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Science In Islamic Countries 1289

Posted by kdawson
from the 700-years-of-not-much dept.
biohack sends us to Physics Today for a thought-provoking article on the status of and prospects for science in Islamic countries. The author, a Pakistani physicist, posits that 'Internal causes led to the decline of Islam's scientific greatness long before the era of mercantile imperialism. To contribute once again, Muslims must be introspective and ask what went wrong.' The author makes a few strong conclusions, many of which are relevant to the general debate between science and religion. From the article: "Science finds every soil barren in which miracles are taken literally and seriously and revelation is considered to provide authentic knowledge of the physical world. If the scientific method is trashed, no amount of resources or loud declarations of intent to develop science can compensate. In those circumstances, scientific research becomes, at best, a kind of cataloging or 'butterfly-collecting' activity. It cannot be a creative process of genuine inquiry in which bold hypotheses are made and checked."
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Science In Islamic Countries

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  • Unfortunately... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:46PM (#20826739)
    ... the muzzies are sitting on all the oil. If it weren't for that, no one would give them the time of day.
  • The Arab World... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by goldspider (445116) <ardrake79NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:47PM (#20826757) Homepage
    ...was once the height of scientific enlightenment. Then along came Islam, and since then very little has progressed (without outside influence).

    One can only imagine what civilizsation would be like today if religion (of all stripes, mind you) hadn't stifled scientific progress since man first walked upright.
  • freedom of speech (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:52PM (#20826845) Homepage
    Freedom of speech and science are directly related. Both islamic and stalinist countries violently suppress free speech, consequently having almost no scientific breakthrough.

    The best scientific advancements come when someone declares "everything we know about this is wrong" and formulates, tests, and publishes some bold new idea. The tendency to question established "knowledge"--which is often backed by the church or the government--is never encouraged in non-free states.

    If you want a great example of this in western history, look at Galileo.
  • by jrmcc (703725) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:53PM (#20826853)
    ...on this story This should be a cautionary tale for any society that allows fundamentalism to rule public discourse and science.
    (This coming from someone living in Kansas USA, where many would like creationism in the schools)
  • Economics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by El Lobo (994537) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:53PM (#20826859)
    You don't need to be Einstein to understand that scientific advances are proportional to the economical status of the land. And I'm not talking about the economical status of the elite of the country but about the MEDIUM economical status of the population. Good economics is almost always equal to good education, good universities, quality investigations, cooperation projects, etc. I don't see any direct connection between ideology or religion and science.Many good scientific have been religious in some form ot believe in god: Newton, Einstein, Bohr, etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:54PM (#20826871)
    ...and usually put on trial for heresy by their compatriots.
  • by ErikTheRed (162431) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:54PM (#20826881) Homepage

    "If the scientific method is trashed, no amount of resources or loud declarations of intent to develop science can compensate. In those circumstances, scientific research becomes, at best, a kind of cataloging or 'butterfly-collecting' activity. It cannot be a creative process of genuine inquiry in which bold hypotheses are made and checked."
    For a minute there I though he was talking about Global Warming.
  • by Beetle B. (516615) <.beetle_b. .at. .email.com.> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:56PM (#20826899)

    ...was once the height of scientific enlightenment. Then along came Islam, and since then very little has progressed (without outside influence).
    Quite the contrary. The Muslim Scientific Enlightenment began and declined after Islam came about. (I avoided saying Arab as many of the well known scientists, while living in the Middle East, were not Arab).

    Nice try, though.

  • Re:The USA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:57PM (#20826909)
    ...was once the height of scientific enlightenment. Then along came fundamentalist Christianism, extreme patriotism, and since then very little has progressed (without outside influence).

    One can only imagine what civilization would be like today if religion (of all stripes, mind you) hadn't stifled scientific progress since man first walked upright.
  • I see differences (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SIIHP (1128921) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:57PM (#20826911) Journal
    "It's the exact same thing that's going on in America. The Jesus freaks utterly reject anything that might come into conflict with their preconception of GOD MADE THE EARTH IN SEVEN DAYS AND IF YOU SAY OTHERWISE YOU'RE GOING TO BURN IN HELL FOREVER."

    While the muslims do the same but actually set you on fire. In the street. Right now.

    So no, it's not the exact same thing that's going on in America. Others will chime in with their opinions of why it is, but they'll have a hard time finding comparable behavior amongst religiosos in the US.
  • the problem is the question itself because the question involves islam. if the question had involved christianity or judaism or buddhism the problem would be the same. the problem being, to think that science and religion have anything to do with each other at all, in a negative or positive way. they are simply oil and water, science and religion. they don't mix. at all

    this in fact is not a call to abandon religion to embrace science, nor is it an assertion that there is a conflict between religion and science. they merely have nothing to do with each other. there can be no conflict between two systems that don't speak the same language or investigate the same phenomena. one has to do with fact based inquiries, the other has to do with transcendental thought. the aspect of scientific knowledge simply cannot involve, touch, comment on or otherwise involve the aspect of religious knowledge. and visa versa

    once you realize this, all of the "problems" involving science and religion disappear. problems only appear when, mistakenly, someone tries to comment on science from the point of view of religion, or someone tries to comment on religion from the point of view of science. this represents instant failure of an ability to understand the subject matter you are concerning yourself with

  • by tyroneking (258793) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:01PM (#20826983)
    The following sentence from the article troubles me greatly: "The near-absence of democracy in Muslim countries is also not an especially important reason for slow scientific development. "

    It should be clear to any human being in this world that democracy (and the rule of secular law), though not perfect by any means, leads to a populace who have a moral investment in the country in which they live - and this leads them to think of greater things, such as science, and not the day-to-day issues like how to not be killed for wearing the wrong clothes.

    Religion and science have nothing to do with each other and anyone who even suggests that is making a grave mistake and fool out him/herself and the science s/he studies.
  • Re:No surprise (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:02PM (#20826985)
    Six days... He rested on the seventh (Genesis 1:31 - 2:3) ;)

    I am a self-proclaimed Jesus-freak and I have no problem with science. What I do take exception to is "science" constantly striving to tell us that there is no God... God is bigger and more fantastic than anyone can comprehend.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:05PM (#20827031)

    'Internal causes led to the decline of Islam's scientific greatness long before the era of mercantile imperialism. To contribute once again, Muslims must be introspective and ask what went wrong.'

    Don't worry, you've been linked on Slashdot. Prepare for plenty of non-Muslims with no knowledge of either history or religion to come along and tell you.

  • by dskoll (99328) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:09PM (#20827093)
    Islamic societies are horribly backward in terms of economic and scientific development. It doesn't require a genius to figure out why:
    • A society that takes away rights from 50% of its population cannot prosper. Societies that oppress women are invariably under-developed, strife-riven and backward.
    • Any system that proclaims a monopoly on truth and mandates severe punishments for those who question the system cannot produce scientific progress.
    • Any society that produces riots in response to satirical cartoons cannot progress in the modern world.
    • Any society that always blames outsiders for its troubles will forever wallow in its own backwardness.
  • by PhxBlue (562201) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:10PM (#20827117) Homepage Journal

    "Science finds every soil barren in which miracles are taken literally and seriously and revelation is considered to provide authentic knowledge of the physical world. If the scientific method is trashed, no amount of resources or loud declarations of intent to develop science can compensate."

    This seems to apply pretty well to the Bush administration.

  • by mr_e_cat (611996) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:10PM (#20827123)
    "Then along came Islam, and since then very little has progressed"

    I'm sorry, but you have your time line wrong. The scientific enlightenment came along as a consequence of Islam.

    From Wikipedia:

    "A number of modern scholars, notably Robert Briffault, Will Durant, Fielding H. Garrison, Alexander von Humboldt, Muhammad Iqbal, Abdus Salam, and Hossein Nasr, consider modern science to have begun from Muslim scientists, who were pioneers of the scientific method and introduced a modern empirical, experimental and quantitative approach to scientific inquiry."
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_science/ [wikipedia.org])

    Obviously things have gone horribly wrong in the last thousand years. But then again we seem to be going in the same direction in the United States, with intelligent design etc. In fact in the article "Science finds every soil barren in which miracles are taken literally and seriously and revelation is considered to provide authentic knowledge of the physical world" sounds a lot like the United States, where over 50% of the population doesn't accept the theory of evolution (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/11/22/opinion/polls/main657083.shtml [cbsnews.com]).
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:11PM (#20827135) Homepage Journal
    (and a disclaimer, yes I know not every muslim country has vast amounts of oil, but many do and have an inordinate influence)

    Oil rich countries can buy massive amounts of technology(including advanced weaponry) without having to ever invent any of it, somewhat rare if not totally unique in the modern world. Thus for many governments, there seems to be very little need to develop technology indigenously. This seems especially true in the case of the Saudis whose legitimacy in the eyes of many in the muslim world(they oversee the holiest places in Islam) seems to be largely dependent on their hardline Islamic views which means Madrassas and knowledge of Islam, not science, is th e most important thing to them. They can defend themselves from any threats(mostly Iran) without developing the know-how to engineer weapons themselves. Very few other civilizations in history could ever get away with that....
  • Perhaps you should read his rationale behind the statement.

    Simply put: Countries with dictators still at times do better than the countries mentioned. It's not that big a factor unless they actually shut down the universities. Few dictators actually prevent papers from being published - it's not their concern. Heck, just yesterday I was reading a research paper in my field that came from a Cuban university.

