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Is it science or theology?

Updated Dec 03, 2016 08:44am


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The writer teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.
The writer teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.

When Pakistani students open a physics or biology textbook, it is sometimes unclear whether they are actually learning science or, instead, theology. The reason: every science textbook, published by a government-run textbook board in Pakistan, by law must contain in its first chapter how Allah made our world, as well as how Muslims and Pakistanis have created science.

I have no problem with either. But the first properly belongs to Islamic Studies, the second to Islamic or Pakistani history. Neither legitimately belongs to a textbook on a modern-day scientific subject. That’s because religion and science operate very differently and have widely different assumptions. Religion is based on belief and requires the existence of a hereafter, whereas science worries only about the here and now.

Demanding that science and faith be tied together has resulted in national bewilderment and mass intellectual enfeeblement. Millions of Pakistanis have studied science subjects in school and then gone on to study technical, science-based subjects in college and university. And yet most — including science teachers — would flunk if given even the simplest science quiz.

How did this come about? Let’s take a quick browse through a current 10th grade physics book. The introductory section has the customary holy verses. These are followed by a comical overview of the history of physics. Newton and Einstein — the two greatest names — are unmentioned. Instead there’s Ptolemy the Greek, Al-Kindi, Al-Beruni, Ibn-e-Haytham, A.Q. Khan, and — amusingly — the heretical Abdus Salam.

Demanding that science and faith be tied together has resulted in national bewilderment.

The end-of-chapter exercises test the mettle of students with such questions as: Mark true/false; A) The first revelation sent to the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was about the creation of Heaven? B) The pin-hole camera was invented by Ibn-e-Haytham? C) Al-Beruni declared that Sind was an underwater valley that gradually filled with sand? D) Islam teaches that only men must acquire knowledge?

Dear Reader: You may well gasp in disbelief, or just hold your head in despair. How could Pakistan’s collective intelligence and the quality of what we teach our children have sunk so low? To see more such questions, or to check my translation from Urdu into English, please visit the website where relevant pages from the above text (as well as from those discussed below) have been scanned and posted.

Take another physics book — this one (English) is for sixth-grade students. It makes abundantly clear its discomfort with the modern understanding of our universe’s beginning. The theory of the Big Bang is attributed to “a priest, George Lamaitre [sic] of Belgium”. The authors cunningly mention his faith hoping to discredit his science. Continuing, they declare that “although the Big Bang Theory is widely accepted, it probably will never be proved”.

While Georges Lemaître was indeed a Catholic priest, he was so much more. A professor of physics, he worked out the expanding universe solution to Einstein’s equations. Lemaître insisted on separating science from religion; he had publicly chided Pope Pius XII when the pontiff grandly declared that Lemaître’s results provided a scientific validation to Catholicism.

Local biology books are even more schizophrenic and confusing than the physics ones. A 10th-grade book starts off its section on ‘Life and its Origins’ unctuously quoting one religious verse after another. None of these verses hint towards evolution, and many Muslims believe that evolution is counter-religious. Then, suddenly, a full page annotated chart hits you in the face. Stolen from some modern biology book written in some other part of the world, it depicts various living organisms evolving into apes and then into modern humans. Ouch!

Such incoherent babble confuses the nature of science — its history, purpose, method, and fundamental content. If the authors are confused, just imagine the impact on students who must learn this stuff. What weird ideas must inhabit their minds!

Compounding scientific ignorance is prejudice. Most students have been persuaded into believing that Muslims alone invented science. And that the heroes of Muslim science such as Ibn-e-Haytham, Al-Khwarizmi, Omar Khayyam, Ibn-e-Sina, etc owed their scientific discoveries to their strong religious beliefs. This is wrong.

Science is the cumulative effort of humankind with its earliest recorded origins in Babylon and Egypt about 6,000 years ago, thereafter moving to China and India, and then Greece. It was a millennium later that science reached the lands of Islam, where it flourished for 400 years before moving on to Europe. Omar Khayyam, a Muslim, was doubtless a brilliant mathematician. But so was Aryabhatta, a Hindu. What does their faith have to do with their science? Natural geniuses have existed everywhere and at all times.

