Science islam


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Science islam

  1. 1. Science and Religion in Islam Taner Edis Department of Physics, Truman State University
  2. 2. Why Islam? <ul><li>Science and religion debate </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Complicated. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Dominated by Christian background. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Islam is a close cousin of Christianity and Judaism, but is also different enough in theology and history to be interesting. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Science and the supernatural <ul><li>Our sciences have converged on naturalistic explanations of the world – physics, biology, neuroscience… </li></ul><ul><li>Casts doubt on supernatural realities . </li></ul>?
  4. 4. Worrying about materialism <ul><li>Mustafa Akyol, (liberal Muslim, ID proponent): “ ID is indeed a wedge that can split the foundations of scientific materialism… For the first time, the West appears to be the antidote to, not the source of, the materialist plague .” </li></ul><ul><li>Symbolic enemy. </li></ul>
  5. 5. Responding to materialism <ul><li>Technology is attractive to modern religious people. Linked to science. So can’t ignore science. </li></ul><ul><li>Need to appropriate science, and correct science if it disagrees with revealed truths. </li></ul>
  6. 6. Conservative, popular options <ul><li>Science either </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Supports traditional beliefs, such as those derived from taking scriptures at face value; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Or if it does not, “True Science” done by the devout shows the errors of the materialists. </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Creationism <ul><li>Christian version: often young-earth. </li></ul><ul><li>Muslim version: Quranic; often old-earth. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Widespread belief in special creation, linked to scriptural literalism; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Popular pseudoscience. </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Islamic Creationism <ul><li>Turkish origin, but internationally popular. </li></ul><ul><li>Deny common descent. </li></ul><ul><li>Borrows from Christian creationists. </li></ul><ul><li>Sees “Darwinism” as a materialist conspiracy. </li></ul>
  9. 9. Science-in-scripture <ul><li>Christian version: Electricity, laws of physics in Bible; Behemoth = dinosaur. </li></ul><ul><li>Muslim version: Modern science and technology anticipated in Quran. </li></ul><ul><li>Very popular legends. 55:19-20 about barrier between two bodies of water. Mediterranean-Atlantic salinity barrier; Jacques Cousteau conversion legend. </li></ul>
  10. 10. Quranic Embryology <ul><li>Scattered verses such as 39:6 “God creates you inside your mothers, in successive formations, in three darknesses.” </li></ul><ul><li>Authority of Western MDs: Bucaille, Moore. </li></ul><ul><li>Fragments of ancient Greek medicine. </li></ul>
  11. 11. Quranic astrophysics <ul><li>Seven layers of skies/heavens in Quran. </li></ul><ul><li>H. Nurbaki: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Solar system </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Our galaxy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Local group of galaxies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ radio magnetic sphere” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Quasars </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Expanding universe </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ remaining boundless infinities” </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Why so popular? <ul><li>Miracle: Proves divine source of Quran. </li></ul><ul><li>Like Biblical prophecy for conservative Christians. </li></ul><ul><li>Intellectually worthless. </li></ul>
  13. 13. Not defending medieval ideas! <ul><li>Turkey: much pseudoscience tied to Nur movement. </li></ul><ul><li>Said Nursi: respected religious leader. Orthodox. </li></ul><ul><li>Nur adherents noted for modern outlook; pro-capitalism, pro-technology enthusiasm. </li></ul><ul><li>Do pseudoscience because they value science! </li></ul>
  14. 14. Reconstructing science <ul><li>Christian version: “theistic science” ideas in ID movement. </li></ul><ul><li>Muslim version: Islamizing science . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Design-centered biology and physics; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social science shaped by Islamic social ideals, Islamic law. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Serious ideas much debated by Muslim intellectuals. Affects policy. </li></ul>
