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Islam and Science (22 Mar 2012 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Do Not Intertwine Science and Religion

By Danish Shah

March 19, 2012

The argument begins with this question: why should science and religion be kept separate? The answer depends on what you believe; however, let me present my case in favour of the separation of science and religion.

Science is the study of nature and how it functions. The beauty of science is that when a theory is presented, scientists of that field do not immediately agree with the theoretical claims. Rather, they put the theory to intensive criticism and tests. In many cases, the theories are disproved on the basis of counter evidence or errors that are deduced. If the scientists are unable to produce counter evidence or sufficient flaws in the theory, then supportive evidence is analysed, keeping in mind that the plausibility of a theory depends on the number of supportive empirical evidences provided by researchers.

In contrast, religion is entirely based on dogmas, which in most cases cannot be denied, questioned, critiqued or revoked.

The real problem arises when religious scholars start claiming new scientific discoveries as something that had been ‘revealed’ to them thousands of years ago. However, this claim takes place only when the scientific discoveries are compatible with their held beliefs. If the new discoveries, regardless of their significance, are contradictory to their beliefs, the theory is out rightly opposed and most of the time its researchers are persecuted, banished, and shunned. For example, when Galileo supported the Copernican theory through his research and study, he was charged with heresy and was persecuted.  He was later forced to withdraw his support for the theory in exchange of a less harsh prison sentence.

From the time of Galileo’s death in 1641, it took the Catholic Church some 350 years until 1992 to acknowledge that Galileo was indeed correct in supporting the Copernican theory. For those 350 years, several generations were deliberately misinformed and their chances of researching and building on Galileo’s findings were greatly affected.

However, Islam in this case, does not seem to overtly counter science since the history of scientific advancements in medieval Arabia is evident of this. It was more of the religious followers; the clerics, the leaders who were at certain times against scientific and rational thought. This notion is also supported by many modern historians, such as E G Browne, George Sarton, Sayili, and a scientist such as Dr. Neil deGrass Tyson. They have made this case by blaming famous medieval Muslim theologians, Al-Ghazali and Al-Ashari, for causing the decline of rational thought in Arabia.

However, the historians’ blame on theologians is not unjustified; al Ghazali in his book “The Decisive Criterion for Distinguishing Islam from Clandestine Unbelief” implied that in case of conflict between reason and revealed text, priority should be given to the former over the latter (al Ghazali 1961,195 = 2002, 112). Furthermore, while disputing with some of Avicenna’s (Bu Ali Sina) teachings, he added a fatwa at the end of another of his books, “Incoherence of the Philosophers”, declaring that everybody who teaches parts of Avicenna’s more controversial topics is an apostate and can be sentenced to death (al Ghazali 1997, 230).

Although it is true that al Ghazali’s fatwa was not the only cause of scientific decline in medieval Arabia, there were political and economical factors, as well. However, when it comes to following a fatwa, the followers take it seriously, especially if the fatwa is coming from an authoritative figure such as, Imam al Ghazali.

If anyone thinks that these things don’t happen in today’s day and age, they would be wrong, as more recently, there was a case of a British Imam’s attempt to reconcile the theory of evolution with Islam. The result of his attempt was catastrophic for him. He was stripped off of his Imamat, received death threats, was shunned from the community and, worst of all, he was called an apostate. All this happened because he claimed that the theory of evolution could be compatible with religion, but sadly he was not given a chance to explain his standpoint.

As we are aware, overwhelming evidence supports the theory of evolution; however, since it is deemed contradictory to religious beliefs, it is outrightly opposed. Another example would be the opposition to stem cell research, details of which cannot be elaborated in this small space.

I have only presented a few examples to show how religious arguments have interfered with scientific progress. History, however, is filled with instances which are detrimental to the progress of reason and rationality.

Can you imagine where we would be if there were no religious interferences in scientific progress?

It is high time for us to have a society that does not intertwine science and religion, as both these subjects deal with different aspects of life and must be approached separately.

Source: The Express Tribune, Lahore

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-science/danish-shah/do-not-intertwine-science-and-religion/d/6896


  • "If anyone thinks that these things don’t happen in today’s day and age, they would be wrong, as more recently, there was a case of a British Imam’s attempt to reconcile the theory of evolution with Islam. The result of his attempt was catastrophic for him. He was stripped off of his Imamat, received death threats, was shunned from the community and, worst of all, he was called an apostate. All this happened because he claimed that the theory of evolution could be compatible with religion, but sadly he was not given a chance to explain his standpoint."