Today’s massive infusion of religion into the teaching of science dates to the Ziaul Haq days. It was not just school textbooks that were hijacked. In the 1980s, as an applicant to a university teaching position in whichever department, the university’s selection committee would first check your faith.

In those days a favourite question at Quaid-e-Azam University (as probably elsewhere) was to have a candidate recite Dua-i-Qunoot, a rather difficult prayer. Another was to name each of the Holy Prophet’s wives, or be quizzed about the ideology of Pakistan. Deftly posed questions could expose the particularities of the candidate’s sect, personal degree of adherence, and whether he had been infected by liberal ideas.

Most applicants meekly submitted to the grilling. Of these many rose to become today’s chairmen, deans, and vice-chancellors. The bolder ones refused, saying that the questions asked were irrelevant. With strong degrees earned from good overseas universities, they did not have to submit to their bullying inquisitors. Decades later, they are part of a widely dispersed diaspora. Though lost to Pakistan, they have done very well for themselves.

Science has no need for Pakistan; in the rest of the world it roars ahead. But Pakistan needs science because it is the basis of a modern economy and it enables people to gain decent livelihoods. To get there, matters of faith will have to be cleanly separated from matters of science. This is how peoples around the world have managed to keep their beliefs intact and yet prosper. Pakistan can too, but only if it wants.

The writer teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2016

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (195) Closed

Kadia May 07, 2016 01:30am

A sane, voice in the darkness. Thank you for fighting the good fight!

Abhishek May 07, 2016 01:40am

Remarkable piece of writing, if the author hasn't cherry-picked to make his point. I suppose it shows the degree of helplessness on the part of the author to link science with the economy and employability. More fundamentally, a scientific temper, or more accurately, a rigorous and critical search for truth, is a necessary development for a rational human being. Even a brief reading of history will show the enormous influence of religious/mystical attitudes upon the great innovations and discoveries in modern science. But without the language of science, it is impossible to even think about (what language to employ?) and reason about the world around us. If a large chunk of human population (the next genius can come from anywhere) is kept ignorant (perhaps even motivated against) the modern modes of critical enquiry, then that is cause for grave concern.

SamW May 07, 2016 01:43am

In spite of the risk of monotonous repetition on my part every time Dr.Hoodbhoy writes an opinion, I am going to say again, 'that is indeed one brilliantly insightful article, thanks Dr.Hoodbhoy'

Ranjit Singh May 07, 2016 01:45am

This would be funny if it wasn't dangerous. Religion and faith should be kept separate. Their books should have what they are supposed to have and not mix them.

Mixing them confuses the young mind and in adults when faced with the reality will see the shallowness of the ill advised religious stuff in the science books.

Rajesh Rathore May 07, 2016 02:06am

It is one of the finest article by you encouraging people to understand the beauty of science: exploring this beautiful universe and deploring the dogmas. You are a truly Professor!!

Aditya May 07, 2016 02:07am

Universe will bless MR Hoodbhoy.

Mansoor May 07, 2016 02:10am

Martin Luther nailed 95 thesis on the doors of religion in 1517 separating religion from earthly matters. My deeds, my rewards and my punishment without any divine intervention. Every phenomenon can be answered and hence the foundation of science. Europeans started forging ahead with understanding of nature, disease and sociology and technology. Education, knowledge, wisdom. When Oxford university was being built one of our emperor spent double the money to make a tomb for his dead wife, Priorities. We are only 499 years behind civilization but with current approach this gap seems more like 1437 years.

Mustafa R. May 07, 2016 02:11am

'Science has no need for Pakistan'

Of course, science has no need for any country.

TQ May 07, 2016 02:13am

Excellent article by Parvez Sahib. Its always a treat to read.

Hope some sanity may previal in Pakistan, particularly in the education sector.

Ghuncha Gul Khan May 07, 2016 02:32am

Bitter truth highlighted by a bold and fearless scholar.

