Be Like Adam's Son: CHAPTER ONE: POWER AND KNOWLEDGE

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At each level, specialization, starting with the body organs, is vital for human life; and in the same way as the body organs work individually and collectively, experts and specialists work in the social sphere as individuals and collectively, as organizations. But in either case a specialist must work for the good of society, in the same way as each organ of the body's works for the good of the whole body. Once an organ's activity is not in unison with the rest of organs, it turns into a sinister factor. Is not cancer an activity of the body's, with the only difference that it goes out of hand and does not work in unison with the rest of the body?

To ask about the relationship between power or authority and knowledge, two specializations of society, is the same as asking about the thinking person and the acting person, the designer and the executive. In these pairs, efficient cooperation must be maintained for productive relation. Should action go ahead in disregard of thinking, it will not be fruitful; and in the same way, to think in disregard of action is to think in a vacuum.

A human does some work first of all, then his/her work engenders some knowledge; and from observing how the performed action leads to certain results, cause and effect are connected, which is vital knowledge. In this way a human understands profitable and good action. Knowledge accumulates as a human observes the relationship between the cause and effect. Later, it often happens that knowledge is conveyed to others before they are involved in action. The logic of things in real terms is that action comes first, and then knowledge is engendered from observing action, from noting the effect that results from action. But as more connections of causes and effects are observed, they are recorded and transmitted as sciences and experiences. Those who ignore past experience will be losers in knowledge, and the quality of their action will be poor.

We may reflect here on names and things, or designations and their referents. A human gets first to know something, and as his/her knowledge of the thing grows he/she assigns a designation to that thing. So in real terms, the referent occurs first, and at a certain stage it acquires a designation or name. But when we teach a child, we teach him/her with words before those words acquire a concrete sense.

It must be clear from the above discussion that any attempt to separate knowledge from action is meaningless. Knowledge is the accumulation of action. We acquire experience from the accumulation of action, and that is knowledge and science.

So much experience of early men must have been lost before men learned how to preserve it in vocal or optical mediums. Of course, a human had his/her brain to store his/her experience, but a brain decomposes with the death of the human, and so all its contents are lost; but when a human first used oral transmission of information, and later written expression, his/her experiments, and his/her memory, gained permanence. What men found out could now be revised and modified in the light of more experience. And now of course we analyze language in specialized sciences, like linguistics and semiotics.

Let us make it clear that no matter how developed and sophisticated sciences grow, they must remain closely tied to the actual state of things in the world. Action must remain the source of knowledge. The Qur'an has urged a human to keep his/her eyes open (as in 11:6).

We may refer to a tradition of the Prophet's as an illustration of this work-knowledge relationship. The tradition goes like this: "A believer may not be bitten twice from the same hole." (Reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim) What we have in this text is putting experience before knowledge, as it asserts that it is not compatible with faith that one falls in the same error twice. Knowledge is here seen to be learning from a certain experience that one has gone through. On the other hand, one may go forth into action of which he has had no precedent; but after going through the experience, one may make conclusions; and there is science for you! From this it must be seen that there is no direct answer as to which comes first, action or knowledge.

This must help many people who give science precedence over action. The Qur'an would not let knowledge go in disregard of action (see for instance 19:96).

But whenever we fail to find precedents, that is, when no scientific facts exist to shed light on our way, we feel forced to go again into a trial-and-error venture.