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In numerical terms, forty-one predominantly Muslim countries with about 20 percent of the world's total population generate less than 5 percent of its science.This, for example, is the proportion of citations of articles published in internationally circulating science journals.Aaron Segal, professor of political science at the University of Texas, El Paso, is the author of An Atlas of International Migration (Bowker, 1993) and Learning by Doing: Science, Technology and the Developing World (Westview, 1987).By any index, the Muslim world produces a disproportionately small amount of scientific output, and much of it relatively low in quality.With their aid, the Muslim world accomplished what is now known as a limited transfer of science and technology.Decline in science resulted from many factors, including the erosion of large-scale agriculture and irrigation systems, the Mongol and other Central Asian invasions, political instability, and the rise of religious intolerance.While Islam has yet to reconcile faith and reason, other factors such as dictatorial regimes and unstable funding are more important obstacles to science and technology's again flourishing in the Muslim world.
Even revisionist historians who challenge this date as the time that decline set in do accept that decline eventually took place.Thus, Marshall Hodgson -- who argues that the eastern Muslim world flourished until the sixteenth century, when "the Muslim people, taken collectively, were at the peak of their power" -- acknowledges that by the end of the eighteenth century, Muslims "were prostrate." Whatever its timing, this decline meant that Muslims failed to learn from Europe.In Bernard Lewis's phrasing, "The Renaissance, Reformation, even the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, passed unnoticed in the Muslim World." Instead, Muslims relied on religious minorities -- Armenians, Greeks, Jews -- as intermediaries; they served as court physicians, translators, and in other key posts.THE HISTORICAL RECORD We start with a brief history of science and technology in the Muslim world, the first place to search for clues to these questions. represents the approximate apogee of Muslim science, which flourished in Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, and Cordoba, among other cities.In a nutshell, the Muslim experience consists of a golden age in the tenth through thirteenth centuries, a subsequent collapse, a modest rebirth in the nineteenth century, and a history of frustration in the twentieth century. Significant progress was made in such areas as medicine, agronomy, botany, mathematics, chemistry, and optics.
If not, how does one explain the huge gap in scientific output between the Muslim world and the West or East Asia?