Dania Straughan and Mahan Mirza | Contending Modernities
Under the steady beam of the PowerPoint, Pakistani students enrolled in the Notre Dame-based Madrasa Discourses program grappled with the theological implications of the age of the universe and theory of evolution—revealing their deep discomfort following a presentation that challenged a literal reading of the Quranic Genesis. This was a rare and civil encounter between religious scholars and scientists, hosted at an Islamabad hotel by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS). Such meetings are an anomaly in a country where religious and scientific experts occupy exclusive and often antagonistic social spaces. The event was the fifth day of the week-long “April Intensive” session of the “Advancing Theological and Scientific Literacy in Madrasa Discourses” project.
Dr. Abdul Hameed Nayyar, renowned Pakistani physicist and nuclear disarmament activist, patiently fielded questions from the openly skeptical students in the first semester of their three-year program. “What about competing theories?” some asked. “How can science be a source of truth if it is constantly shifting?”