Why Haven’t More Muslims Won The Nobel Prize?

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 9 2013 @ 8:37pm

Tom Chivers counters Dawkins’ tweet:

It might be true that Islam is holding back scientific and other achievement among Muslims. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it were. But you don’t get to simply assert it, because there are far too many other variables. Islamic countries are themselves usually poorer than Western ones (and far poorer than the average Trinity alumnus). Their standards of public health are lower, nutrition, education, everything. Does the average Muslim do worse in the Nobel prize stakes than the average similarly deprived Christian or atheist or Hindu? I don’t know. You need to do proper analysis, statistical regression, to work that out. What’s worse, Dawkins knows that.

Nelson Jones thinks Dawkins makes a weak case:

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 eight native-born Nobel winners, and all but two of them are affiliated with Western universities, mostly in the United States.

Dan Murphy adds:

When the Nobel Prize was founded in 1901, the vast majority of the world’s Muslims lived in countries ruled by foreign powers, and for much of the 20th century Muslims did not have much access to great centers of learning like Cambridge.

Owen Jones thinks Dawkins makes atheists look bad:

As a non-believer, I want the atheist case to be made. I want religious belief to be scrutinised and challenged. I want Britain to be a genuinely secular nation, where religious belief is protected and defended as a private matter of conscience. But I feel prevented from doing so because atheism in public life has become so dominated by a particular breed that ends up dressing up bigotry as non-belief.

And Nesrine Malik rolls her eyes at Dawkins:

To wearily engage with his logic briefly: Yes, it is technically true that fewer Muslims (10) than Trinity College Cambridge members (32) have won Nobel prizes. But insert pretty much any other group of people instead of “Muslims”, and the statement would be true. You are comparing a specialized academic institution to an arbitrarily chosen group of people. Go on. Try it. All the world’s Chinese, all the world’s Indians, all the world’s lefthanded people, all the world’s cyclists.

Dawkins responds to that argument:

[F]air point. Somebody mentioned redheads (neither he nor I have figures on redheaded scientific achievement but we get the point). I myself tweeted that Trinity Cambridge has more Nobel Prizes than any single country in the world except the USA, Britain (tautologically), Germany and France. You could well think there was something gratuitous in my picking on Muslims, were it not for the ubiquity of the two positive boasts with which I began [There are 1.6 billion Muslims, nearly a quarter of the world’s population, and we are growing fast” and “Islamic science deserves enormous respect.” Redheads (and the other hypothetical categories we might mention) don’t boast of their large populations and don’t boast of their prowess in science.