Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Islamic science

Good article in Discover Magazine about Science and Islam in Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan. It has the usual unsurprising funnies.

“All the wealth of knowledge in the world has actually emanated from Muslim civilization."

[On the 2005 tsunami]
God had expressed his wrath over the sins of the West. Why, then, had God punished Southeast Asia rather than Los Angeles or the coast of Florida? His answer: Because the lands that were hit had tolerated the immoral behavior of tourists.

Both the above quotes were from Egypt, where the convivenza between Islam and science is uncomfortable, to put it kindly. However, in Tunisia, where a repressive secular government is seen as the less worse of the options available and where religion and science are kept much further apart, there are good signs of better to come.

“Islamic science” is not a university subject here, as it is in Egypt; “Islamology,” which looks critically at Islamic extremism, is...There were 139 laboratories across different disciplines in 2005, compared with 55 in 1999.

There is even some achievement.

Sami Sayadi, director of the bioprocesses lab at the Biotechnology Center of Sfax, Tunisia’s second-largest city, spent more than a decade figuring out how to turn the waste of olives pressed for oil into clean, renewable energy.

Jordan, too, in extremely difficult circumstances, is building SESAME, a high-energy physics lab, which, they hope,

will become a knowledge hub for the member states that pay annual dues, a group that now includes Bahrain, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, the Palestinian Authority—and Israel, the one country in the region that has a knowledge-based society but has been excluded from almost every other endeavor.

All those Arab states thus show themselves to have a better understanding of how knowledge is created than a good number of British academics.

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