Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Islam and Darwin

David Klinghoffer shares some brief but interesting thoughts on a parallel between the current state of Islam and the current state of Darwinism. He writes:
I came across a refreshing and illuminating piece on The New Republic website that, in the context of talking about Islam and terrorism, suggested to me a reason for hope in the Darwin debate. In the current culture of science, where the 19th-century materialist Church of Science rules and the congregation bows obediently, what's needed is a modernizing reformation. Doubts about Darwinism are part of that. We can draw a parallel to past reformations in the religious sphere, and future ones.

Most of us in the West agree, for example, that Islam urgently requires a reformation. Some observers see radical Islamism not as the leading edge in Muslim life -- that is, where the religion is going -- but rather as the desperate resistance from within to the modernizing course on which Islamic culture is already embarked and from which there is no turning back. Islamism, in this view, is not the vanguard but a screech of protest in vain.

As the scholar Reuel Marc Gerecht points out, those Muslims most inclined to sympathize with or commit terrorism are not the clerics who are expert in the faith and steeped in its teachings but, instead, laypeople who possess a ruder knowledge of Islamic tradition and who often were radicalized by their contact with the West. Gerecht, a former CIA clandestine officer, writes about sitting with imams and hearing them teach, thinking what a poor preparation for a career in terror Islamic Sharia law actually is.

In the world of science, oddly, it's much the same way. Reading professional scientific journals, you come across far franker talk of holes in Darwinism than you'll ever find in the general-interest media, or on screechy, sarcastic Darwinist blogs aimed at angry laymen and the unemployed (judging from the amount of time commenters seem to have on their hands). Gerecht sees Islamic clerics not as the problem but as a likely feature of the solution when it comes. And it will come. Perhaps the same will prove to be true of scientists -- the real ones, I mean, not the furious bloggers.
Unfortunately, just as the extremists manage to intimidate the moderates in many Islamic communities, so, too, do the more ideological Darwinians, the Darwinians who demand that Darwin not only must entail atheism but also must not be subjected to public challenge, intimidate many of their colleagues who are skeptical of the naturalistic, materialistic paradigm that's being forced upon them.

Nevertheless, there's reason to think that the ideologues cannot suppress the truth forever, either in science or in Islam, and perhaps we'll someday see them both in full retreat in the face of their own colleagues' advance. Maybe.

Ahmadinejad Teetering

DEBKAfile reports that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad may be fighting for his political life, and, given Iranian politics, maybe his physical life as well. Here's the heart of their report:
Our Washington sources report that the White House is keenly watching the infighting and deepening splits in the clerical regime. Opinions vary as to the cause which triggered the crisis, ranging from opposition to the deep slashes Ahmadinejad ordered last month in subsidies for essential consumer goods, to dialectical differences and a straight power struggle. But they all agree that the Iranian president is fighting for his life in a struggle that is approaching a resolution.

Washington sees three major forces ranged solidly against him for the first time:

1. The Iranian parliament, the Majlis, and its powerful speaker Ali Larijani, who has been working to check Ahmadinejad's limitless thirst for power for some time;

2. The generals: Never before since the 1979 Islamic Revolution have the armed forces chiefs taken a hand in Iranian politics. But they are now deeply concerned that Ahmadinejad's policies, including his push for a nuclear weapon, are bringing the country into perils it cannot withstand.

3. Long-time rival, the former president Hashem Rafsanjani, Chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council of Iran, the supreme body overseeing the various arms of the regime, is showing signs of recovering from the years of persecution and restrictions placed on the activities of his faction.

It was noticed in Washington this week that supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who habitually praises the president and his works, has stopped mentioning him in his public appearances, probably watching and waiting to see how the internal discord turns out. Also sitting on the fence are the heads of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, Ahmadinejad's principle buttress until now. He appears therefore to be fighting for survival singlehanded except for a hard core of the most radical ayatollahs who have backed him through thick and thin.
Assuming that this report is correct and assuming that if Ahmedinejad falls his replacement isn't even worse than he is, this is very good news. The collapse of Ahmedinejad in Iran may lead to a cessation of their nuclear weapons program as well as their meddling in both Iraq and Lebanon. Indeed, it may actually forestall war in the region. Let us hope that the reports are true.

Politically Correcting Mark Twain

When the Smithsonian recently yanked a painting of Christ covered with ants the painting's admirers complained that art shouldn't be held hostage to those it might offend. The purpose of art, we're told is precisely to make us uncomfortable, to offend the orthodoxies which imprison our minds, etc., etc. Those who were upset by this painting and others like it have been derided and disparaged as a bunch of unsophisticated Yahoos.

Now, however, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn is being scrubbed of the words "nigger" and "injun" and many, though not all, of the voices who are outrgaed at censorship of literature and thrilled whenever art is used to offend the sensibilities of the hoi polloi, have suddenly gone silent.

Liberals have told us for decades that we shouldn't be afraid of words, at least that's what they said when people objected to the fact that words many consider vulgar and offensive began to fill our movies and novels. They told us that this was simply an accurate reflection of how people talk, a true depiction of life. It's the reality of modern life, and the role of art and literature is, among other things, to represent reality.

Nevertheless, it's now been decided that there really are some words too offensive for people to read and these must be expurgated from our literature. I guess whether a word is too offensive for the printed page actually depends on who is offended by it.