Friday, August 8, 2008

How religion poisons everything

(Nod to Christopher Hitchens)

Now that my 15 minutes of fame are over, back to your regularly scheduled blogposts.

In today's Science an editorial (1) by Ismail Serageldin (director of the Library of Alexandria, Egypt) highlights (I don't know if this link will work for everyone, you might have to have a subscription if it doesn't work, try the link to the summary in the reference below) the strengths and weaknesses of science in Muslim countries. And is it ever clear that religion really does poison everything.

More than a trillion dollars in cash, a population of more than a billion people, but:
an increasingly intolerant social milieu that is driven by self-appointed guardians of religious correctness, who inject their narrow interpretation of religion into all public debates
is limiting investment in science, and more importantly scientific results.

Serageldin also states that:
We must be able to question convention and arbitrate our disputes by the rules of evidence. It is the content of scientific work that matters, not the persons who produced it, regardless of the color of their skin, the god they choose to worship, the ethnic group they were born into, or their gender.
Now, in a substantial part of the Muslim world a statement like this might be construed as apostacy, and Serageldin would be well-advised to watch his back.

How sad that intolerance is preventing so much brain capacity to go to waste. The world cannot afford to exclude scientists.

(1) Serageldin, I. Science in Muslim countries. Science 321:745.

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