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Editorial: Math, the Internet, Peace

The Fountain

Sep 1, 2015

Around the northern hemisphere, most schools are about to begin their fall semesters. As parents send their kids out the door into the world, they have numerous concerns, one of which has to do with figures: math. As one of the foundations of knowledge, math is an integral part of all educational curriculums. But it also triggers nightmares for many students.

In this issue of The Fountain, Bruce Parker expounds on the "math wars" among parents, students, and educators. Questioning the necessity of math has been going on for many decades and the range of counter arguments against math have varied from "harmful to thinking for ordinary living" and "nonfunctional and nearly valueless". So, Parker asks, do we really need to have math in middle and high school, as well as college, curriculums? His answer is an emphatic yes.

Supporting Parker in the need for math, Guvenalp writes that "mathematics can make enormous contributions to other disciplines," and that "an understanding of the universe is intricately linked to mathematics." Many people think that a scientific viewpoint and a religious viewpoint are incompatible. Mesut Sahin argues that a scientific mind can be deeply complementary to a religious soul – and vice-versa. "Scientific pursuit demands a personality with a strong dedication and faith in a cause. Those are the traits that are well developed in a person with religious experience," says Sahin, whose essay is a substantive contribution to the age-old debate on whether science and religion can be reconciled.

Who are Sufis? How different from, or similar to, Muslims are they? The Western experience of Islam has historically been more confrontational than peaceful. Sufism, however, has been welcomed rather warmly despite its origins being deeply rooted in Islam. In his "A History of Sufism for Western Readers" Sait Yavuz explains how Sufi orders came into being and systematized their practices over time. Western sympathy towards Sufism seems to arise from the latter’s emphasis on genuine love rather than the prescriptions of legalistic scholars. Sufism, according to Yavuz, is, "setting aside everything in this temporary world to reach purity, and achieve a state of direct experience of God, in which one can even annihilate himself in God’s Divine being."

Not much different than Sufis, we all seem to have annihilated ourselves in something these days, but this thing is not as holy as the Divine, unfortunately: the internet. Onyeagolu Tochukwu writes that the virtual world in which we have immersed ourselves has created an illusion of greater connection, yet "a great majority of human relationships have been transferred from the world of reality, where they involve personal encounters between humans, to the virtual world of the internet and other online platforms where personal encounters between humans are either ruled out or vastly different."

Fethullah Gülen, the author of our lead article, was the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Gandhi King Ikeda Award for Peace. The award ceremony took place at the Martin Luther King Int'l Chapel Crown Nave at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia. Mr. Gülen was awarded due to his "interfaith and cross-cultural dialogue about science, democracy and spirituality and opposition to violence and the misuses of religion as political ideology [which] made [him] the humanizing face of Islam." The keynote speech delivered during the ceremony by Dr. Scott C. Alexander is in print for the first time in this issue of The Fountain. This piece is a must read for those who research both Mr. Gülen’s ideas, and Hizmet, the global movement of education and dialogue inspired from these ideas.