The Cultural Imperative: Towards Purposeful Science Research Agendas in the Contemporary Muslim World

Lecture by Prof. Ahmad Dallal, Department of History & Archaeology and Former Provost of the American University of Beirut

October 22, 2015, McGill University

Despite significant investment in science education, the corresponding increase in the share of the Arab and Muslim Worlds in scientific publications and in investment in scientific research remain minimal and seem to be decreasing in recent years. Scholars who examine the challenges of higher education and research often invoke the scientific cultural legacy of the Muslim world, either to assert compatibility and a significant historical contribution that might inspire a reemergence of scientific culture in the modern Muslim World, or to argue that the new sciences did not emerge in the Muslim World due to a fundamental incompatibility between Islamic culture and modern scientific thinking. After a brief evaluation of these cultural assertions, the paper reflects on the status of science education and research in the contemporary Arab and Muslim Worlds, and provides suggestions for developing and implementing successful scientific educational and research agendas. The presentation concludes with a preliminary assessment of the role of culture in fostering contemporary programs of scientific education and research.

This lecture was part of an international collaborative project, “Science Teaching in Pre-Modern and Modern Islamic Societies: Pedagogical Approaches in Religious, Institutional, and Geographical Contexts,” with funding from a SSHRC partnership development grant, plus additional support from the McGill Centre for Islam and Science (MCIS), the State of Qatar, and three partner institutions: the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin; Medeniyet Univ., Istanbul; and Univ. of California, Berkeley.

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