Richard Dawkins has created a bit of a stir by tweeting:
All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.
And when the usual uproar ensued, and someone pointed out the invention of algebra* [see NOTE below] and alchemy by Muslims, Dawkins tweeted in reply, “Indeed, where would we be without alchemy? Dark Age achievements undoubted. But since then?”
For the record, Muslims have received 10 Nobel Prizes to Trinity grads’ 34. And there are indeed a few more Muslims in the world than Trinity grads.
I can’t say I’m familiar with Dawkins, but he’s apparently a scientist who champions Darwin, as well as a proselytizing atheist, if there be such a thing. In other words, he’s an equal-opportunity anti-religionist. Dawkins’ remarks remind me of nothing so much as the flurry caused a few years back when Larry Summers had the temerity to voice the truth that women are dramatically under-represented in the ranks of the mathematical stratosphere and that such a fact needed to be studied scientifically, and the PC feminist world excoriated him for it (see my posts on the subject here and here).
Truth is apparently no defense to such heinous slanders. In fact, truth seems to make it all worse in the eyes of the offended.
And it’s certainly true that the Muslim world has contributed little in recent centuries, other than the refinement of suicide bombing techniques. And before anyone accuse me of anti-Muslim sentiment—I’m well aware that most Muslims are fine people. And the food is fabulous. But the cultures involved (particularly those of the Arab wing) have a great deal of bad stuff in them and no longer encourage intellectual innovation of the type that would lead to Nobel prizes. That’s an incontrovertible fact.
It’s also a fact that, although most Muslims are not terrorists, the vast majority of terrorists are Muslims. That’s another inconvenient fact that happens to be true. If we can’t say it (and it’s getting harder and harder to do so) we can’t begin to do much about it.
This sort of PC reticence (although not about science) seems to have led directly to the military’s failure to call out Nidal Hasan, the Ft. Hood shooter, before he committed his violent acts. Hasan did everything but rent a skywriter to spell out for them what he was planning, and they still couldn’t bring themselves to bust a Muslim officer for fear of being considered bigoted.
The terrible results are well-known. But bad as they were, they are almost nothing compared to the possibilities if this attitude on the part of the non-Muslim West continues. And it seems it will continue. One thing Osama bin Laden got right: we are the weak horse, at least in the psychological sense.
[*NOTE: So, did the Muslims invent algebra? The answer is a bit complex, but it appears to be a modified "yes." They certainly coined the word algebra, and Arab Muslims contributed a great deal to its development, building on Greek roots and also aided by some Indian players. Later on in the 1600's Europeans took the ball.]