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Jews Versus Muslims
Entry 925, on 2009-01-13 at 21:44:46 (Rating 4, Religion)
Since the current conflict started in Gaza I have defended Hamas in various debates with people who believe Israel is blameless in escalating the situation. The people I have debated with have interpreted that as meaning I support Hamas against Israel but that isn't true at all. What I do say (and what I have to continually repeat because these people just don't listen) is that I'm not taking sides. I think I prefer the overall philosophy of Israel to that of Hamas, but taking sides is not the best way to really understand what's happening there or to consider possible solutions.
I don't like fundamentalism in any form, and it doesn't matter which religion it originates from. There are harmful fundamentalists in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Of course, if you look around the world its clear that Muslim fundamentalists are currently causing the most harm, although there are occasional incidents involving others as well (Christians killing abortion doctors, for example).
A while back, before the current invasion of Gaza began, there was an email being distributed which compared the number of Nobel Prizes awarded to Jews and Muslims. The numbers seem to be essentially correct and here they are: The global Islamic population is approximately 1,200,000,000, or 20% of the world population. They have received 7 Nobel Prizes. The global Jewish population is approximately 14,000,000, or about 0.02% of the world population [that number is wrong, it should be 0.2%]. They have received well over 100 Nobel Prizes.
Note that many people listed as Jews didn't even believe in a god (Einstein for example) so they were more "cultural Jews" than religious ones but I don't think that negates the basic idea. The numbers indicate that the rate of allocation of prizes is over 1000 times higher for Jews than it is for Muslims. How would we explain this?
One explanation might be that the Nobel committee is biased in some way against Muslims. It is a western organisation so its quite possible that this is true. The problem is that a bias is unlikely to explain such a huge discrepancy. Also, there is anecdotal evidence that Jews do make huge contributions to society, especially in science and medicine. As well as that, I couldn't find much mention of this possibility when researching controversies relating to the prize (some controversies do exist, but not concerning this particular issue).
So maybe Muslims don't place much importance on the areas that the Nobel Prize is awarded for. But the prize is given for physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace, which cover a fair proportion of the important fields of human endeavour. Sure, there isn't one for maths and there isn't one for religion, but again I don't think this can explain the discrepancy.
Maybe Muslim nations suffer some economic disadvantage compared to others. I don't have the numbers on this, but considering how many are major oil producers and therefore have huge incomes from that, it doesn't seem likely.
I'm afraid the only explanation that fits the facts is a religious or social one. Islam is just not a religion (or culture if you prefer) which currently encourages worthwhile activities likely to be rewarded with Nobel Prizes. In fact, in many cases it actively discourages exploration of anything which disagrees with Islamic doctrine (and that certainly includes a wide variety of topics).
Note that I used the word "currently" above, because it hasn't always been like that. There were times when Islamic scholars were the greatest in the world and a lot of philosophy, mathematics, and science came from them when the Christian world was too hung up with its own dogma and blindly following the teachings of the Greeks, especially Aristotle.
And the violence currently coming from the Islamic world has afflicted Christianity in the past. Just look at the disgusting history of Christianity: witch burning, crusades, inquisitions, etc, and you will see they have nothing to be proud of. Except, in some ways they do, because they got over that stage and (apart from a vocal minority of mindless creationists) they now don't allow their religious beliefs to get in the way of the facts or of achieving a better outcome for everyone.
Maybe these religious trends go through cycles and Islam is currently at a low point in its history. I hope so because the world can't really afford for 20% of its population to be tied up in a counter-productive philosophy like Islam seems to be to many people.
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