Posts Tagged ‘god’

A Qur’anic Creation

The modern age in Europe ushered in a battle between two concepts, a battle that continues to this day: science vs. religion. These two frameworks for understanding the world have been even more at odds in recent decades in the United States. Famous individuals like Bill Maher attack religion on cable-network television and in large-production films. School districts are virulently attacked for considering teaching children the concept of intelligent design instead of the theory of evolution. Religious individuals pull their children out of schools that teach Darwin’s “Godless” theory. This is all at the popular level; at a scholarly level there has been a flurry of books published taking one position or another, including: Dawkin’s The God Delusion and McGrath’s Dawkin’s GOD: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life.

From the Islamic realm there have been a number of attempts to grapple with science, empiricism and scientism. The core issues are intellectual framing and worldview. What I mean by this is that Islam places emphasis, even centralizes, the role of God in the world and in an individual believer’s life while modern science and Modernity in general have raised the human being to a level almost, if not completely, on par with the Divine. God is something that is no longer important once humankind is at God’s level. Livingston illustrates this nicely in his article on the Muslim reformer Shaykh Tahtawi: “Galileo…had divorced God’s caring hand from the operations of the universe…Newton had gone a step further…reducing the universe to a self-operating system…Laplace would take the mechanistic logic to its end, declaring himself to have no need of that hypothesis when Napoleon asked him where God fit into his cosmology.”[1] On the contrary, Islam centralizes and elevates God and this is true historically of Muslim thinkers. “The great Muslim thinkers were masters of many disciplines, but they looked upon them as branches of the single tree of tawhid…Everything was governed by the same principles, because everything fell under God’s all-encompassing reality.”[2] This is the major gap between science and religion in the Islamic quarter. Contemporary thinkers such as Sayyed Hossein Nasr have attempted to turn back to traditional sciences and have made it a project to challenge the philosophical underpinnings of modern science.[3] This binary is often called the sacred versus the secular and is often couched in pitting spiritual matters against empirical matters. These two realms are totally incompatible in the modern scientist’s perspective; God simply cannot be directly experienced empirically. The world’s most famous atheist propagator, Richard Dawkins, writes that “the theist’s answer is deeply unsatisfying, because it leaves the existence of God unexplained.”[4]

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30

04 2011

Neurotheology: Bridging the Divide between Science and Faith

Personal accounts and anecdotes of spiritual experiences have become topics of fascination and interest for many years now. Many people describe such events as profound “experiences” or “feelings” that are immeasurable. Some argue these experiences are just concoctions or infatuations, while others contend that they are real depending on their personal or religious beliefs. Now, with the advent of state of the art technology, scientists are able to quantify spirituality.

Dr. Andrew Newberg, a neuroscientist professor and author at the University of Pennsylvania, is currently conducting studies that track how the human brain processes religion and spirituality. It’s all part of new field called neurotheology, which explores the relationship between the brain and religious experience. According to a recent featured story, Newberg has developed a way to measure the differences of brain activity and imagery during a spiritual experience.  He scanned the brains of praying nuns, chanting Sikhs and meditating Buddhists.

“We evaluate what’s happening in people’s brains when they are in a deep spiritual practice like meditation or prayer,” Newberg says.

He and his team then compare that information with the same brains in a state of rest.

“This has really given us a remarkable window into what it means for people to be religious or spiritual or to do these kinds of practices.”

His most recent work, Principles of Neurotheology, tries to lay the groundwork for a new kind of scientific and theological dialogue. Read the rest of this entry →

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07

01 2011

Islam and Consumerism II: A Muslim Affluenza?

A Muslim Affluenza?

Affluenza

In my last blog entry, I mentioned that the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines consumerism as:  “the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable; also: a preoccupation with and an inclination toward the buying of consumer goods”[1]. I would like to add another definition to the mix: “affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more”[2].

Affluenza is a play on the two words affluence and influenza. It symbolizes the concept of “keeping up with the Joneses”—matching (or exceeding) the same level of material wealth (affluence) and status as your neighbors, co-workers, friends, etc.—but frames it as an illness, a virus. It is the title of both a television documentary and a book that challenge our materialistically-inclined society. In fact, it can be said that we spend (sometimes until we are in massive debt) to feel a quick, fleeting happiness in purchasing a new item.

This condition crosses lines of status, race and religion. The religious perspective, however, is what I am interested in exploring further. More particularly, how does Islam view this conception of life?

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02

09 2010

Playing God or Breakthrough?

The advent of the news concerning the “creation of a living organism” has sparked much controversy. Headlines like “Craig Venter is not playing God yet”, or “Researchers create first ‘synthetic life’” (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1279988/Artificial-life-created-Craig-Venter–wipe-humanity.html) play into the hands of those with a particular agenda and whom really base their rejection of this breakthrough not on the merits of the discovery itself, but on misguided convictions and beliefs that they possess. When understanding the actual methodologies and products produced as a result of this new development in science, the sacrilegious notion of “man-made” life becomes less apparent. For a better understanding of what this discovery means, we first need to grasp what exactly was “created” in this particular instance.

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21

07 2010