Tuesday 22nd Jul 2014
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Iran, Turkey Break Scientific Monopoly
Has Islam Anything to Do With It?

Science

, by SOROOR AHMED

Scientific advancement does not take place in isolation. Revolution in the field of social science – politics, sociology, history – precedes it. Nothing exemplifies this fact better than the study made recently. It shows that Iran and Turkey have registered fastest growth in the field of science in the world in recent years; China poses tough challenge to the United States and the former Soviet Union witnessed fall in the scientific output after the collapse of Communism in 1991 only to recover a bit after 2006, when its polity stabilised.
A recent report suggests that the scientific output has grown 11 times faster in Iran than in any other country. A survey of the number of scientific publications listed in the Web of Science database shows that the growth in the Middle East – mostly in Iran and Turkey – is nearly four times faster than the world average.
A data analysis company in Montreal, Science-Metrix, has published a detailed report on “geo-political shift in knowledge creation” since 1980. According to Eric Archambault, the author of the report and president of Science-Metrix, “Asia is catching up even more rapidly than previously thought, Europe is holding its position more than most would expect. And the Middle East is the region to watch.”
The scientific output of North America – the United States is the most important country in this continent – has grown considerably slower than the world as a whole in the last two decades.
World scientific output grew steadily from 450,000 papers in 1980 to 1,500,000 in 2009. Asia as a whole surpassed North America last year.
But it would be fool-hardy to write obituary of science in the West. Europe and North America – despite some slow-down in the latter – are still the leading science producing regions of the world. Since other countries were earlier placed much below in ranking their growth, the West would naturally appear faster. Yet the presence of two Muslim countries in the big league of science producers came as a surprise. Iran, which in February last had sent mouse, turtles and worms into the space, is doing very well in other fields too.
According to Archambault, Iran’s publications have given emphasis on Inorganic and Nuclear Chemistry, Nuclear and Particle Physics and Nuclear Engineering. Publication in nuclear engineering grew by 250 times faster than the world average; medical and agriculture research also increased in that country.
The report also said that this year China would publish as many peer-reviewed papers in natural sciences and engineering as the United States. If the current trend continues, by 2015 China will match the US across all disciplines – though the US may publish more in life and social sciences till 2030.
India figured nowhere in the top nations though a large number of Indian scientists – and even technocrats – are busy in research works in the United States and European countries. China is showing its mark though technologically Japan and South Korea, along with it, are still big players.
The western world appears to be alarmed by the scientific rise of Iran and Turkey. Last year too a CIA report confirmed that these two countries, apart from China and India, have the potential to become global powers. It needs to be recalled that European scholars have the tendency of not giving any credit to the achievements of Ottoman Turks – though they acknowledge the Arab scientific advancement till the year 1400 – as they (Turks) continued to dominate them till the end of the 17th century and even much later. How can the Europeans accept that other powers – and that too Muslim – were also quite developed after renaissance?
The big question today is why Iran and Turkey are developing and that too now in the 21st century and not when they both were ruled by two so-called modern looking rulers – the former by Emperor Raza Shah Pahlavi and the latter by dictator Mustafa Kamal Pasha and military generals after his death.
One aspect needs to be understood here. These two countries started developing in the field of creation of knowledge only when they discarded the so-called western approach for which the society, as such, was not prepared. They grew only when they adopted Islam – may be partially.
The very achievements of these two countries go on to explode the myth woven by the western propagandists that Islam stands for backwardness, orthodoxy and everything unscientific. The people of so-called developed nations used to ridicule Ayatollah Khomeini as an obstinate and visionless man out to push Iran back to the Stone Age. The same set of people, a generation ago, used to praise Mustafa Kamal as the father of modern Turkey, when the fact is that the country failed to make any headway and progress. Secular and anti-Islamic Turkey failed to capitalise even when the entire Europe was destroyed during the World War-II.
Post-1979 Revolution Iran has always been surrounded by enemies from all sides. While the ‘Great Satan’ United States of America still has its strong presence in the region, the then Soviet Union got dismembered. What is left today is the rump nation called Russia, which now deems it fit to keep Iran friendly.