UFO May 07, 2016 02:35am

My solution would be to rip off those first pages or better just ignore and move on to the hard-core science. Everywhere in the world people have weird beliefs and that includes scientists too. But when it comes to learning and teaching science, they leave their beliefs aside. But we Pakistanis are all idealists. We can only change a system from inside and for that if we need to memorize Dua-e-qunoot, so be it. Whiners don't accomplish much in their life and you come across as one. You should stop bashing A.Q. Khan; he did more for Pakistan than all other scientists combined for whatever reasons. Learn to be practical and not idealist!

Bilal May 07, 2016 02:51am

I totally agree with you sir. Religion and Science are irreconcilable and any attempt to do so would undermine both and create confusion. A better strategy would be to teach kids scientific theories such as evolution on one hand and Islamic ideas on the other hand in separate subjects, and leave it up to them to decide whatever they want to believe in. This is how modern systems work. They don't shove things down people's throat.

Anirban May 07, 2016 02:59am

Your article as always, is brilliant. I wish we had good academicians in India like you. I am also surprised at the religious nature of science books. This is very wrong and not followed in India in any government or public schools. Keep it up. Hope someone notices and takes action.

Atiq May 07, 2016 03:03am

Agree with every word of it. True scientific education is the foundation of modern economy. Besides, it enables individuals to analyze sociopolitical issues more intelligently, rationally, and logically.

Sarbjit S Sidhu May 07, 2016 03:04am

Mr Hoodbhoy, It is always a pleasure to read your rational articles. The great struggle to separate religion from state and sciences was the great great achievement of mankind. I think we were lucky when we studied in India in 1960's that religion was confined to personal domain.
All societies suffer when ever religion enters other spheres of life. Sad for Pakistani bros. And now for India too. Hope soon light will break out and religions will be confined to its own sphere.

b.k May 07, 2016 03:12am

10/10. perfect score. sorry not applicable in pakistan, you may apply elsewhere.

Asim Ahmed May 07, 2016 04:19am

I don't know how we can ever thank professor Hoodbhoy. Thank you!

Nasir Bhatti May 07, 2016 04:28am


Do you have any good suggestions, how we can separate religion form science?

Real Indian May 07, 2016 04:51am

Does any one think the situation will change anytime soon?

P. S. Natarajan May 07, 2016 04:51am

Pervez Hoodbhoy should immediately be made Education Minister of Pakistan or at least be made Advisor to the government on the teaching of science in the country. Pakistan is lucky to have such a man!

TZaman May 07, 2016 04:59am

Sir, Zia and his cohorts made our country and country-people a joke. When will we be able to redeem ourselves? When?

pervaiz khan May 07, 2016 05:15am

sir i appreciate the ideas put up and further the positive way they were,atleast you have the guts to manage it altogether,the sketch drawn in true and the basic reason for ours bewilderment,in the modern era , thanks for the eye opener pervaiz khan ex MNA (ANP ) 2008 -13 swabi NA 13

Arif Humayun May 07, 2016 05:38am

And we wonder why our bright minds fail to succeed in Pakistan!

Sami May 07, 2016 05:45am

Great piece of writing. When I was in grade 10 two decades ago, after reading the first chapters of Physics and Biology I always rejected the later chapters of these books. I used to read rest of these books just to pass examination not to gain knowledge because my religious mind did not accept that stuff. Taking advantage of Hoodbhoy's column I would request him to do efforts to include Mathematics in all fields at 12 F.A., F.Sc. level. It is extremely harmful to separate Biology and Mathematics at intermediate level.

Spsalota May 07, 2016 06:51am

Brilliant.religion simply freezes minds.scientific temperament is the only way out for progress and prosperity of a society.congratultions professor for such a thoughtful write up.

DrSMalik May 07, 2016 07:03am

What an article! beautifully put together as usual. What a co-incident, today I was having same argument with some of the diaspora, here in USA.Unfortunately the situation is saddening when you discuss this topic. We must appreciate Prof Hoodbhoy's efforts to highlight the challenges with Pakistan's academic books. When I took physics classes from him in late seventies, his focus was to make student understand the practical concept of physics, I still remember S=klog(omega), and role of short range nuclear forces i.e proton-proton attraction.

