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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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  • interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rucs_hack (784150) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @01:50PM (#20826809)
    Wow, for the first time ever, an article linked off a slashdot story that I find completely fascinating. As a scientist myself I find it utterly tragic that the past greatness of Islamic scholars is apparently largely forgotten outside of the work of science historians.

    One can only hope that this current poverty of science in the islamic world is reversed.
  • 3-2-1 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by king-manic (409855) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @01:51PM (#20826823)
    Que the Jihad. Poor scientist... Beheaded before his time.

    Seriously: What is everything open to criticism except Islam. Islam has some major issues because the entire religion is controlled by very corrupt demagogues. Criticize it and some random clerics asks that you be killed and some person with mental problems does it. I really can't think of any rational non-oppressive solution except to have everyone openly criticize it. They can't kill all of us.
  • Re:The Arab World... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rucs_hack (784150) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @01:54PM (#20826877)
    Islam had it fair share of brilliant scholars, the problem was it had its fair share of fundamentalist religious types, and they won.

    Did you know that there is a good deal of evidence that the western renaissance was started using Islamic knowledge taken from libraries in spain?

    simplified yes, but basically true.
  • Slight hypocrisy (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @01:57PM (#20826921)
    It cannot be a creative process of genuine inquiry in which bold hypotheses are made and checked.

    Just like the Holocaust issue in the western world.
  • Re:The Arab World... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:00PM (#20826971)
    Stupid mods. Mod some bullshit informative just because it's an early post that sounds authoritative. Idiots.
  • Re:The Arab World... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:10PM (#20827127) Journal
    The thing people who think in black and white terms about religion versus science don't get is that there are important lessons about humanity and what it really needs to survive buried in these religions.

    These religions are so heinous, so terrible, that one looks at them and thinks, how could these be allowed to exist?

    The problem comes up in that these religions are survival mechanisms, that have been subjected to evolutionary pressure just like the people that compose them, they are right in particular ways that we don't necessarily appreciate. They are right in such crucial ways that all the terribleness they bring is overcome by the survival capacities they bring with that terribleness.

    When a civilization decides to just discard the lessons entirely and switch to an enlightened and free age of science and reason, they only survive a few generations before their decline and collapse. Happens over and over again through history.

    Islam might have declined the Arab worlds capacity for science, but the Arab world is not weak because of it. We are. We are weaklings with clever tricks. We are few where we might have been many, we are soft and spoiled where we might have been hard and powerful, and we did it to ourselves.

    It really pisses me off... the so-called reasonable people are making magic tricks with flammable powders for the delight of the peasants while Rome burns. Meanwhile, the people who have an insight into what the important lessons our religions have to bring us can't think critically enough to identify which are important and relevant, let alone think about why that is or convince anyone else.
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:29PM (#20827385)
    Here's the Iranian leaders take on science is in the Islamic world:

    Speaking as "an academic," Ahmadinejad said that from his perspective, the role of science is to serve Islam and that any science that does not serve Islamic goals is corrupt. As he put it, "Science is the light, and scientists must be pure and pious. If humanity achieves the highest level of physical and spiritual knowledge but its scholars and scientists are not pure, then this knowledge cannot serve the interests of humanity." Elaborating on this notion, he argued that Western scientists serve corrupt governments who reject the pure and pious path of Islam and therefore are used as agents for corruption.

    From a Caroline Glick [jpost.com] article on Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia.
  • Re:interesting (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CodeBuster (516420) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:33PM (#20827465)
    One can only hope that this current poverty of science in the islamic world is reversed.

    It will not happen as long as the clerics, mullahs, and religious scholars are in charge. The average level of non-religious education in these countries is now so poor that many muslims call anyone who can read and write Arabic, with knowledge of the Koran and the Hadith, a great scholar even though the poor chap probably never completed the equivalent of Western grade school in other areas of non-religious study such as mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, etc. Are there exceptions to this rule? Of course, but part of the problem in the Islamic world is that the people equate religious knowledge with all the truth that is worth knowing and are suspicious or even hostile to secular ideas in general and scientific ideas, especially those which bring into question dogmatic "truths" from religion, in particular. This becomes dangerous when an "educated man" (i.e. the mullah) tells the people that they should kill all of non-believers, for example, because the people base the "truth" of the mullah's statements or interpretation of the religious texts based upon his perceived authority and scholarship, the appeal to authority [wikipedia.org] (i.e. if the mullah, an educated man, says that it is so then it must be true...end of discussion), instead of the logic of what the mullah is actually saying.

