Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Blogging from Sharjah: Belief in Dialogue - Day 1

I'm currently attending the Belief in Dialogue: Science, Culture and Modernity conference at the American University of Sharjah (AUS). It has started very well, but Nidhal did not control the weather. It is hot and humid here - and somehow I'm missing the snow of New England. But air conditioning has been working in AUS and the climate is pleasant at the conference. It has also been fantastic to meet some some regular blog readers and other friends coming from other places in the world.

Day 1 of the conference was inaugurated by Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, who is not only the Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC), but is an academic and historian of science. Ok - so he may not be the best animated speaker, he it was good to see some actual history of science in an inaugural session.

But I think things picked up with the first plenary session on Science & Religion: Two Cultures? There were three speakers: John Hedley Brooke, Nidhal Guessoum, and Paul Davies.

Since I'm sitting at the conference, couple of quick points about this panel. John Brooke, as usual, gave a really interesting talk (he has a wonderfully polite way of speaking) breaking down the simplistic views of science & religion interaction. His talk was actually titled: Science & Religion: How many cultures? His main point was that there have been many different episodes of interactions - and these interactions have all been rooted in particular historical contexts. If you are interested in this topic, you should definitely check out his classic text Science & Religion: Some Historical Perspectives.

Nidhal's was his usual enthusiastic and dynamic self, and his talk encapsulated many of his book ideas into a 25-minute talk. I will just mention his final concluding points about science, which I think were excellent (and he can correct me if I made a mistake in my notes):

1. Adopt modern science in all its rigorous methodology and results
2. Add an optional theistic interpretative mantle. Those not theistic can stay naturalistic in their approach to the universe.
3. Apply ethical standards when doing science
4. Accept Qur’an's guidance but also be willing to reassess the interpretation when modern science and Qur’an appears to be in conflict [I think missed the exact wording of the middle of point four. But from what I remember, Nidhal is making a point similar to Ibn-Rushd and Galileo. I hope I got it right as this is an important point].

I think this is a great list and his points 2 and 4, in particular, are essential for Muslims in a pluralistic modern scientific world. 

More to come on other sessions. In the mean time, the temperature outside better cool down a bit. 


Nidhal Guessoum said...

Thanks, Salman. I'm glad you're enjoying the conference, and sorry about the weather -- we'll do better next time.
You actually got my concluding points quite right, and I'm happy to note that you concur or find them good and useful for the Muslim society at least. There were some other points in my talk, some that are actually very new and not in my book, and I'll try to cover them in a future blog post. Right now, I'm just catching up with things, as I'm completely occupied during the day between talking and taking care of organizational matters...
Enjoy the rest of your stay here and your interaction with the participants.

Denis said...

Thanks for sharing this!
I'm very interested in science and religion being becoming together as one way of looking at the things.
This one youtube video I find really interesting and I'm highly recommending it :

I'm also writing a blog :
Compare your's Salman,mine is still in the "diaper" but it's slowly improving.YOu are most welcome to visit.
Have a good day!