Cultural chains: Islam, the West and global science
From the 8th to 13th centuries, Islamic mathematics and medicine flourished, later sparking the European Renaissance. But the West has been slow to recognise this important contribution to its own scientific development, while the Arab world has remained reluctant to learn lessons on science and technology from the West.
In this article in Science, Wasim Maziak, director of the Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies, argues that only a two-way effort can end this longstanding rift and guide the Arab world into a new era of scientific glory.
This might seem a long way off: Arab countries produce fewer than 0.5 per cent of papers in the top 200 medical journals in the world, for instance. Maziak explains how the adoption of conservative schools of thinking in Islam and the distrust of Western materialism contributed to this. Many Arabs, he says, view science as yet another Western "incursion" into their way of life.
For the situation to change, says Maziak, Arabs will need to embrace the information revolution, and realise that modern science need not threaten their cultural identity. Key to this will be promoting science to the public, encouraging scientific inquiry and acknowledging the scientific feats of other cultures. The West, meanwhile, needs to accept that its own achievements are firmly rooted in those of Islam.