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Science and Religion in Islam Taner Edis Department of Physics, Truman State University www2.truman.edu/~edis/ Why Islam? Science and religion debate Complicated. Dominated by Christian background.

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science and religion in islam

Science and Religion in Islam

Taner Edis

Department of Physics, Truman State University

www2.truman.edu/~edis/

why islam
Why Islam?
  • Science and religion debate
    • Complicated.
    • Dominated by Christian background.
  • Islam is a close cousin of Christianity and Judaism, but is also different enough in theology and history to be interesting.

Science and Religion in Islam

science and the supernatural
Science and the supernatural
  • Our sciences have converged on naturalistic explanations of the world – physics, biology, neuroscience…
  • Casts doubt on supernatural realities.

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Science and Religion in Islam

worrying about materialism
Worrying about materialism
  • 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.”
  • Symbolic enemy.

Science and Religion in Islam

responding to materialism
Responding to materialism
  • Technology is attractive to modern religious people. Linked to science. So can’t ignore science.
  • Need to appropriate science, and correct science if it disagrees with revealed truths.

Science and Religion in Islam

conservative popular options
Conservative, popular options
  • Science either
    • Supports traditional beliefs, such as those derived from taking scriptures at face value;
    • Or if it does not, “True Science” done by the devout shows the errors of the materialists.

Science and Religion in Islam

creationism
Creationism
  • Christian version: often young-earth.
  • Muslim version: Quranic; often old-earth.
    • Widespread belief in special creation, linked to scriptural literalism;
    • Popular pseudoscience.

Science and Religion in Islam

islamic creationism
Islamic Creationism
  • Turkish origin, but internationally popular.
  • Deny common descent.
  • Borrows from Christian creationists.
  • Sees “Darwinism” as a materialist conspiracy.

Science and Religion in Islam

science in scripture
Science-in-scripture
  • Christian version: Electricity, laws of physics in Bible; Behemoth = dinosaur.
  • Muslim version: Modern science and technology anticipated in Quran.
  • Very popular legends. 55:19-20 about barrier between two bodies of water. Mediterranean-Atlantic salinity barrier; Jacques Cousteau conversion legend.

Science and Religion in Islam

quranic embryology
Quranic Embryology
  • Scattered verses such as 39:6 “God creates you inside your mothers, in successive formations, in three darknesses.”
  • Authority of Western MDs: Bucaille, Moore.
  • Fragments of ancient Greek medicine.

Science and Religion in Islam

quranic astrophysics
Quranic astrophysics
  • Seven layers of skies/heavens in Quran.
  • H. Nurbaki:
    • Solar system
    • Our galaxy
    • Local group of galaxies
    • “radio magnetic sphere”
    • Quasars
    • Expanding universe
    • “remaining boundless infinities”

Science and Religion in Islam

why so popular
Why so popular?
  • Miracle: Proves divine source of Quran.
  • Like Biblical prophecy for conservative Christians.
  • Intellectually worthless.

Science and Religion in Islam

not defending medieval ideas
Not defending medieval ideas!
  • Turkey: much pseudoscience tied to Nur movement.
  • Said Nursi: respected religious leader. Orthodox.
  • Nur adherents noted for modern outlook; pro-capitalism, pro-technology enthusiasm.
  • Do pseudoscience because they value science!

Science and Religion in Islam

reconstructing science
Reconstructing science
  • Christian version: “theistic science” ideas in ID movement.
  • Muslim version: Islamizing science.
    • Design-centered biology and physics;
    • Social science shaped by Islamic social ideals, Islamic law.
  • Serious ideas much debated by Muslim intellectuals. Affects policy.

Science and Religion in Islam

sophisticated creationism
Sophisticated creationism
  • ID in Turkey.
  • Seyyed Hossein Nasr
    • Common descent OK;
    • No natural creativity;
    • Reconstruct God-centered science;
    • Revive medieval Islamic views.