    There is a lesson here for the fundamentalists here in the United States. Hopefully we will be wise enough to learn it, but unfortunately it seems that we, as a society, are taking the same long road to stagnation in science that others have in the past.
  • by proton (56759) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:39PM (#20827565) Homepage
    Just the other week I discussed this with my uncle, he is a die hard christian and I talked to him about what I perceived as a negative effect of religion. You hear it all the time. Whenever something bad happens, it Gods will. Lost your job? Gods will. Got sick? Gods will (Germs whats that?). Your grandma died? Gods will (No she was 100 years old and did just fine, what natural causes?).

    It seems that any time a believer explains an event with "It was Gods will." they are basically saying, dont get any ideas, dont ponder, dont try to figure out why.

    Im an atheist myself. I wish I could ban religion altogether.

    -- Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. [wikipedia.org]
  • by burndive (855848) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:46PM (#20827671) Homepage

    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.

    I agree that it's a "metaphysical presupposition", and that metaphysical presuppositions are necessary to engage in scientific study, but I don't think that it is necessary to assume that God "doesn't exist" in order to engage in scientific study. I think a better, more general way to put it would be "All other things being equal", or "in a closed system": basically, you need to assume that God is not actively (abnormally) "interfering" with your experiments as you conduct them: whether he exists or not.

  • by toriver (11308) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @02:51PM (#20827755)
    I guess for your next trick you are going for another Jack Chick impersonation and prove that Catholics are traitors loyal to the Pope who worship a Babylonian godess.

    Or you could try to promote your own beliefs instead of focusing on hating others like that.
  • by Lord Apathy (584315) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:21PM (#20828235)

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

    Allah comes from the old pagan moon god that was popular at the time. I can't place his name off hand but I used to know it. Anyway its from this moon god that islam gets is lunar calendar and that cresent moon symbol.

  • by Coryoth (254751) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:29PM (#20828373) Homepage Journal

    Science addresses questions of WHAT? and HOW? of the world and events.
    Indeed, and philosophy addresses questions of WHY?, and religion shuffles in and treads on everyone's toes. Some people's view of religion puts it very much in conflict with science, because they see religion as answering WHAT and HOW questions. Those, like you, who wish to pare religion back to WHY questions, simply reduce it to bad philosophy.

    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.
    Questions of right and wrong, good and bad -- these are questions for ethics and moral philosophy, and there has been a great deal said in those fields that makes no mention of religion or God. Questions of consciousness are also an active field for philosophers. Religions answers to these questions, rather than being profound, tend to be both glib, and completely lacking in any grounded argument or justification. Religion and theology are, these days (since religion lost the battle over WHAT and HOW with science) simply bad philosophy that has a strong hold because it has been around a long time, and modern philosophy still doesn't have all the answers. That doesn't make it good, nor valuable, other than as a security blanket (which, I admit, it does very well at for now) until we actually make progress on real answers.
  • by Ender_Wiggin (180793) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @03:51PM (#20828733)
    That's not true, its a myth fomented by Christian missionaries.

    Allah is the Arabic word for God. "Al-Lah" means The God. The Arabs at the time believed that Allah created the universe, then had daughters and other gods to intercede for Him. If you read islamic history, you'll see that the polytheists already believed in God, but also in others as well.

    As for the "moon" hoax, that never existed. The Quran specifically says not to worship the sun or the moon, but to the One God that made all of creation. The crescent is a pre-islamic symbol, and made popular by the Ottoman empire. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) never used the crescent, instead using flags that said the Kalimah ("No god but God") writen on them.

    Allah is how you say God in Arabic. Even the Arab Christians and Jews of the time never disputed that Allah was the real God. The Arabic translation of the Bible uses "Allah" as it is how you say God. The Pope and other religious leaders of Christianity and Judaism and Islam even agree on this.
  • by Kadin2048 (468275) * <slashdot.kadin@xox[ ]et ['y.n' in gap]> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:07PM (#20829065) Homepage Journal

    If it wasn't any of these things, the horrible truths you have already noticed about it would have led to its destruction long ago.
    That's not much of a compelling argument. By that notion, if the government of the United States launched its missiles tomorrow and glassed all the predominantly Muslim countries in the world, and then followed up with land forces to finish the genocide, until any trace of Islam had been wiped off the Earth, then secularism would be provably a better philosophy than Islam, as evidenced by the fact that Islam would not longer exist.

