Monday, February 05, 2007

Another great article on Pope Benedict XVI.

Broadly held assumptions notwithstanding, Joseph Ratzinger did not want this job. For decades, as guardian of the Grail, he had spent "80 percent of [his] time dealing with old women who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary," as he once remarked to a visitor.

What he wanted was to go home to Bavaria and write the three fundamental treatises that only he could write, along with a study of Jesus Christ.

"If Joseph Ratzinger ever has a question, he goes to the library. He clearly doesn't have a friend he turns to for advice," says a priest and church historian who knew this J.R. before his metamorphosis.

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Islam and Modern Science

Wow, how to characterize a couple of things. First, this is a lecture by Seyyid Hossein Nasr, given at MIT, no date, claims to be an accurate transcript taken by the Pakistan Study Group. Nasr talks about how Islamic historians of science, the precious few of them, must reorient Western science within an Islamic world view. (He also does the standard leapfrog of "We did it first.") His metaphor is that of digestion: Islamic historians of science must take Western science and "reject" what it doesn't want, just as the human body "rejects" indigestible food.

Anyone have a problem with that?

He also argues that science is not value free, and that's why science has to be reoriented within Islam. Then he claims that science has a deleterious effect on the young, and consequently, it has to be managed carefully or they'll stop saying their prayers.

And I'd so hoped that I'd found a rational, objective Islamic thinker.

Fortunately, there's help via Wikipedia:

Underdetermination (sometimes indeterminacy of data to theory) is a term used in the discussion of theories and their relation to the evidence that is cited to support them. Arguments from underdetermination are used to support epistemic relativism by claiming that there is no good way to certify a theory based on any set of evidence. A theory (or statement or belief) is underdetermined if, given the available evidence, there is a rival theory which is inconsistent with the theory that is at least as consistent with the evidence. Underdetermination is an epistemological issue about the relation of evidence to conclusions.

Looks like Islamic science will claim underdetermination as its rightful entry point into Western scientific thought and practice.

Look no further than the Hadith.

"The old Islamic ban on depictions of the prophet, though frequently ignored as these many paintings show, began to gain increased authority in the 18th century. Handmade books of history, especially those painted to legitimize one or another Islamic dynasty, were seldom commissioned after that.

"'The growing power of conservative faculties in Islamic universities also strengthened the old ban on depictions of the prophet,' As'ad AbuKhalil said. 'So did the rise of the Wahabis in Arabia. Their conservatism went so far that they obliterated the prophet's tomb.' They feared its veneration.

"But theological taboos can evolve. Sometimes they tighten, sometimes they loosen."

And this from the Iconography entry on Wikipedia:

"Icons are strictly forbidden in Islam if they are consecrated. However Islamic art differs in its view of icons ranging from totally forbidding drawings and photography as with the Wahhabis to forbidding only drawings but not photography to allowing both as with the majority of Sunni Muslims. Some Shia allow even the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad and his cousin Ali, a position totally unacceptable to the Sunnis. Muslims view sanctified icons as idols, and strictly forbid the worship of an icon, or worship in front of it."