Mirror of Justice posted a nice summary of a Weekly Standard article entitled "Socrates or Muhammad?" which was in turn an extended comment on the Pope's now-famous Sept. 12, 2006 speech, "Faith, Reason, and the University." So here's my comment on the summary of the commentary on the Pope's speech.
Reading the MoJ summary, I was struck by how much the post's description of the narrower scope of reason and science in the present way of thinking matches Stephen Jay Gould's view of separate magisteria (or authority to teach) for science/reason and faith. "If modern reason cannot concern itself with the question of God, then it cannot argue that a God who commands jihad is better or worse than a God who commands us not to use violence to impose our religious views on others." Science does have a hard time taking moral positions. Scientists often take moral positions and publicize them, but they rarely give an overt reminder that they are doing so not as scientists (i.e., as experts expressing an opinion within the scope of their expertise) but simply as public intellectuals (i.e., as experts expressing an opinion well outside the scope of their expertise). Public intellectuals are a cut above celebrities when it comes to the worth of their opinions, but the gap isn't as great as one might think. So where do we turn for what might be called "moral expertise"?
Here's how the MoJ summary ends:
Shall we delude ourselves into thinking that the life of reason can survive without courage and character? Shall we be content with lives we refuse to examine, because such examination requires us to ask questions for which science can give no definite answer? The destiny of reason will be determined by how we in the modern West answer these questions.
That seems to be saying the West's response to militant Islam needs to be a moral response ("courage and character"), not strictly a scientific or rational one. How does one respond rationally to an ideology that celebrates suicide bombers who intentionally kill innocent civilians and who seemingly reject the category "innocent" for those they denounce on religious grounds? By condemning it, but that's a moral response, not a scientific one.
Hence the muddled response so far from the West, which has steadily moved morality from the public to the private sphere and now seems to lack a public fund of moral capital on which to draw on short notice. The Pope's invitation seems to be to re-engage in reasoned consideration of moral questions now dismissed as "unscientific" as an exercise that will (hopefully) reaffirm the West's commitment to toleration and diversity, and yield a firmer moral grounding from which Islamic religious violence can be opposed and overcome.