RANGANATHA May 07, 2016 07:11am

Somehow reading the articles from Professor I became a fan of him. I want to add some more facts in my experience. In India we believe in faith, but when comes to livelihood most of us believe in Science and business over religious aspects. Most of Hindus goes to office even on their festival day, if salary deducted or over time paid. Same is not case we some of Muslim brothers, they take their festival very serious. Even asking them to work on festival days will be considered offensive. Some rational thinking required to correct the society.

Sampath May 07, 2016 07:30am

The people that design these textbooks are either a) the kind who get donations from locals and abroad b) the elite who send their children to good private schools and then overseas with their looted wealth. It is the ordinary people that get this useless education and end up on the streets with a manipulatable mind.

Iqbal Hoti May 07, 2016 07:30am

sir, if you come across FA Civics book, you ll' see abundance of lie about the creation of Pakistan.

Jawaid kamal May 07, 2016 07:56am

I can see you constrained yourself so much writing this article .I wish founders of Pakistan can relive just for one day to see what has happend to their creation.

Jalaluddin S. Hussain May 07, 2016 08:17am

As a Pakistani-Canadian, I fully agree with the above views of Professor Hoodbhoy. I must say, however, that many students who are able to get admissions in Concordia, McGill, University of Montreal and Quebec, for example, do not seem to suffer from ignorance perpetrated by the Pakistan education establishment.

Thankfully, many of the Pakistani students are intelligent and successfully graduate from the these Universities.

In Pakistan we need to effectively resist these charlatans of the Pakistani Education Departments!

Farhan Shahid Khan May 07, 2016 08:31am

I studied from same text books but never bothered about preparing the first chapter of verses and neither I ever saw any question in exams. That was just preamble, set the scene. Whether they are there in book or not doesn't matter

Ayaz Ahmad Guru May 07, 2016 08:31am

Great article again.

Insaf May 07, 2016 08:40am

I totally agree with your comments, but criticism is easy than to bring in reforms in the education system of Pakistan, that clearly needs help, is something i would be a strong supporter of. Please come up with recommendations and submit to newspaper and the department of education, we the people will support you.

wondering Soul May 07, 2016 08:42am

an eye opening article and rightly pointed...but who cares...what a Ignorance and obliviousness...!!!

sa May 07, 2016 08:50am

U know Pakistan has hope when in the face of this madness and perhaps mockery there r same voices like yours .Thank you for your Science ,logic and common sense Dr Hoodbhoy

Irad May 07, 2016 09:06am

Even a small bias in science causes altogether different results e.g. medical statistics. Such induced religious biases will only harm an inquisitive mind, a basic pre-requisite for studying science. Very well written article - kudos to Mr. Hoodbhoy.

IFTIKHAR KHAN May 07, 2016 09:18am

Thanks Professor Hoodbhoy

Imran K K May 07, 2016 10:09am

The reality is so harsh. The people of this land have been thrown into ditches of ignorance and illiteracy. Yes, we Pakistanis have been inculcated that science and religion meet at some point. The phenomenon and its impacts have been depicted quite marvelously by Dr Hoodbhoyee. Another problem with our science books is that they contain outdated and manipulated material. I wish Sir Parvez and other academicians take effort to rectify the material in our text books as KK Aziz has done in the book 'Murder of History" wherein he has rectified many historical, factual, pedagogical and ideological distortions, illusions and mistakes. I think, our science books do bitterly need such an endeavor.

Fawad Ali Shah May 07, 2016 10:18am

Rightly pointed out.

Pikpok May 07, 2016 10:37am

Sir, please come and settle in India. We would be delighted to have one more brilliant scholar and a free thinker among our midst and our future generations will benefit. If you do not want to come for whatever reason, please keep on showing a candle to your countrymen

Najam May 07, 2016 10:40am

You are knowledgeable and courageous man and if there is someone who can speak for science, you are among the few that reside in Pakistan. May God bless you.

