The New York Times - Science - Official Site

From the 1920s onward, the scientific study of religion became lessconcerned with grand unifying narratives, and focused more onparticular religious traditions and beliefs. Anthropologists, such asEdward Evans-Pritchard (1937/1965) and Bronislaw Malinowski(1925/1992) no longer relied exclusively on second-hand reports(usually of poor quality and from distorted sources), but engaged inserious fieldwork. Their ethnographies indicated that culturalevolutionism was mistaken and that religious beliefs were more diversethan was previously assumed. They argued that religious beliefs werenot the result of ignorance of naturalistic mechanisms; for instance,Evans-Pritchard noted that the Azande were well aware that housescould collapse because termites ate away at their foundations, butthey still appealed to witchcraft to explain why a particular househad collapsed. More recently, Cristine Legare et al. (2012) found thatpeople in various cultures straightforwardly combine supernatural andnatural explanations, for instance, South Africans are aware AIDS iscaused by a virus, but some also believe that the viral infection isultimately caused by a witch.

Aug 24, 2017 · A collection of science essays from The New York Times.

A major impetus for Arabic science was the patronage of the Abbasidcaliphate (758–1258), centered in Baghdad. Early Abbasid rulers,such as Harun al-Rashid (ruled 786–809) and his successorAbū Jaʿfar Abdullāh al-Ma’mūn (ruled813–833), were significant patrons of Arabic science. The formerfounded the Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom), whichcommissioned translations of major works by Aristotle, Galen, and manyPersian and Indian scholars into Arabic. It was cosmopolitan in itsoutlook, employing astronomers, mathematicians, and physicians fromabroad, including Indian mathematicians and Nestorian (Christian)astronomers. Throughout the Arabic world, public libraries attached tomosques provided access to a vast compendium of knowledge, whichspread Islam, Greek philosophy, and Arabic science. The use of acommon language (Arabic), as well as common religious and politicalinstitutions and flourishing trade relations encouraged the spread ofscientific ideas throughout the empire. Some of this transmission wasinformal, e.g., correspondence between like-minded people (see Dhanani2002), some formal, e.g., in hospitals where students learned aboutmedicine in a practical, master-apprentice setting, and inastronomical observatories and academies. The decline and fall of theAbbasid caliphate dealt a blow to Arabic science, but it remainsunclear why it ultimately stagnated, and why it did not experiencesomething analogous to the scientific revolution in WesternEurope.


It’s Not Just about Science

Biochemistry textbooks and journal articles describe the workings of some of the many living molecular machines within our cells, but they offer very little information about how these systems supposedly evolved by natural selection. Many scientists frankly admit their bewilderment about how they may have originated, but refuse to entertain the obvious hypothesis: that perhaps molecular machines appear to look designed because they really are designed.

Al Gore: Climate of Denial - Rolling Stone

The problem with this narrative is that orthodox worries aboutnon-Islamic knowledge were already present before Al-Ghazālīand continued long after his death (Edis 2007: chapter 2). The studyof law (fiqh) was more stifling for Arabic science thandevelopments in theology. The eleventh century saw changes inIslamic law that discouraged heterodox thought: lack of orthodoxycould now be regarded as apostasy from Islam (zandaqa) whichis punishable by death, whereas before, a Muslim could only apostatizeby an explicit declaration (Griffel 2009: 105). (Al-Ghazālīhimself only regarded the violation of three core doctrines aszandaqa, statements that challenged monotheism, the prophecyof Muḥammad, and resurrection after death.) Given that heterodoxthoughts could be interpreted as apostasy, this created a stiflingclimate for Arabic science. In the second half of the nineteenthcentury, as science and technology became firmly entrenched in westernsociety, Muslim empires were languishing or colonized. Scientificideas, such as evolutionary theory, were equated with Europeancolonialism, and thus met with distrust.

Can science and the truth withstand the merchants of poison?

"There is also an increasing recognition amongcontemporary social scientists that there is a subset ofproblems, such as population, atomic war, environmentalcorruption, and the recovery of a livable urban environment, forwhich there are no current political solutions. The thesis ofthis article is that the common area shared by these two subsetscontains most of the critical problems that threaten the veryexistence of contemporary man." [p. 53]