Harmonizing science and Islam in Iran
Iranian scientists discussing research on immunology
24 July 2006
Iran's scientific and religious experts have been trying to work out their differences in a dialogue that could affect whether top researchers stay or migrate to the West.
A meeting in May revealed as much discord as harmony, touching on issues ranging from the health benefits of prayer to whether science textbooks should include theology.
Scientific achievement is revered in Iran and the government is investing heavily in research, but the Koran and the clerics who interpret it have the final say in all matters.
This article highlights the tensions in a country that both aims to lead the Middle East in science and has laws that forbid anyone from denying the existence of God.
Censorship and self-censorship are reportedly widespread, with some scientists adding token religious sentiments at the end of their papers to toe the line.
The clerics ignore most science, but researchers in subjects such as evolutionary biology, psychology, neuroscience and sociology risk upsetting them.
Many Iranian scientists say the debate must go on, partly because helping religious leaders understand such topics could lead to more state funding for basic research.
An institution devoted to dialogue on science and religion is being planned for Tehran.
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