Study and reference materials, introductory information, and academic articles

Nonoverlapping magisteria NOMA

{josquote}'Abdu'l-Bahá declared that, “If religious beliefs and opinions are found contrary to the standards of science, they are mere superstitions and imaginations...{/josquote}

The crisis of academic disciplines in the late 20th century was fuelled by the blurring of boundaries between disciplines. Social sciences and humanities were accused of physics envy as they argued for legitimacy of their truth claims, their ontologies, methodologies, epistemologies . . . More recently investigations into the axiological dimension of academic disciplines have increased. So where does this leave Stephen Jay Gould’s notion of nonoverlapping magisteria?

How much simpler our world would be if we could neatly divide complex questions into nonoverlapping categories, states into nonoverlapping topographies, identities into nonoverlapping communities and cultures.

Full story...

A new continent

Zealandia: the New Zealand continent

Scientific research points towards the existence of an eighth continent, named Zealandia. Obviously, a temple is required for the newly recognised continent. As regular readers of Baha'is Online already know, one already exists. It was intended for Antarctica, but fortuitously, ended up in New Zealand.

Lessons from Past Western Incursions in the Middle East

Juan Cole discusses his new book, Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East and the relevance and lessons of Napoleon's expedition in Egypt to the current American occupation of Iraq. New America Foundation/American Strategy Program Director Steve Clemons offers comments and moderates the discussion.

Juan Cole is a professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan, the President of the Global Americana Institute, and the publisher of Informed Comment, a blog that specializes in providing translations and commentary on the modern Middle East.


Full story...

The Tilted Earth at Its 'Equal Night of Spring'

Our clocks may have already “sprung forward” in a dubious attempt at energy conservation, but please, let’s not lose track of the far weightier astronomical event that ushers in spring proper — even when the event has trouble keeping track of itself.

A couple of weeks ago, I checked a wall calendar and noted that this year the vernal equinox falls on Tuesday, March 20, happily the publication date of this column. Not long afterward, however, my eye chanced upon another calendrical reference to the equinox — March 21.

{josquote}Whatever the date, go on and celebrate, for the vernal equinox is a momentous poem among moments, overspilling its borders like the swelling of sunlight it heralds.{/josquote}

I quickly consulted every one of my household’s 13 calendars: 6 put the equinox on March 20, 6 on March 21. As for the potential tie-breaker, my daughter’s “Star Trek” calendar, it had nothing to say about a geo-fixated occasion like the equinox, though it did point out that March 22 is the birthday of William “Captain Kirk” Shatner.

Full story...

Towards the Enlightened Society

This essay will briefly sketch two alternative interpretations of recent Western history, involving different evaluations of individualism and other Western values, and different concepts of the Bahá'í society which we are building. The views which it describes are both very much my own: I have briefly sketched here my argument with myself.

Some years ago, when I was studying at a Catholic Seminary, I was strongly influenced by the Liberation theologians, whose critique of Western society and individualistic theology was in turn very much influenced by Marxist critiques of Western capitalism. As time goes by, and history works itself out, I have begun to think that this view of modern Western society, or modern Western history, may be 180º wrong. The question comes down to deciding whether some key trends in post-enlightenment history are part of the creative, or the disintegrative, processes which we know are occurring.

{josquote}What I am working towards here is a reinterpretation of history, specifically of modern Western history, which will read some characteristically Western trends in world thought which came to the fore in the Enlightenment as positive movements, precursors of the Bahá'í era, rather than as symptoms of degeneracy.{/josquote}

What I am beginning to question is a view shared by Marxists, many Liberation theologians, and some Bahá'ís, who see the individuation of society which accelerated so sharply at the enlightenment as a disintegrative, negative, movement. Individuation is seen as, at best, the regrettable side-effect of epistemological freedom, a side-effect for which remedies are sought. Medieval society had been integrated: the people and the land, the workers and their produce, the classes of society, the church and the community, were bound in coherent (i.e., meaningful) relationships.

Full story...