The notion that scientists are easy prey to jihadism is scurrilous because of the false assertion that scientific education is uncritical (Paul Vallely, Opinion, 4 December). Putting aside the issue of whether 18 British Muslims make up a reliable sample, it can be hypothesised that it is more likely that jihadism might be a reaction against the critical scientific approach that denies the veracity of many of the events in the religious texts. What is equally disturbing is that Martin Rose of the British Council fails to understand that science is the very essence of British culture – a culture that has produced, or encouraged, scientists and philosophers of science such as Roger Bacon, Francis Bacon, Newton, Hooke, Boyle, Wallace, Darwin, Rutherford, Crick, Popper and Sanger (to name just a few). Our success in this area comes about because British scientists are critical and question authority.
Professor Bernard John Moxham
• In the 12th century, Islam, Christianity and Judaism coexisted peacefully in the Spanish city of Cordoba, where, in the museum celebrating this fact, the Muslim philosopher Averroes (Ibn Rushd) is quoted as telling his pupils the most frequently repeated teaching of the Qu’ran is “to make the effort to think things out for yourselves”. Wise words to counter the UN report that “Arab education curriculums seem to encourage submission, obedience, subordination and compliance, rather than free critical thinking”, and to back up Paul Vallely’s conclusion that students “require input … to open up to them the richness of Islamic traditions that constituted the religion before the arrival of oil-rich Salafi fundamentalism”. This would seem to be an urgent issue for Muslim educators to address.
• I must protest at the preposterous assertion that there is an “engineering mindset” that is unwilling to argue with authority. Engineering and science exist to discover how the world works even if the results upset the establishment. If they hadn’t argued with “authority” we would still believe that Earth was specifically created for the benefit of man 6,000 years ago, and that it is at the centre of the universe.
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