Sunday, September 06, 2009

Iran's fear of the social sciences

It seems that we may soon be moving into the book burning territory:
Ayatollah Khamenei said this week that the study of social sciences “promotes doubts and uncertainty.” He urged “ardent defenders of Islam” to review the human sciences that are taught in Iran’s universities and that he said “promote secularism,” according to Iranian news services.

“Many of the humanities and liberal arts are based on philosophies whose foundations are materialism and disbelief in godly and Islamic teachings,” Ayatollah Khamenei said at a gathering of university students and professors on Sunday, according to IRNA, the state news agency. Teaching those “sciences leads to the loss of belief in godly and Islamic knowledge.”

For years, the study of subjects like philosophy and sociology has been viewed suspiciously by Iranian conservatives.
Here you have a perfect trifecta: Fear of "doubt and uncertainty", the threat of secularism, and then insinuating a connection with atheism for "humanities and liberal arts". The idiocy of this aside, I was thinking how are they going to deal with biological sciences? Iran has been doing quite well with stem cells research (see an earlier post: Iran and the stem cells fatwa) - and it even has a strong blessing of the religious establishment. However, many creationists use the trifecta mentioned above (doubt, secularism, and roots in materialism) to scare people away from evolution. However, I don't know how much evolution research is being conducted in Iran and if biological evolution, especially human evolution, is even included in university-level biology courses. Since stem cells research is mostly an applied science, I doubt there will be any major shift in the attitude regarding this. But the above quote is a sad commentary on the mindset of the Iranian government.

Read the full story here.

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