Ramadan began yesterday. Tradition dictates that the start of Ramadan is signalled by the first observation of the new moon of Ramadan month. As the Washington Post reports, the task of making the observation is assigned to numerous “official moon-sighting committees” in Egypt and elsewhere. Religion and Science Blend in a Centuries-Old Ritual, runs the Washington Post headline.
Well, not even close! The scientific reality is that we know exactly when that full moon will appear. There’s no need to actually sit out with a telescope in an empty car park to wait for the moon to rise (telescopes were allowed by the Saudi clerics in 1982, anxious as ever to keep up with the latest technological developments). So it’s a social event – science is an unwelcome party pooper!In fact, the whole shindig could stand as a metaphor of the conflict between science and religion. You see, they don’t only sit up on Sunday night, the night of the New Moon, but tradition also dictates that they sit up the night before too – even though these days we know there is no way that moon is going to appear!
“It’s a matter of Islamic law we have to be here. But it’s 100 percent sure we’re not going to see it today,” Faleh Mohammed, head of one of Egypt’s government astronomy institute, told the al-Jazeera reporter. (Washington Post)
So we have bunch of guys (and yes, they are all men), sitting around in a car park trying to see something that they know isn’t there… Yep, that sounds like what happens when you mix science and religion all right!