by Salman Hameed
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!
A group of 30 students in Bursa have allegedly vandalized a fossil exhibition at Uludağ University, beating three security guards, breaking into the exhibition and damaging the fossils.
The students recorded the attack, shouting slogans and taking photos with the damaged fossils, which they claim are fake. The exhibit has been organized by an anti-evolution group that claims the fossils on display prove that life forms have not changed over thousands of years, while others doubt the authenticity of the fossils.
A very interesting attack took place the other day at Uludağ University in Bursa, a major Turkish city. A group of some 30 students broke into an exhibition, beat up three security guards, and shattered some of the objects on display. The damaged objects were none other than animal fossils, as this was a “fossil exhibition.”
Now, before going deeper into the story let me stop here and ask what most Western readers would think when they hear about this news? My bet is that most of them would readily assume the militant students in question are “religious fundamentalists” who can’t stand to see facts about Darwinian evolution and, ultimately, science itself — the torch of reason, enlightenment and modernity.
However, the facts in this incident were quite the opposite. The fossil exhibition was intended to promote not Darwinian evolution, but its main adversary: creationism, or the view that species have been divinely created rather than evolving gradually. And the students who attacked the exhibition were “fundamentalists” not of religion, but rather of one of its arch enemies: They were the members of the Turkish Communist Party or the “University Collectives,” a Marxist student association.
The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent.
But if we can come to terms with this indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning.
However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.Very cool. Now if you have a chance, see 2001 again - and please see it in its entirety and on the biggest screen available to you (not on a computer or an iPad).
A mob in Pakistan has stormed a police station and beaten to death a Muslim man accused of desecrating the Koran.
The victim's body was then set alight, according to witnesses.
The unnamed victim had earlier been handed over to the police after burnt pages of the Koran were found in a mosque in Dadu district, 330km (200 miles) north of Karachi, where he had been staying overnight.
Hours later a mob went to the police station, seized the man and killed him.What kind of individuals do this and what was going through the minds of individuals who thought of even making a video! Who is the video for? Their kids? A souvenir for their loved ones?
The district police chief, Usman Ghani, told the BBC the gruesome incident was filmed on mobile phones. He said the footage was being reviewed to identify culprits.
This also underscores the general stability of Pakistan. If these bombers can hit some of the highest security targets, what hope do cities have from preventing such attacks. In fact, it almost seems that the organizations behind these attacks are, at present, simply showing-off their strength. They certainly seem capable of creating mass chaos in Iraq-style bombing campaign in cities, where the population is far greater than in Iraqi cities (by way of comparison, Iraq's population is ~25 millions, and Pakistan's is 165 million).
[12/22 correction: Iraq's population today is 33 million and Pakistan's is 177 million]I really hope and wish that Pakistan can somehow reverse this downward spiral into chaos. Otherwise, we are going to find out what an Iraq-style mess would look like in a population that is more than 5 times bigger than Iraq.
Beginning their three-year terms on 1 January 2013 will be Wael al-Assad (Jordan), Mely Caballero-Anthony (Philippines), Sung-Joo Choi (Republic of Korea), Rut Diamint (Argentina), Trevor Findlay (Australia), Pervez Hoodbhoy (Pakistan), Eboe Hutchful (Ghana), Fred Tanner (Switzerland) and Wu Haitao (China).
The Secretary-General has also appointed a current member, Desmond Bowen ( United Kingdom), to chair the Board’s two sessions in 2013. The fifty-ninth session is scheduled from 27 February to 1 March in New York, and the sixtieth from 26 to 28 June in Geneva.
Established in 1978 pursuant to paragraph 124 of the Final Document of the tenth special session of the General Assembly, the Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters received its current mandate pursuant to Assembly decision 54/418 of 1 December 1999. The Board has the following functions: to advise the Secretary-General on matters within the area of arms limitation and disarmament, including on studies and research under the auspices of the United Nations or institutions within the United Nations system; to serve as the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR); and to advise the Secretary-General on the implementation of the United Nations Disarmament Information Programme.
