How Many Muslims have won Nobel Prizes, anyway?

science in pakistan

In two previous posts (1) I poked fun at how backward Muslims were in science and discovery, but one may ask, "What about Pakistan and the fact they have nukes - doesn't that mean they are up to par with modern science?"

Blogger Hassan Abbas has an answer to that question and explains that Pakistan is good at reverse engineering and so appears in defense technology, which is applied science, to have done well - but that in the pure sciences it has failed miserably. (2)

Turning our attention to Iran, if you go to Iran University of Science and Technology you will be greeted by this image:


One can assume that Allah is looking over every paper turned in to make sure that nothing contradicts the teachings of Islam. Indeed the Campus Map shows us that building 5 houses the Department of Islamic Studies [is that a science now?] and that building 18 is for the Office of the Representative of the leader of the Islamic Revolution. I suppose whatever science is discovered in Iran stays in Iran.

As for what passes for science in Iran, thousands of scientific publications by Iranians are simply cut-and-paste pieces of worthless nonsense (3).

So it becomes a bit clearer why most Muslims are so backward. It's their religion. As I've said all along, Islam keeps its subjects as backward as the religion itself. If Muslims in America seem educated, it is because Islam has less an influence on their lives than in Muslim countries. None of the Muslims who were Nobel Laureates lived under the stultifying cloud of Islam, except for the dead terrorist Yasser Arafat.

Professor Abdus Salam [Physics 1979] was Director of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy. Although he was a devout Muslim, he had to leave Pakistan because he found it impossible to do theoretical physics research there.

Naguib Mahfouz [Literature 1988] was stabbed in the back by Egyptian Moslem fundamentalists in 1997 because he supported the Peace Process between Palestinians and Israelis. Naguib was partially paralyzed as a result. Islam has limited influence in Egypt because its constitution bans religious-based parties.

Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat [Peace 1978], although a Muslim, did not live under Islamic Law. He was assassinated by militant nationalist religious extremists.

Yasser Arafat [Peace 1994] This was a joke so I won't comment further.

Ahmed Zewail [Chemistry 1999] although an Egyptian, has been at Caltech since 1976.

Ferid Murad [Medicine 1998], was born and raised in America. His father was Muslim, mother Baptist and he was raised in a Catholic community. He was baptized Episcopalian in college.

But what about the 2003 Peace Prize for Shirin Ebadi, A Muslim woman living in Iran? Actually, Shirin Ebadi's Peace Prize was awarded precisely for being anti-Islamic: promoting human rights and democracy in Iran. If she could leave Islam, without being killed, she would.

Another Muslim, Mohamed ElBaradei, won the 2005 Peace Prize, but these have nothing to do with creativity. So please, let's leave these politically motivated awards out of what should be awards for inventiveness and brainpower. If Peace Prizes had anything to do with brains, Jimmy Carter certainly should not have been awarded anything at all.

Although Mohamed ElBaradei is originally from Egypt he has spent the last 22 years in New York, Geneva, and elsewhere.

So actually, no Muslim living under Islamic influence has ever won a Nobel Prize.

Others who poke fun at Muslim discoveries and creativity:

Indymedia [defunct blog] writes:

The Wall Street Journal has announced its Technology Innovation Winners for 2004. First prize to a US company, second and third prizes to Israel. Not bad! P.S. Not one Arab Country was listed.

Meanwhile, The Macef Design Award for 2004 has an Aussie winner (oy oy oy) and features no fewer than thirteen Israeli runners-up. Unsurprisingly, despite listing entrants from all around the world, it too doesn't include a single Arab country.

It's time for the Arab world to come into the 21st century. Perhaps they can start by entering the 16th century and going from there.


