Friday, December 02, 2005

The West, Intelligent Design and Islam

A fascinating piece in NRO by Mustafa Akyol, a Muslim writer based in Istanbul, Turkey, and one of the expert witnesses who testified to the Kansas State Education Board during the hearings on evolution.

Akyol argues that the West's adoption of secularism of which Darwinism is a critical part has been a major point of the recent friction with Islam.

In a furious New Republic cover story, "The Case Against Intelligent Design," Jerry Coyne joined in this hype and implied that all non-Christians, including Muslims, should be alarmed by this supposedly Christian theory of beginnings that "might offend those of other faiths." Little does he realize that if there is any view on the origin of life that might seriously offend other faiths — including mine, Islam — it is the materialist dogma: the assumptions that God, by definition, is a superstition, and that rationality is inherently atheistic.

That offense is no minor issue. In fact, in the last two centuries, it has been the major source of the Muslim contempt for the West.

The ID debate has the potential to bridge the gap of God vs. materialism between mainstream Islam and the West. [He notes also in the article that most of what Islam thinks is the West is represented either Western Europe or Hollywood.]

As the history of the cultural conflict between the modern West and Islam shows, ID can also be a bridge between these two civilizations. The first bricks of that bridge are now being laid in the Islamic world. In Turkey, the current debate over ID has attracted much attention in the Islamic media. Islamic newspapers are publishing translations of pieces by the leading figures of the ID movement, such as Michael J. Behe and Phillip E. Johnson. The Discovery Institute is praised in their news stories and depicted as the vanguard in the case for God, and President Bush's support for ID is gaining sympathy. For many decades the cultural debate in Turkey has been between secularists who quote modern Western sources and Muslims who quote traditional Islamic sources. Now, for the first time, Muslims are discovering that they share a common cause with the believers in the West. For the first time, the West appears to be the antidote to, not the source of, the materialist plague.

The discussion of the merits of ID itself is for another day or another space. In my view it's hard to call ID 'science' because it isn't disprovable but at the same time Darwinism does leave gaps. But the idea of ID as 'the bridge between two civilizations' is worth some thought.

Of course, Darwinians have the right to believe in whatever they wish, but it is crucial to unveil that theirs is a subjective faith, not an objective truth, as they have been claiming for more than a century. This unveiling would mark a turning point in the history of Western civilization, by reconciling science and religion and letting people become intellectually fulfilled theists. Moreover, it would mark a turning point in the history of the world, by changing the meaning of "the West" and "Westernization" in the eyes of Muslims. They have been resisting the influx of godlessness from the West for a long time; they would be much less alarmed in the face of a redeemed West.

Phillip E. Johnson once said that the ID debate is about the question whether the U.S. is a nation under God or a nation under Darwin. We Muslims see the latter as a plague; we have no problem with the former. We might have disagreements, but we agree on the most fundamental truth of all — that there really is a God out there, and He is the One to Whom we owe our very life and existence.

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