Science certainly isn’t the answer to everything, but it has delivered huge improvements in the quality of life over the last several centuries. Almost all technology that we enjoy today exists as a direct result of the scientific method.
In both science and its handmaiden, maths, we:
(a) first rigorously define things, and then
(b) determine their properties, and then
(c) explore uses for these properties.
Without completing (a), we won’t be able to reliably progress to (b), let alone (c).
Almost half of UKIP Daily seems to be about Muslims. And in our Leadership contest, Islam is (whether or not it should be is another matter) also quite an issue. Usually, the two sides locked in argument are speaking different languages, and that’s because they haven’t agreed even on the definitions. So it all just goes round and round unproductively. The rut deepens, neither side convinces the other, entrenchment of views grows.
Here’s a typical argument between two intelligent well-informed kippers, “A” (‘The UK’s #1 Problem Is Islam itself’) and “Z” (‘The Problem is only a dangerous minority who are Islamists’):
A: The problem is Islam itself. The Islamists are just an extreme example. Many of the rest quietly approve – just look at the Quran!
Z: No worse than the Old Testament. Bloodshed and intolerance in both. The OT’s much longer. Read Numbers 31 (etc.).
A: Whatever, but the NT supersedes the OT – it’s a new covenant. The NT is very different. Turn the other cheek – 490 times. The Golden Rule. Just Two Laws. The Three Graces. (etc.)
Z: The NT introduces the doctrine of Hell and Everlasting Torment. Hardly love and forgiveness.
A: Well, even that’s disputed, but but the NT leaves enforcement to God. In the Q, much of the enforcement is delegated to man, and that’s where the mischief comes from. How many terrorists aren’t Islamists?
Z: You might be surprised. But you were wrong at the beginning. Most Muslims don’t approve, but can’t do anything about it. Fundamentalist Wahhabi, Salafist and a few of the Deobandi movements are unrepresentative.
A: Have you read the Q? Yes, there are some uplifting bits but they are outnumbered. Good Muslims follow all the Q, else they aren’t good Muslims, and emulate M, and we all know about him.
Z: Quran 5:32 says kill one, it’s like you killed all mankind. Save one, it’s like you saved all mankind. What could be more beautiful and inspiring?
A: Read the verse properly. 5:32 refers to the Mishnah teaching applicable to the Children of Israel. The Q is criticising them for NOT obeying this, and the next verse (5:33) calls for such transgressors to be exiled, killed, crucified or have hands & feet cut off from opposite sides. What could be uglier?
Z: Don’t be ridiculous, hardly any Muslims believe in doing that, any more than Jews believe in dragging kids who cheeked their parents to the gates of the city and stoning them to death (Deut. 21:18-21).
A: Jews aren’t the problem for us, though. No more than are Buddhists, Confucianists, Hindus, Sikhs or Pastafarians. So why don’t these Muslims speak up about bad things in the Q or Hadith – or leave Islam?
Z: Why should they leave Islam over disagreement with a few verses when there are over 6,200 verses, and who said Muslims are literalists any more than most Christians are? I’ve seen surveys showing a large number of Anglican bishops don’t believe in the physical Resurrection.
A: Red herrings and irrelevant. There’s plenty more verses like that in the Q. And the real reason sensible Muslims don’t leave their faith is that they don’t dare. Apostasy is one of the many things punishable, under the Sharia, by death.
Z: They don’t follow those “plenty more verses” or practices either, and are still comfortable in their faith.
A: Even so, secretly many, if not the majority, want to follow the whole . Else they are not good Muslims. Because they aren’t even aspiring to follow the Q. Every good Muslim is obviously at war with Western values because, as a whole, many international bodies have declared Sharia is inconsistent with Western values.
Z: Haven’t you heard about exegesis=tafsir and abrogation=naksh, where verses are contextualised, contradictions are resolved and the “good” verses win?
A: It seldom works that way. And the Wahhabi preachers have much more sway than the moderates with the young.
Z: I have Muslim friends of all ages and they are just as sensible and good as my non-Muslim ones. They believe only in spiritual jihad – an internal striving.
A: You’re one of the useful fools who’ve fallen for the taqiyya. Even if your friends are sincere, they are unrepresentative. And when push comes to shove, you know whose side they’ll be on. (etc.)
I suggest a more productive start to the debate by defining, before it starts, one key phrase:
* “Good Muslim”*
If a “Good Muslim” is defined as one who strives to literally obey all the teachings of the Quran etc., “A” will usually win the debate before an impartial, intelligent Western audience.
But if a “Good Muslim” is defined as a good person who just happens to profess to be a Muslim, “Z” will hold his own.
I try to avoid loading the language. I favour the second definition, and use the same construction for good Christians, agnostics, etc.
Using the second definition, I believe most Muslims are good Muslims. And they don’t examine their religion analytically in this way, so it doesn’t bother them that there are many bits of the Quran and Hadith they have no intention of following.