Chosen by the Secretary-General for their knowledge and experience in the field of disarmament and international security, Board members serve in their personal capacities and do not represent their Governments. There are currently 15 members, and the Director of UNIDIR is an ex officio member. The Chairperson is appointed annually by the Secretary-General on the basis of regional rotation, and personally reports to him on the Board’s sessions. In accordance with General Assembly resolution 38/183 O of 20 December 1983, the Secretary-General reports annually to the Assembly on the Advisory Board’s activities.And here is his excellent documentary, Pakistan and India: Under the Nuclear Shadow (I think this is from 2000 - only a couple of years after the nuclear tests of India and Pakistan):
The initial plan was to hold the event next month at Imperial College London, one of the country’s foremost universities for scientific exploration and debate, in cooperation with the local Islamic student society. But the Deen Institute said it was forced to pull out when it became clear that opposition to the event from supporters of creationism began mounting. It is now being held without input from any Muslim student society at Logan Hall, a conference centre owned by the University of London.Couple of things here. We have to be careful in how we interpret this news item. First, we have to know what the opposition is for? Is the Muslim student group opposing this simply because it deals with evolution or if they want to avoid controversy (however, they perceive it). Second, we have to know if the majority of Muslim students at Imperial College oppose such an event. We have to be careful about a confirmation bias, i.e. it is only news when Muslim students reject evolution - and not when they accept it (and many indeed do - as we found out in our interviews from last year). Some of this has to do with the specific coverage of such items in British newspapers (for an example, see last year's case of London Times). The January 5th event is now taking place at Logan Hall, a conference center owned by University College London. The headline of The Independent, however, is more dramatic: Debate on Islam has to called off after revolt by student societies. And as per queue, this headline provides fodder for websites like Jihad Watch, which started it'd article with the following: "Intimidation and thuggery shut down academic inquiry".
On December 7, 1972, the Apollo 17 crew took a photograph of earth that became known as “The Blue Marble” because of the whorling clouds above the continents. Not the first image of the earth from space, it remains one of the most arresting. To commemorate the fortieth anniversary of “The Blue Marble,” Planetary Collective, a group of visual artists, philosophers, and scientists, released the short film Overview (above) at a screening at Harvard this past Friday. Overview takes its title from author Frank White’s phrase for the perspective of the earth as seen from space: “The Overview Effect.” White’s book of the same name uses interviews and writings from thirty astronauts and cosmonauts to build a theory about the psychology of planetary perspectives.
I am an anthropologist, and in recent years I have been exploring a kind of American evangelical Christianity that seeks to enable its followers to know God intimately. These evangelicals talk about the Bible as if it is literally true, but they also use their imagination to experience the Bible as personally as possible. They talk about getting to know God by having coffee with God, or asking God what shirt they should wear in the morning. A man from Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego told me that “the Bible is a love story, and it is written to me.” It is a style of evangelical Christianity with many followers: perhaps a quarter of all Americans.So that got me thinking if some Muslims have a similar relationship with Allah? I know Barelvi's in South Asia do have a belief that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is "hazir" (present) in many places - and can appear in mosques etc. But I think this would qualify as doctrinal (as is the case of Transubstantiation - the turning of the substance of blood and wine into the body and blood of Jesus - in the doctrine of the Catholic Church). There have also been instances where people (including rulers) have claimed to have a conversation with the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in their dreams (for example, the in the dream of the 12th century Seljuk ruler of Syria, Nur ad Din-Zangi). But I can also see that this is all related to the Prophet, and an encounter with Allah may be considered blasphemous.
I am no theologian and I do not think that social science can weigh in on the question of who God is or whether God is real. But I think that anthropology offers some insight into why imaginatively enriching a text taken as literally true helps some Christians to hang on to God when they are surrounded by a secular world.
First, this way of knowing God involves what social scientists would call “active learning.” These evangelical churches invite worshipers to enter Scripture with all their senses. Here, for example, Richard Foster, a popular theologian, explains how to “live the experience” of Scripture: “Smell the sea. Hear the lap of water against the shore. See the crowd. Feel the sun on your head and the hunger in your stomach. Taste the salt in the air. Touch the hem of his garment.” To Christian critics of these practices, they are a distortion of the Scripture, because they add to the text more than is actually there — your own memories of a summer by the seaside, the feel of heavy robes. To a social scientist, these practices ask that the learner engage in the most effective kind of learning: hands on and engaged.
Second, these practices make the experience of God personally specific. Vivid, concrete details help people to get caught up in a world that is not the one they see before them — and the more particular the details, the more powerful the involvement. Richly described settings — Narnia, Middle-earth, Hogwarts — become places that people can imagine on their own. Of course someone like J. K. Rowling might be horrified that readers have written tens of thousands of stories that carry on the lives of her characters, just as some evangelicals are horrified by other evangelicals who cozy up to God over a beer and chat with him in their minds. But social science suggests that details like these do make what must be imagined feel more real.
Which position you take depends on whether you are more worried about heresy or atheism.Read the full article here.
While many pundits and prognosticators lament the supposed end of the world on December 21, 2012 (thanks to misinterpreting Mayan predictions), here at the ASP we encourage everyone to go in the opposite – and accurate – direction. Thus, we are declaring December 12, 2012 as Anti-Doomsday Day in celebration of rational thinking and reasoned discourse.
