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Islam and Science:Road to Renewal(Barf Dream of the Liberal Fallacy To Save Islam Through Science)
The Economist ^ | Janyuary 28, 2013 | Staff

Posted on 01/29/2013 7:03:37 PM PST by lbryce

THE sleep has been long and deep. In 2005 Harvard University produced more scientific papers than 17 Arabic-speaking countries combined. The world’s 1.6 billion Muslims have produced only two Nobel laureates in chemistry and physics. Both moved to the West: the only living one, the chemist Ahmed Hassan Zewail, is at the California Institute of Technology. By contrast Jews, outnumbered 100 to one by Muslims, have won 79. The 57 countries in the Organisation of the Islamic Conference spend a puny 0.81% of GDP on research and development, about a third of the world average. America, which has the world’s biggest science budget, spends 2.9%; Israel lavishes 4.4%.

Many blame Islam’s supposed innate hostility to science. Some universities seem keener on prayer than study. Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, for example, has three mosques on campus, with a fourth planned, but no bookshop. Rote learning rather than critical thinking is the hallmark of higher education in many countries. The Saudi government supports books for Islamic schools such as “The Unchallengeable Miracles of the Qur’an: The Facts That Can’t Be Denied By Science” suggesting an inherent conflict between belief and reason.

Many universities are timid about courses that touch even tangentially on politics or look at religion from a non-devotional standpoint. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a renowned Pakistani nuclear scientist, introduced a course on science and world affairs, including Islam’s relationship with science, at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, one of the country’s most progressive universities. Students were keen, but Mr Hoodbhoy’s contract was not renewed when it ran out in December; for no proper reason, he says. (The university insists that the decision had nothing to do with the course content.)

But look more closely and two things are clear. A Muslim scientific awakening is under way. And the roots of scientific backwardness lie not with religious leaders, but with secular rulers, who are as stingy with cash as they are lavish with controls over independent thought.

The long view

The caricature of Islam’s endemic backwardness is easily dispelled. Between the eighth and the 13th centuries, while Europe stumbled through the dark ages, science thrived in Muslim lands. The Abbasid caliphs showered money on learning. The 11th century “Canon of Medicine” by Avicenna (pictured, with modern equipment he would have relished) was a standard medical text in Europe for hundreds of years. In the ninth century Muhammad al-Khwarizmi laid down the principles of algebra, a word derived from the name of his book, “Kitab al-Jabr”. Al-Hasan Ibn al-Haytham transformed the study of light and optics. Abu Raihan al-Biruni, a Persian, calculated the earth’s circumference to within 1%. And Muslim scholars did much to preserve the intellectual heritage of ancient Greece; centuries later it helped spark Europe’s scientific revolution.

Not only were science and Islam compatible, but religion could even spur scientific innovation. Accurately calculating the beginning of Ramadan (determined by the sighting of the new moon) motivated astronomers. The Hadith (the sayings of Muhammad) exhort believers to seek knowledge, “even as far as China”.

These scholars’ achievements are increasingly celebrated. Tens of thousands flocked to “1001 Inventions”, a touring exhibition about the golden age of Islamic science, in the Qatari capital, Doha, in the autumn. More importantly, however, rulers are realising the economic value of scientific research and have started to splurge accordingly. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which opened in 2009, has a $20 billion endowment that even rich American universities would envy.

Foreigners are already on their way there. Jean Fréchet, who heads research, is a French chemist tipped to win a Nobel prize. The Saudi newcomer boasts research collaborations with the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and with Imperial College, London. The rulers of neighbouring Qatar are bumping up research spending from 0.8% to a planned 2.8% of GDP: depending on growth, that could reach $5 billion a year. Research spending in Turkey increased by over 10% each year between 2005 and 2010, by which year its cash outlays were twice Norway’s.

