analysis, this article will show how to improve the process of improving analysis. The key is to conduct scientific research to determine what works and what does not, and then to ensure that the Intelligence Community uses the results of this research.

Expert Opinions Can Be Unreliable
The reports of recent commissions examining the intelligence process—including the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the special presidential commission on Iraq weapons of mass destruction— incorporate recommendations for improving analysis. These proposals, which include establishing a center for analyzing open-source intelligence and creating “mission managers” for specific intelligence problems, make intuitive sense. We want to suggest, however, that this intuitive approach to improving intelligence analysis is insufficient.

Examples from a wide range of fields show that experts’ opinions about which methods work are often dead wrong:
  •  For decades, steroids have been the standard treatment for head-injury patients. This treatment “makes sense” because head trauma results in swelling and steroids reduce swelling. However, a recent meta-analysis involving over 10,000 patients shows that giving steroids to head-injury patients apparently increases mortality.
  • Most police departments make identifications by showing an eyewitness six photos of possible suspects simultaneously. However, a series of experiments has demonstrated that presenting the photos sequentially, rather than simultaneously, substantially improves accuracy.
  • The nation’s most popular anti-drug program for school-age children, DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), brings police officers into classrooms to teach about substance abuse and decisionmaking and to boost students’ self-esteem. But two randomized controlled trials involving nearly 9,000 students have shown that DARE has no significant effect on students’ use of cigarettes, alcohol, or illicit drugs.
  •  Baseball scouting typically is done intuitively, using a traditional set of statistics such as batting average. Scouts and managers believe that they can ascertain a player’s potential by looking at the statistics and watching him play. However, their intuitions are not very good and many of the common statistical measures are far from ideal. Sophisticated statistical analysis reveals that batting average is a substantially less accurate predictor of whether a batter will score than on-base percentage, which includes walks. The Oakland A’s were the first team to use the new statistical techniques to dramatically improve their performance despite an annual budget far smaller than those of most other teams.
These examples and many others illustrate two important points. First, even sincere, well-informed experts with many years of collective experience are often mistaken about what are the best methods. Second, the only way to determine whether the conventional wisdom is right is to conduct rigorous scientific studies using careful measurement and statistical analysis. Prior to the meta-analysis on the effects of steroids, there was no way of knowing that they were counterproductive for head injuries. And without randomized controlled studies, we would not have learned that DARE fails to reduce cigarette, drug, and alcohol use. Experts’ intuitive beliefs about what works are not only frequently wrong, but also are generally not self-correcting.

Caution Advised
Consequently, we should be skeptical about the numerous recent proposals for improving intelligence analysis. The recommendations generally are based on years of experience, deep familiarity with the problems, careful reflection, and a sincere desire to help—all of which may lead to reforms that do as much harm as good. Some of the experts’ sincere beliefs may be correct; others may be widely off the mark. Without systematic research, it is impossible to tell.

Some high-quality research relevant to intelligence analysis has already been done, but it is virtually unknown within the Intelligence Community. Consider, for example, devil’s advocacy. Both the Senate report on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the report of the president’s commission proposed the use of devil’s advocates.

In fact, devil’s advocacy and “red teams”—which construct and press an alternate interpretation of how events might evolve or how information might be interpreted—are the only specific analytic techniques recommended by the Senate report, the president’s commission report, and the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act

.[None of these reports, however, mentions the research on devil’s advocacy, which is quite equivocal about whether this technique improves group judgment. Some research suggests that devil’s advocates may even aggravate groupthink (the tendency of group members to suppress their doubts).As Charlan Nemeth writes:

. . . the results . . . showed a negative, unintended consequence of devil’s advocate. The [devil’s advocate] stimulated significantly more thoughts in support of the initial position. Thus subjects appeared to generate new ideas aimed at cognitive bolstering of their initial viewpoint but they did not generate thoughts regarding other positions. . . .