    Some of these countries, BTW, have democracies. Their scientific output still sucks.
  • by drakaan (688386) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:19PM (#20827241) Homepage Journal

    *total* crap?

    I submit to you that Islam and Christianity both did plenty to stifle scientific progress simply because some scientific discovery was at odds with the religion in some way.

    You're right, the scientific establishment has plenty of religion in its family tree (Copernicus, Georges Lemaître, and countless others were entrenched in both camps), but that's beside the point.

    The fact that the Islamic world was ahead of the west for quite some time isn't a refutation of the original argument (that Islam ended up hampering scientific progress). Likewise, the argument that the Christian world is ahead of the east (man, I have writing that) isn't an affirmation of Christianity enabling scientific discovery.

    What, pray tell, do you believe led to the decline of scientific progress in that part of the world, if not oppressive religion in the form of (in this case) Islam?

  • by Beetle B. (516615) <.beetle_b. .at. .email.com.> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:21PM (#20827271)
    Yet another person who apparently has not met a Muslim, let alone live in the "Islamic" world.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:24PM (#20827311)
    "God is a fairy tale."

    Prove it.

    Scientists can't make scientific claims about things they have no evidence of or relating to; you seem to mis-understand that. Anything else is an opinion, not a fact, and thusly -- there is a god and there is no god are un-scientific statements based on *drumroll* faith or lack thereof.

    "And it's not science that tells you there's no god, it's people who understand science."

    Then it is outside of and not part of the set. An opinion. Funny you don't understand a basic maxim of correlation does not imply causation.

    "Seems kind of pathetic when you realize what it's really all about, people running around buying in to stories because they failed to advance intellectually."

    And an advanced intellect means you don't or can't prove your position, right?

    Go back to the kiddie pool.
  • by SteelAngel (139767) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:27PM (#20827355)
    "When the christians were burning roman and greek science (philosophy, medicine, etc) books, the muslims were preserving them in great libraries. Similarly for greek and roman art, the christians destroyed countless statues, the muslims decorated their palaces with them." Although in much of Europe, the middle ages were not a time of great learning from the Greeks, many Irish monestaries were busy hoarding important works from that era. "How the Irish Saved Civilization" by Thomas Cahill is a pretty good book - and very eye opening for those who have been taught that the Islamic societies were the ONLY cause of the Renaissance. And half of those "Islamic" scholars weren't Arab anyway. They were Persian - heirs to an immense scientific culture that got forcibly converted by a barbarian invasion in the 600s. On the other point, I call bullshit. Islam has a prohibition against artistic depictions of living things. Mohammed is credited for smashing every statue in the Kaaba, and during the sack of Constantinople in 1453, every single statue in the Hagia Sophia was smashed, and the frescoes painted over. Wherever Muslims invaded, there was an enormous destruction of artworks.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:27PM (#20827363)
    The "there is no God" notion isn't really a conclusion of science. It isn't even a hypothesis. It is a "metaphysical presupposition."

    This presupposition must be made in order for scientific investigation to be possible. If one assumes that some phenomena (whatever it may be) is simply "the work of God," then there is no incentive to do controlled tests of it. If, however, one assumes that the phenomena has a physical (non-miraculous, non-conscious) mechanism behind it, then it makes sense to to tests aimed at uncovering and modeling the mechanism.

    When a scientists (self-proclaimed or authentic) states that science has proven the non-existence of God, he has simply overstepped his bounds. Just as there is no experiment that could prove the existence of God, neither is there an experiment that could disprove it. God is beyond the scope of science. Any true believer can rest confidently in this simple observation. Any honest scientist should too.

    However, a scientist is completely within his rights to presume the non-existence of God when doing his work. Theologians can clean up the mess later with notions about how God is the author of the mechanisms being studied, if necessary. But the first step any scientist must take is to clear his hypotheses of God.

    It is easy to confuse a presupposition with a conclusion. It is also easy to wonder where God went when we look at a mechanical universe with a particularly incompassionate character to it. So we can cut the scientists some slack.

    I would encourage the scientists to cut the theologians a little slack too, so long as the theologians are not inhibiting scientific research by making appeals to their own metaphysical presupposition.

    There's my $0.02
     
  • by yoprst (944706) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:28PM (#20827383)
    A society that takes away rights from 50% of its population cannot prosper. Societies that oppress women are invariably under-developed, strife-riven and backward.
    Ancient Greece
    Any system that proclaims a monopoly on truth and mandates severe punishments for those who question the system cannot produce scientific progress.
    Soviet Union
    Any society that produces riots in response to satirical cartoons cannot progress in the modern world.
    You've got me there...
    Seriously, life is tad more complicated than moralists would like it to be...
  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:29PM (#20827393) Homepage
    Religion and serious scientific discovery have always been at odds with each other and the reason boils down to "believe without evidence" or "faith." "Science" isn't always right but it's not about being right... it's about the continual pursuit of learning and understanding reality as we know it based on available evidence and the ability to prove through testing.

    Religion is simply the opposite. It is based on the idea that what you were told is the truth. "Rumor" fits this description... as does "myth" and "gossip." But the fact is, religious belief cannot be admissible in a court of law with any reasonable rules for evidence and discovery. (Unless that court of law is based on religion... and we see what happens to 'rule of law' when it's based on religion... chaos and rather unjust proceedings.)

    I think it's interesting that they are trying to make some connection between Islam and advanced knowledge. I'm probably wrong, but I believe things like advanced mathematics were developed in the "Islamic" part of the world, but predates Islam itself. It's more likely that Islam itself is responsible for the intellectual decline in that area just as it's often responsible for intellectual decline elsewhere.
  • by nasor (690345) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:30PM (#20827405)
    "this in fact is not a call to abandon religion to embrace science, nor is it an assertion that there is a conflict between religion and science. they merely have nothing to do with each other. there can be no conflict between two systems that don't speak the same language or investigate the same phenomena. one has to do with fact based inquiries, the other has to do with transcendental thought."

    Regardless of what you think religion should or shouldn't be used for, a huge chunk of the world's population does use religion to explain physical phenomena. You can say "science and religion address different domains!" as much as you like, but it won't make it true.
  • Re:Economics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine (196982) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:30PM (#20827409)

    I don't see any direct connection between ideology or religion and science.Many good scientific have been religious in some form ot believe in god: Newton, Einstein, Bohr, etc.


    Religion, when it comes to impact on Scientific Advancement, seems to have little to no effect so long as there isn't fundamentalism and intolerance. If you get those two in conjunction with religion, then the answer to "How does this happen" ceases to result in theories and experiments. Instead, the answer becomes "Because it says so in The Holy Texts and anyone who questions them must be killed." The more society falls prey to fundamentalism and intolerance, the weaker science gets. Right now, most Islamic countries are highly fundamental in nature. Science there doesn't stand a chance.

    Of course, it's not just Islamic fundamentalism that's the problem. Imagine if Christian Fundamentalists got their heart's desire and could pass whatever laws they wanted to in the US. Evolution would be banned in favor of "God did it." The Big Bang would be tossed from classrooms to make room for a story about the 7 Days and Nights of Creation. Questioning the literal "word of God" would result in severe punishments. Science would grind to a halt.

    Remove fundamentalism and intolerance, however, and science can easily co-exist with religion. The religious just need to stop being literal about their religious texts. I'm religious (Jewish) and I see no conflict between the first part of Genesis and the Big Bang. That's because I don't see Genesis as being a literal History Of The World. It's a morality lesson. For example, there are actually two stories as to how man was formed. In one, man was formed in God's own image as the crowning achievement of creation. In another, he's made from mud. A great rabbi I once knew described the moral of this story thusly: Every person should walk with two pouches at their side. One should say "The whole world was made for me." The other should say: "I am nothing but dirt." In this manner, a person can strike a balance between being proud of themselves and humility.

    Notice nothing in the example above contradicted anything about the Big Bang or Evolution. The stories are just used to tell a lesson in morality, not to tell the literal events of the past. And before someone mentions it, there are passages whose moral lessons collide with modern Western sensibilities. Like views on homosexuality. However, there are vast parts of the bible that aren't followed anymore (all of the sacrifice stuff), so it's not that big of a stretch to claim that those passages don't apply today and just ignore them.
  • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:31PM (#20827421)
    From the article:

    The Qur'an, being the unaltered word of God, cannot be at fault: Muslims believe that if there is a problem, it must come from their inability to properly interpret and implement the Qur'an's divine instructions.

    The Qu'ran, far from being "the unaltered word of God", is actually an horrific and savage compilation of distilled hatred. Work on collecting the verses wasn't even begun until long after Mohammed was dead, and it was pieced together from people who claimed to have known him or known people who knew him. Thus it's put together out of chronological order (already one alteration) and to try to claim "Mohammed" wrote it is laughable.

    The same is true for the other Muslim "holy books", the various collections of hadith (sayings of the so-called "prophet") that various factions believe are more or less authentic (the Sunni and Shi'a have their own favored set each, same for other sects).

    Islam is not simply a religion; it is a design guidebook for the creation of a totalitarian state in which the "supreme leader" (Caliph) and his stooges get to use religion as an excuse to be really crappy to everyone else. And it's a lot easier to keep your population under control if they're too stupid to know better and terrified that a revolt might stop them from reaching "heaven."

