Wednesday, August 15, 2007


...and not just in the cartoon world of Calvin and Hobbes! There is a fascinating interview of Turkish-American physicist Taner Edis at Salon regarding the state of science under Islam.

Except for a few questions from the interviewer, which highlight his own ideological agenda (example: "Didn't Western colonialism also contribute to the decline of science in the Islamic world? Colonial rule often marginalized Muslims and dismissed the value of Islamic culture. In Indonesia, the Dutch even closed Islamic institutions and banned Muslims from universities until 1952."), it is a worthwhile read if you want to understand the effect Islamic religious thought has had on scientific inquiry in the Muslim world, and why science in Islamic countries lags so far behind the West.

The article begins:

In October, Malaysia's first astronaut will join a Russian crew and blast off into space. The news of a Muslim astronaut was cause for celebration in the Islamic world, but then certain questions started popping up. How will he face Mecca during his five daily prayers while his space ship is whizzing around the Earth? How can he hold the prayer position in zero gravity? Such concerns may sound absurd to us, but the Malaysian space chief is taking them quite seriously. A team of Muslim scholars and scientists has spent more than a year drawing up an Islamic code of conduct for space travel.

This story illustrates the obstacles that face scientists in Muslim countries.

Indeed. This is the sort of thing that happens when science is forced to operate under the thumb of religion. Taner Edis, the author of An Illusion of Harmony: Science and Religion in Islam offers a unique perspective on all this, and you should read it all.

Meanwhile,here is an example of Islamic "science" :

"TOPIC: Islamic Science: Neil Armstrong Proved Mecca is the Center of the World
The following are excerpts from an interview with Dr. Abd Al-Baset Al-Sayyed of the Egyptian National Research Center. Al-Majd TV aired this interview on January 16, 2005

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: The centrality [of Mecca] has been proven scientifically. How? When they traveled to outer space and took pictures of the earth, they saw that it is a dark, hanging sphere. The man said, "Earth is a dark hanging sphere – who hung it?"

Interviewer: Who said that?

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: [Neil] Armstrong. Armstrong was basically trying to say: Allah is the one who hung it. They discovered that Earth emits radiation, and they wrote about this on the web. They left the item there for 21 days, and then they made it disappear.

Interviewer: Why did they make it disappear?

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: There was intent there…

Interviewer: So it may be said that this suppression of information was significant.

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: It was very significant, since…the Ka'ba [in Mecca]… They said it emits radiation. This radiation is short-wave.

When they discovered this radiation, they started to zoom in, and they found that it emanates from Mecca – and, to be precise, from the Ka'ba.

Interviewer: My God!!

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: It was said…

Interviewer: Does this radiation have an effect?

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: They found that this radiation is infinite. When they reached Mars and began to take pictures, they found that the radiation continues beyond. They said that the wavelength known to us… or rather the shortness of the wavelength known to us… This radiation had a special characteristic: It is infinite, and I believe that the reason is that this radiation connects the [earthly] Ka'ba with the celestial Ka'ba.

Imagine that you are the North Pole and I am the South Pole – in the middle there's what is called the magnetic equilibrium zone. If you place a compass there, the needle won't move.

Interviewer: You mean that the pull is equal from both sides?

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: Yes, and that's why it's called zero-magnetism zone, since the magnetic force has no effect there. That's why if someone travels to Mecca or lives there, he lives longer, is healthier, and is less affected by Earth's gravity. That's why when you circle the Ka'ba, you get charged with energy.

Interviewer: Allah be praised.

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: Yes, this is a fact.

This is a scientific fact…

Interviewer: Because you are distant from…

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: Earth's magnetic fields have no effect on you in this case.

There's a study that proves that the black basalt rocks in Mecca are the oldest rocks in the world. This is the truth.

Interviewer: The oldest rocks? Yes. Has this been proved scientifically?

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: It's been scientifically proven, and the study has been published.

Interviewer: They took basalt rocks from Mecca…

Dr. 'Abd Al-Baset Sayyid: …Basalt rocks from Mecca, and investigated the places where they were formed.

In the British Museum there are three pieces of the black stone [from the Ka'ba] …and they said that this rock didn't come from our solar system.

And some Muslims wonder why they don't receive more Nobel Prizes?

Or, let's consider for a moment how psychiatry would be practiced among today's Palestinians. Gagdad Bob in a post from last year, imagines how Palestinian psychiatry would work:

Imagine a Palestinian going to a Palestinian psychiatrist and free associating. “You know, I’ve been having these weird thoughts.... I don’t think that Jews are responsible for all my problems.... In fact, I’m starting to think that they’re an admirable people, and that we should be imitating them instead of murdering them.... Let’s be honest, Doc, Arabs have contributed nothing to the world, but just by being in proximity to Israel we were the most prosperous Arab ecomomy, but we stupidly destroyed all of that with the meaningless intifada. We actually cheered when those planes went into the Twin Towers, but now I’m starting to have second thoughts, Doc. Am I crazy?”

“Yes. Not just crazy but evil. As a way of curing you, I am recommending that you be hung by your ankles from the nearest lamp post and be disemboweled by an angry mob.”

Do you think this is far-fetched, and that he is exaggerating? Let me reiterate what Bob points out earlier in the same post: ", properly understood, can only exist in a free society."

Remember glorious Soviet Psychiatry, which I wrote about here?

Truthfully, I think that Bob is being way too restrained about how "Palestinian" psychiatry--or any psychological science in the backwaters of the Middle East-- would warp and distort science.

Don't get me wrong. There are some very unscientific activities that go on even in free societies; but it is only in collectivist/totalitarian societies that the very basic principles of science are manipulated to conform to the ideology of the state. [And before the trolls start shouting "STEM CELL RESEARCH" at the top of their itty bitty lungs, may I point out that in that case, the government simply refuses to fund the research; which is something quite different from banning it; or persecuting /jailing the researcher for going against a particular ideological/religious doctrine.]

Anyone can distort science and the scientific method; but it takes a fanatical totalitarian state controlled by either a secular or religious ideology that mandates how others should behave in all areas, to successfully mount an all-out assault on truth, reason, and reality in order to ensure that none of those three inconvenient concepts have a negative impact on their delusions.

In a free society, at least one has the ability to counter any science whose goal is not knowledge or even truth, but to support a political ideology. Omar of Iraq the Model gives us a perfect of how bad science can be used to support an ideological agenda, which you may or may not remember from 2004. The authors of that purportedly "scientific" study clearly stated in interviews at the time, that they released their work at that time, so that it would have an impact on US mid-term elections.

The Lancet, which used to be a reputable medical journal, seems determined to publish this sort of political fluff to advance their editors' political agenda. Sadly, this is getting all too common, even in the West. But at least the Lancet does not force its readers to believe everything it says; nor does it have a contingent of religious policemen whose job is to ensure ideological conformity...yet.

UPDATE: Gagdad Bob has more thoughts on the subject in a post titled, "Apes of God and Science":
Science is the exact opposite of a topdown enterprise: all of the hundreds and thousands of little discoveries that made space flight possible could only have been made by hundreds and thousands of scientists freely investigating reality -- pure and unfettered curiosity about the way the world works. People argue that science emerged in the Islamic world, but that is my whole point. It emerged once upon a time, but was then snuffed out by the religious authorities. In the meantime, they have gone from A to C, but will not tolerate the kind of society that allows B -- truly free scientific research -- to take place. They merely steal third base from us, but think they have hit a triple.

As they say, read it all.

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