Friday, August 10, 2007

Science, Islam, and the Holy Spirit

Pervez Hoodbhoy, chair and professor in the department of physics at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan, where he has taught for 34 years, takes on an extremely relevant topic in his article in Physics Today, Science and the Islamic world—The quest for rapprochement.

Hoodbhoy makes two comments about the scientific endeavor and "attitude" of Islam:
Science is fundamentally an idea-system that has grown around a sort of skeleton wire frame—the scientific method. The deliberately cultivated scientific habit of mind is mandatory for successful work in all science and related fields where critical judgment is essential. Scientific progress constantly demands that facts and hypotheses be checked and rechecked, and is unmindful of authority. But there lies the problem: The scientific method is alien to traditional, unreformed religious thought. Only the exceptional individual is able to exercise such a mindset in a society in which absolute authority comes from above, questions are asked only with difficulty, the penalties for disbelief are severe, the intellect is denigrated, and a certainty exists that all answers are already known and must only be discovered.
Likewise, and relatedly:
In the quest for modernity and science, internal struggles continue within the Islamic world. Progressive Muslim forces have recently been weakened, but not extinguished, as a consequence of the confrontation between Muslims and the West. On an ever-shrinking globe, there can be no winners in that conflict: It is time to calm the waters. We must learn to drop the pursuit of narrow nationalist and religious agendas, both in the West and among Muslims. In the long run, political boundaries should and can be treated as artificial and temporary, as shown by the successful creation of the European Union. Just as important, the practice of religion must be a matter of choice for the individual, not enforced by the state. This leaves secular humanism, based on common sense and the principles of logic and reason, as our only reasonable choice for governance and progress. Being scientists, we understand this easily. The task is to persuade those who do not.
What Hoodbhoy does not see -- as many do not in the realm of merely secular science, social or "hard" -- is that the tectonic attitudinal shift comes at the point of the organizing principle of conventional religion, anthropologically speaking. Until this happens, Islam will simply be another expression of what mimetic theory describes as the "primitive sacred."

And this is why the Christian faith is not merely another world religion, but a categorically different and superior expression of God's self-revelation in "Jesus Christ and him crucified." The Holy Spirit in the Christian faith in general and the Catholic Church in sharp particularity made science possible. As Girard says, "We didn't stop burning witches because we invented science. We invented science because we stopped burning witches."

For a fine explication of this, see Gil Bailie’s lecture on the Gospel of John (tape 10).

1 comment:

David Nybakke said...

Nice find there Athos. 2 thoughts: 1) as I start to transcribe tape 6 of Gil's “The Gift of Self” he talks of Girard saying that the only 'subject' is a converted one, otherwise the person is simply a pawn in a mimetic whirlwind of the false transcendence (we need to realize that since the 'fall' the false transcendence has been the stabilizing force of choice); and 2) the only way through to the True Transcendence is by experiencing it - to hear the call as such and then choosing to be led by the call out of the 'primitive sacred' and violence. Intellectual study, even following the scientific method, CANNOT get us there. All the articles that attempt to analyze critically any and all the religions of the world will not bring about conversion. It is only through an experience of the True Transcendence can one begin to see clear of the cloud of the primitive sacred. And so humanism, the scientific method or other learning tools will never lead us out of the mimetic swirl which always bringing us back to acts of Satan casting out Satan as the only means of ridding 'the bad guy'.

From Catholic Forum: "The Roman Catholic Church commends to us today the anniversary of the triumph of Saint Lawrence. For on this day he trod the furious pagan world underfoot and flung aside its allurements, and so gained victory over Satan's attack on his faith.

"As you have often heard, Lawrence was a deacon of the Church at Rome. There he ministered the sacred blood of Christ; there for the sake of Christ's name he poured out his own blood. Saint John the apostle was evidently teaching us about the mystery of the Lord's supper when he wrote: "Just as Christ laid down his life for us, so we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren." My brethren, Lawrence understood this and, understanding, he acted on it. In his life he loved Christ; in his death he followed in his footsteps."