Liaquat Ali Thaheem May 07, 2016 10:40am


Navneet May 07, 2016 10:40am

Really Shocking. Not good for a rational society. Perhaps, the textbook also differentiates an Indian Muslim from a Pakistan Muslim.

Khaan May 07, 2016 10:53am

The syllabus of early education in Pakistan need a big overhaul. It will help reduce many ills that plague pakistan including close mindedness, extremism, delusional sense of superiority. And I suggest that Dr hoodbhoy is the person who should be made in charge of any setup for overhauling Pakistani education curriculum. Well done Dr sb.

Secular Pathan May 07, 2016 10:57am

Brave man Pervez Hoodbhoy Sab.. Met him last friday and had a wonderful discussion.. He is our hero and we should learn from his wisdom and intelligence.

Patrick Sarsfield May 07, 2016 10:55am

it never fails to amaze me that when articles of this nature appear in print pointing out a grave fault in Pakistani society, numerous people write in support. Yet nothing is ever done about it. Why don't people in Pakistan demonstrate against these dreadful views that hold the country back. You only have to look at how Pakistani migrants in the west who integrate fully into western society blossom and succeed

James May 07, 2016 10:57am are too good!!!! Am sure, your views are not worth a dime in the corridors of power.

Kapur May 07, 2016 11:08am

Dr. Hoodbhoy, thank you for continuing to remain in your country and fighting for education and enlightenment from within. Sadly, quite a few scientists, educationists and philosophers from Pakistan have given up the fight and moved elsewhere.

Without the right education, how can any country prosper? Religion in my opinion is a private matter for an individual, and as you said can be taught in various other courses.

Bravo! A solitary shining light in a forest of darkness.

Satyameva Jayate May 07, 2016 11:13am

Education makes what a Country becomes.

sanjeev May 07, 2016 11:13am

I think besides the subjects of science, there should be a special course in development of scientific temper and logic. Also instead of memorizing the fact without understanding the principles behind the same, process - as to how any particular conclusion is derived should be taught. That will help a lot.

Satyameva Jayate May 07, 2016 11:16am

@Mustafa R. - Of course, science needs universities like Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, MIT to extend its boundaries. Preeminence of these institutions and their contributions to science are a tribute to the country in which they exist.

Deependra May 07, 2016 11:20am

Got the answer today why Pakistan is closer to the stone age. Thank you Sir!

Shalone May 07, 2016 11:24am

I believe in science because science amends its findings if any are proven wrong. That is why I am for science and do not support bringing religion to every speech, conversation and writings.

Lal May 07, 2016 11:26am

Great article ! Sir, I appreciate your wisdom and courage.

Taqqi syed May 07, 2016 11:28am

good sir.

CALCUTTA MAN May 07, 2016 11:31am

"How could Pakistan’s collective intelligence and the quality of what we teach our children have sunk so low?"

Prof Hoodbhoy's observation on "Pakistan’s collective intelligence", while harsh, makes sense to me.

SUNIL May 07, 2016 11:35am

The professor rightly explains what happens if one messes up with education. The end result is always a confused populace.

akram May 07, 2016 11:43am

So so true.

Manoj May 07, 2016 11:48am

Dear Mr Hoodbhoy

Do you really think that Pakistan deserves a citizen like you. Sir, you are too good, competent and capable to be in Pakistan. Shift to any other country, where you will be able to contribute to mankind with your knowledge.

Ekfard May 07, 2016 11:47am

Very well said as my teachers used to endorse same.

Munir Ahmad Kakar May 07, 2016 11:51am

Kudos to you Sir for raising an extremely important issue of politicized learning outcomes in education.We all are well aware of the tragic fact that education has never been a priority in this country. The literacy ratios speaks volumes of our national indifference to such vital aspect of nation building. Even those who are literate are sort of indoctrinated whose worldview could hardly be distinguished from those who are illiterate. What this implies is that the meager resources that are allocated to education go down the drain as the social, psychological, economic and more importantly rational impact of education could hardly be felt and discerned. So what is the point of investing billions in education which fails to impart
skills, knowledge and a positive outlook. Making education a tool in power politics- which it is- is the last thing this country needs to educate its young generation. Theology and science are two distinct disciplines and should remain so.

akram May 07, 2016 11:55am

A rational voice among irrationals! More power to ur pen!

