Before you light up the comment section, let me take care of the proper pejoratives for Iranian president Ahmadinejad. He's a representative of a rather backward and intolerant form of Islam that needs to be restrained in the long run; in addition, they have a jihadi ethic that has caused us problems in Lebanon and elsewhere. We need to be giving his government the eagle eye and keep them from causing any further mischief.
That being said, there are also some redeeming values in the guy, especially coming from a Christian perspective. If we can contain that desire for the lesser jihad, many Muslims can be an ally on a number of issues, including the intersection of science and faith.
I was thumbing through Ahmadinejad's Columbia speech last night; the core of it, if Christianized a bit, could have been given by Pope Benedict, and that's not a slam on the Pope. Ahmadinejad understands that reality transcends the physical. Here's an interesting passage that strikes a positive cord on the Christian side of the aisle.
In our culture, the word science has been defined as illumination. In fact, the science means brightness and the real science is a science which rescues the human being from ignorance, to his own benefit. In one of the widely accepted definitions of science, it is stated that it is the light which sheds to the hearts of those who have been selected by the almighty.
Therefore, according to this definition, science is a divine gift and the heart is where it resides. If we accept that science means illumination, then its scope supersedes the experimental sciences and it includes every hidden and disclosed reality.
One of the main harms inflicted against science is to limit it to experimental and physical sciences. This harm occurs even though it extends far beyond this scope. Realities of the world are not limited to physical realities and the materials, just a shadow of supreme reality. And physical creation is just one of the stories of the creation of the world.
Human being is just an example of the creation that is a combination of a material and the spirit. And another important point is the relationship of science and purity of spirit, life, behavior and ethics of the human being. In the teachings of the divine prophets, one reality shall always be attached to science; the reality of purity of spirit and good behavior. Knowledge and wisdom is pure and clear reality.
It is -- science is a light. It is a discovery of reality. And only a pure scholar and researcher, free from wrong ideologies, superstitions, selfishness and material trappings can discover -- discover the reality.
That's a tad Gnostic, but it underscores the idea that modern science has blinders on if it discounts a spiritual dimension to reality. If you exclude the supernatural from the discussion, you're excluding a big chunk of reality; a hard-to-quantify and hard-to-experiment-upon chunk, but a chunk nonetheless.
Muslim countries haven't been on the cutting edge of science and engineering as of late, but their early history had them pushing along science while Europe was in the Dark Ages; one reason we can joke about "the dreaded terror group al Gebra and their weapons of math instruction" is that we get the word algebra from Arabic. Since they see a god of order and rationality, they expect to see an orderly and rational universe, as we do; that gives them a heads-up from cultures who don't have a rational God in the mix.
We still may have to parking-lot a nuclear facility or two in Iran down the line, but there may be more common ground with the Muslim world that some would think. That common ground doesn't include wiping Israel off the map or quietly becoming good dhimmis in the Caliphate, but there are grounds for cooperation if we can put the geopolitical differences behind us.
Easier said than done.