Sunday, April 18, 2010

Multiculturalism: Western vs. Islamic Science

I put this here as a future footnote to an as yet unwritten rant that I have been mulling over in my spare brain cells. The rant has to do with non-dualism of mind-body, craftsmanship, fine brickwork, creative writing, flash fiction on the internet, creative boundaries between fiction and non-fiction, Green sustainable human built-environments, geographically determined metabolic rates of learning in heritage conservation, the Sokal Hoax and the Cardiff Giant (of which I understand my family ancestry has a connection).

Berman's article is 28,000 words, really long, and this Sunday morning I have carefully read through all of it to the end. This following paragraph is the only one with a direct connection to my rant, all other implications of comparison are indirect though no less valid if they can at all be drawn out.

“Then again, if [Tariq] Ramadan means to suggest, by pointing to Islamic thinkers of the Middle Ages, that ancient roots are everything; or that science and rationality come in different versions depending on one’s origins, a version for Muslims and a different version for everyone else; or that universalism itself comes in different versions, and my universalism may not be the same as yours, and truth varies from culture to culture—then, of course, further questions arise. The notion that science and rationality come in different versions is an old idea: it is the notion that, taken to a logical conclusion, led the Nazis to suppose that physics came in an Aryan version and in a Jewish version, which were not identical, even if Jewish physics and Aryan physics appeared to be identical; and led the Stalinists to suppose that proletarian science was one thing and bourgeois science another, in spite of every superficial resemblance; and so on. This kind of argument is not hard to stumble across in Islamist literature: the notion that science comes in a Western version and also in an Islamic version, which are not the same. The same idea re-appears today in a sweet-tempered postmodern variation, as a kind of multiculturalism taken to the nth degree, in which every culture is pictured as equivalent and unique, and each culture’s claims to universal principles ought to be taken with a grain of salt, as an agreeable rhetoric that probably does not mean very much.”

Paul Berman, The New Republic, June 4, 2007