Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Politics of God in the NY Times Magazine

The NY Times Magazine today has cover piece arguing that while the West may have figured out how to largely separate politics and religion, the rest of the world is unlikely to follow:

"Countless millions still pursue the age-old quest to bring the whole of human life under God’s authority, and they have their reasons."

If that's really true, we can expect that modern science will be a phenomenon largely confined to the West, with the rest of the world using science, pioneered elsewhere, to build more hi-tech weapons.

Perhaps though, the case is overstated in the NY Times piece - Japan and Korea have relatively secular politics, and a correspondingly strong scientific infrastructure. Several modernizing nations, such as India and China, are working hard to build their scientific reputations; to do so requires some commitment by their respective goverments to separate ideology from the political decision making process. The young Chinese and Indian graduate students, coming in droves to the US for a scientific education, will inevitably make life better in their non-Western home countries when they return.

The next step is to figure out how to get young Iraqis, Jordanians, Iranians, and Africans to come seeking a scientific education in the US.

5 comments:

anilsonika said...

I wish you knew more about India. We are not trying to build our scientific reputations. Our scientific reputation is at par and sometimes more than the west. and yes we do not link science with God as in west. The only problem we have is population and politics. And I think in west there is more intermixing of religion and politics where they are trying to teach now intelligent design and have problem in using the worl "Evolution". we dont have any of the problems here and no school emphasises on religion. And yes regarding people coming from india and China in droves, well they deserve only then they desire.

anilsonika said...

One more thing. If you want to read what India had produced till now. Then Google "CV Raman,Reliance, Rabindra nath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Amratya Sen". Also as an afterthought read books "Ramayana, Mahabharata" Our holy books which are full of scientific literature and the first reference to the atomic bomb.
So my suggestion is that never underestimate others when you have not gone or seen the place. Same thing applies to Jordanians and africans. You cannot be a judge for the whole world on their intelligence while sitting in ur room and not looking outside.

Mike said...

Some of the very best scholars in the world are from India, but most of the best ones don't actually work or get their graduate degrees at universities in India. They come to the US or Europe to study and work, where they benefit from a well established infrastructure for research funding. The same is true of China.

But some day that will no longer be true - talented Indian and Chinese scholars will no longer feel like they have to travel to the US for a PhD, because universities in their home countries will be able to compete.

The US was in a similar situation at the beginning of the 20th century - US scientists went to Europe for their training, but eventually that ceased to be necessary.

anilsonika said...

I am not interested in dragging this conversation. You have your own views and I have my own. You are living in US and I think have never stepped your foot in India whereas I live in India and have been in US, so I know a bit about US also.
But to enlighten you let me tell you somethings about India.
1. The concept of pi and zero was given by India.
2. Vedas, books on philosophy culture and religion were written by Indians before the so called A.D. era started.
3. Nalanda and Taxila are recognised as the first universities in international sense before anyone knew about the concept of universities.
4. Aryabhata, a well known astronomer is from India who laid the foundations of astronomy.
And the good thing is that everything is B.C. only when US of A didn't even exist. hence no one went to US for graduate degree.

Mike said...

I think you've misread my original post and are attributing to me views about non-Western countries that were made in the NY Times piece. My response in the original post was "perhaps the case is overstated in the NY Times piece..."

Second, when I talk about scientific reputation, I'm talking about contemporary, 21st century science, not about what happened hundreds of years before Isaac Newton and the modern scientific revolution.