By Bernie on 28 Oct 2006
Chen Ning Franklin Yang
There are 9 ethnic Chinese Nobel Laureates, much more than the number of ethnic Arab Nobel Laureates. Let me explain how they are related. But first, some background.
I get the most amount of emails regarding my article The Arab Contribution to Civilization: Nothing Lately. In the article I note that there have been very, very few Arab Contributions to the modern world in the past 1,000 years. I get a few dozen emails a month in rebuttal. Since many of the writers have problems with English I suspect they are hesitant to make their remarks in the comment section for fear someone will criticize them for their poor language skills. I don't know about other sites but I would not knowingly permit anyone to make fun of someone's grammar. I think it exemplary that people whose first language is not English are trying to communicate with the rest of us. I certainly would not ask my readers to learn how to speak English before making a comment. Of course, I am opposed to any other language being spoken in our country in terms of drivings tests or schools, but as far as comments are concerned I would discourage my readers from making fun of someone's English when they are trying to give us their point of view.
That said, I did get a comment (not an email this time) that covers most of objections in the emails I receive (excluding the occasional "May the sword of Mohammed deal swift justice to the Jews"). I would like to answer his comment in more detail than I could by simply replying in the comment section.
I wrote: "... under Islam, Arabs have not advanced for the past one thousand years. See my previous article on the paucity of Nobel Prize winners in a world filled with 1.5 billion Muslims ( of which over 300 million are Arabs).
Here is the comment in its entirety:
First, it is false to state that the Arab world has not progressed in the past 1000 years since Islam (see below).
Second, blaming Islam for why the Arab world is now technologically underdeveloped is as logical as saying that western scientific advancement is due to Christian values. Such selective interpretation of history is not confined to politics but widespread, e.g., the rush of business books in the early 90s arguing for the supremacy of a consensus-building management style characteristic of the Japanese (back then), just because the Japanese economy in the 80s looked unbeatable.
The paucity of Arabic Nobel laureates is also not evidence for any apparent fault of Islam, even if it has short-comings (and what religion or culture doesn't). If it were, perhaps one could argue that the Chinese are stupid, given that they too have won so few Nobel prizes (around 6) compared with their population (1 billion). Or Indians. Or the Spanish(!) There have been notable Arabic Nobel prize winners, one of the more recent (1999, in Chemistry) being Ahmed Hassan Zewail, who received his first degree from University of Alexandria, Egypt.
The Islamic world is also striving to improve its record and achieving in science. Theocratic Iran is rapidly expanding its scientific activities (see editorial and letters to the premier international science magazine "Nature": volume 443 page 906 (26 October 2006), and volume 442 pages 719–720 (www.nature.com/nature)) Iranian scientists working in Iran has been contributing to important 20th century discoveries, e.g. discovering glycosylated hemoglobin, and performing the first cornea transplant (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_in_Iran)
This is not an apologist's letter for the Islamic world. Muslims themselves realize that the Arab world is a "market for consumption of technology, not manufacturers" (Sheikh Saber Taalab, former head of the Islamic Research Center, frontpage, October 18, 2006, The Daily Star, Egypt http://www.dailystaregypt.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=3523) But before blaming everything on Islam, we should remind ourselves that:
- contrary to widespread belief, there have been significant achievements in recent times by Muslims working in their native countries (in science, see above, or in the arts, e.g. Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who won the grand prix (1997) at Cannes, the premier international film festival);
- we are outsiders and we don't talk with, read or know a whole lot about the region, except through CNN or some western source, who report mostly about the West;
- societies rise and fall for a whole range of reasons;
- scientific progress is also correlated with a whole range of things, most notably wealth, which the west has the most of, at the moment.
There are so many points, I will answer them in short, otherwise this post will become unbearably long.
There have been notable Arabic Nobel prize winners: Ahmed Hassan Zewail - True, but his scientific work was done in AMERICA. Under Islam he would have created nothing.
