1
Where Does Science Go?

HONORABLE MOHAMMAD KHATAMI

Former President of Iran


At the outset, I would like to express my gratitude and extend a welcome to those distinguished participants who have traveled from the United States of America, Senegal, and France. I would also like to welcome my distinguished countrymen who are present today. Finally, I wish to thank the Iranian Academy of Sciences, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Scienceheaded by Professor Sobouti, Sharif University of Technology, and the Center for the Great Encyclopedia of Islam. I hope that this gathering will begin to bring hearts closer together, to create understanding, and to bring about the peace and tranquility that today’s world needs more than ever. I also hope that this meeting will mark the beginning for future meetings and conferences to discuss and develop mechanisms for solving the problems that we all face.

As the West was waking from the so-called Dark Ages and embarking upon the new world that was ushered in with the Renaissance in the fifteenth century and the Reformation in the sixteenth century, the tale of Johann Faustus was published in Germany. Faustus is the story of an alchemist who made a pact with the Devil to achieve all his worldly desires, but with the consequence of burning eternally in the fires of Hell.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 3
1 Where Does Science Go? HONORABLE MOHAMMAD KHATAMI Former President of Iran A t the outset, I would like to express my gratitude and extend a welcome to those distinguished participants who have traveled from the United States of America, Senegal, and France. I would also like to welcome my distinguished countrymen who are present today. Finally, I wish to thank the Iranian Acad- emy of Sciences, the Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Scienceheaded by Professor Sobouti, Sharif University of Tech- nology, and the Center for the Great Encyclopedia of Islam. I hope that this gathering will begin to bring hearts closer together, to cre- ate understanding, and to bring about the peace and tranquility that today’s world needs more than ever. I also hope that this meeting will mark the beginning for future meetings and conferences to discuss and develop mechanisms for solving the problems that we all face. As the West was waking from the so-called Dark Ages and embarking upon the new world that was ushered in with the Ren- aissance in the fifteenth century and the Reformation in the six- teenth century, the tale of Johann Faustus was published in Ger- many. Faustus is the story of an alchemist who made a pact with the Devil to achieve all his worldly desires, but with the conse- quence of burning eternally in the fires of Hell. 3

OCR for page 3
4 SCIENCE AS A GATEWAY TO UNDERSTANDING Twenty years later, the prominent British dramatist Chris- topher Marlowe published The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus, and the story finally entered into the Western psyche in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s closet drama, Faust. Let us consider the story of western science—and modern science in general—to be parallel to the story of Faustus. Dr. Faustus, a scientist and alchemist, was deceived by the Devil, but he never sold his soul to Satan. He eventually experi- enced different stages of torture and learned moral lessons through his torment. The deceived man returned to the domain of the soul after a long and painful journey to finally find righteousness through service to others—so much so that the angels praised him and took his soul to heaven. The Devil, whose power was mani- fested in his cunning and magic, was defeated by the majesty and grace of God. By the end of the nineteenth century, Friedrich Nietzsche spoke of a mad sage, stating “(we) have killed God.” Mankind had turned its back on kindness, beauty, and the mystery of magnifi- cence, and society would have to pay for it. At the time, Nietzsche imagined a superman who could save him from his will. Short dec- ades later, a “superman” manifested as Adolph Hitler would treat the world and mankind in a way that his predecessors—Europe’s imperial colonists—treated a great number of people around the world. Hitler dominated the majestic soul of the German nation and massacred millions in the western world. The western world fought back with an astounding modern technology, the atomic bomb, which ended the Second World War. However, those bombs did not kill Hitler, but rather decimated thousands of helpless civil- ian victims of the war. At the end of the Second World War—a Hot War— commenced the even more frightening Cold War, which continued until the fall of the Soviet superpower and then ushered in an un- precedented and terrifying situation for the world and mankind. In my view, the world has turned into a group of “super- powers” that consider themselves to be uncontested masters of the

