Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hampshire College Creates Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies

Congratulations to my friend and colleague Salman Hameed, who recently established a Center for the Study of Science in Muslim Societies here at Hampshire College.

Salman, an astronomer whose specialized technical research involves star formation (among other things) is also deeply interested in the intersection of science and public life (the position that he holds was designed to bridge the gap between the sciences and the humanities). He was always particularly interested and eventually developed an academic concentration in such phenomena as the popularity of pseudo-science (e.g. UFO theories and the paranormal) and the resistance to real science. The latter notably includes the sudden resurgence of popular opposition to the theory of evolution. We think of the phenomenon mainly in the context of the Protestant fundamentalist west, but as he has shown (see an earlier post), it is also a growing force in the Muslim world.

Here, a sample quote:
“There is an increasingly urgent need for understanding and education about Islam and Muslim societies,” said Hameed. “This is perhaps the only center focused on examination of intersections and interactions between science and Muslim societies, (both in Muslim-majority countries and in Muslim diasporas in the West. It will bring together scholars working across disciplines on a significant set of questions and issues.”

At a time when science is becoming increasingly important in everyday life and for economic development, it is important to understand how it is understood and taught, and the role it plays in various Muslim societies, where religion plays a significant cultural role, Hameed said.

“This relationship with science is complex, and increasingly so, as science is freighted with issues of colonialism, modernity and progress, as well as moral and religious implications.”
Read the full story here (includes radio interview).  You can see more of Salman's work on Irtiqa:  A Science and Religion Blog (also blogrolled with updates in the right margin of this page).

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