Baffled by ESOF's newsletter

I think anyone who received last week's Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) linkurl:newsletter;http://www.esof2006.org/blog_list.php4 would have been forgiven for wondering why the main article was entitled ?What is Islamism?? ESOF is a science meeting and its emailed newsletters are presumably designed to build interest levels prior to the event. Previous editions had covered fairly routine territory?lasers, neurons, galaxies, microbes, science journalists and the origin of the universe?which made t

By | February 20, 2006

I think anyone who received last week's Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF) linkurl:newsletter;http://www.esof2006.org/blog_list.php4 would have been forgiven for wondering why the main article was entitled ?What is Islamism?? ESOF is a science meeting and its emailed newsletters are presumably designed to build interest levels prior to the event. Previous editions had covered fairly routine territory?lasers, neurons, galaxies, microbes, science journalists and the origin of the universe?which made the appearance of Islamism as a subject all the more remarkable. Reading on, I saw that the newsletter carried a brief summary of the article, which referred to 'a highly militant mobilizing ideology selectively developed out of Islam?s scriptures, texts, legends, historical precedents, organizational experiences and present-day grievances?' but made no mention of science. Intrigued, I paid a visit to the ESOF website. It wasn?t much help either, listing the author?s name as Sadik Al-Azm, but little else. So I tracked down the ESOF press contact, Effrosyni Chelioti, to see if she could clarify matters. She told me that Al-Azm is a professor of philosophy at the University of Damascus, Syria and is scheduled to deliver a plenary talk during the conference in July. Chelioti explained that the policy of ESOF is for the newsletter to carry articles written by plenary speakers about the subject of their talk. The ESOF website would have made that clear, except for a technical hitch. She went on to tell me that there are lots of social scientists and philosophers presenting at the conference, not only representatives of the 'hard sciences.' In fact, getting good social scientists to make presentations had been something the organizers had put a lot of effort into. But I must admit that other philosophers and social scientists didn?t exactly leap off the page as I scanned the program?and certainly not any tackling issues unrelated to science. Now, linkurl:the link;http://www.esof2006.org/blog_article.php4?ID=16&what=Feature to Al-Azm's full article has been fixed on the ESOF website. It still doesn't mention science. However, the listing for his talk states that his topic will be 'Islam and the science-religion debate in modern times.' At least that fits into the overall theme. If his article in the newsletter had been on that subject, I would have understood why it was included. As it stands, I remain more than a little bemused.

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