    And Mohammed, far from being a prophet, was an opportunist who figured like Akenaten, Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard that he could use religion as a tool and scam. Look at the various things he was "exempted" from. He "limited" other men to only 4 wives (already a mysoginistic bastard but we'll move on), but he himself got at least an even dozen, plus he fucked a 5 year old (Aisha) just because he got bored with adults. He raped a girl who had just seen her entire family slaughtered (Safiya) and then retroactively declared it a "marriage" the next day when his troops started complaining.

    Muslims like to try to rewrite history to hide embarassing details - such as the nature of the Ka'aba, their "holy box", which predates Mohammed. Mohammed's grandfather was a pagan priest of a specific deity of the Quraish tribe. He named his son (Mohammed's dad) "Abd'allah", literally "Slave of Allah."

    This was before the monotheistic "Allah" was cooked up by Mohammed.

    Question: Which pagan deity is Allah? Or else who was Abd'allah named for?

    Islam is a joke. The more educated Muslims you get, the more educated ex-Muslims you'll have as they wake up to the utter absurdity of this bullshit. That's why Muslim leaders hate education so much.

    Hell, that's why the Muslim religion has a standing death threat for converting away.
  • by be-fan (61476) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:38PM (#20827535)
    There are multiple periods during which certain parts of the Middle East were prominent civilizations, advanced for their time. The period that occurred most recently was under the Islamic empire. The person who is considered the "father of algebra" had the full name Mohammed ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi.

    As for your theory as a whole, you ignore some important facts. For example, Christian scholars were instrumental in preserving the knowledge of the Roman Empire through the dark ages. Also, theology has been an important component of the thinking of many of history's greatest minds. When you look at the figures behind the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution, the vast majority of them were not atheists.

    That said, I do agree that organized religion has done a lot of harm to science as well. On the whole, I'd agree that it's been more good than bad.
  • by Schnoogs (1087081) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:38PM (#20827537)
    Not to interrupt your attack on the west and it's history but this article is talking about NOW...not THEN...but NOW.
  • by be-fan (61476) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:41PM (#20827591)
    I don't think the Church (or the Mosque or the Synagogue) should get credit for the achievements of its members! It was the Christian Church that put Galileo under house arrest. It was a Christian (Newton), that came up with the fundamentals of classical mechanics. There is an important distinction to be made.
  • by rhombic (140326) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:41PM (#20827593)

    Uh, are you serious?

    No, the parent wasn't. They were being funny, but a bit too subtle for /. Read the first sentence, then read the second sentence (where it says "should be modded down to .") very slowly, and think about what we call our numbers that can represent things like 0 and -1....

  • evading the issue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sentientbrendan (316150) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:46PM (#20827659)
    >this in fact is not a call to abandon religion to embrace science, nor is it an assertion
    >that there is a conflict between religion and science. they merely have nothing to do with
    >each other.

    You evade the problem by being too abstract. There is no conflict between "religion" and "science" but there is clearly a conflict between specific established scientific views and specific established religious views.

    Many sects dogmatically proclaim that the world was created in 7 days. You can say that "this is a metaphor, and so not at odds with science," but the problem, the conflict is that the people who say that don't *mean* it as a metaphor. They mean it as a factual statement about the world.

    Saying there is no conflict between something abstract like "religion" and "science" is missing there point. There are concrete conflicts between various religious dogmas many specific scientific views.

    Furthermore, it is well historically established that societies that accept dogmatic modes of thought are not conducive to scientific development. If scientists must do all of their important research in secret, for fear of public reprisal, they will get little done and their work will not be widely disseminated. This is a historical and ongoing problem in our society.

    The problem isn't that "religion is bad," although I think an argument could be made for that, but that certain social institutions, especially some hard line religious sects, do much to harm the advancement of science by establishing dogmatic views that they refuse to accept rational challenges to.
  • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:46PM (#20827675)
    Anyone whose mind is worthlessly closed will be unable to grasp simple truths that challenge them.

    That includes bible literalists (amazingly enough, no mainstream church actually insists that its followers take the Bible literally, since they acknowledge that any possible divine revelations made within are colored by the point of view of the person doing the transcribing to paper and any subsequent translation from the original language).

    It's also really fun dealing with Mormons on "mission" and hopelessely brainwashed $cientologists.
  • by feed_me_cereal (452042) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:48PM (#20827697)
    How is "While the muslims do the same but actually set you on fire. In the street. Right now." supposed to be interpreted? Was he supposed to interpret that as 2 or 3 muslims every other year? Any reasonable person would read that assume you're implying that burning people in the street is a standard practice in the muslim world. If this isn't your message, personally, I have no idea what you're trying to say.

    How the hell are you encouraging an "intelligent discussion" with this crap? In case you were wondering, intelligent discussions often involve clear, unambiguous statements that are clear of generalizations and often coupled with references to independant sources.
  • Re:yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nasor (690345) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:48PM (#20827701)
    If you want to propose that anyone who uses religion to explain nature is "missing the point of religion," then the vast majority of people throughout history from every religion around the world were "missing the point". In fact, it's arguable that the original purpose of religion was to provide explanations for natural phenomena that were unexplainable at the time. The idea that religion isn't supposed to provide explanations for natural phenomena is a relatively new one. If you want to try to re-invent religion as something that has nothing to do with empirical fact, then I wish you luck; but realize that you are trying to reinvent it.
  • science is static. it looks at what happened in the natural world and explains it, and extrapolates future predictions of activity outside of human intervention

    religion is dynamic. it is about that human intervention that science cannot explain or comment on. humanity is an interesting creature: it creates it's own reality. something that is not real in the natural world is made real nonetheless simply by enough of humanity believing it into existence. and i am not talking about physical objects like pyramids or airplanes, i am talking about mental concepts like fairness and justice

    there is no fairness and justice in the natural world. the concepts of fairness and justice is entirely made up by humanity. on faith. believed into being on faith, enforced as reality through enough human belief in it. but you tell me if that lack of existence of fairness and justice in the natural world means those concepts are nullified, or that such concepts are unworthy of investigation, codification, thought, and knowledge

    such things as fairness and justice are necessary components to human life, just like food and water, without which you would go insane

    in fact, if you say to me you are strictly a man of science, without any religion, i say that you lack self awareness. you have belief and faith in something. even a rudimentary humanism is a form of religion

    science and religion: two entirely different fields. and yet two fields of inquiry invaluable to every single man woman and child on the planet. there is no such thing as a man of religion without any science, or a man of science without any religion. the existence of such people is impossible, strictly because a rudimentary form of one or the other is required by a human being to survive in this world

    two completely unrelated issues that cannot comment on each other, and yet are utterly vital to what it means to be a human being
  • by ChePibe (882378) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:54PM (#20827833)
    Much of the problem is economic, not religious.

    The prototypical state for the economic problem in this case is Saudi Arabia. Saudis obviously are not lacking for money - they pump it from the ground at alarming rates - and this is part of their problem.

    The Saudi state distributes oil wealth among its people, and these distributions are a big problem.

    When people receive fairly large amounts of money for doing nothing, they have little incentive for improving their technical skills. Subsequently, there is little reason for young Saudi men - who, incidentally, were likely raised by largely uneducated women - to go beyond what they already do and know. A great many will also not seek out employment of any kind (the CIA World Factbook puts unemployment in Saudi Arabia at between 13% and 25% - not to mention the massive hole women have left in the workforce). Living off of oil subsidies, there is little need for students to prepare to compete in the global economy - they already have a resource the rest of the world needs for survival and receive an annual cut sufficient to live quite nicely off of.

    Pakistan is another example. With the state generally unwilling to invest serious amounts of money in education - and with teachers rightfully afraid for their lives in many areas - parents are given the terrible choice of choosing to provide little to no education at all for their children or sending them to a madrasa where their child will at least learn to read, write, as well as likely learn some basic math. The religious knowledge they will acquire will also help instill positive morals (they hope) and make them a beacon in the community as they grow older (also, they hope). While the later is admirable, it is when the religion overtakes ALL subject areas - as it does in many of these schools - that it becomes a problem.

    I received my undergraduate degree at a religious university - BYU - in the U.S. Evolution was accepted as fact and discussed as such. I studied Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and other great philosophers. I took classes on deductive logic. I studied Islam and Judaism. I learned the laws of thermodynamics. Majors were offered in Biology, Chemistry, various engineering disciplines, and other quite scientific fields. There were, of course, religion classes as well, but the requirement to complete these - 12 credits - was a fairly minor part of the overall curriculum and I cannot recall any instance of religion being extensively mentioned in secular classes (the vast majority) with the exception of ethical issues - particularly in a National Security class and on the subject of war. If the Arab world could make a system like that work, it would be better than what they have now.

