by Ervin Taylor, May 21, 2015: During the European Middle Ages, Muslim scholars created a “Golden Age” for Islamic intellectual pursuits that included some of the initial steps that several centuries later in the West, would lead to the rise of modern science. In a recent article published in Physics Today, Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, an Islamic physicist currently teaching at a university in Pakistan, described the nature of the Muslim “Golden Age,” that included the development of an incipient scientific enterprise that arose among Islamic scholars, and then relates the factors responsible for destroying the foundations of that science.
Dr. Hoodbhoy cites as the principal reason for the destruction the “theological tensions between liberal and fundamentalist interpretations of Islam.” As was the case with the politically and economically driven (but theologically justified) “Wars of Religion” in late Medieval Europe, these tensions in Islam became inflamed and often turned bloody. As Dr. Hoodbhoy relates it, with the military and political victory of fundamentalist elements in Islam, “the open-minded pursuits of philosophy, mathematics, and science were increasingly relegated to the margins of Islam.”
Today, Young Earth Creationists (YEC) and Young Life Creationists (YLC) among fundamentalist Christians (which include Adventist fundamentalists) are fond of referring to well-known 18th and 19th century scientific pioneers in the West who were (according to YEC/YLC advocates) “faith-affirming” scientists. These modern apologists sometimes fail to look carefully at what these so-called “Bible-believing” scientists actually believed.
For example, the personally devout 19th Century Christian physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) once wrote that he would be “very sorry if an interpretation [of the Bible] founded on a most conjectural scientific hypothesis were to get fastened to the text in Genesis. The rate of change of scientific hypotheses is naturally much more rapid than that of Biblical interpretations, so that if an interpretation [of the Bible] is founded on such a [scientific] hypothesis, it may help keep the [scientific] hypothesis above ground long after it ought to be buried and forgotten.”
Maxwell was well aware that what often passes for some purported “Biblical-based” belief, is, in fact, simply an interpretation of some biblical text. Whether the interpretation of a text actually conforms to what the writer of the text originally meant to write is often ignored by YEC/YLC apologists. Maxwell’s main worry here was that if some conjectural scientific hypothesis becomes bonded to a given scriptural text, this would damage the progress of science. One would think that Maxwell was talking about the “official” Adventist belief that a recent world-wide flood explains the geological record (which is currently the institutionally-sanctioned Adventist explanation of how one is able to ignore the mass of evidence that both the earth and life are billions of years old).
The ideology about Creationism being currently advanced by the parts of institutional Adventism controlled by the current party in power at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is causing Adventism to go down the same road that was traveled by dominant forces in Islam many centuries ago. The current efforts of the fundamentalist forces in Adventism are, in part, directed on changing the wording of Fundamental Belief No. 6 at the upcoming General Conference session. If that change is voted, official Adventism will move further and further down that broad road leading to theological ossification followed by the forces of fundamentalist Islam so many hundreds of years ago. If that occurs, the alienation of educated Adventists from institutional and official Adventism will not only continue, but be accelerated. There may still be time for moderate Adventists to seek some type of accommodation. But they must move quickly.