The tide of money is bearing a fleet of results. In the 2000 to 2009 period Turkey’s output of scientific papers rose from barely 5,000 to 22,000; with less cash, Iran’s went up 1,300, to nearly 15,000. Quantity does not imply quality, but the papers are getting better, too. Scientific journals, and not just the few based in the Islamic world, are citing these papers more frequently. A study in 2011 by Thomson Reuters, an information firm, shows that in the early 1990s other publishers cited scientific papers from Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey (the most prolific Muslim countries) four times less often than the global average. By 2009 it was only half as often. In the category of best-regarded mathematics papers, Iran now performs well above average, with 1.7% of its papers among the most-cited 1%, with Egypt and Saudi Arabia also doing well. Turkey scores highly on engineering.

Science and technology-related subjects, with their clear practical benefits, do best. Engineering dominates, with agricultural sciences not far behind. Medicine and chemistry are also popular. Value for money matters. Fazeel Mehmood Khan, who recently returned to Pakistan after doing a PhD in Germany on astrophysics and now works at the Government College University in Lahore, was told by his university’s vice-chancellor to stop chasing wild ideas (black holes, in his case) and do something useful.

Science is even crossing the region’s deepest divide. In 2000 SESAME, an international physics laboratory with the Middle East’s first particle accelerator, was set up in Jordan. It is modelled on CERN, Europe’s particle-physics laboratory, which was created to bring together scientists from wartime foes. At SESAME Israeli boffins work with colleagues from places such as Iran and the Palestinian territories.

By the book

Science of the kind practised at SESAME throws up few challenges to Muslim doctrine (and in many cases is so abstruse that religious censors would struggle to understand it). But biology—especially with an evolutionary angle—is different. Many Muslims are troubled by the notion that humans share a common ancestor with apes. Research published in 2008 by Salman Hameed of Hampshire College in Massachusetts, a Pakistani astronomer who now studies Muslim attitudes to science, found that fewer than 20% in Indonesia, Malaysia or Pakistan believed in Darwin’s theories. In Egypt it was just 8%.

Yasir Qadhi, an American chemical engineer turned cleric (who has studied in both the United States and Saudi Arabia), wrestled with this issue at a London conference on Islam and evolution this month. He had no objection to applying evolutionary theory to other lifeforms. But he insisted that Adam and Eve did not have parents and did not evolve from other species. Any alternative argument is “scripturally indefensible,” he said. Some, especially in the diaspora, conflate human evolution with atheism: rejecting it becomes a defining part of being a Muslim. (Some Christians take a similar approach to the Bible.)

Though such disbelief may be couched in religious terms, culture and politics play a bigger role, says Mr Hameed. Poor school education in many countries leaves minds open to misapprehension. A growing Islamic creationist movement is at work too. A controversial Turkish preacher who goes by the name of Harun Yahya is in the forefront. His website spews pamphlets and books decrying Darwin. Unlike his American counterparts, however, he concedes that the universe is billions of years old (not 6,000 years).

But the barrier is not insuperable. Plenty of Muslim biologists have managed to reconcile their faith and their work. Fatimah Jackson, a biological anthropologist who converted to Islam, quotes Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the founders of genetics, saying that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution”. Science describes how things change; Islam, in a larger sense, explains why, she says.

Others take a similar line. “The Koran is not a science textbook,” says Rana Dajani, a Jordanian molecular biologist. “It provides people with guidelines as to how they should live their lives.” Interpretations of it, she argues, can evolve with new scientific discoveries. Koranic verses about the creation of man, for example, can now be read as providing support for evolution.

Other parts of the life sciences, often tricky for Christians, have proved unproblematic for Muslims. In America researchers wanting to use embryonic stem cells (which, as their name suggests, must be taken from human embryos, usually spares left over from fertility treatments) have had to battle pro-life Christian conservatives and a federal ban on funding for their field. But according to Islam, the soul does not enter the fetus until between 40 and 120 days after conception—so scientists at the Royan Institute in Iran are able to carry out stem-cell research without attracting censure.

