The excellent and thought-provoking article by Pervez Hoodbhoy is disturbing for its description of the influence of rigid fundamentalist religion not only on Islamic science but on science in any society, even in the US. It is the very nature of science to intellectually question its own icons and, at times, other authorities in its host culture. Moreover, science places valid, observable facts above current explanations. Ignoring the facts of science because of the general public’s state of mind (or belief) cannot portend anything but the depreciation of observable facts in the public debate.
I have long maintained that a political candidate’s religion was an improper subject for debate. Hoodbhoy’s observations make this less clear; certainly, a candidate’s propensity to accept or reject new ideas is important to his or her performance in the office sought. Certainly, a candidate’s fundamental view of knowledge will affect the allocation of funds needed to further intellectual endeavors. How can a science-based society continue to succeed if the very basis of its past successes is even subliminally rejected by the political leadership?
The current trends of ignoring the protocols of science, having nonscience pose as science, distorting the nature of science via semantic ploys, and using political organizations as science “authorities” are all detrimental to science. If science is to remain vibrant and productive, its practitioners must be more proactive in explaining science in a way the public can understand, relate to, and support. This effort must be made at every possible occasion by scientists and media personnel alike, all who value the product of science—knowledge.