Friday, February 17, 2017

Ahmed Zewail Dies - One of Only 3 Muslims to Ever Win a Nobel Prize in the Sciences (Jews have won 160+)

Ahmed Hassan Zewail died last August at the age of 70. Zewail was an Egyptian born Muslim who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1999. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1982 but moved back to Egypt in 2011.

In 2015, Aziz Sancar, a Turkish Muslim, won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. He also is a naturalized American citizen and currently lives in North Carolina.

The first Muslim (perhaps) ever to win the Nobel Prize in the sciences was Pakistani-born Mohammad Abdus Salam, who shared the 1979 Physics prize with two other winners. I say "perhaps" because Salam was a member of the Ahmadiyya sect, which ironically had been declared an heretical non-Muslim religion by his home country, five years earlier. Salam was educated and lived much of his working life (though not all) in Europe and the United States.

If we go by Pakistan's definition, only two Muslims have ever won a Nobel prize in the sciences. But it would be ungenerous to go by Pakistan's definition. By all accounts, Salam believed himself to be a Muslim and even cited the Koran in his acceptance speech.

So, I think it's fair to say that three Muslims have won prizes. It's also fair to say that none of the three would have won prizes without being partially educated and having done work in non-Muslim countries.

It also should be noted that all three men were fairly "Westernized" in their personal lives. Dr. Sancar married an American biochemist. Dr. Salam married a renowned British molecular biologist (although, notoriously, he never broke off an earlier arranged marriage with a cousin in Pakistan). And Dr. Zewail married a secularized Syrian woman. Here is the Zewail family at the Nobel prize ceremonies:

Here is Dr. Sancar and his wife:

And here is Dame Louise Johnson, second wife of Dr. Salam:

But going back to the Nobel awards themselves, since 1901 when the Prize was set up, there have been 659 winners in the sciences - physics, chemistry, medicine and economics.

3 have been Muslims.

160+ of the winners have been Jews.

Here is another way to look at those numbers.

Non-Muslims have won the prize at a per-capita rate 65 times that of Muslims.

Jews have won the prize at a per-capita rate 110 times that of non-Jews.

Jews have won the prize at a per-capita rate 4,400 times that of Muslims.

Islamophiles will of course have answers to these rather sad (for Muslims) statistics:

The Islamic world used to be more scientifically advanced than the West. I believe the current accepted scholarship shows that assertion to be a myth. But even accepting it, it forces the question, what happened for the last 500 years?

Most of the Muslim world was under Western colonial dominance (or the lingering effects of that dominance) during the period of the Nobel Prize. That of course forces the question of why it was under such dominance. And then of course there were the Jews, who, throughout much of the period had to contend with much more than mere dominance (for much of it they didn't even have a country to dominate) - discrimination, pograms, expulsions and the murder, within the space of only a few years, of one-third of their number.

It's all a Zionist plot. It's difficult to argue with that.

Of course, if non-science prizes are counted, Muslims have won 13 total prizes, including 2 in Literature and a whopping 8 in Peace.

As Dr. Evil might say, making scare quotes with his fingers:


Indeed, in recent times, Muslims have dominated the Peace prize, at least on a per-capita basis. One of the winners was Yasser Arafat.

See (the Islamophiles might say), most Muslims are moderates. Only 8% of all Muslim Nobel Prize winners have been terrorists.

To be serious, there's a short clip on YouTube of the late Dr. Zewail claiming that one of the distinguishing features of Islam is that it lays a strong emphasis on knowledge. I have no doubt that Zewail was an extremely intelligent man who deserved his Prize, but that particular claim is preposterous.

Theologically and philosophically, Islam has a huge bias against the acquisition of knowledge - or at least against the acquisition of empirical knowledge. An utterly unknowable, arational and often explicitly arbitrary God completely and directly controls every atom of the universe at all times. Thus, the universe itself becomes largely unknowable, arational and arbitrary.

Islam has been intellectually sterile since its inception. This claim is of course counter to the silly multicultural meme that Muslims invented virtually everything ever, including the fountain pen. But look for an historically prominent Muslim scientist and you will find, precisely, none. And the most well-known philosophers from the Muslim "Golden-Age" were either Jews or decidedly unorthodox Islamic "free-thinkers" who were branded heretics or apostates by many.

Today, a determined and talented Muslim individual may occasionally burst through those social and intellectual obstacles, often with much help from Western individuals and institutions, and in the process moving fairly far away from Muslim practice and tradition. But it's obviously rare.

In the modern sciences, three men did it.

And their wives didn't wear the hijab.


  1. How many negroes have won the Fields medal?

  2. There need be nothing racist about this fact. Christians are 'natural' scientists because we believe God created the universe and everything in it. We also believe everything He created is ORDERLY. When you have order that is observable, the mind naturally wants to find out: how? Why? What? Who? This is the development of science.

    In the Muslim world there is no belief in order created by mohammed so there is no basis for a natural desire to investigate.

    It's interesting to note the men mentioned studied in the West. There would have been no other way for them to advance as they did, even had they had excellent brains. Opportunity to use the brain is not there in the world of Islam.

  3. Oakes,

    A wonderful article. Now keep your head down.