Divine wrath.

HOW do we look at the causes of floods? Are they the wrath of God (anger or retributory punishment for an offence or a crime) due to human sins, or do they occur as part of the divine scheme of things? These questions arise because of two competing perspectives: one pertains to sacred texts and the picture of flooding and earthquakes occurring due to evil behaviour. The other view, that of the scientists, is that these are a natural phenomenon, unrelated to human good or evil.

Often, talk shows are held on these two positions. In the talk shows, the points of view of the ulema are juxtaposed with those of the scientists, both arguing for their respective positions. These discussions, though enlightening, tend to be polemical, leading to almost a 'dialogue of the deaf' because both speak different 'languages' with different disciplines, epistemologies (sources of knowledge) and methodologies of production of knowledge.

When students of religion want to confirm a truth, the sources of authority they refer to are: belief, tradition, revelation, syntax and textual analysis. In addition, sacred texts use a symbolic and an equivocal language, lending themselves to multiple interpretations. On the other hand, when students of science want to confirm a truth, they refer to, for example, a critical analysis of existing data, doubt, scepticism, experimentation, evidence, the study of cause and effect.

Moreover, religion, very generally, in terms of its approach, takes a deductive approach, whereas science adopts an inductive one. The methodologies of explaining a phenomenon, such as floods, are vastly different in both disciplines. Religion tries to see metaphysical causes; science tries to see only the physical causes. These two realms of knowledge tend to require different types of evidence, mindsets and training. They are like our ears and eyes, which function differently and generate different data, but are coordinated in the mind. So, we need to acknowledge that despite both being different, both aid humans to understand and interpret the world from different angles.

The deeper one digs, the finer the meanings that may emerge.

Science, for example, tells us that 'earthquakes can strike any location at any time, but history shows they occur in the same general patterns year after year, principally in three large zones of the earth. The world's greatest earthquake belt, the circum-Pacific seismic belt, is found along the rim of the Pacific Ocean...

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