But the kind of freedom that science demands is still rare in the Muslim world. With the rise of political Islam, including dogmatic Salafists who espouse a radical version of Islam, in such important countries as Egypt, some fear that it could be eroded further still. Others, however, remain hopeful. Muhammad Morsi, Egypt’s president, is a former professor of engineering at Zagazig University, near Cairo. He has a PhD in materials science from the University of Southern California (his dissertation was entitled “High-Temperature Electrical Conductivity and Defect Structure of Donor-Doped Al2O{-3}”). He has promised that his government will spend more on research.

Released from the restrictive control of the former regimes, scientists in Arab countries see a chance for progress. Scientists in Tunisia say they are already seeing promising reforms in the way university posts are filled. People are being elected, rather than appointed by the regime. The political storms shaking the Middle East could promote not only democracy, but revive scientific freethinking, too.

From the print edition: International

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 7thcenturydreams; islam
The Economist is living every much the surreal dream about Islamic moderation, and modernization through science. Come on. True they had once dabbled in science and medicine on the cutting edge of technology in their heyday. But truth be told most of their "accomplishments" in the realm of science were actually advances co-opted from those they had conquered.

A perfect example is of the numerical system we use today is referred to as Arabic numerals but they were actually discovered, invented in India from those they have conquered and to give it proper credit it should be called Indian numbers. A lot of the socc-called inventions and discoveries made in the enlightened period of The Muslim world were in no credit to Muslims as much as those they have conquered deserved the credit.

And if you study the last four reports of the UN status of the Arab World, available online, you get a block of 265 million people that other than oil, produce only as much as that of the GNP of Holland. The Illiteracy rate is 2.5% and a whole host of social/sexual customs that has the Arab World falling further and further apart from the rest of the industrialized nations.

And it's not even that science is seen as some panacea for the Muslims in becoming modernized and moderate. Thee Economist is really smoking something that's having them trying to save the Muslim world where nothing in the repertoire in the name of Science which is the non-believer's approach to the world will do anything to bring the Muslims out of the 7th Century. To them ,Jihad,in re-gainng their old Empire is the only way they see their future.

Here below is the sorry state of the Arab World as reported in study after study by the UN.

1 posted on 01/29/2013 7:03:46 PM PST by lbryce
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To: lbryce

The only science that could justify Islam is the science of inbreeding.

2 posted on 01/29/2013 7:13:08 PM PST by doc1019
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To: lbryce

But hey, they just developed a high-tech amputation machine! How can you say they’re backward? /s

3 posted on 01/29/2013 7:15:47 PM PST by beethovenfan (If Islam is the solution, the "problem" must be freedom.)
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To: lbryce

I wonder why the author didn’t remind us of all the Great Automobiles and Airplanes produced by these Muslim Countries??

4 posted on 01/29/2013 7:19:42 PM PST by eyeamok
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To: lbryce
The Economist (which does a fine job of reportage -- less so in its opinion pieces), true to its name, overemphasizes the economic in accounting for Islam's scientific backwardness. Not once does the article mention destruction wrought on Islamic science by the adoption of the occasionalism of Al Ghazali in preference to the Muslim Aristotelianism of Averroes and Avicenna. (Al Ghazali's stance, which denies realistic causality, regarding every event as caused directly by the will of Allah, also creates a fatalism, which along with Sharia financial rules also accounts for the economic backwardness of the Muslim world: just shrug and say "Inshallah".)
5 posted on 01/29/2013 7:22:22 PM PST by The_Reader_David (And when they behead your own people in the wars which are to come, then you will know...)
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To: lbryce

This was a jaw dropping article via WoJ by way of Danial Pipes:

The Arabs didn’t “inherit” anything. They robbed, with raw force, everything, reducing a higher culture to a lower civilizational status!

Speaking of robberies and stolen symbols, for me a much more sinister theft of symbolism is Hagia Sophia which the Turks are so fond of boasting, displaying it in almost every photo of Constantinople and Turkey. These barbarians could not build something better so they boast of at least having raped and Islamizing the Emperor Justinian’s Temple.

Read it.

