No doubt, Nathan Lean, the editor in chief of an Islam-positive online entity called Aslan Media, fired off his recent denunciation of Richard Dawkins’ alleged “Twitter rampage” about the paucity of Muslims among Nobel Prize laureates, and heaved a sigh of satisfaction. Mission accomplished! Godless biologist slapped down, “Islamophobia” denounced!
Lean would do well to stiffen up, however. In tapping out a risible parody of a reasoned critique, he unwittingly both beclowns himself and lends credence to the very scientist and arguments he seeks to discredit. His piece is full of wrongheaded thinking and blundering jabs at Dawkins for pointing out uncomfortable truths about the state of science, or, rather, the lack of it, in Muslim countries. Lean purports to “expose” the “ugly underbelly of [Dawkins’] rational atheistic disguise,” but has authored a tract consisting almost wholly of politically correct shibboleths and befuddled assertions that insult his readers’ intelligence and aim to squelch honest debate about Islam and its role in the world today. If one believes in free speech, one cannot let what he wrote go unchallenged.
Hey, speaking of “uncomfortably truths” that deflate “befuddled assertions that insult…readers’ intelligence,” Nelson Jones explains why Dawkins’
trolling contention is nothing but tedious sophistry from an increasingly tedious sophist:
[I]t’s equally true that (again excluding the peace and literature prizes) Trinity boasts more Nobel laureates than the entire female gender. Only 17 women have ever been awarded one of the scientific prizes.
Looking at the list of Nobel laureates since the prizes were first awarded in 1909, the most striking thing is the overwhelming predominance of Western countries, in particular the United States, and of a handful of institutions. Of 863 individual winners, 338 have been American or based in the United States. A further 119 have been British. Germany is in third place with 101 winners, and France a distant fourth with 65 (which is more than Trinity, but less than Cambridge as a whole). Most of the remainder come from other Western nations. Again, the effect is even greater if Peace and Literature are omitted. The university affiliations tell a similar story, with the top US institutions (Harvard alone has 147 affiliated winners) and Oxbridge dominating the lists.
The reason for this isn’t an international conspiracy and it’s ridiculous to view it as some sort of failure on the part of Islam. Rather, it shows that modern science (by which I mean academic, research-intensive science) has been and remains an overwhelmingly Western phenomenon. To ask “where are all the Muslims?” as Dawkins does is to miss the point. One might as well ask, Where are all the Chinese? China has just 8 native-born Nobel winners, and all but two of them are affiliated with Western universities, mostly in the United States. There are approximately the same number of Chinese nationals in the world as there are Muslims, and China, like Islam, had its golden age (in China’s case, several of them) when it led the world in technology and science. Japan does rather better, with 20 winners; but then Japan adopted the Western model of university-based scientific research in the late 19th century, and even so only won its first Nobel Prize in 1949.
Given the type of work that wins a Nobel Prize for science, it’s still remarkable that Trinity College has so many more winners than other Cambridge Colleges, but it’s not all that remarkable that it has more winners than most non-Western countries put together. It says something about the way modern science developed, and about the continuing place of Anglo-American institutions within modern scientific research, but it says no more about Islam than it says about China (or about women). Which is to say, not much.
I truly don’t know (nor care) if Richard Dawkins is (or isn’t) an Islamophobe; but I do know that, far from cooking up “honest debate about Islam and its role in the world today” as suggested by Taylor, his ‘less-than-Trinity’ metric merely proves how adept he is at filleting and serving up tasty red herrings about Muslims on a pseudo-intellectual platter.