Science, Scientific Progress and The Religion of Islam In Today’s World

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Science, Scientific Progress and The Religion of Islam In Today’s World

It is common these days to hear the sentiment science is progress and religion is backward. You believe in religion? You believe in fairy tales. You have been brainwashed. Clearly you are incapable of independent thought or critical analysis.

Its important as Muslims to know where this came from, where it stands today, and what the general Muslim position is, understanding that even in the Muslim viewpoint there would be some debate and variance in the positions held.

Where it came from

So, where did this come from? It is the late 1950s & early 60s, the world war is over, Europe is flattened, UK is divesting its colonies by giving them Independence – cutting them loose, in part to focus on rebuilding and in part under the terms of the Marshall Plan, as conditions to get funding for that reconstruction.

There is an ongoing ideological war between the Capitalist West and the Communist Europe, across many fronts – nuclear, military, geopolitical, economic and social. This of course is the time for the Cuban Revolution, with Fidel and Che declaring a socialist state. The Cold War period is at its peak, the nuclear arms race is underway, American technology in air and sea helped western forces repel the North Korean attack on South Korea. And communist Russia seems to be winning on the technology front. It not only launches the Sputnik 1 in 1957 – the 1st earth-orbiting satellite, and Sputnik 2 a month later carrying the dog Laika into space, but also Luna 2 in 1959 – the 1st man made object to reach the moon, and in 1961 the first human, Yuri Gagarin, to reach into space on board the Vostok 1.

These are disturbing developments, since scientific and technological superiority of the Communist Russia can shift the balance of power in the west. Not to mention the ideological impressions on the minds of the global citizen – we saw it in the shift in focus in things like the toys kids played with and the themes of focus in fiction – a shift from The Wild West – cowboys and Indians – to sci-fi and aliens. If you saw Toy Story, you would see Woody and Buzz Lightyear side-by-side as one example of this.

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None of this was helpful to the capitalist/democratic west, so there was need to win this war. To this end we saw the formation not only of NASA in the late 50s but of the NIST – national institute for science and technology. What do we need to win the space race? We need more engineers and technologists – STEM, basically, and to do that we have to re-engineer the education system – syllabus, scholarships, the works. It is at this point we saw the secular movement and the separation of church and the state – in order to control the curriculum, we need the church-dominated schools to yield. So if we are funding the school, we want to inform the content to help the country achieve its goals.

It was of course from all of this we saw the grandeur of Rocket Science – aeronautical engineering – and the formative years of computer sciences in the modern context. This of course gave a voice to the agnostic and the critical skeptics – establishing a solid foundation for atheism as we know it today. So you stop teaching about God, focus on natural laws and principles, and seek justification from selections of specific authors, and the result is what we have – a materialist godless society replete with moral relativism.

Now to be clear, the problem to Muslims was not the developments in science itself, as was the objection with some other religions[1]. In fact, Islam propelled development in science, as we will see later on, but the problem was rather the removal of the religious ethic that contained development within a self-regulating ethic of morality – was is directed to the greater good.

Where are we now? But this brings us back to the sentiment science is progress and religion is backward. And that was how we got here.

[1] In The Meadows of Gold, al-Mas‘udi wrote his famous condemnation of revelation over reason: The sciences were financially supported, honoured everywhere, universally pursued; they were like tall edifices supported by strong foundations. Then the Christian religion appeared in Byzantium and the centres of learning were eliminated, their vestiges effaced and the edifice of Greek learning was obliterated. Everything the ancient Greeks had brought to light vanished, and the discoveries of the ancients were altered beyond recognition.

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