Facing the future -- science in the Muslim world

Apr 01, 2010

Scientists in Islamic countries are often thought by those in the West to be languishing behind the rest of the world. Jim Al-Khalili tells Physics World readers what has been impeding scientific progress in the Islamic world - where historically science was once so strong -- and examines some projects that could herald a brighter future.

Professor Al-Khalili, a theoretical nuclear physicist at the University of Surrey, science communicator and author, talks about the current state of basic scientific research in Muslim countries, the rich history of Islamic discovery and what needs to be done to bring about a scientific renaissance.

As Al-Khalili writes, "It is crucial that both Muslims and non-Muslims are reminded of a time when Islam and science were not at odds, albeit in a very different world.

"This is important not only for science to flourish once again in the Islamic world, but also as one of the many routes towards a future in which Muslims see the value of curiosity-driven scientific research, just as they did 1000 years ago."

Looking at the relative citation index (RCI) -- the number of cited papers by a nation's scientists as a fraction of all cited papers divided by its own share of that total - Al-Khalili reveals the lack of quality in current scientific research in some Muslim nations, which seems in stark contrast to "the free-thinking, curiosity-driven quest for knowledge during the Islamic Middle Ages".

Initially weakened by political fragmentation and the later effects of colonialism, today's Islamic suffers, in Al-Khalili's eyes, from a lack of political will to reform, to tackle corruption, and to overhaul failing educational systems, institutions and attitudes.

However, looking at new projects such as the pioneering King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia and SESAME (Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East), which will be the region's first major international research centre, he asks whether attitudes towards are changing.

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User comments : 6

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3.3 / 5 (3) Apr 01, 2010
People who don't feel comfortable thinking about new issues won't feel comfortable thinking about new issues. News at eleven!
3.8 / 5 (4) Apr 01, 2010
Wouldn't you think that religious fundamentalism has a lot to do with this??
4 / 5 (4) Apr 01, 2010
Islam is doing what Catholic church did in Dark Ages ... suppressing free will, curiosity, knowledge and all related.... why?

Reasons are always the same ... .control.
1 / 5 (2) Apr 01, 2010
Ahhh yes, science in Saudi Arabia. Isn't that where they are putting a "sorcerer" to death this week? I can clearly see they are becoming enlightened.
5 / 5 (3) Apr 03, 2010
And how many in the US still believe the world is only 4,000 years old. The Islamic world does not have a monopoly on religious fostered superstition and anti science thinking.
1 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2010
I think the difference the article was trying to point out is that the state has a lesser role in the US in discouraging science

Note i did say lesser role - things like the the state of texas deciding if darwinism and creationism should both be included in text books will effect every child in the nation. Most in the US are brutally and undiscriminatly aware of the stifling of advancement just because the religious community and the science community have not found a good way to talk to each other.

In my house we left education to the school for the most part - and teaching religion to parents responsibility -- eveolution is not a religion to me - just a tool to frame your thoughts when pursuing a scientific goal -- it will pass away when it no longer adequately finds solutions to problems and a new paradigm will arise just like creationism used to be a tool --

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