Monday, August 20, 2007

Science and the Islamic World

This is just an excellent article in Physics Today by Pervez Hoodbhoy, who is the is chair and professor in the department of physics at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan. I think for people who are not aware of how muslims have contributed to the advancement in science, and why they are not so far lagging in it, this is an eye-opening essay from someone from the inside of the battle lines. For many of us, such restrictions and hand-cuffing of what we do or how we go about practicing our profession are unimaginable.


1 comment:

Moridin said...

I generally think this article is Islamic apologetics, especially in its attempts in blaming the slow development of science in Islamic states on everything but authoritarian religion and theocracy.

"The near-absence of democracy in Muslim countries is also not an especially important reason for slow scientific development."

There is absolutely no basis for this argument. The only attempt at justification that is given is:

"But no Muslim government today, even if dictatorial or imperfectly democratic, remotely approximates the terror of Hitler or Joseph Stalin—regimes in which science survived and could even advance."

Science didn't advance in Soviet Russia under Stalin. It went through one of the worst declines in modern history. All science journals from the rest of the world was forbidden, the germ theory of disease was changed into ideas that existed in Medieval Europe, faulty ideas on evolution and so on.

I wonder if the author of that article even knows about Lysenkoism?

Science also did not thrive during Hitler.

Hitler and Stalin may have been developing engineering technology (for war purposes), but hardly the kind of science we in the west are used to.

"Science, in the view of fundamentalists, is principally seen as valuable for establishing yet more proofs of God, proving the truth of Islam and the Qur'an, and showing that modern science would have been impossible but for Muslim discoveries."

I do not think so. Science is actually corrosive to religious beliefs, as demonstrated by mountains of research. Science is a threat to Islam because it challenges its monopoly on truth. The reason that scientific advancements stagnated at the close of 14th century (?) was actually _because_ of Islamic revolutions.

There is a profound difference between advancement in technology (which the Islamic world has plenty of and encourages) and the advancement in science (which it does not). The argument that Islam kept old science literature some thousand years ago also does not cut it.

Islamic theocracy has had monopoly on explanations about the world for thousands of years and still does today.