Is Science without Religion a Desirable Entity?
Metanexus: Views 2001.19.01 1020 words
“The tragic events of September 11 have been universally condemned,”observes Muzaffar Iqbal, author of “Islam and Science”. Prof. Iqbal is alsothe.Founder and President of the Center for Islam and Science(www.cis-ca.org) and Regional Director for the Muslim World, SRCP, CTNS(www.ctns.org). Moreover, he notes as well, that these events have, “onceagain, shown that science and its sister, technology, has really transformedthe way our lives our shaped. From the crime itself to its reporting andfrom the reactions it produced to the extent of global reach of thesereactions, everything would have been unimaginable fifty years ago. Thetechnological advances, based on new discoveries in various branches ofscience, have made it possible for us humans to suffer tragedies as theyhappen.”
Given the integral role that both science and religion, as technology andideology, seem to have played in the WTC attack, we must ask ourselves –asscientists, theologians, and concerned human beings– how should we respond?How should we then live and act? How are we to be responsible scientists,theologians, and concerned human beings?
These are the issues that Prof. Iqbal examines in today’s column. He alsouses, by way of example and touchstone, a 1996 essay by Richard Dawkinstitled “Is Science a Religion?” that recently appeared on Metanexus:Clippings. If you wish to read the essay in its entirety, please go to<http://www.humanist.net/publications/humanist/dawkins.html>.
–Stacey E. Ake
Subject: Is Science without Religion a Desirable Entity?From: Muzaffar IqbalEmail: <[email protected]>
The tragic events of September 11 have been universally condemned. Theseevents have, once again, shown that science and its sister, technology, hasreally transformed the way our lives our shaped. From the crime itself toits reporting and from the reactions it produced to the extent of globalreach of these reactions, everything would have been unimaginable fiftyyears ago. The technological advances, based on new discoveries in variousbranches of science, have made it possible for us humans to suffer tragediesas they happen.
This transforming power of science has also produced the illusion thatscience is really all that we humans need to live. After all, no otherentity has such a global reach. No other entity can produce instant globalreactions to a human situation. Religions do not come into our sitting roomswith the same force, they do not evoke a universal response and they are butan individual affair. Rather, more than this. The tragedy has profaned atleast one religion and it has made a case against all religions as beingsuspect; they motivate violence.
In the midst of the tragedy, the reappearance of Richard Dawkins’ 1996article on Metanexus with its provocative illusion to “one of the storiestold to the young Muslim suicide bombers” further enhanced the impressionthat the tragedy was somehow the result of teachings of a religion. In thiscase Islam. We all know Dawkin’s position on science and religion discourse.His publicly stated position is that science and religion belong to twonon-overlapping magisteria (NOMA).
But this false and dangerous notion, that science and religion have nothingin common, is taken to its logical conclusion in Dawkin’s full article (towhich a link was provided in the portion that appeared on Meta) where heunabashedly proposes complete elimination of religion, through his “neweducation” aimed at removing all absolutes. But what is more painful at thistime of grief is the perpetuation of mis-information and false chargesagainst Islam in the quoted text reproduced in Metanexus regarding theIslamic teachings. Dawkin sites no source for his information; he gives noreference. Instead, in a highly unscientific and scandalous way, he merelyperpetuates false notions by saying that the “suicide bombers [are taughtthat this] martyrdom is the quickest way to heaven — and not just heavenbut a special part of heaven where they will receive their special reward of72 virgin brides. It occurs to me that our best hope may be to provide akind of `spiritual arms control’: send in specially trained theologians todeescalate the going rate in virgins.”
This patently false notion, further vulgarized by a scientist who believesin total separation of science and religion, forces us to pause and toreflect on the question: What kind of education has produced a mind whichcan churn out such false notions? A scientific education for sure but onewithout values. A person who can rely on such unscientific ways to argue hispoint must have some other foundation for his assertions. What might be thatfoundation other than prejudice and ignorance?
But there is no time to waste on such falsehood. I believe the task for usis to find ways to engage members of our respective faith communities toestablish bridges and regain a sense of proportion, direction and purpose infighting the menace that terrorizes us all. What is needed is not the kindof rhetoric that would create an unbridgeable chasm between different faithcommunities but a sober understanding of our common future on this planet–afuture that has been decidedly and irreversibly shaped by science but whichcannot be worth living if science is not guided by a higher system ofvalues, ultimate ends and goals. These values cannot come from scienceitself. They have to be culled from the common heritage of human race, fromthe wisdom and teachings of religions, none of which advocates terrorism.There is no religion which preaches violence that consumes lives ofthousands of innocent people; it is people like Dawkins who propagate suchfalse notions about religions; their motivation is merely to discreditreligions.
In times of crisis like this, one cannot help but rely on the absolutes. Ashumans, the only way open to us is to search for truth and use all ourinherent abilities to respect other people’s truths. This requires humility.This requires compassion and love. Humility, compassion and love whichscience alone cannot provide. The sooner we understand this, better it is,for nothing less than our survival is at stake.
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