    I wonder how much of this divergence has to do with the embracing or refusal of logic. Christianity, after the dark ages, made various attempts to reconcile its beliefs with logic with varying and certainly debatable results. St. Thomas Acquians and Pascal are good examples. But the idea that things should conform to logic and reason has been deep seated for centuries now, even though it is certainly not universal. As Christianity embraced reason, Muslims philosophers such as Al-Ghazali sought to move away from it for whatever reason. The courses I took on logic and philosophy, although somewhat infuriating at the time (professor's fault, not the material) have been the most useful to me by far in life. I cannot imagine a life - or a culture - without these ideas.
  • by caramuru (600877) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:54PM (#20827843)
    Much of the science attributed to 9th-11th century Islam is actually Assyrian. The Assyrians produced significant scientific achievements for centuries, were defeated militarily by Islamic invaders, forced to convert, and, within about 100 years, stopped producing any meaningful science. Google 'Assyria Science Islam' for numerous articles on this. The early Muslims, perhaps, understood the importance of science by capturing it, building libraries, etc. However, they never mastered the scientific method or the attitudes that support science. Consequentially, "getting back to the golden age of Islamic science" is not really possible. As the author stated, developing and supporting attitudes conducive to science is critical to scientific progress is Islamic countries, but it will be the first time that substantive scientific work takes place in Islamic countries.
  • by Xodmoe (995824) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:57PM (#20827885)

    "One can only imagine what civilizsation would be like today if religion (of all stripes, mind you) hadn't stifled scientific progress since man first walked upright."

    Religion and science are NOT diametric opposites! ...nor are faith and reason.

    Forget the fact that some of this nations best schools and hospitals are run by religious organizations. Never mind that Gandhi, Dr. King and even Pythagoras were men of faith AND reason.

    There is room for more than one way to make sense out of the world around us. By now we should have reached the point where we can accept diverse paths to truth and the idea that not all questions have satisfying, simple answers that one and all can understand. ...at least not right away.

    ...and if we can't agree with each other about the questions and answers, we shouldn't have to be so disagreeable in that regard. We shouldn't need to demean others who don't believe what we believe or think the way we think.

    I didn't need all that excess karma anyway.

  • Fundamentalists (Score:3, Insightful)

    by huckamania (533052) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:59PM (#20827907) Journal
    The US was, in part, founded by fundamentalists. Of course these same fundamentalists were escaping persecution by a religious majority and saw the need to not allow a single religion to dominate all of society.

    Even today, we get along just fine with the Amish, Mormons, Baptists, Southern Baptists, Scientologists, Wiccans, Satanists, etc. I don't see anything to suggest that this will change.
  • by Das Modell (969371) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:59PM (#20827917)
    Posted by me earlier:

    Much of that "past greatness" is just historical revisionism. Islam's "Golden Age" was just a fading echo of the cultures Muslims had conquered, and the scientific achievements were mostly done by non-Muslims, heretics and unorthodox Muslims. The Golden Age existed in spite of Islam, not because of it.


    That same historical revisionism also means that anything good in Europe's history is downplayed or ignored (while Islamic culture is glorified to no end).
  • by darkwhite (139802) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:00PM (#20827929)
    Your theory is laughably incorrect. You apparently know absolutely nothing of the history of scientific accomplishment in the Soviet Union or the scientific juggernaut that China has become in the past decade. (Failing to become scientifically important? They are already important, still far behind the US and EU, but catching up fast.)

    Totalitarian elites are just as aware of the benefits of research as less restrictive elites, if not more. The relative intellectual freedom of the scientists in USSR was a consequence, and not a cause, of the structure promulgated from above, and most scientists were nearly as brainwashed as the rest of the population. Some theories were arbitrarily attacked by the state (cf. Lysenkoism), resulting in quite a bit of damage, but the system actually worked around it.

    Freedom of speech simply isn't necessary for scientific achievement. Read the articles in Science lately? (not the editorial content, the real articles) How much would you identify in them that would be objectionable to the censor? Nothing whatsoever for the vast majority of them. Access to publications, ability to publish, good research facilities, good basic education that allows for a scientific thought process to develop, and good leadership are pretty much all you need for scientific progress. The Soviets had that in abundance, the chinese have recently built it all up to a very formidable level.

    Do not confuse freedom of speech as defied by authoritarian regimes with the social structure and priorities conductive to good science.
  • by heinousjay (683506) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:01PM (#20827961) Journal
    I give you props for speaking the hard truths, sir. Unfortunately, around here you can only talk bad about Christians and get away with it. The poor Muslims apparently need protecting from big bad reality.
  • by be-fan (61476) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:06PM (#20828015)
    Bettle B made a good point, but I also want to add something. I think in general it's better to look at religion as a reflection of society, than something that molds society. Ostensibly, societies derive their values from religion, but to be completely realistic, more often society leverages religion to enforce the values that they already hold. So in the context of the Arab period of enlightenment, it is useful to look at not the religious angle, but the political and economic events that underly them.

    The Islamic Empire (a political phenomenon) brought civilization and urbanization to a region that had been largely nomadic. It brought, at least for a time, stability, security, and wealth. The culture of Islam was, at the time, more contemporary and metropolitan than its contemporaries (remember, we're talking about a period when Europe was in the Dark Ages). These ingredients were all important for the cultural renaissance that occurred in the period. As the civilization declined, wealth, stability, and security were lost, and at that point Islam was used to enforce the conservative social order that naturally arises from such an impoverished state.

    Neither Islam nor Christianity have changed substantially in the last 500-1000 years. Neither the Bible nor the Quran have gone through a new edition. What has changed is how literally followers of the religion adhere to the now antiquated doctrines. The vast majority of Western Christians aren't really all that Christian. They don't attend Church regularly, they don't follow most of the teachings of the Bible, etc. They have a vague belief in God and Christ and doing good work, but for all their specificity such beliefs are probably closer to those of a modern, progressive Muslim than to the beliefs of the more ardent believers within their own religion. The litmus test for me is really the whole issue with the Catholic Church and birth control. The Pope, the designated representative of God on Earth, says that contraception is wrong yet most Catholics still use it. This is a very fundamental test of belief. If you honestly believe that there is an all-powerful being who controls heaven and earth and that Jesus died for your sins and left Peter as his successor, and that the current Pope is the spiritual successor of Peter and speaks with all of his authority, then you cannot possibly rationalize the use of birth control. LIke it or not, most modern Catholics do not really believe in Catholicism --- they believe in something similar, but diluted enough for modern sensibilities.

    It is this "dilution" that is desperately missing from the Islamic world. We have a population that feels at most mild guilt for skipping Church, and they have a population that fears for their eternal soul for missing prayers, and that's the problem.
  • Re:interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lixee (863589) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:11PM (#20828083)

    One can only hope that this current poverty of science in the islamic world is reversed.
    Until a few decades back, most of the Islamic world was still colonized. And ever since, they've all been spending all their money militarizing. Poverty of science in this case stems from poverty (with a couple of exceptions).
  • by hanshotfirst (851936) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:15PM (#20828151)

    And me without mod points. Mod parent up. I would have still commented, so I couldn't have modded anyway.

    You raise good points that people on both sides of the argument overlook - everyone seems to focus on the conflict of science v religion, trying to get one to meld with the other, or use one to disprove the other, when they are really tangential topics to each other. Now I come at this from the "Christian" point of view, but s/Christian/religionX/g and I think my points still work

    (As I read my own PREVIEW I realize I don't add much substance to what the parent poster said. The process of writing it was a personal epiphany for me, so I'll submit it anyway.)

    Science is about Facts. Religion is about Faith. Science, by definition, is based on observation. Faith, by definition (Hebrews 11) is based on the unobservable. Science addresses questions of WHAT? and HOW? of the world and events. It cannot assign meaning beyond physical description, laws, understanding the cause-and-effect. Science shows me "I am here. This rock is here." but cannot assign a "value" or "importance" to me or the rock - our influence on each other is irrelevant to Science other than explaining or predicting cause and effect. Religion addresses what science cannot - RIGHT and WRONG, GOOD and BAD, (and the debate rages over the definition of those terms). Morals, Spiritual understanding, things which cannot be defined or observed in the physical world. Faith is able to assign more "value" to a person than to a rock, such that I should be concerned about how my actions affect other people, and how I treat a rock only matters as it affects other people. (Or other religions do assign a value for the rock as well, such that it should influence my interactions with the rock)

    Science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of my God, or any other religion's God. It does not have to. When Science leaves gaps in explanation, Religion fills them in. Science can disprove Religion's explanation - geocentric theory for example. But religion can also embolden people to explore science - If I am secure in my eternal destiny I do not have to fear engaging in scientific endeavors such as sailing to the "edge of the world" or taking a possibly-one-way-trip to mars. (Admittedly weak analogy there - many people are not deterred by "certain death" exploration)

    This brings up another point Truth is Truth and must be discovered, regardless of belief. Either geocentric theory is true or it is not, not matter what I believe - Science conveniently offers evidence to support/proove one answer in this case. God exists or God does not exist, no matter what I believe. If God does not exist, by definition, he cannot be observed. If God does exist he , again by definition, cannot be observed physically - so either way Science cannot offer the same level of proof/disproof for God that it can for physical phenomena. Therefore, Faith is the only other mechanism to discover God. Religion comes in to compare whose Faith is accurate regarding unobservable truth in the same way that Science came in to compare whose Observations were accurate regarding physical truth.

    To mix the two, as the parent mentions, is meaningless. Like using a car repair manual to find the answer to a CowboyNeal poll. *duck and cover*

  • Re:interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:15PM (#20828153)

    It will not happen as long as the clerics, mullahs, and religious scholars are in charge.


    In most of the "Islamic" world, the "clerics, mullahs, and religious scholars" (the second being strictly redundant with the first; a mullah is a kind of cleric) aren't in charge now.

