Dr. Ali Shariati
By this I am referring to the special human belief, based upon the expediencies of one's school in regard to human society and one's attitude towards it. The sociology of a school of thought first defines what it recognizes as the reality of society and secondly, how it has come to know it from the intellectual and ideological point of view. This is because the social view in a school of thought holds commitment to society as a doctrine for its ideology. It is not just a question of analysis of society without an aim or constraints.
In a school of thought, the sociology is in harmony with the inclinations, ideals and special views of that school. Based upon this, it judges, criticizes and evaluates. It is oriented and has commitment like the views of Durkheim and Gurwitsch as opposed to the sociologies most often offered at universities where the aim is only to analyze and come to know relationships and phenomena, to study exactly what exists as it is and as one sees it, to simply study effects, as it were, without any attention being given to causes.
The sociology of the 19th century was mainly an ideological one or as Europeans say: a committed social view. Today, on the other hand, along with the general attitude in other sciences, the emphasis is on distancing science from ideology and even removing any sense of commitment, holding back from any determination of good or bad. In regard to value judgments, it is deemed that the sociology should only judge the realities instead of turning to good or evil, offering solutions and guidance and accepting responsibility or social, ethical or even human commitment. In general, it refuses to accept an idea or adopt a determined direction or goal in either theory or practice. Instead of evaluation and guidance, it turns to fact-finding and analyses.
It has also announced the thesis: Having commitment, an ideology or a goal will harm science and will limit it to the frame-work of determined or particular ideologies, to particular beliefs. It will automatically take the issue in hand. It will direct it towards the goal in which it has faith. As a result, science, instead of objectively searching for the truth, whatever it may be, will be obliged to seek pre-determined results which serve and confirm the belief system.
This is because, in this view, a 'committed researcher' (someone committed to religion or atheism, spirituality or materiality, socialism or capitalism, freedom or dictatorship, etc.) can naturally not be free. One cannot be a researcher who has unlimited or unbounded opinions so that nothing will influence one's research and taint any result one may attain.
For instance, a committed sociologist cannot be an objective and free scholar of history. Why? Because in the study of history, one just looks for class struggle. Whenever one finds it, it confirms one's view and whenever one does not find it, he/she justifies it.
Wherever one finds something that opposes this view, one ignores it. Sometimes one does not even see it and cannot see it because one is wearing glasses colored with one's particular ideological views.
The same is true, in this view, of a religious physicist who continuously searches for God in one's scientific research. In contrast to this person, a materialistic physicist sees everywhere to be empty of God. Thus, only that researcher can objectively understand the physical world as it really is who is free of both of these bonds.
We see how firm these arguments are and, from one point of view, they are sound in the sense that we saw in the Middle Ages, because of religious commitment, science and research were obliged to only prove those truths which had previously been suggested by the religious scholars. They attained results which Christianity had predetermined.
In the 19th century, the sciences, in particular, the social sciences like history and sociology, so strongly opposed the scientist having a belief system and predetermined ideas fixed by various parties involving the laws of ideological class or anti-class, racism or nationalism to the extent that a kind of neo-scholasticism appeared. Science, which had been freed from serving religion in the Middle Ages, in the new century, was now employed by a school of thought.
The necessity for releasing science from the narrow constraints of ideologies, its commitment to proving a party's position and justifying the racial, national, class, political and economic desires of the ideologists and philosophers created a most suitable situation so that because of one skillful error, those who supported this view were able to separate science from its mission and essential responsibility to serve humanity and to bring consciousness and guidance to the people.
In their study of realities in the search for truth, they isolated and separated science from the people with arguments like 'objective truth', 'free research', 'pure science', 'the non-commitment of the scientist', 'avoiding prejudgments', 'pre-fabricated ideas', which were all attractive and logical. This was particularly true with the social sciences such as history, sociology and literature which, more than other fields, could being consciousness to the intellectuals and guidance to the masses throughout the whole world.
What happened was that, using these arguments, modern science could no longer propose solutions, make judgment values, determine directions, explain aims, prove or deny ideas, give methods for procedure, show the way, criticize existing realities, suggest proposals for improvement or foresee suitable situations. It basically studied and analyzed problems, made unknown scientific matters clear and, discovered logical causes and effects in phenomena. There was no longer the mission of prophetic-like guidance.
Science has been separated from the fabric of society. It has lost touch with people's thoughts. Not being able to criticize the present situation, it could no longer help solve life's problems. It could no longer guide society in the direction it should, making the essential elements clear, causing public ignorance to decline and helping human beings realize the causes of their past and present miseries. It no longer concerned itself with the fate of society and its ability to control its own destiny and achieve its ideals.
Just like the pious and devoted people who are isolated by their piety, thereby making them easy prey for plunderers, impious and deceiving people, proponents of 'objectivity', in the name of 'objectivity', separated science from its commitment and responsibility to bring consciousness, illumination, guidance and help to human beings so that science could better achieve their goals and targets.