Science and Religion in Islam

moderate options
Moderate options
  • Moderate, liberal Christians seek compromise with science, interpret Bible less literally.
    • Example: guided evolution (ID-lite).
  • Muslim case: there is some openness to metaphorical interpretation.
    • Some theologians adopt guided evolution, accepting much common descent.

Science and Religion in Islam

guided evolution
Guided evolution
  • Even guided, non-Darwinian evolution is controversial.
  • Naturalistic process, particularly random element unacceptable.
  • Human evolution particularly unacceptable.

Science and Religion in Islam

more liberal options
More liberal options
  • Christianity: the supernatural retreats to ultimate, metaphysical domain. Science deals with mere details, is autonomous.
  • Islam: much rarer. Science should be subordinate to revelation and moral concerns. (Even liberals think so.)
  • Exceptions: some defend autonomy of science. Abdolkarim Soroush in Iran.

Science and Religion in Islam

what is different in islam
What is different in Islam?
  • The religious and intellectual options Muslims face are similar to those for Christians.
  • But among Muslims, science is weaker and religiously-colored pseudoscience is stronger. Among intellectuals as well as the popular realm.
  • Why?

Science and Religion in Islam

history
History
  • Past few centuries dominated by need to catch up to modern, especially Western world.
  • West has technological advantage  military and commercial power. Need science!

Science and Religion in Islam

golden age exaggerated
“Golden Age” exaggerated
  • Muslim science did not greatly decline. Europe surged ahead with a new way of learning about nature.
  • Medieval Muslim science embedded in religious, occult ways of thinking. Different from modern science!

Science and Religion in Islam

defending islam
Defending Islam
  • Borrow technology but guard against outside cultural influences.
  • Materialist aspects of science undesirable. External imposition, not indigenous heresy as in Europe.
  • Retain primacy of revelation; supernatural-centered view of nature.

Science and Religion in Islam

awareness of christianity
Awareness of Christianity
  • European secularization seen as a disaster for religion; an example to avoid.
  • Separating science from religion is dangerous. Even liberals are reluctant to go this way.
  • Islam need not repeat Western history of science-religion accommodation.

Science and Religion in Islam

strong doctrinal conservatism
Strong doctrinal conservatism
  • Liberal Muslim views much weaker than their Christian counterparts.
  • Reinterpretation, seeing religion as human strongly opposed. Even violence.
  • Even modernists, democrats can be cultural conservatives.

Science and Religion in Islam

creationism example
Creationism example
  • In education, commonly no evolution, or official support for creationism.
  • International popular, media-based creationism such as Harun Yahya.
  • Supported in intellectual circles, by academic theologians, by some science faculty in universities.
  • ID default in Muslim intellectual culture.

Science and Religion in Islam

weakness of science
Weakness of science
  • Muslim lands very weak in science.
    • Applied science OK;
    • Lack of creativity.
  • Ineffective opposing creationism
    • Endorse pseudoscience
    • Tagged as secularist.

Science and Religion in Islam

secularism is discredited
Secularism is discredited
  • Ideas with secularist associations suffer.
  • Secularism = despotic, elite imposition on pious populations.
  • Democracy  religious populism. Islam central to political legitimation.

Science and Religion in Islam

no separate spheres
No separate spheres?
  • Science and religion in West: intellectual friction, institutional accommodation.
  • Separate spheres. Science independent of religion.
  • Not in Islamic world?
  • How much of a practical problem is scientific backwardness?

Religion

Science

Science and Religion in Islam

slide29
Plug

Taner Edis, An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam (Prometheus Books, 2007).

Science and Religion in Islam

web site
Web site

www2.truman.edu/~edis/

  • Contains many articles on science and religion, and science and Islam topics.
  • E-mail [email protected]

Science and Religion in Islam

thanks for listening
Thanks for listening!
  • Any questions?

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Science and Religion in Islam

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