    That seems rather hollow. Using social success as a measure for the superiority of a meme only works if you can control for external factors; if that meme is the only thing differentiating two groups. Since that's almost never the case, you need to consider other factors.

    A belief system might be helpful at one point in social evolution, but unhelpful, even harmful, at a later state; or one society might just be luckier in terms of access to natural resources, allowing itself to build faster and conquer its neighbors, even though it carries the weight of a harmful belief system like a terminal disease, waiting to erupt later.

    Using outcomes from inequal start conditions as a measure of objective superiority only works on infinitely long timescales. In the real world, it's a poor metric.
  • by denzacar (181829) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:10PM (#20829101) Journal

    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?
    You know... that guy from the Bible. Him who is called I Am!

    Islam is the same thing as Christianity - only with minor updates and changes. Same basic rules (plus couple of new ones), same prophets, same angels...
    It even has Jesus - only his name is Isa (like the slot) in Qur'an.

    Main difference that was very useful for all these holy wars all these centuries?

    No crosses or icons.

    Cause there is that rule about no idols in the HolyBookTM. Pick the one you like - its the same thing anyway.
  • Re:No surprise (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mrpeebles (853978) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:15PM (#20829201)
    I believe it was Karl Popper (a famous philosopher of science) who wrote that he believed that Christianity was instrumental in the formation of science in the West. The Christian God creates a rational world that can be understood through reason. However, the world is not contingent, so we must observe it to know it. Even math started out as religion - the Pythagorians had a religion based on rational numbers. So I completely disagree with you that science and religion are incompatible.
  • Re:Fundamentalists (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:19PM (#20829257)
    The most likely change I see are growth of religious values as the quasi-catholic hispanic population becomes a majority. They will have a majority of the population in the south soon. Once a population becomes the majority, it typically starts enforcing its values on the rest of the population.
  • by gbutler69 (910166) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:42PM (#20829591) Homepage
    It is a known fact the the predominant thing that led to the decline of "Native Americans" (Both North and South) is exposure to diseases (e.g. Smallpox) that their immune systems had never seen before. This wiped out the vast majority.

    The remainder were wiped out because they didn't understand the concept of "Property Rights". When settlers claimed land, because no one else had "settled" it, they didn't understand. They fought with the settlers, and the settlers fought back.

    The settlers had better weapons and because their numbers were easily replenished, they overwhelmed the native americans.

    On one hand, this is sad and unfortunate. On the other, it is the way things have always been and always will be.

    You are either a winner or a loser. Choose your side.

    Even if you choose not to choose sides (that's a choice too) someone else will choose which side you are on sooner or later.

    There is never enough for everyone. Someone will always want more. They will forcibly take it from you.

    Defend what is "yours". If you have not, take it from someone else. That's the way it is.

    Don't like it? Cry.

  • by PtrToNull (742886) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:50PM (#20829707)
    I'm an astronomer from Kuwait. Let me tell you that while many of the reasons mentioned as valid, they're overly simplified.You'll be surprised that many long held notions are utterly false.
    • Lack of Democracy: While this is indeed true, democracy will bring havoc to the middle east. We have a decent partial-democracy in Kuwait with a freely elected parliament and it's already a nightmare. If democracy ever to become wide spread in Kuwait, I'll immediately migrate! Remember that democracy can be like two wolves and a sheep deciding what to have for dinner. In Kuwait case at least, the fanatics won the greatest number of seats, and all their legislations are geared toward making Kuwait an Islamic state. Our "dictatorship" thankfully blocked a number of bills, forcibly, like the bill to implement full Shria'a Law (think flogging and chopping hands). It would have been much worse than Saudi Arabia. The fanatics were successful in passing bills to limit freedom of speech, even to go as far as to imprison those who dare to criticize not prophet Muhammad, but his friends. They were able to pass laws to segregate the university, and now instead of one university they're building TWO next to each other DOUBLE the cost and with a small river running between them to complete separate. If you think creationists and neo-cons are fanatics, you haven't experienced the mental terrorism here, we take it to another level.
    • Suppression of women: Again, it's an over simplification. In Kuwait, 70% of university graduates are women, about half the working force are women. Most technical jobs & especially IT in the government are headed by women (our IT department has about 5 males and 17 females engineers). My boss is a woman in fact, and so is her director! Also, women, by convention, come to work half an hour late, and leave work half an hour earlier, and this applies everywhere where.