Sociology and history developed from this. Neither do objective historians nor mission-less sociologists describe what has passed or is passing for human beings nor what they must do nor in what lies their salvation. They were negligent of the fact that when they put aside their commitment to humanity and they became unrestricted by and indifferent to an aim or goal, they were then used as tools by those who play with history and the powerful elements of society in order to help them reach their aims!
By separating science from its service to people and its responsibility to bring perfection, consciousness and salvation to society, it automatically was used to serve the enemies of the people. It became a tool to further the decline, ignorance, intellectual and social servitude of the human being. As we see today, the natural sciences have been released from their commitment to search out the truth of the universe or to prove or deny the existence of God, but for all practical purposes, it has become the slave of capitalism.
Sociology is no longer disturbed by faith as it was in the Middle Ages nor by an ideology as it has been in recent centuries. It has become a science which proposes research and teaching behind closed doors. It is used to saturate the egos of the professors, to amuse the students or to show secret, imperialist oriented institutions how to humiliate, deviate and plunder the Western masses and/or deprived Eastern nations. It serves capitalist or anti-popular organizations by developing ways and means whereby they can dilute, pollute and essentially destroy the human spirit, resulting in man's stagnation and deterioration.
I accept the argument that prejudgment and ideological dogmatism hurts scientific research and that the scientist who already believes that he knows what the truth is cannot be a good scientist because research means exploring, analyzing, explaining and measuring the problems in order to find the truth. The physiologist who previous to making any study believes that the 'soul' exists or does not exist, certainly cannot find the real truth. A believing capitalist or communist when he begins to study history in order to find the truth and understand the intellectual movement of history, will finally discover those very truths that he already believed in.
The Tradition which clearly states; "Anyone who interprets the Quran with his own 'opinion' will be burnt in a fire," explains the said scientific principle.
'Opinion' here is the same as pre-judgment. It is a pre-judgment which either consciously or unconsciously makes the scientist change the meaning of the Quran so that it agrees with his own pre-determined opinion, instead of interpreting its meaning. It is for this reason that we see when Sunnis, Shi'ites, Sufis, philosophers, etc. study the Quran, they achieve the same results as they had before they began . The Quran has become a means for proving their ideas not that they obtain their ideas from it.
It is both amusing and tragic that someone interpreted the word 'opinion' in the Tradition as 'intellect', concluding that no one has the right to interpret the Quran with his own intellect! as if there were something other than the intellect by which means one understand something!
They have purposefully done this so that people will not understand the Quran. The same was true in the Middle Ages where the reading and understanding of the Bible and the Pentateuch belonged exclusively to the priests and clergymen. They prevented the translation, interpretation and distribution so that people would not be able to refer to them. In this way, the books of salvation remained in the possession of the official religious clergy.
This same thing has been done with the Quran. By preventing people from studying the Quran and thinking about it, religious scholars made it into a book so that only its form remained for the people. Its spirit, purpose and aim remain unknown. They turned it into phrases and verses of secret words without their meaning being understood. As has been pointed out and as the Quran warned, they interpreted the Quran with their own pre-conceived ideas and not with their minds or the use of logic.
Thus, there are two basic theories. The first science at, the service of a belief system makes science the means for justifying pre-conceived notions. The second science free of any belief system and for the sake of science alone makes science ineffective and valueless. In the name of objectivity, it lacks purpose. As a result, the scientist no longer serves the people and society and for all practical purposes, science is either rendered sterile or is made use of to serve the powerful, wealthy and/or deceivers.
I propose a third way: Scientists, prior to undertaking any research, must be free of any particular beliefs and after achieving results, be bound by them.
Before undertaking any study, scientists must not be committed to the extent that through the studies they are about to under-take, they will, of necessity, prove their own pre-conceived notions. Rather, the results of the research itself, not researchers, should show the truth to them and then this proven truth become a belief for researchers. After realizing the truth, they should be committed to it and realize their responsibility to it as well as their responsibility towards people and their times for their own scientific consciousness. That it, the belief or idea which their research proved to them.
This way, then, neither enslaves science nor confirms pre-conceived ideas. It does not prevent science from performing its function of guidance and showing the way of salvation to the people. It does not remove it from seeing to the needs of the human being, service to human society, criticizing, offering solutions and showing truth and falsehood. It does not isolate science in the university nor is it to be used exclusively by the powerful opportunists or those who wish to deceive.
Sociologists, historians or anthropologists should not allow their knowledge to be used to justify and confirm their pre-conceived and unscientific notions. They should not allow those who believe to use science as a means to their goals. Neither should they stop with this knowledge, that is, be satisfied with a logical and scientific analysis and explanation of the causes of history, society and present day human beings.
Rather, after discovering the truth, after an objective and unprejudiced search, they should present both the negative and positive causes and effects. They should guide the people in a prophetic-like way. They should recall the causes for the back-wardness and degeneration of society or class or human kind, in general
attained through objective research and then show the way to progress
and salvation. They should endeavor upon this way and become committed
to it, neither 'science for ideology' nor 'science for science's sake'.
Rather: A guiding science committed to truth. Commitment to a belief
before research harms science and deceives people but commitment to a
belief after research is the prophetic-like mission of the scientist.