Please read the short book 'Muslims and Science' by Pervaiz Hoodhbhoy. Provide your views on the central argument of this book. Building on your knowledge from Bronowski and Sagan, what were the vital characteristics that allowed Western civilization to outpace Muslim civilization in the development of science in the modern period?
Muslims and Science
Ever since the advent of Islam in 7th Century, the Muslim civilization rapidly rose to the forefront of human achievement. Remarkable progress was made not only in the fields of sciences and philosophy – i.e. mathematics, astrology, astronomy, optics, cartography, medicine, anthropology, logic and literature – but they also became the dominant military and economic power of the world by the 13th Century. These accomplishments were made possible by a number of underlying factors prevailing at that time in Muslim history. The significant ones being the territorial and commercial expansion of Muslim influence to a vast area where a treasure trove of Greek, Persian and Roman works in science, medicine and philosophy was made available to their intellectuals to build upon; Patronage and encouragement was given to Muslim scholars by the ruling elite of that time, several universities were built in the Muslim lands and a spirit of freedom for inquisitive research across the religious divide was created and encouraged. But then, owing to a raging and endless conflict between the forces of logic and reason and those of rigid religious fundamentalism, Muslim Science lost its appeal and eventually disappeared into near oblivion. Resultantly, the culture of patronage of those seeking knowledge and the pursuit of excellence in the fields of sciences and the arts also died.
The Muslim World today, comprising 57 countries and 1.57 billion people – which is roughly one fifth of the world population - has made no significant contribution to science or offered anything substantial towards technology during the last 500 years. It remains in a state of intellectual stagnation while its inept and corrupt leaders rule without any vision or foresight. Budgetary allocations for sciences and general education in most Islamic countries are low resulting in their dependence on the West for survival in vital areas of human activity. Their collective wealth of human capital and vast preserve of natural resources are being wasted on non-development expenditures. The continuing cycle of regressive policy formulation has perpetuated poverty, conflict and instability in most Muslim countries. This deliberate neglect has not only created frustration and despondency amongst the Muslim youth but has also provided space to the orthodox religious forces to breed a deep rooted hatred for the ‘Christian West’ being a convenient scapegoat. In the context of Pakistan and its regional geo-political environment we find ourselves trapped in a serious internal conflict, socio-economic insecurity, political instability and institutional collapse which have retarded the pace of societal progress. This bleak scenario provides enough motivation to dejected members of the society to join extremist elements for their self actualization.
When the sad decline of Muslims began after almost 5 centuries of world domination, the West started overtaking them in every field of human enterprise ranging from means of warfare, industry, economics, education, governance and culture. This ascendency of European nations is attributed to the collapse of feudal economy, relegation of the Church from socio-political dominance to mere religious preaching, emergence of capitalistic economy, development of a secular and rational approach towards scientific and social education and lastly the productive cum commercial usefulness of science and technology for the human race.
Unfortunately, the gap between both civilizations in the domain of scientific research...