      The 'elected' parliament refused to grant women their right to vote up until 2005 where, again, the 'dictatorship' government forced the law on the parliament and threated to dissolve it if it didn't pass. My sister completely covers up her face, if somebody saw me with her, they'd think "Oh look at that Arab suppression his wife/family", while in fact, I tried many time to convince her to take it off and how ridiculous it is but with no success, she's a devout Muslim and she doesn't want to do that and she thinks hideously of any thing western. While it is true that a lot wear it forcibly, it's mostly due to culture "oh everyone is wearing it so I'll do that". On many instances, I've seen women become more conservative by their own will. What's ironic is that in the last parliamentary elections where women got the right to run for office and vote, an Islamic MP (Daif-Allah bu Ramiah) who worked so hard to devoid women of their rights by launching numerous campaigns, actually won the race mostly due to the overwhelming votes he got from women voters (Women voters represent more than 50% of the total vote, despite that fact, no women MP was elected). It's completely insane and I truly don't understand it.
    • Economy: This is a joke too, at least in my case where the whole country pretty much runs on a welfare-like system. Education, health, utilities, housing..etc if not subsidized heavily (and I do mean heavily) then they're basically free. And with the huge multi billion surpluses we've been lucky to get in the last few years, what's preventing us from advancing in science???

    The country lives in a horrendous bureaucracy, most people are so lazy to work in an ethical manner, and most scientific institutions are run by zealot Islamic creationists who are wasting research money on 'scientific miracles of the Quran' and producing more books on why 'Evolution is a lie'. Their influence is heavy in education where kids are actually taught evolution, and how to 'disapprove it', not to mention the hatred driven religious classes which, thanks aga

  • by The Qube (749) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:53PM (#20829741)
    > The Qu'ran, far from being "the unaltered word of God", is actually
    > an horrific and savage compilation of distilled hatred.

    http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/orientalism.html [islamic-awareness.org]

    > 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.

    http://www.islamic-awareness.org/History/Islam/Dome_Of_The_Rock/Estwitness.html [islamic-awareness.org]

    > Thus it's put together out of chronological order (already one alteration)
    > and to try to claim "Mohammed" wrote it is laughable.

    No Muslim ever claimed this. FUD.

    > 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).

    http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Hadith/Ulum/ [islamic-awareness.org]

    > 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.

    See first point.

    > 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."

    I couldn't agree more with the first part of this point, but it's not specific to Islam, Muslim countries, secular countries, Christian countries etc - for example, I've been arguing the same point about Australia for a while now.

    The second part has nothing to do with the first part, but, btw, Islam encourages revolt against unjust rulers. Why is it not happening in certain countries is a different topic.

    > 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

    http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Polemics/lie.html [islamic-awareness.org]

    > 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.

    http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Polemics/aishah.html [islamic-awareness.org]
    (Note, I don't agree with some of the non factual comments made in the article - I'm linking it only for its factual content)

    > 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.

    Why yes, yes it does. The fact that it does is a big part of the Islam.

    > 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?

    http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/Sources/Allah/moongod.html [islamic-awareness.org]

    > Islam is a joke. The more educated Muslims you get, the more educated
    > ex-Muslims you'll have as they wake up
  • by manonthemoon (537690) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @04:58PM (#20829817) Homepage
    Actually as Mormons we continually take flak from many "literalist" denominations. We acknowledge the large amount of symbolism in scripture and believe that God is physical and "part of the universe"- in other words subject to physical laws. We do not believe in creation "ex-nihlo"- instead we believe that matter is uncreated and uncreate-able from nothing. The Mormon religion is one of the few where higher educational attainment equates to greater denominational activity.

    We also believe that all truth belongs in Mormonism, but that Mormonism isn't the source of all truth. In other words truth can be found independently of the church and there is no reason to be threatened by it. There are "mullah" types in Mormonism, as in all denominations, that are overly suspicious of science, but that is not reflective of the doctrine.
  • by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:04PM (#20829899)
    Oh, wait - the Jews in Israel are protecting thousands of gay Palestinian teens who came out of the closet and ran for their lives away from their murdering "parents."
  • Re:Slight hypocrisy (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:28PM (#20830255)
    You mean the kind of people that talk about how they survived a gas chamber by breathing through a keyhole? Or the numerous Holocaust eyewitnesses that "saw" crematorium chimneys spewing huge flames day and night, which doesn't happen in the real world? I could go on and on.