The Khomeini-led Iran and, to some extent, the Islamic, and not secular, Turkey concentrated on their own development rather than giving land – not even on lease – to the West to grow rich. Unlike the Arab Sheikhs and Amirs, they did not allow their cities to become international bazaars and night clubs. There is no scope for Burj Khalifa or underground tunnel, which turned Dubai pauper. These structures are the Taj Mahals of modern days built to satisfy the whims and fancies of the rulers and have little to do for the betterment of the people of the country as such. With just a few lakh population there was no congestion in this tiny nation. Huge towers and underground tunnel were not required for this small population and there was absolutely no need to reclaim land from the sea to build all these luxury and expensive structures. The money to build all these super-structures goes to the MNCs and the work is done mostly by outsiders.
This way Dubai can never become Israel, (which too had six lakh population at the time of its ‘creation’ in 1948), or even Singapore or Hong Kong as the original people of these countries have little role in shaping their own future.
These poor rulers of the Gulf countries think that by getting built sky-scrappers, parks, hotels, swimming pools, parks and beautiful sea-beaches (with the help of foreign technology and work-force) they would be called moderniser and open-minded. The truth is that the Multi-National Corporations are befooling them and have bled them white.
So in spite of wealth these Arabs are far behind Iran (which had to fight eight year war with Iraq), Turkey or even Malaysia. They have not invested in education, science and social science. Even their media is mostly handled by foreigners.
Iran, Turkey and even Malaysia, which can be cited as success stories, are not ruled by tyrants but have the governments elected by the people. There are many people who may not agree, but the truth is that political ideology and, in some cases religion, do contribute a lot to creating zeal and enthusiasm in society.
Mustafa Kamal did everything to modernise Turkey; so did Shah of Iran. Pasha banned Fez caps, purdah and other traditional dresses and imposed mini-skirts. He tried to rebuild Turkey and create a sense of modern nationalism yet his country failed to emerge as a big power notwithstanding such a long rule by him and his military successors. Turkey started showing signs of development only when it got Islamised. Islam, and not secularism, turns out to be a motivating factor for a large section of the population.
Similarly the rise of the Soviet Union as scientific power in the 20th century had much to do with the Communist Revolution in that country in October 1917. And once the faith of the people on that ideology got weakened, the country went back scientifically too, though it was one of the two Super Powers of the world till 1990.
After its dismemberment a number of Muslim republics emerged independent in Central Asia. They all had almost cent per cent literacy and very good human resources and infrastructure, yet they failed to take off even two decades after their emergence as they are yet to find a motivating factor – stable and positive ideology.
So far creation of knowledge is concerned, tyrants often work as de-motivators. True, there was monarchy and dictatorship all over the world till sometimes back. But even then the societies whose rulers were liberal grew faster, and not like Ivan, the Terrible (of Russia) or Henry VIII (of England). In contrast, Hitler may be a dictator; but being a fascist he at least turned out to become a great motivator for his own people. Yet, since his approach was negative, he led down his country too.
One may ask as to why Egypt and even Pakistan, which too are relatively large and have a sizeable population like Turkey and Iran, failed. True, they are not oil-rich like Iran, but have the advantage of very high remittance earning. Yet, despite good human resources, they failed to match Iran and Turkey. The absence of the motivating agent may be an important factor.
To much extent the United States and Europe are indebted to the liberal democratic ideology for their all round development in the last two or three centuries. It is true Christian Europe owes something to the religion for their early revival. But the problem with Christianity, and even Judaism, is that, unlike Islam, their approach was unscientific, in fact anti-science. So while Europe, and later on the United States, came out of stupor and started developing when they abandoned their religion and adopted liberal democratic ideology, Muslims, be it in the past or today, developed faster when they were close to Islam. The Holy Book Qur'an works as the best motivating guide to everyone. Times without number it asks humanity in general to probe, explore and go deep to the bottom of the reality to study the marvel of the Creator.
So if relatively Islamised Iran and Turkey are growing much faster scientifically without any laud and bogus claims – as were made by men like Raza Shah, Mustafa Kamal Pasha or even for that matter Gamal Abdul Nasser and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto – it was simply because the perspective of the whole society had undergone a sea change.


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