Creation: Understanding the Drama of Genesis 2-3

Cropped portion of “Bleiglasfenster in der Pfarrkirche Saint-Leu-Saint-Gilles in Paris” from GFreihalter. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license via Wikimedia Commons
Cropped portion of “Bleiglasfenster in der Pfarrkirche Saint-Leu-Saint-Gilles in Paris” from GFreihalter. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported via Wikimedia Commons

Genesis was a very subversive text in its time, and in today’s context we often fail to understand its full significance. This was the message of a lecture by the biblical scholar Ernest Lucas at the Faraday Institute earlier this month. This is the last in a series of three from the Faraday summer course. If you want to find out more, the videos and audio of most of the lectures will be appearing on the Faraday website over the coming weeks*. Continue reading

Islam and Science

Yesterday I attended a seminar by Nidhal Guessoum, an astrophysicist based in the Emirates and guest contributor on the popular Islam and science blog Irtiqa. As one would expect, there was much to identify with from a Christian perspective. I was particularly struck by his conclusions and would be interested to hear your own comments on them.

In Arabic the word for science, ‘ilm’, is similar to the German word wissenschaft in that it means either science or knowledge (and actually the English word ‘science’ also used to be commonly used in this way). Science flourished in the Muslim world for many centuries. Astronomy was particularly important for defining times of prayer, the direction of Mecca, and the times of festivals. The timing and causes of the decline of science in the Muslim world are much debated, but the trend has been reversed in recent years by a concerted effort to provide funding for science and increased enrollment in science courses, particularly among women.

In the last few decades, engagement with science among Muslim scholars has largely consisted of criticism and withdrawal to ‘Islamic science’ – such as in the work of Hossein Nasr or Ziauddin Sarder – or denial that the practice of science is affected by culture or religion – like Nobel Prizewinner Abdus Salam. But now a new generation of scholars is encouraging a more proactive engagement.

Guessoum put forward his own method for relating science and Islam.

    1. Adopt modern science and its methodologies.
    2. Add an optional theistic interpretative mantle. This is not essential to the practice of science, but can be used to interpret the findings of science.
    3. Universally impose stringent ethical standards on the practice of science, like (and this is only a suggestion) those of Islam.
    4. Accept the Quran’s guidance and philosophy of knowledge, while practicing good hermeneutics – this is particularly relevant in discussion of whether science is mentioned in the Quran.

I have to say that I agree – of course substituting the Bible for the Quran, and hoping that broadly Christian ethics (which would share many similarities to Islamic ones) would be adopted. I have tried to think of other principles I would apply in relating science and Christianity but I think that a version of the above would work quite nicely. And I think that, much of the time, this is already happening – though there is always room for improvement!

The talk will appear on the Faraday Institute website in the next few weeks.