    If false testimonies like those are supposed to trump rational research, then we're in trouble. And I'm not saying all witnesses are lying, but a great number of prominent eyewitnesses have been caught spreading falsehoods, so you should at least exclude those when you say "there are survivors that say so!"

    I take it you have ever taken a look at the hard evidence and what both sides of the Holocaust debate have to say about it. But hey, not using their own head works for the Muslims! Two Billion Muslims can't be wrong.
  • Re:The Arab World... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by be-fan (61476) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @05:49PM (#20830533)
    Individuals read and interpret the Bible, understand the worship service, form their own denominations, etc. I disagree, though, that this means that Christianity has become diluted

    Of course it's become diluted. The Bible clearly states that masturbation is wrong. Yet, I'd be willing to bet that most Christian males in Western countries masturbate. The Bible repeatedly states that premarital sex is a crime, yet in the West premarital sex is the norm! How do you rationalize this behavior? Simple: people say they believe in the basic tenants of Christianity, but they don't. They pick and choose the parts of the Bible that are agreeable to them, a process which itself makes no sense if you consider the Bible to be a divine work inspired by an omnipotent being! Nobody fears God anymore, because they believe in a kind, friendly God who is accepting of their lifestyle, and is willing to overlook all but the most basic rules in the Bible. This is not the Christian God!

    Most US Christians don't worry about losing their souls by using birth control, but I bet a lot more would worry about losing their souls by committing murder.

    The Quran says not to kill people too, and so do the Ten Commandments. General stuff like that isn't what defines Christianity, distinguishing it from other religions. In fact, you're reinforcing the point I'm making. Christianity, as defined by the Bible, is a big religion, with lot's of elements. In Catholicism, in particular, these aspects are even highly-codified. Over time, people stop believing in more in more of these aspects, while retaining only the basic ones that are compatible with modern society. This is absolutely dilution of peoples' belief in the religion.
  • by nuzak (959558) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @06:25PM (#20830911) Journal
    > Jews and Judaism have never crusaded against anyone or instituted any forced conversions ever.

    I think the Canaanites might beg to differ. But I guess back then, everybody really was doing that sort of thing, and I'll grant that the Jews have probably gone the longest without doing any of that crap, so kudos for that.

  • by Animats (122034) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @06:48PM (#20831157) Homepage

    The basic problem is that Islam was never "reformed". Christianity went through the same sort of oppressive anti-intellectual period when the Catholic Church ran the world. That period, 600 years of "dumb", is called the "Dark Ages" for good reason.

    There's hope. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are making progress, partly because they don't take Islam too seriously. Dubai has become a wealthy country without oil; it's a commercial center, like Hong Kong or Singapore. Saudi Arabia made a terrible policy mistake - the royal family let the religious types control education. Over 90% of the doctorates in Saudi Arabia are in "religious studies". Saudi Arabia ought to be training and exporting the world's oil experts, like Texas does. But they don't. They don't even train enough people to run their own country, which is going to hurt when the oil runs out.

    Publishing in the Arab world is in terrible shape. The entire Arab world produces fewer books than minor European and Asian countries.

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

    by l33tPr0digy (1064738) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @06:56PM (#20831261)

    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.

    I'm surprised that many seem to think this applies to just religion. As you stated ("religious or otherwise") can very easily include atheists and evolutionist who act the exact same way. That's why a couple of classmates in my college biology class were kicked out (of the class) for challenging the professor on the subject of evolution. Almost instantly, she became hostile and began to personally attack the first one and then the other student when she chimed in about the professor's attitude. Saying that only religious people irrationally defend their beliefs is like "the pot calling the kettle black" as the saying goes.

    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.

    Open-mindedness? Being that easily swayed in one's beliefs doesn't sound like open-mindedness, but rather weak-mindedness. It doesn't sound like they held the belief at all to begin with.

    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).

    I agree with you right up until now, except for the parenthetical subjective statement at the end. Humans are messed up people, but the Bible teaches that God created a plan that humans would be able to obtain forgiveness for those mistakes.

    You simply cannot escape the element of human fallibility present in the Bible, and in all arguments made to it's final authority.