Irving Janis, the author of Groupthink, suggested such possibilities over 30 years ago. Janis describes the use of devil’s advocates by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s administration:

[Stanford political scientist] Alexander George also comments that, paradoxically, the institutionalized devil’s advocate, instead of stirring up much-needed turbulence among the members of a policy-making group, may create ‘the comforting feeling that they have considered all sides of the issue and that the policy chosen has weathered challenges from within the decision-making circle.’ He goes on to say that after the President has fostered the ritualized use of devil’s advocates, the top-level officials may learn nothing more than how to enact their policy-making in such a way as to meet the informed public’s expectation about how important decisions should be made and ‘to project a favorable image into the instant histories that will be written shortly thereafter.’

Thus, once institutionalized, the principal effect of devil’s advocates may be to protect the Intelligence Community from future criticism and calls for reform. The scientific evidence shows that we cannot exclude the possibility that adopting the recommendations of the recent commission reports may be counterproductive.

Identifying What the Research Says
The first element in improving the process of improving analysis is to find out what the existing scientific research says. Not all of the existing research on how to improve human judgment is negative. Here are some promising results from this research:
  • Argument mapping, a technique for visually displaying an argument’s logical structure and evidence, substantially enhances critical thinking abilities.
  • Systematic feedback on accuracy makes judgments more accurate.
  • There are effective methods to help people easily avoid the omnipresent and serious fallacy of base-rate neglect.
  • Combining distinct forecasts by averaging usually raises accuracy, sometimes substantially.
  • Consulting a statistical model generally increases the accuracy of expert forecasts.
  • A certain cognitive style, marked by open-mindedness and skepticism toward grand theories, is associated with substantially better judgments about international affairs.
  • Simulated interactions (a type of structured role-playing) yields forecasts about conflict situations that are much more accurate than those produced by unaided judgments or by game theory.

Applying the Research to Intelligence
While each of these findings is promising, almost none of this research has been conducted on analysts working on intelligence problems. Thus, the second element of improving the process of improving analysis is to initiate systematic research on promising methods for improving analysis.

Each of the analytic methods mentioned above suggests numerous lines of research. In the case of argument mapping, for example, questions that should be investigated include: Do argument maps improve analytic judgment? In which domains (political, economic, military, long-range, or short-range forecasts) are argument maps most effective? How can analysts be encouraged to use the results of argument mapping in their written products? How can this method be effectively taught? If devil’s advocates use argument maps, will their objections be taken more seriously?

The only reliable way to answer each of these questions is through scientific studies carefully designed to measure the relevant factors, control for extraneous influences, distinguish causation from correlation, and produce sizable effects. Intelligence analysts and other experts will certainly have opinions about how best to employ argument maps; in some cases, the experts may even agree with one another. But while the expert opinions should be considered in designing the research, they should not be the last word, since they may be mistaken.

Evaluation and development should be ongoing and concurrent and should provide feedback to the next round of evaluation and development, in a spiraling process. Evaluation results will suggest ways of refining promising techniques, and the refined techniques can then be assessed.

Encouraging Use of New Methods
It is essential that there be serious research both inside and outside the analysis sector itself. American universities can become one of our great security assets. Techniques for improving analytic judgment can be tested initially on university students (both undergraduate and graduate); promising methods can then be refined and tested further by contractors, including former analysts, with security clearances. Techniques that are easy to employ and that substantially increase accuracy in these preliminary stages of evaluation could then be tested with practicing analysts.
It is essential to expose analysts only to methods that they are likely to use, and use well. Subjecting them to cumbersome or ineffective techniques would only waste their time and increase their possible skepticism about new methods.

Research should investigate not only which techniques improve analytic judgment, but also how to teach these techniques and how to get analysts to use them. Analytic methods that produce excellent results in the laboratory will be worthless if not used, and used correctly, by practicing analysts. Thus the third element of improving the process of improving analysis is to conduct research on how to get promising analytic methods effectively taught and used.

