Science and Civilization

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In this paper, first I will present my views on the book ‘Muslims and Science’ by Pervaiz Hoodhbhoy. Then I will provide the characteristics that allowed Western civilization to outpace Muslim civilization in the development of science. In the introduction of his book ‘Muslims and Science’, Hoodhbhoy (1991: 1) raises an important and most pertinent question which he also reverts back to in later chapters and which is central to his book that, is the Islamic faith in harmony with the science of the natural world or is there a necessary conflict between science and religion. It might seem that such a view is about less progressive times, when science, still in its early life, began to confront the idea embraced by the established religion. And to be sure, one can find examples of the persecution of scientists, for supposedly religious reasons, throughout history - from the exile of pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Anaxagoras for being bold to suggest that the sun was a ball of fire rather than a god, to the Catholic Inquisition, which involved, most infamously, the persecution of Galileo, to the Scope's monkey trial, in which high school teacher John Scopes was convicted in 1925 of violating Tennessee's Butler Act, which forbade the teaching of evolution. Despite instances like these, the idea that knowledge and belief are essentially and unavoidably at odds with each other is a relatively recent one, and has never been more central than today. In less progressive times, science and religion were not merely compatible, but complementary. Indeed, early Islam and early modern Christianity were keen supporters of science, and the religious beliefs of Muslims and Christians actually provoked the development of the scientific method. Hoodhbhoy (1991: 104) says that Golden Age scientific success proves that Islam is entirely supportive of science and pursuit of knowledge is a religious duty and a pragmatic necessity. World and belief are always together in Islam. Belief and knowledge are also deeply interrelated. The Quran views the finding of knowledge as a sacred duty, making humans to be able to understand and serve God’s creation in a better way. The Holy Prophet said that acquire knowledge even if for it you have to travel to China. It is our obligation to cultivate and realize the full potential of every human life. I will note here Albert Einstein's famous quote "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind." These words imply that knowledge and belief benefit from a mutually beneficial relationship. Hoodhbhoy (1991: 118) mentions that the issue of free will created a point of contention between Mu’tazilites and orthodoxy. Mu’tazilites found themselves in a moral dilemma that if doctrine of predestination is correct then how God misled sinners on purpose, judged their evil deeds and then sent them to Hell for their sins. I think that humans have free will. Since humans have free will - we are condemned to be free, some will likely behave in ways that cause other people to suffer. An all powerful God could prevent this by ensuring that human beings only engaged in virtuous behaviour, but in so doing, God would be eliminating free will, making us little more than robots. Angels do not possess free will. Humans have free will. And when we think about it, this is exactly what we would expect an all-loving God to do. After all, if we really love someone, we give them freedom even if we know that they will use that freedom in ways that will cause them suffering. Or, as McKnight (2008) says Haught puts it, "It is in the nature of self-giving love to refrain from the coercive manipulation of others." Of course, by engaging in coercive manipulation, God could prevent suffering. But to do so, God would have to eliminate natural selection, and hence the freedom of life. Throughout the book Hoodhbhoy brings up the notion of “Ilm” in Islam. Hoodhbhoy (1991: 68) says that Syed Ameer Ali’s view is that the Holy...
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