Age of reason?

Published: September 20, 2012

The writer is a Canada-based editorial cartoonist and his work has appeared in several international publications

Sir Isaac Newton said, “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people”. There is no disputing physics; it is a science that involves the analysis of matter and its motion through both space and time. Motion is a human propensity, embedded in our genetic code. Humans are always on the move, migrating and evolving, whether pushing the limits of physical prowess or rocketing a probe to Mars. The right to mobility is considered a basic human entitlement, enshrined in the constitutions of many sovereign states. This right asserts that citizens have the liberty to travel, reside and work in a place of their choosing.

On the issue of motion, Usain Bolt is widely recognised as the world’s fastest man. Bolt grew up in Jamaica, a country historically reliant and populated by a legacy of indentured slaves. Slavery was our collective, incalculable madness. Slaves were stripped of the most fundamental of human rights. At the starting blocks of the 100-metre sprint final at the London Olympics, Bolt looked up into the sky and pursed his lips against an extended index finger. It is my assertion that Bolt hushed an Anglophone god, a gesture reminding the host country, that as a Jamaican he has the right to run fast and win. It was an act of supreme confidence shown from a top-flight athlete, symbolically on a par with the human rights salute given by two black athletes at the 1968 Olympics Games in Mexico.

Winning an Olympic gold, like most endeavours, is one per cent inspiration and 99 per cent perspiration. Science, in its many forms, plays an important role in securing success. Bolt does not subscribe to superstitious rituals but rather uses biomedical kinesiology to better understand the phases of his race helping him overcome scoliosis — the abnormal curvature of his lower spine — to help him run faster. And like most elite athletes, Bolt uses a strict regimen of rehydrating drinks to his benefit. The science behind these drinks ensures athletes have adequate energy throughout the day, replenishing their bodily systems and aiding in recovery.

Just as water does not serve the rehydration needs of elite athletes, water is also not a fuel for cars as was recently claimed by a Pakistani scientist, Agha Waqar Ahmad, to have invented a water-fuelled car. Experts in the field ridiculed his assertion as it violated the laws of thermodynamics. Centuries ago, medieval alchemists convinced the world they could transmute base materials into something of value. They failed in their attempts but this did not stop both alchemists and their clergy patrons from fleecing the public. Ahmad’s claim was deceitful and was supported by the minister for religious affairs who righteously stated that the ministry of science and technology will fully support Ahmad’s endeavours.

Our world is quickly moving forward. This past month, Nasa scientists who have been navigating Curiosity rover, the robotic space probe for nine months, landed it on Mars; slavery in the West is relegated to but a sad chapter; while Bolt has now won six gold medals in two successive Olympics. In contrast, Muslim contributions to science have reduced over the years, losing ground to anti-rationalists. Here lies the tragic story of science in many Muslim countries — a dysfunctional relationship between faith and modernity.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 20th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (10)

  • sabi
    Sep 20, 2012 - 9:03AM

    Author
    “and Here lies the tragic story of science in many Muslim countries — a dysfunctional relationship between faith and modernity.”
    Where is real faith left?.When there was some faith muslims progressed in science,physics,chemistry,mathmatics,astronomy,medicine.There was definetly a realtionship between faith and modernity.
    And when faith left we had nothing but tombs,gardens,forts and fountains as achievements to science.One can embrace modernity either with pure faith or no faith at all,There is no middle way.As playing with faith is only self desruction and comes out nothing constructive.
    Excellant articl Regards.

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  • Feroz
    Sep 20, 2012 - 9:17AM

    To progress in Science you need to have an open mind that questions and rationalizes. Muslims have been indoctrinated to unflinchingly accept and obey, never to question. With this mindset achievements in Science or any other intellectual field will remain a pipe dream and depend on acts of individual brilliance.

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  • Indian Wisdom
    Sep 20, 2012 - 9:49AM

    For achievements in the field of science it is important to first inculcate the scientific way of reasoning in the society.
    Science endeavors to establish a causal relationship between cause and effect. But unfortunately Islamic world has renounced upon its tradition of scientific argumentation.
    Unfortunately now majority happily accept and believe in the words of clerics and religious leaders without understanding that if they don’t reason and argue over the concepts and simply surrender their mind and will then they are actually believing in “magic” and not in science (for magic is simply believing that a cause will have a particular effect , without realizing the causal relation between them, i.e. without probing how and why a particular cause leads to a particular effect).
    Islamic world has contributed a lot in advancement of science in the past. If such a significant proportion of world population regains its scientific aptitude the world will become a very different place and very fast!!!

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  • John B
    Sep 20, 2012 - 10:36AM

    All the knowledge that is needed for humans Is said in Quran. Remember the reason for burning the library of Alexandria?

    The best thing that happened to mankind was that the Islam was split into two sects. Otherwise the library of Persians would have been burnt to ashes and the world would have lost the continuity of human progress from Greeks and Romans.

    Still we are searching how the pyramids were built.

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  • kakar
    Sep 20, 2012 - 10:54AM

    Given the resugence of radical political islam and its widespread acceptance as panacea of all our ills, we should forget about science. The age of islamic science is about to dawn on the horizon. Let us face the inevitable. This is the outcome of massive divine investment that we as a nation have been making over the last four decades. Afterall you can reap only what you sow. The mullahs have gained irretrivable “strategic depth” and tactical manipulation isnot only too little and too late but too irrelevant to tackle. So let us close science books and listen to the sermons that always declares science a pursuit not worth pursuing

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  • Pravin
    Sep 20, 2012 - 10:58AM

    Brilliantly put by @Feroz.
    The open mind is free of any prejudice. It is not proving something for the sake of it, but it relies on genuine conclusions. It is ready to change course if the conclusions are not matching with the previous understanding. Predominantly, new discoveries and inventions can only come from societies which nurture open mind.

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  • Rapid
    Sep 20, 2012 - 11:18AM

    Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable.
    A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear and realistic thought.
    To surrender to ignorance and call it god has always been premature, and it remains premature today.

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  • wonderer
    Sep 20, 2012 - 6:07PM

    To progress in Science and Technology it is essential that Muslims look for relationship with religion, and if there are any instructions in Qur’an. It may otherwise be unIslamic.

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  • kdp
    Sep 20, 2012 - 7:43PM

    @Feroz:
    How true. In the name of our supposedly “Good” and “Superior” culture we teach our children to give unquestionable honor and respect to their parents and other elders disregarding if elders themselves are worthy of such respect or not. One cannot question parents, teachers, never a Boss (you will lose your job) . This practice is the main reason of lack of innovation in our countries. Here in the USA I work for a small company where I can write a criticizing Memo addressed to the Owner of the company without any fear of loosing job and even get a Thank you if I am right.

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  • Pengie
    Sep 21, 2012 - 12:21AM

    Science flies you to the mars. Religion flies you to the buildings. Enough said.

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