September 15, 2006

Irreconcilable Differences

Most scientific articles are peer reviewed, that is, subject to critical evaluation by one or more selected scholars with significant interest in the field, before they are accepted for publication. Depending on the subject matter, the article is critically reviewed for orginality, logical and theoretical rigour, and if warranted, robustness of the evidence presented. Often, the review process is double-blind, that is, the identity of the author(s) and the reviewer(s) are hidden from one another. What is said is important, and not who said it. Nature, the prestigious journal of science and medicine, has taken a further step in this already stringent process, by opening submissions for publication, to online review by everyone in the field. Nature's editors have said that "they will take both sets of comments -- the traditional peer-review opinions and the online remarks -- into consideration when deciding whether to publish a study."

Contrast this with some recent events in the realm of religion. The publication of a few cartoons lampooning Mohammed and his teachings in a Danish newspaper Morgenavisen Jyllands Posten last September, continues to evoke violent protests across the Islamic countries even today. Fatwas were issued for killing the artists, effigies were burnt, and as recently as this month, there were reports of a thwarted attempt to detonate explosives on German trains. The movie, Da Vinci Code, based on Dan Brown's novel with the same title, drew censorship, bans, and boycotts, because it questioned Jesus Christ's supposed celibacy. Among those who banned the film from being screened, were Lebanon, Samoa, Pakistan, and several state governments in the ostensibly secular India. Deepa Mehta's first attempt to shoot her film Water, a film about the plight of Hindu widows in the 1930's, in India, was abandoned after angry protesters destroyed the main film set. The head of the RSS, a Hindu fundamentalist group, said to the press, "Breaking up the sets was far too mild an act, the people involved with the film should have been beaten black and blue."(The Week magazine, India, Feb 13th, 2000)

Irreconcilable differences?


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