    Iran, of course, is a theocracy, and Saudi Arabia exhibits a religion-state entanglement that might be described as a brand of caesaropapism, but most of the regimes throughout the Islamic world are secular, though often quite authoritarian, regimes. It is, I would think, the authoritarianism of the regimes in question that is the biggest factor in suppressing inquiry than the regimes' religious character.

    The relation between the external political/economic context and the religious character of society (and I do think the kind of fundamentalist religious orientation that is common throughout Islamic world does inhibit science) is complex, but my personal belief is that the external forces which promote durable authoritarian regimes in the Islamic world also are involved in maintaining the kind of religious fundamentalism seen there.
  • by yoprst (944706) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:19PM (#20828203)
    A society that takes away rights from 50% of its population cannot prosper.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_greece#Social_Structure [wikipedia.org]
    Only free, land owning, native-born men could be citizens entitled to the full protection of the law in a city-state

    the system cannot produce scientific progress.
    Scientific progress in the soviet union was dropping at alarming rates

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_and_technology_in_the_Soviet_Union [wikipedia.org]
    No progress at all, and also dropping at alarming rate (must be a negative value all along)

    Life is not complex at all. Especially not complex in your meaning of the word. You use the word "complex" but what you mean is "whatever I say is right, everything else is misunderstood"
    Complex as in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_system [wikipedia.org]

    You've build your world model from your moral principles. Quite ironically, that's exactly the problem of Islamic world, although the difference in moral code makes it non-obvious.
  • by Speeple (1108303) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:23PM (#20828275) Homepage
    Maybe because this thread is on the topic of Islam? Why can't Islam be criticised without the need of concurrent criticism of Christianity? The liberal bias and the shield it provides for Islam is ridiculous.
  • Re:interesting (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xonstantine (947614) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:26PM (#20828313)

    course, is a theocracy, and Saudi Arabia exhibits a religion-state entanglement that might be described as a brand of caesaropapism, but most of the regimes throughout the Islamic world are secular, though often quite authoritarian, regimes. It is, I would think, the authoritarianism of the regimes in question that is the biggest factor in suppressing inquiry than the regimes' religious character.
    You might think so, but you'd probably be wrong. Authoritarian regimes aren't necessarily anti-science or scientific inquiry. The Germans under Hitler, for example, were quite good at pushing the technological envelope in some areas. But then again, the Germans themselves were fairly innovative before and after Hitler. You can overlay a despot on a culture and the culture remains. The bottom line is that Islamic society, in so far as it's Islamic, is simply anti-science. The few areas you've had successes in science in Islamic countries has largely arisen in spite of, not because of, Islam. Even in Egypt, which is nominally secular, professors routinely have to flee the country in fear of their life because they say something that supposedly profanes the Prophet, Allah, or some other token feature of Islam. I suspect that Islamic societies will remain backwards until the day comes when an Islamic artist can carry out the Islamic equivilent of putting the cross in a jar of piss and not worry about getting killed in reprisal.
  • by amRadioHed (463061) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:31PM (#20828403)
    What do you mean no mainstream church insists that its followers take the Bible literally? Every church that teaches creationism insists on a literal interpretation, and sadly they aren't insignificant in number.
  • by SIIHP (1128921) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:32PM (#20828413) Journal
    "But, I seriously doubt that all Muslims would light you on fire."

    And since I never argued that point, you can take your straw man somewhere else.

    "No, but I can cite examples of violent extremism in the USA."

    And that sir, is the point. In the US, it's violent extremism. In many muslim countries, it's state policy.

    This point seems to be incredibly difficult for some to grasp.
  • by thegnu (557446) <thegnu@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:33PM (#20828431) Journal

    (amazingly enough, no mainstream church actually insists that its followers take the Bible literally, since they acknowledge that any possible divine revelations made within are colored by the point of view of the person doing the transcribing to paper and any subsequent translation from the original language).

    Also, no mainstream Christian church exists in the harsh climate--both social and environmental--of the middle east. The old testamenteers were big on the Word, and it was only when the whole focal point of the religion moved to the happy land of Europe that things got a little softer.

    Then the Catholic Church happened. Happens. Really, it's interesting to watch judeochristians begrudge the muslim world one good crusade. I mean, without ever owning up to the wholesale murder of the ENTIRE American continent, north and south. Not that people should be involved in a religious war. Even if the Lord calls to them, as he so clearly has done to our dear President.

    and hopelessely brainwashed $cientologi$t$.

    There. Fixed that for you. If I could've fit some more dollar signs in there, I would have. :)

    And to GGP, I think Allah is almost the exact same pagan deity as Yahweh. Except his beard is black.
  • printing press (Score:3, Insightful)

    by trb (8509) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:36PM (#20828485)

    Another myth is that the Muslim world rejects new technology. It does not. In earlier times, the orthodoxy had resisted new inventions such as the printing press, loudspeaker, and penicillin, but such rejection has all but vanished.

    The author harks back to the golden age of Islam (essentially, before 1500) and claims that Islam no longer rejects technology. The fallacy here is that Islam did reject technology like the printing press until very recently. It is not a surprise that Islamic culture did not keep up with the west when they ignored such technology for 400 years. It is true that cultures with complex writing systems, like Japan and others, also were slowed by difficulties with mechanized printing, but they have been able to assimilate western technology sooner than the Muslim cultures have.

    Muslim countries that are less entrenched in fundamentalist belief are more culturally and technically advanced. The rich oil countries have science as an effect of their wealth, not as a cause of it. Southeast Asians are geographically adjacent to high tech territories, with a different culture than the north African Arabs and other Muslims in Africa and West Asia. The lack of science in those countries probably has more to do with poverty and oppression than Islam.

    To state an obvious point, modern Islamic culture does embrace technology when it suits them - they adapt violent practices from the west when they feel it helps them to advance their goals.

  • by John Betonschaar (178617) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:45PM (#20828633)
    Condemn him as much as you want, but If you'd actually take the time to read the Qu'ran, you'd find out that he is right. I don't want to start a discussion on Catholics or religion in general, because it is my personal belief that *any* religion is based on bullshit and stems from peoples fears and failures to manage their own misery, and I know in advance that it is no use arguing with religious people about this. But of all religions I know, the Islam is without any doubt the one that spreads and provokes the most hatred. The main cause for this is the Qu'ran and the fact that Muslims can only interpret it literally.
  • by Kadin2048 (468275) * <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:46PM (#20828647) Homepage Journal

    What do you mean no mainstream church insists that its followers take the Bible literally? Every church that teaches creationism insists on a literal interpretation, and sadly they aren't insignificant in number.
    The literalist Churches make a lot of noise, but in terms of hard numbers -- either as a fraction of U.S. population as a whole, or even as fractions of practicing Christians -- they're actually not that big. They have a political and social voice that's completely out of line with their numbers (the reasons for this I'll leave to others, or for another day).

    Baptist churches as a whole, most of which are not literalists/textualists but where most of the literalists fall, together comprise about ~15% of U.S. Christians. Pentecostals, Mormons, and other sects which take radically different views of Christianity are somewhere down between 1-3%, I think.

    There are some communities that are significantly or overwhelmingly populated by Biblical literalists, which is where they get a lot of press, but there's no valid comparison between literalist Christians in the U.S. and literalist Muslims in Saudi Arabia or Iran. There's a huge gulf there.
  • by everphilski (877346) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:46PM (#20828661) Journal
    amazingly enough, no mainstream church actually insists that its followers take the Bible literally, since they acknowledge that any possible divine revelations made within are colored by the point of view of the person doing the transcribing to paper and any subsequent translation from the original language

    As a conservative Christian (Lutheran) who believes the Bible is the inspired word of God (I guess that would make me a literalist), I do believe every word in there. Creation, divinity of Christ, Real Presence of Christ in communion (not transubstantiation), etc. Like Limp Bizkit said, "you gotta have faaaaaith!" There are some things I can't explain, but I hold them to be true.

    I wouldn't say my mind is closed. I have challenged my beliefs. I've left and I've returned. My mind is open but I keep coming back.

    It's also really fun dealing with Mormons on "mission" and hopelessely brainwashed $cientologists.

    Now there is a horse of a different color. My parents used to invite in Jehovah's Witnesses and have serious biblical discussions. It always ended the same way: some fatal flaw was picked out in the JW's doctrine, and they tend to get hostile, because there's nothing left, they don't have scripture to back them. Same with the Mormons. Camping one year with my grandfather (a retired pastor of many years) we had dinner with some nice mormons camping next to us who then decided to lay on the religion. He kept running in circles about how to attain salvation, he actually pulled out a sheet of paper and started drawing a diagram. It gets to be sad.
  • by thegnu (557446) <thegnu@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:50PM (#20828721) Journal

    Muslims like to try to rewrite history to hide embarassing details

    This isn't any different than the consolidation and edition of the works of the bible for internal consistency by the council of Nicea and others. I'm not advocating this, but let's not artificially narrow the scope of the conversation.

    Question: Which pagan deity is Allah? Or else who was Abd'allah named for?

    Counterquestion: Which pagan deity is Yahweh? Which pagan deity is Jesus? Which pagan deity, pray tell, is Mary?

    Q: Why did the Catholic church accept the divinity of Mary in the middle of the 20th century?
    A: Catholicism wasn't taking hold in Latin America, where people were unwilling to give up their earth mother goddess.

