Baha'i News -- Muslim, Jewish, and Christian Scientists Hold International Summit to Call for Peaceful Dialogue
Muslim, Jewish, and Christian Scientists Hold International Summit to Call for Peaceful Dialogue
Story Filed: Monday, August 12, 2002 10:46 PM EST
GRANADA, Spain, Aug 11, 2002 (ASCRIBE NEWS via COMTEX) -- Ten days from today,
leading scientists from the Middle East, Europe, and North America will gather
to call for peaceful dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. The
unprecedented summit meeting in Granada, Spain is a response to religiously
motivated conflicts around the world, including the September 11 attacks in the
United States and the global rise in terrorism. The scientists will meet with
over one hundred scholars and religious leaders to face two major geopolitical
threats: erupting cultural conflicts among the three monotheisms, and rising
tensions between modern technological society and religious fundamentalism. The
Science and the Spiritual Quest Spain Symposium will provide a public forum for
debate Friday evening, August 23 - Sunday evening, August 25, 2002 at the
historic Alhambra Palace Hotel. For more information and registration, visit
www.ssq.net or call +1-510-848-2355.
On the eve of the summit, some of the scientists were already speaking out. "Our
era cries out for a new political vision that can take care of the spiritual and
environmental crises of our time-specifically moral void, injustice, violence,
and war," asserted Iranian physicist and Muslim scholar Mehdi Golshani.
Meanwhile Tsevi Mazeh, an Israeli astrophysicist and longtime Orthodox Jewish
peace activist, expressed hope and caution: "Objectivity and rationalism, two of
the pillars of modern science, can be used to balance the strong trends of
particularity within the three major monotheistic faiths. . . but the main
source of openness and respect for the 'other' should be found within the core
of each tradition."
British astrophysicist S. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, renowned for co-discovering
pulsars, recalled that Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and other famous
scientists assembled to respond publicly to the Cold War peril of thermonuclear
warfare. Herself a national leader in the Quaker tradition, Bell Burnell raised
a challenge for the summit in Spain: "Do we need something similar for today's
'hot' wars? Are we the people to do it?"
Observers note the uniqueness of a meeting that features devout Jews, Muslims,
and Christians who are also scientists at the cutting edge of their research
disciplines. Jim Schaal, Program Director of the symposium's sponsoring
organization Science and the Spiritual Quest, commented: "In more settled times,
the academic discussion of science and religion could afford to dwell primarily
on theoretical questions of theology and philosophy. Now scientific developments
in fields like genomics and neuroscience join longstanding concerns, such as
environmental degradation and weapons of mass destruction, to bring urgent and
practical issues of ethics and politics to the forefront of debate. We believe
that religiously committed scientists must be heard-not only in academic
discourse, but also in the public and policymaking arenas."
Although Christianity and Judaism have long struggled to come to terms with the
modern sciences to which they played midwife, Islam has until recently been less
engaged in the Western scholarly dialogue with science-despite the legacy of
high scientific accomplishments in the Muslim world during the medieval era.
This, too, is changing as both Muslims and non-Muslims recognize science and its
technological offspring as central players in widespread religious conflicts.
The shift in emphasis was compelling at the SSQ Boston Conference at Harvard in
October 2001, when eminent French astrophysicist and Sufi Muslim scholar Bruno
Abd-al-Haqq Guiderdoni delivered an impassioned plea for ethical reflection and
cultural reconciliation in the wake of September 11. In a nationwide telecast,
he said: "I am a scientist and I am a believer. . . (and) I feel deeply
concerned by our twenty-first century. The terrible events of September 11 cast
a dark shadow on it. . . Do we have reasons to hope again?" An attainable vision
of peace with justice, Guiderdoni argued, demands shared understandings of the
human condition informed by open-minded, humble approaches to both scientific
and religious truth. To rousing applause, he concluded: "The fundamental issue
we have to address is clear: do we believe in the human as much as God believes
in the human?"
Guiderdoni will be a keynote speaker in the opening session of the public SSQ
symposium in Granada. The closing session, entitled "Modern Science,
Contemporary Politics, and Living Religions: Is There Hope for Peace?," will
directly confront the political realities besetting the world today.
The three "Abrahamic" monotheisms will be broadly and fairly represented in
Spain, with one speaker from each tradition featured in most sessions. Joining
Guiderdoni and Mehdi to speak from a Muslim perspective at the Spain Symposium
are Ayub Ommaya, a well-known Pakistani-American neuroscientist, and Munawar
Anees, a Pakistani biologist and social critic hailed for his outspoken
resistance while imprisoned by Malaysian authorities. Also featured is a speaker
from the Baha'i Faith, a tradition rooted in Islam and dedicated to world peace:
the Iranian-British scientist Faraneh Vargha-Khadem, noted for her research on
cognitive and behavioral neuropathology in children.
Along with Mazeh, Jewish speakers include distinguished eminent Harvard
neuroscientist and vision expert Stephen Kosslyn; Carl Feit, a respected cancer
researcher and Talmudic Jewish scholar; Israeli historian of science and
religion Noah Efron; American philosopher Norbert Samuelson; and Andrew Newberg,
a noted American researcher in brain function and mystical experience.
Joining Bell Burnell from a Christian viewpoint are Cambridge mathematical
physicist and Anglican priest and theologian John Polkinghorne, who recently won
the coveted Templeton Prize; William Hurlbut, a Stanford physician and
biomedical ethicist recently appointed to the Presidential Council on Bioethics;
Ted Peters, a noted theologian and consultant on issues in genetics; and eminent
South African cosmologist and Quaker scholar George F. R. Ellis.
Closing reflections will be offered by one of the deans of contemporary
science-religion dialogue, the physicist and theologian Ian Barbour. Barbour is
also a winner of the prestigious Templeton Prize, the world's largest award for
Scientific topics to be considered in Granada range from large-scale pictures of
cosmology and evolution to the latest research in cloning and brain imaging.
Science and Eastern religious traditions including Buddhism and Hinduism will be
the focus of upcoming SSQ events in Tokyo, Japan this October and in Bangalore,
India, next January.
The SSQ Spain Symposium is open to the public and journalists are encouraged to
attend. For more information and registration, visit www.ssq.net or call
+1-510-848-2355. Science and the Spiritual Quest (www.ssq.net) is a program of
the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (www.ctns.org) in Berkeley,
California. The Spain Symposium is presented in partnership with the Metanexus
Institute on Religion and Science (www.metanexus.net) and the CTNS Science and
Religion Course Program (http://srcourse.ctns.org) with support from the John
Templeton Foundation (www.templeton.org).
((AScribe - The Public Interest Newswire / http://www.ascribe.org))
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