"Theocratic Iran is rapidly expanding its scientific activities." - False. Iranian scientists are writing bogus scientific papers. Nothing noteworthy is being created. I covered this in a previous post.
"The paucity of Arabic Nobel laureates is also not evidence for any apparent fault of Islam, even if it has short-comings (and what religion or culture doesn't). If it were, perhaps one could argue that the Chinese are stupid, given that they too have won so few Nobel prizes (around 6) compared with their population (1 billion). "
What holds Muslims back in creativity by Islam is the same mechanism that keeps native Chinese from winning Nobel Prizes as well.
|Laureate||Award||Year||Award Country||Born in||Ethnicity|
|Charles K. Kao||Physics||2009||China||Shanghai||Chinese American|
|Roger Yonchien Tsien||Chemistry||2008||USA||USA||Chinese American|
|Gao Xingjian||Literature||2000||China||China||French Emigre|
|Daniel C. Tsui||Physics||1998||China||China||Chinese American|
|Steven Chu||Physics||1997||USA||USA||Chinese American|
|Yuan T. Lee||Chemistry||1986||Taiwan||Taiwan||Chinese American|
|Samuel C.C. Ting||Physics||1976||USA||USA||Chinese American|
|Chen Ning Yang||Physics||1957||China||China||Chinese American|
|Tsung-Dao Lee||Physics||1957||China||Shanghai||Chinese American|
|Edmond H. Fischer||Medicine||1992||China||Shanghai||Swiss-American|
|Walter Houser Brattain||Physics||1956||USA||China||American|
The last two entries are not ethnic Chinese.
[Update Jan 27 2010: I have added laureates that I missed or that have won Nobels since I originally published this article]
As you can see, they are all Chinese Americans, or Americans born in China, or Chinese born in America, and one lives in France. In the case of the 5 Arabs who have won Scientific Nobel Prizes (omitting Peace Prizes), 3 are Christian and the other two, though Muslim, Are Arab-Americans. Just as in the case of Chinese, Arabs, unless they are Arab-Americans or non-Muslim, do not win Nobel Prizes.
With over a billion people, native Chinese do not win Scientific Nobel Prizes for the same reasons that Arabs living under Islam do not win Scientific Nobel Prizes. As for Chinese or Arabs who win Nobel Prizes in Literature, they do not live in America but they are usually despised and hated by their native countries. In the case of Gao, the Chinese government officially regards him as an exiled dissident, and all of his works are banned. In the case of the Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz who died this year, he was attacked by Muslims for his writings.
So when I said that Islam was holding back scientific progress, it applies equally to the Chinese government. It applied as well to the Soviets in the past era. Religion or Governments that deny freedom and liberty just do not create anything. They can steal it, or buy it, but they cannot create it.
"there have been significant achievements in recent times by Muslims working in their native countries" - Actually not very much is happening in the Muslim world in terms of patents. More Americans in Utah have patents in this year alone then all of the patents of all Islamic countries for the past 200 years. See my post: How the world looks when you've created nothing: Islam.
scientific progress is also correlated with a whole range of things, most notably wealth, which the west has the most of, at the moment.
Wealth has nothing to do with scientific progress, if it did, Saudi Arabia would be pumping out thousands of scientific achievements every week. It's the other way around. America is wealthy precisely because her people are free to achieve greatness, unencumbered by primitive rules of behavior. An Islamic America would be just like the old Soviet Russia: a country filled with vast natural resources and a hard-working people achieving nothing.
Here is an ancient battery, most probably invented by a Jew.
The Baghdad Battery is believed to be about 2000 years old (from the Parthian period, roughly 250 BCE to CE 250). The jar was found in Khujut Rabu just outside Baghdad and is composed of a clay jar with a stopper made of asphalt. Sticking through the asphalt is an iron rod surrounded by a copper cylinder. When filled with vinegar - or any other electrolytic solution - the jar produces about 1.1 volts.
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