Communicating with Consumers
The purpose of intelligence analysis is to inform policymakers to help them make better decisions. Accuracy, relevance, and timeliness are not enough; intelligence analysis must effectively convey information to the consumer. No matter how cogently analysts reason, their work will fail in its purpose if it is not correctly understood by the consumer. Thus the fourth element of improving the process of improving analysis is to conduct research on improving communication to policymakers.
  • How analysts should communicate their judgments to policymakers is yet another issue on which opinions are plentiful but systematic research is scarce. Some important questions here are:
  • How can tacit assumptions be made explicit and clear? Can visual representations of reasoning, such as structured argumentation, usefully supplement prose and speech?
  • How can the differences between analysts (or agencies) be communicated most effectively?
  • What are the best ways for analysts to express judgments that disagree with the views of policymakers?
  • Is the ubiquitous PowerPoint presentation a good way to present complex information? Or does it “dumb down” complex issues?
  • Forty years ago, Sherman Kent showed that different experts in international affairs had very different understandings of words like “probable” and “likely,” and that these differences produced serious miscommunication. How can this ongoing cause of miscommunication be alleviated?
These questions can be systematically answered only through scientific research. Associated with each question is a cluster of research issues. Take, for instance, the question of how to communicate probability. Should analysts’ probabilistic judgments be conveyed verbally, numerically, or through a combination of the two? If verbal expressions are used, should they be given common meanings across analysts and agencies? Or should analysts assign their own numerical equivalents (making them explicit in their finished intelligence)? Should probabilistic statements be avoided altogether in favor of a discussion of possible outcomes and the reasons for each?

A National Institute
As shown by examples from other fields, systematic research can dramatically improve longstanding practices. This sort of research should be done on all aspects of intelligence analysis, including analytic methods, training, and communication to policymakers. To be most useful, the research should be well funded, coordinated, and held to the highest scientific standards. This requires an institutional structure. The National Institutes of Health provide an excellent model: NIH conducts its own research and funds research in medical centers and universities across the world.

Just as NIH improves our nation’s health, a National Institute for Analytic Methods (NIAM) would enhance its security. To ensure that NIAM research would be of unimpeachable scientific caliber, it should work closely with, but independently of, the Intelligence Community. In a similar vein, the president’s WMD Commission recommends the establishment of one or more “sponsored research institutes”:

We envision the establishment of at least one not-for-profit ‘sponsored research institute’ to serve as a critical window into outside expertise for the Intelligence Community. This sponsored research institute would be funded by the Intelligence Community, but would be largely independent of Community management.

The Commission points out that “there must be outside thinking to challenge conventional wisdom, and this institute would provide both the distance from and the link to the Intelligence Community to provide a useful counterpoint to accepted views.”While the sponsored research institutes envisioned by the WMD Commission would tackle substantive issues, the NIAM would confront the equally important problems of developing, teaching, and promoting effective analytic methods.

To achieve this excellence and independence, a leadership team consisting of preeminent experts from inside and outside government is essential. Such a team is probably the only means to ensure that the research would be scientifically rigorous and adventurous, and that reform proposals would be truly evidence based.

Many people mistakenly believe that they know how to do social-scientific research. However, this research is difficult, the methodology is complex and statistically sophisticated, and established results are often counter-intuitive. Only if guided by scientists of the highest caliber would evidence-based analytic methods advance as rapidly as their importance demands.

There are also political and bureaucratic reasons for having an expert leadership team. Without the prestige, influence, and financial clout of such a panel, bureaucratic inertia might prevent evidence-based reforms from being adopted. Bureaucratic rigidity is likely to become particularly serious as the intense political pressure for intelligence community reform diminishes. Initiating, funding, and coordinating research on all aspects of intelligence analysis is a large set of tasks. To perform these well, NIAM’s budget would have to be adequate. When the Institute is fully running, a budget of 1–2 percent of NIH’s may be appropriate.

A National Institute for Analytic Methods would contribute to long-term intelligence reforms in an unusual way. Most reforms become institutionalized and, thereafter, are rarely reevaluated until a subsequent crisis occurs. NIAM’s evidence-based reforms would be very different. Because science itself is a self-correcting process, NIAM-generated science would ensure that evidence-based reforms continue indefinitely. Thus, intelligence reforms would continue to improve analysts’ effectiveness long after the current political urgency fades.