    Islam is a joke. The more educated Muslims you get, the more educated ex-Muslims you'll have as they wake up to the utter absurdity of this bullshit. That's why Muslim leaders hate education so much.

    I think the same can be said for Christianity. I think the Christian leaders aren't too keen on proper education, given their stance on evolution. An educated person can take a symbolic work, interpret it in terms that apply to his or her life, and discard sections of the text that clearly only apply to specific environments (for example, a desert in 600BCE). Religion mostly serves as symbolic anchors for people on a spiritual path, giving you pictures of God creating mountains and such so you get what they're talking about until you're mature enough to appreciate more esoteric internal spiritual development. But that doesn't mean a spiritually developed person can't use symbolism that suits them.

    Hell, that's why the Muslim religion has a standing death threat for converting away

    In tribal, violent parts of the world. I've been to some Muslim events and gatherings here in the United States, and they seem generally more conscious, open-minded, and kind than their Christian counterparts. Of course, in the US they're an underclass, so being conscious behooves them greatly.
  • Re:like i said (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Coryoth (254751) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:51PM (#20828737) Homepage Journal

    this is just a retarded pissing contest about word definitions
    Which you started. Reading some of your other replies, it seems that any set of ideas that anyone "believes" is a "religion"; which is stretching the definition well beyond common discourse. Excuse me for confusing your personal definition of religion (of which any philosophy whatsoever, involving absolutely no "spiritual" concept or otherwise, would qualify as) with the generally accepted one which refers to established schools of thought with specific spiritual beliefs. Saying "Religion and Science are not in conflict" and retorting, whenever anyone calls you on it, with "that's not what I mean by religion" and pointing to what actually just amounts to philosophy is rather disingenuous. The reality is that you mean that philosophy and science are not in conflict. Religion, as in specific actual schools of thought that call themselves religions, are very much in conflict with science. Sure "religion" needn't be in conflict with science if it gives up all its dogma and beliefs and becomes philosophy, but then its hardly religion anymore is it? Well, it is for you when you play word games.
  • by Das Modell (969371) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:56PM (#20828835)
    If we follow your logic to its inevitable conclusion, nobody has ever invented anything, anywhere. But that's obviously impossible.

    masquerading racism as history is a little disengenuous.

    Uh... what? When did this become a race issue? I wasn't aware that Muslims even constitute a race.

    So if Islamic empires do it, suddenly it doesn't count, because they were Islamic?

    It doesn't count because people always claim that the Golden Age was all because of Islam, when it really wasn't. The short-lived period occured in spite of Islam, not because of it, and was largely engineered by non-Muslims, unorthodox Muslims and heretics. I believe this historical revisionism is a result of the West's suicidal self-hatred.
  • by Kadin2048 (468275) * <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:57PM (#20828849) Homepage Journal
    Well, until fairly recently in the Western tradition, it was fairly dangerous to be openly non-religious or anti-religious. It only makes sense that a smart person would, at the very least, adopt the correct appearances.

    Who's to say what those individuals would have thought did they not exist in an environment which more or less required religion in order to be taken seriously (or not be harassed or killed)? It's difficult, probably impossible, to pull any of them out from their environment.

    But you're giving religion a ridiculous amount of credit to say, simply because a lot of people who were smart also were religious, that their being religious led to their being smart. A lot of criminals were also religious; do we lay them at the Church's doorstep, too?
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:07PM (#20829043)
    A person who believes in one religion easily sees the follies of other religions while remaining amazingly ignorant of how sad their own faith seems to unbelievers.

    To me, it feels like you had a part of your brain damaged and turned off when you were a child by your parents before you could protect yourself.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:07PM (#20829057)
    From an earlier post....

    "Much of the science attributed to 9th-11th century Islam is actually Assyrian. The Assyrians produced significant scientific achievements for centuries, were defeated militarily by Islamic invaders, forced to convert, and, within about 100 years, stopped producing any meaningful science"

          Ayn is more relevant today than ever and where is her truth more evident, Islam!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:08PM (#20829071)
    Cool, now do Christianity.
  • by Bodrius (191265) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:13PM (#20829173) Homepage

    It should be clear to any human being in this world that democracy (and the rule of secular law), though not perfect by any means, leads to a populace who have a moral investment in the country in which they live - and this leads them to think of greater things, such as science, and not the day-to-day issues like how to not be killed for wearing the wrong clothes


    Whoa. This is a logic leap of Olympic proportions.

    Democracy is a powerful means to its ends (e.g.: those typically described in democratic constitutions), but it inherited the lamentable romantic habit of taking strong assertions for rational arguments.

    - Democracy does not, per se, lead to a moral investment of the population in politics.
    It's remarkably difficult to get even minimal participation (voting on the most important elections) on mature democracies, much less 'moral investment'.

    - Democracy does not lead the population to think of 'higher, greater things'.
    On the contrary, participatory government focuses on concrete improvements to the way of life of the constituents. That IS one its main virtues - the resources of the state are to be invested into the happiness of the population, rather than the aspirations (however idealistic) of an autocrat.

    - Democracies tend to worry, more than anything, about day-to-day issues.
    Not being killed for wearing the wrong clothes is a central preocupation of citizens and politicians on most modern democracies - personal security is expensive to maintain, and a function of prosperity, not (directly) of constitutional freedom.
    Even if the most secure and prosperous democracies, day-to-day issues are the center of popular thought and political action. People worry more about their job security, schools for their children, their parking situation, or whether there is too much fat in french fries.

    Historically, worrying about "greater things" rather than the menial day-to-day problems of life is a very aristocratic feeling, not a democratic one; and the romantic rethoric of democratic documents has a lot to do with the aristocratic antecedents of those who wrote the seminal documents, and rethorical tradition.

    Even when democratic nations do spend great effort and emotional investment in a "greater thing" (e.g.: space exploration, fundamental scientific research, solving world hunger, etc) it is typically a result of unilateral top-down leadership, whether motivated by national needs (war, foreign competition, etc) or by a strong push from a charismatic executive leadership.
    In other words, the efforts are fundamentally 'dictatorial', in the original Roman sense of the word.

    The causal chain that leads democracy to achieve 'greater things' is powerful but indirect. Leisure is the parent of such worries, and prosperity leads to leisure. The power of democratic societies lies on their capacity to best achieve and sustain prosperity, and reduce the number of worries of survival a citizen needs to deal with daily.
    But it is human nature that, for the overwhelming majority of the population, even the most menial daily worries will take a higher priority than "greater things" in their political opinion.

  • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:31PM (#20829431)
    Christians, Jews, Hindus, Shinto, Confucians, Asa, Sikhs, Baha'i, Jainists, Rastafarians, Unitarians, and Buddhists don't try to suicide-bomb me for not converting to Islam.

    I'm sure there's a few religions I missed in there - I apologize to all of you except the Satanists (then again, at least the Satanists are honest about what their religion says).
  • by queenb**ch (446380) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:44PM (#20829617) Homepage Journal
    So you mean basically that they should stop doing what the Catholic church got booted out of doing....oh....let me see....500 years ago. I suppose that we get to wait and see who their Galileo will be.

    2 cents,

    QueenB.
  • by mdielmann (514750) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:51PM (#20829715) Homepage Journal

    ...it requires a fundamentalist theist to have dogma that infringes scientific thought.
    Why is there a perpetual claim that religious belief negates scientific thought? This article is about the Arabs of 700 years ago. From what I've heard, they were pretty religious, too. check it out, Mohammad was born a good 500 years before this, and Islam was already going strong. I hear the Egyptians were pretty religious - they sure spent a lot of money on it. Let me tell you, mummies aren't cheap, or easy (hmm, a method of embalming incorporating scientific methods and religious beliefs). The tombs (massive engineering and artistic feats) cost a bit more.

    There are a number of reasons why people choose not to think scientifically. Some do it for religion, some do it for tradition (one and the same in some circumstances), some do it from fear of the unknown, some just don't want to think too much. Note that those in the last category can very easily be scientific dogmatists, holding a firm belief that whatever we know right now is the true knowledge and the peak of perfection, and anything else is heresy.

    Face it, what you're expressing is an irrational belief that religion makes a person's intellect inferior from those that aren't religious, and a tendency to generalize. Try to accept the fact that people do a lot of stupid things for a variety of reasons, and believing in or following a self-destructive religion is no more irrational than assuming that the uncontrolled ingestion of mind-altering chemicals is a healthy long-term plan.
  • Challenge this (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:56PM (#20829783)
    I wouldn't say my mind is closed.

    Of course you wouldn't. That doesn't mean it's not true.

    In my experience most people (religious or otherwise) get irrational when their core beliefs are challenged. Not always hostile, but definitely irrational. They will spout logical fallacies left and right, seeming to have suddenly lost their ability to detect them, when only moments before they were pointing them out (as fallacies) in rival belief systems.

    This seems to be a psychological defense mechanism that serves to protect one from the very disturbing feelings of uncertainty that arise in such discussions.

    The people I've known who don't get irrational when their core beliefs are challenged were usually philosophers (by formal study). Also, they seemed to like it when they suddenly realized that the issues were deeper and less clear than previously thought. In other words, they didn't find uncertainty disturbing, hence they didn't need defense mechanisms, and hence they could remain rational when being challenged, and hence they could actually authentically be considered open minded.