  15. 15. Sophisticated creationism <ul><li>ID in Turkey. </li></ul><ul><li>Seyyed Hossein Nasr </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Common descent OK; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>No natural creativity; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reconstruct God-centered science; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Revive medieval Islamic views. </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Moderate options <ul><li>Moderate, liberal Christians seek compromise with science, interpret Bible less literally. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Example: guided evolution (ID-lite). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Muslim case: there is some openness to metaphorical interpretation. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Some theologians adopt guided evolution, accepting much common descent. </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Guided evolution <ul><li>Even guided, non-Darwinian evolution is controversial. </li></ul><ul><li>Naturalistic process, particularly random element unacceptable. </li></ul><ul><li>Human evolution particularly unacceptable. </li></ul>
  18. 18. More liberal options <ul><li>Christianity: the supernatural retreats to ultimate, metaphysical domain. Science deals with mere details, is autonomous . </li></ul><ul><li>Islam: much rarer. Science should be subordinate to revelation and moral concerns. (Even liberals think so.) </li></ul><ul><li>Exceptions: some defend autonomy of science. Abdolkarim Soroush in Iran. </li></ul>
  19. 19. What is different in Islam? <ul><li>The religious and intellectual options Muslims face are similar to those for Christians. </li></ul><ul><li>But among Muslims, science is weaker and religiously-colored pseudoscience is stronger. Among intellectuals as well as the popular realm. </li></ul><ul><li>Why? </li></ul>
  20. 20. History <ul><li>Past few centuries dominated by need to catch up to modern, especially Western world. </li></ul><ul><li>West has technological advantage  military and commercial power. Need science! </li></ul>
  21. 21. “Golden Age” exaggerated <ul><li>Muslim science did not greatly decline. Europe surged ahead with a new way of learning about nature. </li></ul><ul><li>Medieval Muslim science embedded in religious, occult ways of thinking. Different from modern science! </li></ul>
  22. 22. Defending Islam <ul><li>Borrow technology but guard against outside cultural influences. </li></ul><ul><li>Materialist aspects of science undesirable. External imposition, not indigenous heresy as in Europe. </li></ul><ul><li>Retain primacy of revelation; supernatural-centered view of nature. </li></ul>
  23. 23. Awareness of Christianity <ul><li>European secularization seen as a disaster for religion; an example to avoid. </li></ul><ul><li>Separating science from religion is dangerous. Even liberals are reluctant to go this way. </li></ul><ul><li>Islam need not repeat Western history of science-religion accommodation. </li></ul>
  24. 24. Strong doctrinal conservatism <ul><li>Liberal Muslim views much weaker than their Christian counterparts. </li></ul><ul><li>Reinterpretation, seeing religion as human strongly opposed. Even violence. </li></ul><ul><li>Even modernists, democrats can be cultural conservatives. </li></ul>
  25. 25. Creationism example <ul><li>In education, commonly no evolution, or official support for creationism. </li></ul><ul><li>International popular, media-based creationism such as Harun Yahya. </li></ul><ul><li>Supported in intellectual circles, by academic theologians, by some science faculty in universities. </li></ul><ul><li>ID default in Muslim intellectual culture. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Weakness of science <ul><li>Muslim lands very weak in science. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Applied science OK; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lack of creativity. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Ineffective opposing creationism </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Endorse pseudoscience </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Tagged as secularist. </li></ul></ul>
  27. 27. Secularism is discredited <ul><li>Ideas with secularist associations suffer. </li></ul><ul><li>Secularism = despotic, elite imposition on pious populations. </li></ul><ul><li>Democracy  religious populism. Islam central to political legitimation. </li></ul>
  28. 28. No separate spheres? <ul><li>Science and religion in West: intellectual friction, institutional accommodation. </li></ul><ul><li>Separate spheres. Science independent of religion. </li></ul><ul><li>Not in Islamic world? </li></ul><ul><li>How much of a practical problem is scientific backwardness? </li></ul>Religion Science
  29. 29. Plug <ul><li>Taner Edis, An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam (Prometheus Books, 2007). </li></ul>
  30. 30. Web site <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li>Contains many articles on science and religion, and science and Islam topics. </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail [email_address] </li></ul>
  31. 31. Thanks for listening! <ul><li>Any questions? </li></ul>? ? ?