University of Cincinnati students and community members held a forum in Tangeman University Center Monday to discuss the importance of the Islamic approach to science.
Waleed El-Ansary, chair of Islamic studies at Xavier University, presented the topic, which covered the struggles between holistic and mechanistic approaches to science from the Islamic perspective.
El-Ansary, who teaches classes in Islam, comparative religion and the relationships between religion and science, has a doctorate in Islamic and Religious Studies from George Washington University and master’s degree in Economics from the University of Maryland.
Often times when people think of Islamic science, what really comes to mind is the application of Islamic ethics to western science, El-Ansary said.
El-Ansary is known for his research on the interconnections between religion, science and economics, as well as his work with Project Aladdin, a 2009 initiative with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to combat racism and intolerance.
Modern western science adopts a mechanistic approach, reducing the whole to the sum of its parts in contrast to a holistic approach where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
“We cannot understand the parts in their own terms, so we have to take a holistic approach, not a mechanistic approach,” El-Ansary said.
He explained that in the same way an arc of a circle can only be understood in terms of the entire circle, a holistic approach is necessary to see how each aspect of reality is interconnected and related to a greater whole.
However, the current models of science reduces knowledge to empirical means of knowing the material world — the scientific method deals with only a tiny fragment of a much greater reality, which we can come to know by studying the doctrines and following the practices of one of the world's religions.
The claim that modern science has a monopoly on knowledge is scientism, not science, and is self-refuting, since it is impossible to fully understand reality by only physical senses. Just as biology relies on chemistry, which relies on physics, the latter relies on certain philosophical assumptions, whether explicit or implicit — Islamic sciences of man and nature rely on Islamic metaphysics to understand how all things are related to the Divine Reality.