6 posted on 01/29/2013 7:54:59 PM PST by bayouranger (The 1st victim of islam is the person who practices the lie.)
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To: The_Reader_David
I actually don't know what you're talking about - you obviously know a lot more about this than I do. However, we may agree. I always thought rote adherence to the Koran was bad for a creative inquiring brain and advancement in a culture.
Not to mention that maybe the rulers like to keep the populace mired in ancient ways as a means to controlling them.

At this point hard to imagine an Islamic enlightenment since it would probably be decreed as blasphemy and you'd get some body part cut off for deviating from approved thought.

7 posted on 01/29/2013 8:19:51 PM PST by Aria ( 2008 & 2012 weren't elections - they were coup d'etats.)
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To: doc1019

I strongly recommend reading “The Lost History of Christianity; the Thousand-Year Golden Age of the
Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia — and How it Died,” to learn about the Christian leaders and scholars that were swallowed up in the Islamic conquests of southwestern Asia, becoming chief administrators and academics in the new Muslim empire. The author is Philip Jenkins.
In my opinion, this book reveals how Islam acquired an ill-deserved reputation for exemplary scholarship in philosophy and scientific endeavors, in mathematics, astronomy, et cetera

8 posted on 01/29/2013 8:53:11 PM PST by Elsiejay
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To: Elsiejay

Already part of my personal library. Jenkins said it well.

9 posted on 01/29/2013 8:58:12 PM PST by doc1019
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To: doc1019

Islam is just about as useless as socialism and eventually will go the way of the Do-Do bird. We may not see it during our life time, but in time people will wake up as it is just a matter of time.

10 posted on 01/29/2013 9:18:10 PM PST by saintgermaine
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To: lbryce

Opening dialog from the movie EL CID.

Bin Yusef: (Lecturing the Moors).. “When men speak of you they speak of poets and scientists!

Have your scientists invent new poisons for our arrows...!”

Nice guy.

11 posted on 01/29/2013 9:28:09 PM PST by Ruy Dias de Bivar (Click my name! See new paintings!)
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To: eyeamok

It’s a matter of space. The problem is why emphasize the
advanced, self-propelled chariots, sophisticated 9/11 flying machines you’ve been inspired to created, designed to channel the enmity of Allah in destroying the Temples of the Infidels, when other great contributions to society that Islam has contributed such as four year old child brides and the Bulk Bible Burner, a huge consumer hit within the Islamic world with the capacity to destroy thousands of Bibles at once as the name indicates,that are confiscated at the airports and other Infidel meeting places.

It’s simple a matter of humility that has them not mentioning their advanced contributions to society you’ve made note of but also other aspects of the mind power of Islam too numerous to list.

12 posted on 01/29/2013 9:31:24 PM PST by lbryce (BHO:"Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds by way Oppenheiner at Trinity NM)
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To: lbryce
Between the eighth and the 13th centuries, while Europe stumbled through the dark ages, science thrived in Muslim lands.

Less than 200 years after the foundation of Islam, its religionists invented the distillation of the military incendiary accelerant Al-Kuhl, which has been employed in debasing the whole human race through intensification of alcoholism. Nice contribution, fellahs!

13 posted on 01/29/2013 9:54:34 PM PST by imardmd1 (An armed society is a polite society -- but dangerous for the fool --)
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To: lbryce

Top comment on the article:

If I were to burn a book for a science experiment, let us say a hardcover Bible:
Paper Bible + O2
=> Produces heat + light + CO2 , with smaller amounts of CO, particulate matter, and ash.
If I were to burn a Koran,
=> Produces Muslim Worldwide Hysterical Homicidal Catastrophic Mayhem bringing us within a hair’s breadth of Armageddon.
Explain THAT by Science!
All paper books are not equal, which contradicts the First Law of Thermodynamics.
A Koran has some special ‘Q-factor’ not found in ordinary paper and ink.
And definitely not observed by physicists, scientists or measurable by instruments.

In the battle of for Reason in the Islamic World, Religion trumps Rationality.

14 posted on 01/30/2013 2:18:51 PM PST by Second Amendment First ("Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not..." - Thomas Jefferson.)
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