    Our great scholar Mr Mohammed Yunus also deserves death sentence for his article "Darwinism is Consistent with Qur’anic Insights on Man’s Origin"
    The question is can Mr Mohammed yunus say this on Public Stage.

    By Rational Mohammed Yunus - 8/13/2013 11:43:21 PM

  • @sadaf Excerpts are from one of the greatest books of ayan rand. Ofcourse that requires intelligence and it is out of syllabus for moron like you http://secular-hindu.sulekha.com/blog/post/2012/03/voice-of-free-soul-fountain-head-ayn-rand.htm
    By satwa gunam - 3/24/2012 11:22:17 PM

  • Satwa, it is wastage of time, effort and energy to say to you that your view is rubbish, still, I am saying it because I am just feeling to say so. Reciprocate if you feel like. This communication may as a by-product benefit some others as a warning signal.
    By sadaf - 3/24/2012 3:11:19 PM

  • Interestingpart of ayn rand fountain head

    http://secular-hindu.sulekha.com/blog/post/2012/03/how-to-rule-the-soul-fountain-head-ayn-rand.htminternal corruption, Peter

    That’sthe oldest one of all. The farce has been going on for centuries and men stillfall for it. Yet the test should be so simple: just listen to any prophet andif you hear him speak of sacrifice--run. Run faster than from a plague. Itstands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collectingsacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. Theman who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intendsto be the master. But if ever you hear a man telling you that you must behappy, that it’s your natural right, that your first duty is to yourself--thatwill be the man who’s not after your soul. That will be the man who has nothingto gain from you.

    By satwa gunam - 3/24/2012 4:03:44 AM

  • @Mubashir I think your talking through the limitation of your knowledge. Hinduism talks about the following mean to reach divinity Knowledge Work Emotion It has tried to rationalize on relationship of body, mind and intellect and experience of waker, sleeper and dreamer. It has also tried to rationalize the relationship between human consciousness and that of the universe as dwaitha, advaitha and vasistadvaitha. Probably you could refer the work of maxmuller for further details.
    By satwa gunam - 3/23/2012 11:43:41 PM

  • Thankyou Ghulam Mohiyuddin Sir for the John Gray's article. It is so nice of you to help us understand things better. Regards.
    By sadaf - 3/23/2012 2:58:16 PM

  • However, God created this world according to law and order....He created law and order and proper authority...He created the world... Science is a tool to understand the world around us. For science, it is in the state of continual discovery....but never the means or answer in itself for creating this world.
    By Miriam - 3/23/2012 12:32:39 PM

  • Can religion tell us more than science? by John Gray.

    "I don't belong to any religion, but the idea that religion is a relic of primitive thinking strikes me as itself incredibly primitive.

    "Science helps us understand how the world works - but to what extent?
    In most religions - polytheism, Hinduism and Buddhism, Daoism and Shinto, many strands of Judaism and some Christian and Muslim traditions - belief has never been particularly important. Practice - ritual, meditation, a way of life - is what counts. What practitioners believe is secondary, if it matters at all.

    "The idea that religions are essentially creeds, lists of propositions that you have to accept, doesn't come from religion. It's an inheritance from Greek philosophy, which shaped much of Western Christianity and led to practitioners trying to defend their way of life as an expression of what they believe."


    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/23/2012 11:40:18 AM

  • Any religion that is allergic to science is suspect. If there is a rationality to science then there has to be a Rational Creator. Sometimes we get to know a Creator through the signs (which includes Science) spread out in the universe.
    By Mubashir - 3/23/2012 9:13:01 AM

  • should science and religion be kept separate?
    Very pertinent question, but even according to your definition Islam is NOT a ‘religion’.
    It has NO Church hence NO Clergy and therefore NO Dogma.
    We have a linguistic problem in that there is no compound word to describe the ‘Code’ of Islam , that is equivalent to the Arabic word ad-Deen ( not that Arabic is holier than any other language). This perhaps stems from mankind have always been under the control of superstition and Religions of Churches.

    Ghulam Mohiyuddin is absolutely right that Quran is not a text book of Science – but there are hardly any universal phenomena that it does not refer to be studied in order to comprehend All-Mighty God--- a God NOT of the religions making!

    By Rashid - 3/23/2012 4:11:48 AM

  • I fully agree with the author. Faith and science should be kept separate. The only connecting link is the fact that the Quran supports scientific study. But that does not mean the Quran is a book on science.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/22/2012 3:39:13 PM

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