Date: 7/31/2004


Scientific Progress has an inverse relationship with religion. Where the hold of religion on human thinking is stronger, progress is slow and vice versa.

The awakening and flowering of scientific knowledge in ancient India and in during the Age of Reason (17th/18th centuries onwards) in Europe occurred because scientific thought was liberated from the stranglehold of religion. In India, science progressed due to culture that allowed the freeform for the flowering of different ideas including atheism. In the West, this freedom was achieved by separation of the Church and the State. Not so in the Middle East, where the temporal authority was always subservient to the spiritual authority of die-hard religious folks.

In other parts of the globe, excited by doubt, free-thinking persons (scientists) invariably engaged in a quest for truth. That questioning is dialectical; it forces reappraisal of every thing that is studied. That led to progress in all parts of the globe not under the domination of Middle Eastern culture.

For many die-hard religious folks, scientific quest is a flawed human response. They prefer a backward glance at the wreckage of the past and conclude that freedom unrestrained by rigid religious laws inevitably results in debauchery. So passionate are these die-hard religious folks (be they of any religion, but most prominently those from the Middle East) that they are willing to kill any who deviate from their theocratic musings.

Rather than embrace any kind of a dialogue of questioning, they insist on doctrinal recitation. Truth is not elusive, a matter to be pursued. For the die-hard religious folks truth is already known, written on the tablets of the faith. One merely turns the page to know what is true and what must be pursued. This is not a culture of doubt, but one of assurance and insistence.

For those who embrace this religious ideal, there isn't a dialectic (process of dialogue between opposing ideas). For them, how can there be when truth is already determined by a god (sic)? Perhaps this explains why new pharmaceutical products, software, music, dance, fashions in clothes, etc do not emerge from the Middle Eastern world. The reason lies in the fact that they cannot engage in real science based on questioning the existing state of affairs. They being Die-hard religious folks they cannot question or doubt anything connected with god's creation!

How this conflict between freedom and orthodoxy unfolds is already evident. If the idea of freedom prevails civilization, despite ebbs and flows, will prosper. If, however, religious extremism manages to capture the imagination of those who find freedom too hard to ingest, a dark ages may be in our future. That in the bluntest of terms is the present global culture war.

The test of civilization is whether we have sufficient confidence in freedom's civilizational message to defend it, recognizing that a great sacrifice in blood and resources awaits us. We fight this war not for ourselves but for those who follow.

The hope of mankind lies in opening the doors to doubt, in questioning and in truth seeking. Any other path will ultimately result in blind alleys and turning the clock back to an age of barbarity.

So, the present clash between science and religion is the real clash of civilizations, of which the clash between different religions in the War on Terror is just a symptom.