    My challenge to you: Humans are not perfect; in fact they often mess things up pretty good. Every single word in the Bible was written by a human. God himself didn't manifest before you and hand you a copy; a human did. Your belief that God used his divine power to preserve the accuracy of the Bible was also taught to you by a human (and, ultimately, cooked up by a human). You simply cannot escape the element of human fallibility present in the Bible, and in all arguments made to it's final authority.

    So your faith isn't actually in God. It is in humans. That is to say, you have placed your faith in the specific humans who wrote the Bible, and the specific humans who gave you teachings about it.

    In that light, what rational reason can you give me for believing that the (very strange) stories in the Bible (the ones about heaven, hell, superhuman powers, talking animals, and so on) are concretely and historically accurate?

  • Re:Economics (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jez9999 (618189) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:59PM (#20829825) Homepage Journal
    The trouble is, if you reduce holy texts to morality lessons, there's not much difference between them and Aesop's Fables. There aren't many other straws for religious people to grasp at once they aren't able to describe 'their' version of history according to a text.
  • by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @06:00PM (#20829843) Homepage Journal

    All quite inexplicable to the human mind; accept it in faith, or not at all.
    One God, three user accounts.
  • Re:Fundamentalists (Score:3, Insightful)

    by manonthemoon (537690) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @06:13PM (#20830051) Homepage
    As a Mormon who is completely comfortable with the fact that his ancestors practiced polygamy, let me draw the distinction for you. The law is completely clear about the fact that 14 year old children cannot consent to sexual relations, and it is even more obvious that parental coercion doesn't make it any more legal. To use religious power to enjoin an adult & a child to break the law is behavior of the worst kind.

    If God did tell him to do it, it is up to God to stand up for him and protect him. I acknowledge him as the source of law for us, but in the absence of his direct intervention it is up to us to obey the law of the land. The Mormon church believed that it was constitutionally protected in practicing polygamy and appealed it to the highest courts of the land. But when the highest courts ruled, its own belief of honoring the law of the land made it inevitable that the practice would eventually stop, despite the enormous pain and suffering that separating all of those families endured.

    Considering also that Jeffs attempted to pass a note along to the judge disclaiming his "prophethood" he has no defense left at all, in any case.
  • Well that makes Christian terrorism like blowing up abortion clinics or murdering gays okay then. Oh wait, NO IT DOESN'T.
  • by bckrispi (725257) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @06:28PM (#20830251)

    "God is a fairy tale."

    Prove it.
    You're the one making silly claims of an invisible sky-daddy who doles out arbitrary rewards and punishments based on his own random whims that you try to interpret by reading book authored (and reauthored) over the span of several millenia. I'd have to say that the burden of proof is on your shoulders.
  • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionar ... m ['o.c' in gap]> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @06:30PM (#20830285) Journal
    Nah, I'd say that believing Islamic history is more like believing that Jesus Christ rose from the dead,
    Or that he transforms into wine and bread for you to eat (gross!)
    Or that Eve was made from a rib (although the bible can't get that story straight)
    Or that a flood covered the entire earth with water
    Or that Moses parted the red sea

    All religion is nutty and stupid. The bible is as full of horrible atrocities as the Qu'ran. Why single out Islam?
  • by KKlaus (1012919) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @07:54PM (#20831225)
    >>Religion and science have nothing to do with each other and anyone who even suggests that is making a grave mistake and fool out him/herself and the science s/he studies.

    What the fuck? Why do people keep saying this? Do religious creation myths not conflict irreconcilably with the theory of the big bang? Aren't miracles pretty much a violation of the laws of physics (hence their name)? I'm willing to concede that a discussion of the afterlife can be seen as entirely separate from scientific issues, as it posits essentially an entirely separate universe for use after death, but that hardly implies that science and religion don't talk about the same things, and have very different opinions about the facts surrounding them and the mechanics driving them.

    Sheesh.
  • Mod Parent Up (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @08:05PM (#20831327)
    There are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation bouncing around this discussion, and the parent poster correctly addresses the grandparent's incorrect assertions about Catholic doctrine.
  • by relifram66 (899283) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @08:30PM (#20831573)
    Hear, hear. Having read the Qu'ran several times, and having spent way more time in Saudi Arabia than I would have liked, I agree 100% with the GP. Keep in mind when I started trying to learn Islam and about the Qu'ran, I fully believed that it would actually be a fulfilling experience. Instead all I got was constant condemnation of anything not Islam/Arab, and constant death threats (both implied and implicit) against anything not Islamic.
  • by ignavus (213578) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @08:33PM (#20831605)
    I cannot see that a belief in miracles (or rather, the belief that certain miracles have occurred) is inimical to science. The point about miracles is that they are NOT the normal working of the universe, and do NOT tell us how the natural world works in general. Indeed, the fact that they are normally impossible is what makes them miraculous. This leaves the field of normal events (i.e. 99.999999+% of all that happens) open to explanation by empirical science as the only source of reliable knowledge in that sphere.

    The problem is with the use of ancient texts, no matter how inspired ("revelation"), to resolve general scientific matters. In particular, the problem lies in the assumption that fiction is not a valid form of scripture. I not only like fiction, but find some fiction profoundly moving and enlightening - why cannot scripture include fiction? Some ancient texts (like the parables told by Christ) are clearly meant to be fictions, and yet inspired and truth (just not truth in the narrative sense). The early parts of Genesis work very well as inspired *literature*, as vivid symbolism (e.g. with "Adam" and "Eve" as everyman and everywoman - the story is about human nature in general, not about some alleged first man and first woman in time). When people see the literary and personal value of many kinds of scripture (not all, but many), they worry less about whether it is narrative fact - the issue actually isn't important (e.g. the whole book of Job is an imaginary play about the meaning of suffering - it doesn't need to have a single iota of narrative truth to be worthwhile spiritual literature).

    Even Christian scholars in the 4th century (Jerome, Augustine) thought that Genesis described the origin of the world in a poetic manner, rather than scientifically. It is modern (or at least more recent) fundamentalists, not the ancient religious scholars, who try to impose ancient religious texts onto scientists in a way that those texts were never written to be used. I have no trouble believing that the world is created (every moment) by God and at the same time holding that it is an evolving world, lasting billions of years. To use a literary example: who created the One Ring - Sauron or Tolkien? The answer is that both did, but in different ways. God, if you like, is the Tolkien of the universe - we are all characters in the story he is telling (and no, you are not likely to be the Frodo of the story - live with it).

    Fundamentalism suffers from a lack of imagination. Those who think that fundamentalism is the only form of religion (or, somehow, that it is the "true" form, because it is the form they love to hate) are either biased or lacking experience of the real, diverse world of religion. And neither of these conditions is very scientific. Fundamentalism exists, and it is a real problem - not just for those outside the religion of the fundamentalists but also for the non-fundamentalists within that religion.

    Science and religion are not in conflict. They are simply different things. And to the extent that this article discusses Muslim scientists and Muslim anti-scientists the conflict did not exist in the past either: both sides of the conflict were religious.
  • by Swampash (1131503) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:44PM (#20832131)
    there's no valid comparison between literalist Christians in the U.S. and literalist Muslims in Saudi Arabia or Iran

    "invisible friend"? - check

    "100% totally true book"? - check

    batshit crazy? - check
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:55PM (#20832211)

    A person who believes in one religion easily sees the follies of other religions while remaining amazingly ignorant of how sad their own faith seems to unbelievers.

    "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours." - Stephen Roberts
  • by wodelltech (168047) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @11:05PM (#20832729)
    Really? I know three astrophysicists, and none of them can fathom how a person could observe the beauty and order of the universe without considering some kind of divine presence of Creator. I've often pondered the thought that their science brought them to (or at least towards) religion.
  • by xPsi (851544) * on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @11:32PM (#20832903)
    Religion and science have nothing to do with each other and anyone who even suggests that is making a grave mistake and fool out him/herself and the science s/he studies.


    I get the sense I misinterpreted the main message of your last statement. Based on the context of your post, I believe you are saying culturally and politically science and religion have nothing to do with each other. In this sense, I agree: religion and science are basically culturally orthogonal.


    However, one must be careful not to overstate the point with this non-overlapping Magisteria [wikipedia.org] cartoon. Tacitly and overtly, religion makes many claims about the way the world works physically. When this happens, like it or not, religion is treading in the domain of science. There is an afterlife, or there isn't. Either someone rose from the dead, or didn't. Someone turned water into wine, or didn't. Created the world in 7 days, or didn't. Born of a virgin, or wasn't. And so on. If these things happened, then there had to be a mechanism. These claims are not just symbolic abstractions for most believers but real physical claims about the way the universe works at its most fundamental level. Science has a lot to say about the physical possibilities of these claims (usually not siding with the original claim). If religion were to stick to only unfalsifiable, untestable, unphysical claims, then non-overlapping Magisteria works fine.

  • Re:Challenge this (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Moodie-1 (966737) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @12:49AM (#20833357)

    In my experience most people (religious or otherwise) get irrational when their core beliefs are challenged. They will spout logical fallacies left and right...

    This seems to be a psychological defense mechanism...