We also feel that, in many respects, the number 12 is most auspicious: contemporary calendars (12 months in the year), chronology (12 hours of day and night), traditional zodiac (12 astrological signs*), Greek mythology (12 Olympic gods and goddesses), holiday folklore (12 days of Christmas), Shakespeare (Twelfth Night), and of course in our culinary world (dozen eggs, case of wine)!
More importantly, in astronomy Mars is 12 light minutes from the Sun, the average temperature of the Earth is 12 degrees Celsius, and Jupiter takes 12 years to orbit the Sun.Enjoy the day.
Last but not least, this date structure – a triple set of the same two-digit number – will not occur again until 2112! So, at 12 noon on 12/12/12, please take a moment to thank all who keep us on the path of science literacy. Please also feel free to show your support by donating $12, $24 or $36 dollars to the ASP!
India’s leading Islamic seminary, the Darul Uloom Deoband, has barred Muslim women from working as receptionists, calling the act un-Islamic and against Shariah law, said a reported published on Tuesday.
According to the Press Trust of India, the Darul Uloom Deoband has issued a fatwa against the appointment of Muslim women as receptionists. The seminary issued the fatwa after a Pakistan-based company submitted a query on Nov 29 regarding the appointment of Muslim women as receptionists, said the report.
Darul Uloom said that a Muslim woman working in offices as receptionist was un-Islamic because Muslim women were not allowed to appear before men without wearing a veil, as ordained by Islam.
Muslim cleric and president of the UP Imam organisation, Mufti Zulfikar Ali, defended the fatwa and said that Muslim women could work in offices if they wore the veil. However, he added, the post of receptionist required constant interactions with people, and thus should not be practiced.
This event will be the latest in a series of educational workshops that have previously been held in Algiers, Paris and other locations. A “reasoned approach” will be taken to Islam and Science: one that is well informed, balanced and constructive. The general themes of the workshop will be: Islam and the History & Philosophy of Science, Islam & Modern Physics/Cosmology, Islam & Modern Biology, Science & Islamic Ethics, Islam & New Paradigms of Science. The workshop will represent a unique opportunity for Muslim students and young researchers to discover the contemporary field of ‘science and religion’ through lectures by, and in-depth discussions with, internationally-recognised thinkers and experts in this field, including Prof. Nidhal Guessoum, Prof. Jean Staune, Prof. Bruno Guiderdoni, Ehsan Masood and Dr. Usama Hasan.Also, if you are interested more specifically on the issue of Islam and evolution, then you can attend a conference on Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution? on January 5th. This one includes a scientific and a theological session. Dr. Usama Hasan will also be part of this, and it is fantastic that evolutionary biologist, Ehab Abouheif will also be there (he is an outstanding researcher and he also participated in the Boston Evolution and Islam event last month). However, it is unclear how much science will be in the scientific session, as one of the speakers is from the Harun Yahya group (wait - are there still people around who take Harun Yahya seriously??). Here are the details of the conference:
The Deen Institute proudly announces its first ‘Dialogue within Islam’ event. The conference titled: Have Muslims Misunderstood Evolution?, will for the first time in the UK, to witness prominent Muslims tackling the controversial topic of evolution in a public forum.
“Dialogue within Islam” events seek to engage with challenging ideas of concern to Muslims, in a setting that allows for critical dialogue.
Historically, Muslims have held conflicting opinions on the theory of evolution and whether science and Islamic theology share a point of convergence. In recent years, a polarised debate on the topic has left many Muslims confused as to what Islam does, or doesn’t say, about human evolution.
The Deen Institute will therefore provide a platform to different viewpoints so that the topic might be debated and examined in an honest, respectful and tolerant environment.There you go. The next year is starting with a bang.
The conference will elucidate the issue of human evolution from an Islamic viewpoint, in order to provide the audience with a clear understanding of the points of convergence between contemporary scientific theories and Islamic theology.
The Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK) has fined Turkish private broadcaster CNBC-E a total of 52,951 Turkish Liras for airing an episode of the animated sitcom "The Simpsons" in which God is shown to be under the command of the Devil, daily Hürriyet has reported.What? Violence in the name of God. Well - that is indeed wrong!
RTÜK said the fine had been levied due to CNBC-E “making fun of God, encouraging the young people to exercise violence by showing the murders as God's orders and encouraging them to start drinking alcohol on New Year's Eve night.”
In another scene, God serves coffee to the Devil, which can be considered an insult to religious beliefs, according to the report, which explained the motive behind the fine.Hmm...but can't that be hospitality and a sign of magnanimity. Oh well. The Supreme Board of Radi and Television needs to lighten up a bit.