    You didn't provide any proof to show that human fallibility caused errors in the Bible, but only that humans had a hand in writing it and that mistakes could have been made in the process. Hardly a concrete argument against Biblical 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.

    I disagree. 2nd Timothy 3:16 states: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." My faith is that the scribes who put pen to paper were divinely inspired by God as to what to write. As for the "specific humans" who taught me, they were able to point me to scriptures that back up their teachings.

    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?

    I can't give you a reason for believing the Bible, but I can give you reasons why the Bible is accurate. Looking at the numbers, the Bible contains 66 books, written by about 40 different writers,

  • by aichpvee (631243) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @07:27PM (#20831557) Journal
    Secularism is a better philosophy than Islam in the same way that rationality is superior to delusion. I'm not sure what you think that has to do with The United States though.
  • by Eli Gottlieb (917758) <eligottlieb.gmail@com> on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @07:40PM (#20831665) Homepage Journal
    The slippery thing about unprovable religious texts is that all of them are unprovable. You can't actually prove that we conquered and destroyed the Canaanites as written in the Torah.

    What evidence do you have but a book that clearly states the Earth was made in 7 days by an almighty God who chose us to receive His favor and a holy patch of land?
  • by renegadesx (977007) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @07:59PM (#20831805)
    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.

    Your point being? They were smart in the fact that anything that contained contradictions were burnt, one thing that the boys who compiled the bible were not so smart in doing as they never expected people to look at it criticly (there a handful in the Qu'ran but not many, making a Muslim apologist's job alot easier than a Christian one)

    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).

    Anyone who claims to be a ]prophet is full of shit (including Paul of Tarsus) you should know better. Hadith makes the religion funny if you look hard enough. The sects mostly revolve around who should have aquired Mohammed's mantle. Then there are those who belive only Qu'ran has authority and those that belive both Qu'ran and Hadith have authority (in both Sunni and Shi'a 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."

    Explain to me how that is any different from Christianity? It is a religion, thats the entire point of religion. The churches have lost their power in the west but in the old days they were very much based on totalitarian principles. The west went backwards because of Christianity which is a shame because of how far the Greeks advanced before the time of the alleged Jesus of Nazarath. When you troll Islam at least get it right, he married Aisha at 6 and f**ked her at 9. So he's still a kid f**ker but I just wanted to fix that one.

    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."

    How is that any different than most religions? Not a single trace of Moses and his tribes "exile from egypt" Not a single contemparanious account of the alleged Jesus of Nazarath where they rewrite history to say Augustus and Herod ruled at the same time (read the first few verses Matthew and Luke chapters 2) 6CE and 4BC are a decade apart last time I checked. And thats just one simple example.

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

    It wasn't cooked up, he stole it from the monothesitic Yahweh (YHWH). Haven't you read the Qu'ran? Simple plagerism

    Question: Which pagan deity is Allah? Or else who was Abd'allah named for? Yahweh the jewish war god, one of the "Sons of El" or "Elohim" who the jews turned made interchangable with El and adapted it to a monotheistic ideology. Judaism and as a result Christianity and Islam did start as pagan mythology.

    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.

    How does that differ from other religions? We have seen it first hand with Christianity

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

    Where do you think they got that idea? Its in the bible


    If you are going to single out Islam, make sure its what makes it especially more repulsive than other religions, not pointing out the same flaws the others have.
  • by LinuxIsRetarded (995083) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @09:13PM (#20832345) Homepage

    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.
    My faith (Christianity) teaches me to love everyone, regardless of their economic status, race, or faith. Because I am completely ignorant as to how someone could regard such teachings as "sad," please educate me.

    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.
    I can't speak for the person to whom you are replying, but I actually didn't believe in God for the first 25 years of my life.
  • Re:Challenge this (Score:1, Interesting)

    by everphilski (877346) on Tuesday October 02, 2007 @10:51PM (#20833051) Journal
    Of course you wouldn't. That doesn't mean it's not true.

    Of course. You don't know me, I can't expect you to accept my word.

    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.

    Minor quibble, God manifested himself directly to Moses on Mount Sinai. (And plenty of other times in the Old Testament, but I won't go off topic too far) And Jesus (who I and most Christians believe is true God) walked and talked with man and his words and actions were directly recorded in scripture.

    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).

    See above.

    You simply cannot escape the element of human fallibility present in the Bible, and in all arguments made to it's final authority... 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?