  1. More Muslim Inventions
  2. How the world looks when you've created nothing


WATANDOST: Inside News About Pakistan and its Neighborhood, CHOWK.COM: Assessing Pakistani Science - By Pervez Hoodbhoy

... Much of the production is under license from foreign countries, some from CKD kits, and most machinery for the arms factories is imported from the West or China. Chinese assistance in every nuclear area, peaceful and otherwise, has been crucial. Nonetheless, even though Pakistan’s defense production is mostly a triumph of reverse engineering rather than original research and development, its leaders have demonstrated the capability to exercise technical judgment and sufficient understanding of principles at some level.


in 43 years Pakistani scientists and technologists have managed to get just eight patents registered internationally.


president.gifThe websites of almost all Pakistani S&T institutions are national embarrassments – that of the Centre for Applied and Molecular Biology has pictures of political personalities, starting with General Pervez Musharraf, but links leading to its activities (particularly research) lead nowhere. [for example, links to projects Completed - Bernie] [...]

Unfortunately, by and large, our school education continues to be based upon rote learning. As such it actively seeks to destroy the questioning mind from early childhood by rewarding obedience and punishing originality.


Today one cannot count even 10 Pakistani physicists and mathematicians, living in Pakistan, who are good enough to get a job in a reasonable US university.


The dismal situation in Pakistani science is unlikely to change much until there is an understanding that science brings with it a world-view – a weltenschaung within which creativity, freedom, intellectual rigour, and scientific honesty are given the kind of value they receive in the West. The leaders of Pakistan’s scientific establishment, who head a plethora of institutes and academies, never cease to demand more resources. But they never speak of the need for exercising the scientific method, critical thinking, skepticism, or viewing the world rationally. They stood by as if struck deaf and dumb after the October 8 earthquake. Comfortably situated in plush offices and driven around in fancy new cars, not a single one from among them moved to challenge the ridiculous and counter-scientific beliefs, freely propagated over the mass media, that this earthquake was God’s punishment for our sinful behavior. [emphasis mine - Bernie]

Let us face the fact squarely: pre-modern societies, or those which dispute the very basis of science, simply cannot produce meaningful science. Scientific progress requires social progress and a battle against superstition and fatalism. The task of bringing science in Pakistan will therefore have to go side-by-side with a much wider struggle to bring modern thought, the arts, philosophy and pluralism. Science cannot prosper under authoritarianism. And authoritarianism runs deep everywhere. It is underlies the conventional family structure that demands absolute obedience, and a tyrannical educational system where the teacher crushes independent thought. But without intellectual and personal freedoms, Pakistan shall continue to suffocate. Today’s orgiastic money-dumping – one which has dazzled the world – will fizzle whenever the country’s political administration changes. Suddenly the party will be over. By that time, the distance from India, and the developed world, will have increased many-fold.



Yalpani and Heydari, in a 2005 paper published in the journal "Scientometrics”, argue that this approach has failed in Iran. Intrigued by the fact that publications by Iranian scientists had exploded from a total of 1040 in 1998 to 3277 in 2003 – with over 30% of these in chemistry – these two scientists set about uncovering a number of facts that many had suspected but none had adequately documented.

Working systematically, paper-by-paper, Yalpani and Heydari discovered that:

chemiran.gif 1. Many scientific papers by Iranian chemists that were claimed as "original” by their authors, and which had been published in internationally peer-reviewed journals, had actually been published twice, and sometimes thrice, by the same authors with identical or nearly identical contents. Trivial changes had been made in the titles, with the contents, graphs, and references being 90% or more similar. These were clear cut-and-paste papers. Others were plagiarized papers that could have been easily detected by any reasonably careful referee.

2. Many Iranian researchers have chosen to repeat the same basic chemical reactions – of dubious practical or scientific value – over and over again. While this generates a lot of data and graphs, it is unlikely to be of much use for anything other than increasing the number of their publications.

The two authors note the general decline of the scientific quality of papers published by Iranian chemists although chemical concepts, reagents, instrumentation, and other tools had progressively become more sophisticated. Simply put: there is an explosion of junk scientific papers, perhaps cleverly packaged and capable of getting past referees, but of little use.

### End of my article ###

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