OCR for page 3
WHERE DOES SCIENCE GO? 5 rest of the world because of the eradication of their powerful rivals during the Cold War. They rely on the false pride of their eight- eenth century ancestors and expect the entire world to submit to their willpower and interests. They use whatever device they wish against those who oppose them, even when such measures violate contemporary ethics, law, and human rights. These modern “su- perpowers” employ humiliation, oppression, and hopelessness to facilitate the violence, terror, and destruction that ensures the power of the mighty and weakens the frail. I do not deny the miraculous achievements of science and technology. Indeed, the foundation of modern human life rests on these two expressions of humanity. However, it should not be for- gotten that science and its achievements led to the belief that man and nature could and should be dominated through technology. This philosophy has resulted in the increasing destruction of the natural environment and has justified the cultural devastation of those peoples who have historically been repressed. Modern sci- ence and the miracles of technology increasingly widen the gap between those in authority and those who are disadvantaged in the same that way religion, philosophy, communication, and other in- ventions of man’s creative mind have been misused to the ad- vancement of the powerful. Local authorities and politicians are rarely involved in the creation of science or technology, yet they often exploit the products of innovation to their benefit. The third millennium was expected to begin with the sooth- ing and promising call of the “Dialogue of Cultures and Civiliza- tions,” which could have been a lesson for a peaceful and secure life. Instead, our collective bright new future began with terrible explosions in New York City and Washington, D.C. that were fol- lowed by an atmosphere of fear. Tight security has been imple- mented at the borders of powerful nations throughout the world; and wars have been waged in the disenfranchised areas that escape those strictures resulting in disastrous campaigns, occupation, op- pression, and the constant humiliation of many nations and socie- ties. This dualism has fueled the extremism, violence, and terror- ism that continue to generate fear throughout the world. At every

OCR for page 3
6 SCIENCE AS A GATEWAY TO UNDERSTANDING stage, science and technology have served the purpose of violence and devastation, yet there is still a firm ground for optimism. The matter of security can be and should be a universal right afforded to all people of every nation. Security should be everywhere, or no place will be secure. Sustainable security will be realized, however, only in the light of justice. Moreover, the tradition of violence, occupation, and impo- sition has caused such suffering and pain that many scholars, poli- ticians, and citizens in nations of privilege throughout the world have reconsidered this paradigm, increasing the likelihood of un- derstanding and dialogue. We should strive to create a new tradi- tion that offers the benefits of science to all of mankind and to honor ethics and beauty. This is the right way to salvage science and humanity. It is a difficult task, and scholars everywhere should collectively tackle it with all their might. DISCUSSION Glenn Schweitzer: President Khatami, you have a great deal of experience with science that has caused problems through- out the world, and though you have underscored the misery caused by the misuse of science, you remain optimistic that science can be turned in the other direction as a force for good. In your opinion, how can the scientific community increase the positive applica- tions of science while trying to reduce the bad applications of sci- ence? Mohammad Khatami: I leave the answer to you distin- guished and learned men and women to show us how to benefit from science without misusing it. I will, however, make some short remarks. Science and technology are the expression of man himself. So if man is good, the fruit of his efforts will also be good. Further, we can create a world in which people are rewarded for being good by developing cultures of benevolence that are bound by ethics and

OCR for page 3
WHERE DOES SCIENCE GO? 7 that offer the products of science and technology to the benefit of all. Unfortunately, public opinion is largely influenced by power-hungry and profit-seeking lobbies. It should be a priority of those who serve the interests of justice, ethics, and goodness to put an end to this self-serving practice by entering into a dialogue among civilizations and cultures. It is hard to achieve, but it is pos- sible with the help of all good people. Norman Neureiter: Thank you for your interesting re- marks. You have talked about the negative side of science. What bothers so many of us today is that violence seems to be part and parcel of the rhetoric of Islam. How do you reconcile the violence associated with religious purpose, revenge, jihad, and so on, with the misuse of science in general? Should science be practiced in the context of religion? Khatami: It is a good and timely question. Violence in so- ciety is bad enough, but when it is used as a weapon by zealots to impose their religious beliefs, then it is horrifying. Unfortunately, for more than a century we have been living with global violence including two World Wars, with the damages of the first one alone exceeding those of all wars since the beginning of time. Following the Great Wars was the Cold War, which destroyed the young and tender economies, cultures, and diplomatic ties that were just emerging in the modern world and which set the calendar of peace and prosperity back by untold decades. Our shared legacy of this violent technology is the ever-existing terrorism pervasive throughout the world, but in a much more dangerous form and on a much larger scale than ever before. Thus, the modern era has been plagued by violence and the kind of intense, impersonal aggression that would have been impossible and unthinkable for the genera- tions preceding the twentieth century, and this plague has culmi- nated in an explosion of fear, oppression, occupation, and terror- ism. I am saddened to see that some of my friends attribute such violence to this or that belief or ritual. The sources of present-day violence can be found wherever injustice thrives, in all those

