The Nation, 2 March 2009

nation-2-march-09A review of several new books from and about Iran mentions the thinker Jalal Al-e Ahmad and his concept of gharbzadegi, or “intoxication with all things western”  The reviewer assures us that this concept represents “one of the most influential critiques of the West.”  In fact, he takes issue with some of the books under review for failing to presuming to discuss twentieth-century Iranian intellectual life, yet failing to mention the presence in that life of so towering a figure as Al-e-Ahmad.  Since I’d never heard of Al-e-Ahmad or gharbzadegi, I thought I’d better make a note of this.  So here are links to the Wikipedia articles about Al-e-Ahmad and gharbzadegi

An interview with astrophysicist Adam Frank focuses on Frank’s religious ideas.  Frank’s big idea seems to be that religious systems give us a way of processing and talking about emotions like awe and wonder that come upon us when we notice the scope and orderliness of natural phenomena.  Frank shows his Astronomy 101 class a TV documentary about the origin of the universe, then asks them what they think of the music.  His point is that the documentarians are packaging the Big Bang as a creation myth.  Frank does not mean this as a condemnation of the show- on the contrary, he embraces this myth-making.  Frank’s attitude reminds me of an idea I mentioned here a few days ago.  I’ve long thought there was a great deal to be said about the relationship of scientific theories about the origin of the universe to traditional creation myths.