Monday, August 27, 2007

Muslim Creationism - A Case of Interfaith Dialogue?

Just as some Christians feel the Theory of Evolution stands in conflict with the Bible, some Muslims feel it is in Conflict with the Quran. This is perhaps not so odd in itself, but I at least was surprised to find out that these groups actually stand in contact with each other.

During a visit to the University of Göttingen in Germany last week, I was given a publication in which Dr. Martin Riexinger tells the interesting story of Turkish Creationism. The history goes back to the 19th century, but gets interesting during the 1980's, when the school books in the (until then?) rigorously secular state schools were modified so that not only were creationism introduced as an alternative to evolution in biology, but fierce anti-evolution polemics was introduced in the books on religious education (a subject introduced at the same time).

The Turkish found inspiration among American Evangelicals, who were often cited as western scientists. The reason that evangelical protestants were noted in Muslim circles in Turkey also had to do with the fact that US creationists repeatedly visited Turkey to look for Noak's ark on mount Ararat. However, the evangelical argumentation for a young earth was of no interest to the Turks, since the Quran does not contain any narrative comparable to that of Genesis regarding the early generations of humans.

Even more fascinating is the fact that the contacts have also gone in the other direction, from Turkey to the US. In 2004, Mustafa Akyol, who teaches an Islamic variation of the "Intelligent Design"-theory, was invited to a hearing at the Kansas Department of Education, at which the question if ID was to be taught in Kansas Schools was discussed. The idea was to bring in a Muslim in order to rebut the argument that ID is based on Christian Theology.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Monbiot sums up the Cliamte Camp


(Note: I will post some religion-relevant material soon, I promise...)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Heathrow Climate Campaign

So far the protest against the building of a new terminal at Heathrow Airport, London, seems to have gone well. Read the news coverage at Don't miss this amazing video of a successful non-violent confrontation with the police.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Monbiot and Reducing Climate Change

I read George Monbiot's Heat last week (which makes this post very outdated indeed...). Its very good, everybody should read it. The thing is that it deals with how it is possible to, with a decent amount of probability, prevent that global warming goes into the beyond tolerable. It will be hard but doable.

The effect this book had on me is that I now feel ready to act. Monbiot basically shows what needs to be done, now we have to get about doing it. It won't be enough just to change one's own life, we have to start putting pressure on those in power.

Here is a good interview that will give you a good idea about what needs to be done (and why for those of you who do not know that). My favorite line is the one comparing what is required from us to face this crisis compared to WWII.

You say that flying less is a sacrifice too great for the people of this country to bear. But the last time the world was faced with an existential crisis - the rise of the Axis powers - millions of people were asked to sacrifice their lives to prevent it. Now, we are being asked to sacrifice our holidays in Florida and Thailand.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. (YouTube)

Now, there are some things about which I do not agree with Mr. Monbiot. They are not central to the argument. He essentially says that the controversy over what the scientific position on climate change is cause by people not understanding what science is. This I think is only part of the problem. Climate change reveals problems in the very scientific method itself. It clearly seems to be beyond what is possible for todays scientists to reach a scientific conclusion about the entire phenomenon. All the experts deal with small aspects in which the method works, but it seems that when it comes to compiling all this data it is no longer possible to keep the same methodical stringency. Hence the controversy over IPCC:s reports.

While there certainly does not exist any better tries as assessing the entire phenomenon then IPCC, it is still open to criticism, which sadly is used to prevent the needed the decisions to being taken.

Oxford Patristics Conference

Last week I attended the biggest conference of my academic career, the fifteenth International Patristics Conference in Oxford. For those of you outside the field, this is a conference that is held every four years and had about a thousand scholars from around the globe attending.

It was fun to see the faces of all the people whose books I have been reading, and also the possibility to talk to some of them. Over all the social aspect of the event was what inspired me. To be perfectly honest, I did not find the actual papers and lectures that exciting, except four a couple that have direct relevance for my work. I guess I had hoped for more discussion on methods and the relation between Early Christian Studies and our present situation, which is what I am interested in. Now we had mostly very historical papers from the lesser scholars, while the giants presented overviews and synthesis of ancient thought. Impressive, but not exciting.

However, to meet these scholars was still interesting. Discussions of meals in St Edmund's Hall cover very interesting areas, and here I felt I was not alone in trying to seek contemporary relevance in the early Church. Somehow this interest, clearly present in the people I met, just did not seem to translate into the official proceedings. It was also interesting to see that - generalizing here - to most radical papers came from mostly female scholars of some maturity. There has been for some time a group of great women scholars in patristics, and the same group still is very good. But among the younger presenters, regardless of sex, it seemed people were dealing mostly with quite safe subjects.

This experience of mine could be caused by me not actually attending the right kind of conference, but I do not think this is the case, especially since I so much enjoyed spending time with these people. Rather, I have a feeling many shared my experience, which tells me that the problem seems to be in the general academic atmosphere at the moment, which seems to shy away from the radical and new.

Still, it was a great conference, well organized, and I especially appreciated again to meet my friends and colleagues in the now quite sizable group from the Nordic Countries.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Direct Action against SUV's

A new activist group in Stockholm has today been able to publish an article in one of Sweden's biggest newspapers about why they go around letting the air out of the tires of big 4WD's in the inner city.

A great initiative if you ask me. I would join the group (they call themselves "Asfaltdjungelns Indianer" (a bit difficult to translate that one - asfalt jungle native americans?) if I had the courage.

The article in swedish is here.