    Quite simply: the bible was written by fourty-some authors over several thousand years. The first author was Moses. The last authors were the apostles, after the death of Christ. And yet, over the span of several thousand years and tens of writers, all of their accounts stack up. No other spiritual book has been vetted over the course of history with so many corresponding, agreeing accounts. It also stacks up with local historical records from various groups.

    Even if you can't wrap your head around the Bible being inerrant, there's no reason not to believe a lot of these events didn't occur. For example, the flood is a common reoccurring theme in many cultures. For example, the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Chinese classic "Hihking" and others [nwcreation.net]. Virtually every culture has its own flood on a near global scale. Many old testament stories are shared between the Koran and the Hebrew bible (being in essence the Christian old testament, recategorized). So it is not difficult to believe these things occurred, as even multiple religions can come to some agreement on their existence!
  • on religion (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @03:00AM (#20834217)
    People who feel they shouldn't adhere to ethics and morals, won't be prevented of doing so by religion, just as people who have the _right_ attitude don't need religion to steer them. Martin Luther King was a good man in and of himself, not because of religion. The truth is, religion has more often than not held humanity back in its most important areas of development. I am reminded of the words of Mustafa Kemal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ataturk [wikipedia.org], the creator of modern Turkey.

    "Superstition must go. Let them worship as they will; every man can follow his own conscience provided it does not interfere with sane reason or bid him act against the liberty of his fellow men."

    Fact is, religion has interfered with sane reason ever since it existed, and it holds back humanity to this very day. We want to shoot for the stars, but we're afraid we'll hit god.
  • Re:The USA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by master_p (608214) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @04:03AM (#20834495)
    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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @05:23AM (#20834883)
    You might be interested in learning more about the Dark Ages, because it has nothing to do with what you assume it meant. It's called Dark Ages because little documents were recovered from these years, which doesn't mean they didn't write more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Ages [wikipedia.org]
  • by Anonamused Cow-herd (614126) on Wednesday October 03, 2007 @01:28PM (#20841001)
    Qube --

    I apologize, but that site is awful. I've no idea why you would link to that. The writer has all of the persuasiveness of a whiny six-year-old. If you want to convince people of your ideas, linking them to invective-soaked drivel written by a "true believer" who can't step back from his own beliefs to explain them to someone else is an awful strategy.

    For example, in response to the story of Aisha, you link to a ridiculous article that spends 4-5 paragraphs talking about how Muslims blasphemously avoided the truth of the Prophet's pious acts, and then goes on to say that although he married her at age 6, he consummated it at age 9! And then he claims that she liked it! That's not a stellar defense, from where I'm sitting. Would you claim that having sex with a 9-year-old is a pious act?

    And then he spends many paragraphs trying to defend the act because she MAYBE could have A LITTLE been in the age range for puberty. Never mind that all of the sources he cites are out of date, and that the age of puberty has rapidly advanced over the last century (onset of puberty was almost never before age 13 prior to modern times).

    In the "article" you use to respond to the idea that he was misogynist and that he created an unfair system for himself (lie.html), there is not a single thing to respond to the GP's claims. All it has is hand-picked quotes from century-old (bad) scholarship by "orientalists" -- obviously not a term a reasonable scholar would use today. Highlighting the following quote: "that is not the work of a traitor or a lecher" in some muslim-friendly scholar's work hardly disproves anything. It's identical to looking at George W. Bush's presidency and saying: "well he was President and stayed true to his wife and didn't raise taxes for the rich -- that's not the work of a traitor or lecher!" Yeah, true, THAT is not the work of a traitor or lecher. But it doesn't mean that he's not a traitor or lecher in other ways!

    Most telling is that he doesn't bother to actually quote from the Qu'ran in this matter -- all of the claims made in the GP are supported by hard, textual evidence in the Qu'ran itself (in terms of the facts). This is a text that that you supposedly hold as the absolutely true word of GOD, yet to respond to the allegations, we turn to poor scholarship over 50 years old by unknown "orientalists"? Almost all of these debates are satisfied concretely by a strict reading of the Qu'ran -- and although they sound sensationalist when played out in a list like GP did, there's no reason to be an apologist. If you think that having sex with a 9-year-old is pious, that's your right -- just don't expect everyone else to agree with you.

    Cheers!


    PS -- I am not affiliated with any religion, and find GP mildly offensive. But your response is many times worse.

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