    The people I've known who don't get irrational when their core beliefs are challenged were usually philosophers (by formal study). Also, they seemed to like it when they suddenly realized that the issues were deeper and less clear than previously thought. In other words, they didn't find uncertainty disturbing, hence they didn't need defense mechanisms, and hence they could remain rational when being challenged, and hence they could actually authentically be considered open minded.

    You're closer to the basic truth than you might realize. It's not a psychological defense mechanism, it's more along the lines of a genetic defect. One that interferes with the proper operation of the person's critical thinking ability and that predisposes him/her to need a "superior 'knows-all' father figure" to fall back on in times of uncertainty. This defect differentiates the religious mind from the scientific mind. This is why religious people get agitated when their beliefs are shown to be false and why scientific/philosophic people don't. Perhaps the brains of religious people have a tighter connection between their logical sides and their emotional sides as opposed to the brains of scientifically-minded people. (This could also be why 'miracles' seem to be seen only by the more emotional people among us.) I think this warrants some serious research.
  • Re:Nonsense. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:13AM (#20833469)
    It's worth noting that the US religious fundamentalists are not Catholic. They're Protestant.

    Protestants believe that the Catholic church went too far from the original Bible and are generally a reactionary movement that's trying to move the clock back. The Religious Right for the most part aren't Catholics - they're Protestants.

    Catholicism accepts evolution as fact - the "intelligent design" people are all Protestant.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:46AM (#20833653)
    Religion and science are NOT diametric opposites!

    Not diametrically, no. But they are opposed. The people you site are rationalists in some areas and faithful in others. They are not rational AND faithful in the same areas.
  • by fractoid (1076465) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @02:13AM (#20833769) Homepage
    You know, I think I'd prefer justice. If I've done wrong, I'll pay the price - but I also deserve credit for all the right I've done in my life. I live according to the dictates of my conscience, which seems to me to be the highest moral authority to which I, personally, can appeal. The only thing that I do that's wrong according to modern, liberal Christianity is not believing in your deities. I've had philosophical discussions with people like you before, and we always come down to the assertion that blind, unreasoning, irrational faith is more important than your actions throughout your life. I can't help thinking that my philosophy does more good here, in this world, than yours. Everything I do counts towards my final score, if you will, whereas only your deathbed confession will count towards yours.

    Everything you have ever done, especially things you knew were wrong and did them anyway, will be counted against you.
    It must be hard to live, believing that even when you KNOW that what you are doing is right, your deeds are counted against you. But then that's why your religion is so successful; your god has set you up to fail.
  • by Yoozer (1055188) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @03:10AM (#20834037) Homepage

    .....the divinity and sacrifice of Jesus.....

    It is these that make forgiveness and mercy possible.
    Human nature and character is what makes forgiveness and mercy possible (but not default).
  • by jopet (538074) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @03:38AM (#20834139) Journal
    I know that scientists are prone to superstition. These astrophysicists commit the same error many commit - they feel they need to explain complexity with even more complexity and with complexity that is not grounded on any facts whatsoever and that is exchangable by an infinite number of equally absurd theories.

    In the concrete argument: there is nothing that forbids those astrophysicists to observe the beauty and order of the universe without any creator. There is no reason to make up a creator other than the infantile wish to explain something that cannot be explained by an antropocentric fairy tale.

    Yes, religion can blind people who are otherwise quite smart - so what?
  • by thewiltog (906494) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @04:49AM (#20834447) Journal
    Perhaps we should be asking why the Golden Age of Islamic science happened at all. As the article pointed out, the Arabs had no scientific tradition before their conquest of large parts of the (Greek speaking) Roman Empire. It was only when Greek texts were translated into Arabic that it was possible to continue the work that the Greeks had started. You could argue that the same thing occurred in Christian countries with the re-discovery of Greek philosophers in the Renaissance.
  • by vinlud (230623) * on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @07:57AM (#20835257)
    Well at least with Christians, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs you're simply wrong, or do you forget the conflicts in Northern Ireland, Kashmir (and other parts of India) and the Israeli state terrorism that easily? Ofcourse in these cases its mainly about power and money, but do not make the mistake exactly the same is the case with most muslim fanatics.

    It is one thing to pick on religious zealots, but a whole other thing to pick on a complete religion where most of its members just want to live in peace, like the others.
  • by anothy (83176) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @07:59AM (#20835261) Homepage

    Also, no mainstream Christian church exists in the harsh climate--both social and environmental--of the middle east. The old testamenteers were big on the Word, and it was only when the whole focal point of the religion moved to the happy land of Europe that things got a little softer.
    false. christianity didn't soften at all when it moved to europe; for hundreds of years afterwards, in fact, it stayed a hard, ignorant mess. while the christians in the middle east - the Eastern Orthodox church and similar - got educated and more nuanced in their understanding of religion and the world around them (and had a very mutually profitable intercourse with their jewish and muslim neighbors), the western european christians remained a step or two above barbarians. the First crusade looked very much like a barbarian invasion from the west. european christianity started softening when the europeans (primarily french and english) who'd participated in crusades brought back what they'd learned or observed there.
  • by JohnFluxx (413620) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @10:55AM (#20837323)
    Sigh. Yes, let's just redefine words to make them far broader than their usual meaning. That's useful.

    I'm a biologist, because I once looked at some animals.
    And I'm a photographer because once I actually took a photo.

    This is fun!
  • by hey! (33014) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @11:18AM (#20837685) Homepage Journal
    If it were, then lifting society from ignorance into a state of "progress" would be like pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.

    It may be that extraordinary individuals are responsible for some kind of transformation. If so, it doesn't mean those individuals aren't equally infected by superstition. Isaac Newton was not only an alchemist, but was considerably involved with studying the Bible to decode hidden prophetic messages.

    I think the flowering of science in the early Islamic world is more readily explainable in simple terms: for once, a society had a means for extraordinary individuals to develop their latent intellectual powers, and a mechanism for distributing the fruit of those powers. The means was the Quran: as the literal word of God, it made widespread and sophisticated literary training available, and individuals who would have otherwise have lived their lives in illiterate obscurity had basic education and a means to communicate across great distances. The scope to communicate was created by a vast empire (and later collections of empires) sharing familiarity with a common language.

    The reasons for the relative obscurity of the Muslim world in current scholarship is what is difficult to explain. In part, it is a matter of suffering by comparison. We live in the most learned era of human history. Muslim societies have not so much declined technologically as failed to keep pace with the advancement of European science.

    The reasons may be (as some are quick to suggest) due to the character of Islamic society. Or they may be historical, rooted in the specific failure and decline of the Ottomon regime at the same time Europe began to develop technologically and industrially. I do believe the glamour of historical glories exerts an enervating effect on a society. I see some of the same exhaustion of creativity energy in current American attitudes, which increasingly are more obsessed with being innovative than actually innovation, or being leaders than actually leading.
  • by Copid (137416) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @12:34PM (#20839005)

    No, by definition, secularism is the separation of Church and State. That is the central tenant of that ideology. Communism not only separated Church and State, but made it a capital offense in many situations to practice a religion, thus the ultimate separation. If you look at the philosophical tree you will see that democracy, is actually on the same branch as communism, and that branch is called secularism.
    I think that you need to brush up on your set theory a bit. You're right about what secularism is, but you jump completely off the rails in equating it with communism. Communists implemented secularism. Communism is not secularism and secularism is not communism. Secularism doesn't lead to communism. They don't form a "tree" of any sort. Each can exist independently of the other, although communist regimes have opted to go the brutally secular route. If I had to make a guess, I would guess that communist regimes insisted on strict secularism mainly because it's hard to have more than one unquestionable dogma running the show and that established churches were a threat to their power. It's tough to make people act against their own interests by asserting that you have Absolute Truth when the people you're talking to already have another Absolute Truth that doesn't totally jibe with yours.

    All secular ideologies suffer from the same fundamental flaw, human nature. I don't think democracy is bad, and I despise the thing communists have done, but democracy without a defining moral system, will always fail, and fail miserably. Thus while democracy strives for separation from the Church, it cannot do without it.
    I think that the issue is that you're working on the assumption that it's not possible to have a meaningful moral system without some sort of religion attached to it. I, and many philosophers, strongly disagree.
  • Re:The USA (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ultranova (717540) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @07:18PM (#20844909)

    Given that steam engines, electricity and the concept of the atom where discovered at later Hellenistic periods (around 200 years around the birth of Jesus Christ), we could be at Star Trek level of technology and civilization right now. But instead of that, we got 1500 years of no progress, thanks to religion.

    Thanks to slave labor, actually. The Greek steam engine was pistonless and driven by steam jets, making it incapable of generating much power. There was no incentive to develop it into an usable state, when slaves did all the heavy work. And even if they could had, they lacked the materials and skills to make machines which could had actually used that power rather than break.

    For the Greek, technology was essentially a toy, and science (philosophy, really) just a fun pasttime. They seeked harmony with nature, not mastery over it. Furthermore, the citizens who made the toys were already free from physical labor, so why should they have cared about devices which made it easier ?

    The reason the Greek failed to start the Industrial Revolution was that their society simply wasn't ready for it, neither was their science nor technology. And the Middle Ages saw constant advances in technology, mainly in warfare, but also in metallurgy and irrigation, and the invention of physics.

    The Greek were smart, but they had no steam engines, they had steamjet-driven toys. And their atoms have very little to do with the particles so called today.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo. - Andy Finkel, computer guy

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