OCR for page 3
8 SCIENCE AS A GATEWAY TO UNDERSTANDING places that suffer the legacy of harsh violence, particularly where the powerful humiliate the weak. The only connection between religion and violence is that faith is the last refuge of the downtrodden, who lash out when they can take no more abuse. However, Christ preached love and the Koran carries the message of love. It is not insignificant that every chapter of the Koran begins with, “In the Name of God, the Com- passionate, the Merciful.” For the true followers of Christ and Is- lam, violence is forbidden and compassion is revered. Violence is considered to be a product of evil, and those who commit violence misuse religion and faith for their own evil causes. Violence is the direct consequence of a logic that states “whoever is not with us is against us; and whoever is not with us, we are allowed to deal with in whatever way we like.” In today’s world this logic is claimed by those who commit terrorism as well as by those who fight terrorism. It is imperative to abandon this logic if the world wants to eradicate violence and replace it with the benevolence and justice that is common to all great religions and should be enjoyed by all societies. Let us work together to free the world from violence and those who perpetrate violence. Thomas Jordan: You have introduced a new idea with the statement, “Security should be everywhere, or no place will be se- cure. Sustainable security will only be realized in the light of jus- tice.” The idea of sustainable security is an interesting one, and it would seem to many of us that this would require cooperation among nations, and in particular cooperation between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States. How do you suggest we achieve the cooperative spirit that is necessary to create sustainable security? Khatami: I think this problem is bigger than Iran and the United States. We are all parts of a broken system that exacerbates misunderstandings and injustice. The differences between cultures and countries are immense and growing. The underdeveloped rightfully wish to move forward and prosper and to be free and in- dependent, but find it difficult to prosper under the existing double standard in the world and the influence of the powerful in world

OCR for page 3
WHERE DOES SCIENCE GO? 9 affairs. This creates further misunderstandings and widens the gaps between peoples. We all should make an effort to ensure that the whole of humanity manages material and technological re- sources with equality. Let me say one thing that I have said to my western friends before. Look at your western world through the spectacles of an eastern man. I, the easterner, have not seen much of western sci- ence and technology, and even less of western democracy. In- stead, I, the easterner, have seen western colonialism and exploita- tion, the West’s installation of corrupt dictators, and western support of coups d’état. I, the easterner, have been humiliated by the “democratic” and “advanced” West. Under these circumstances, it is natural for the easterner to develop feelings of pessimism about the West. This pessimism, initially directed toward the bad policies of policymakers, gradu- ally spread and was embraced by the whole of eastern civilization and culture. It is this pessimism that has prevented us from getting close to each other and solving our mutual problems. Western statesmen should deny the legacy of exploitation and colonialism, both in its traditional and contemporary forms. The eastern statesmen should embrace the lessons that can be learned from the western world. Of course, this dialogue must be conducted in an atmosphere of fairness and on equal ground. If such an atmosphere is realized, I don’t think there will be any dif- ficulty in negotiations between Iran and the United States. I hope that the dialogue between scientists and people of knowledge will serve as an example to the statesmen. Yousef Sobouti: The chair would like to thank President Khatami and all those who contributed to this discussion. How- ever, I would like to make a comment. Science has a universal character to it—it is understood by everyone, everywhere, and at all times. Non-science doesn’t have such character. By non- science, I mean politics, economics, and many other things. And I do hope that in the continuation of the program we will explore this universal character in the hope of achieving a better ground for common understanding.

OCR for page 3