SK May 07, 2016 12:02pm

Professor Hoodbhoy is truly the voice of sanity

mateen May 07, 2016 12:04pm

That's why our science PhDs are no more than a grade 8 student else where in the world

Bitter truth May 07, 2016 12:16pm

European countries devolve only after they separate the religion from the state.

Anwar May 07, 2016 12:27pm

You are legend Sir!

Kuvempu May 07, 2016 12:31pm

God bless you sir.

Saad May 07, 2016 12:33pm

Who is going to listen to the professor? The government intentionally keeps the youth dumb.

Omer May 07, 2016 12:41pm

u r a brave soul sir !

Atul May 07, 2016 12:57pm

Prof Hoodbhoy, may be one day government of Pakistan will make you head of their education policies and give you a free hand to define curriculum in schools and colleges. I know that is just a distant dream but hope people around are reading your articles. I regularly read your articles and really wish if we can have you in India teaching our students.

Daulat1 May 07, 2016 01:04pm

Although your revelations are shocking,even in the US there are schools where creation versus evolution debate goes on and on!

FJ May 07, 2016 01:17pm

The problem is the vicious circle of all these students becoming deans, professors, policy makers, and decision makers; just to produce more such students. Respect to Prof. Hoodbhoy!

Bilal Kaleem May 07, 2016 01:31pm

Very interesting article

Reality May 07, 2016 01:38pm

Extremist ideology in the garb of education for the next generation! What an irony

prafulla shrivastava May 07, 2016 01:52pm

@Insaf Good idea, since Pakistanis who are settled in Europe & America, will always prefer a bright & growing Pakistan than a helpless Pakistan so reforms in education system is required. Everybody should come ahead, they should communicate with good recommendations. Education of basic science should be must to each & every students.

prafulla shrivastava May 07, 2016 01:53pm

@Mansoor But if you bring this problem to common man in Pakistan, they will understand & they will communicate to authorities for reforms in education, everybody needs a good & intellectual Pakistan.

Rashid Sultan May 07, 2016 02:06pm

Prof's points are well and succinctly made.

Faisal May 07, 2016 02:10pm

Bigotry is harmful for both science and religion. A state cannot be flourished until it cannot separate bigotry from science and religion.

Fellow-Physicist May 07, 2016 02:27pm

And indeed how difficult the task is becoming with every passing day. Wonder who will get us out of this muck we have landed ourselves in. These days illiteracy and plagiarism rule the roost in all third world countries.

Dr Mazhar May 07, 2016 02:41pm

As a Molecular Biologist I am totally agreed with Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy's article. A scientist should not be encouraged/discouraged because of his/her faith. But you are too late to indicate these things as by looking at uncontrolled increase in numbers of Madrassahs in Pakistan, I would say 'worst is yet to come'. Now how to solve this problem is to produce Science documentaries/attractive lectures as you had once did in program'Asrar-e-Jahan' on PTV which was a wonderful effort. We really need to develop a Science culture in our society in order to produce brighter brains.

Arshad Awan May 07, 2016 02:47pm


AB Uzair May 07, 2016 02:49pm

Prof. Saheb I don't think our decline in sciences is due to those first few pages in our textbooks. It is because of rote learning of the remaining pages.. Students don't even look at textbooks. They try to memorize the 'notes' and solutions to questions appearing in last 5 years۔۔۔

aslam shaikh May 07, 2016 02:54pm

What is wrong with teaching about Muslim inventors who created the foundations of modern day science?

aslam shaikh May 07, 2016 02:54pm

Islam is not just a religion, it is a way of life. There is no harm in mentioning these.

Cyrus May 07, 2016 02:58pm

@Spsalota ... ... Science is guided by the scientific method, invented by Aristotle. The scientific mind must have proof. Scientific theories must be proven correct to become laws of science we can build on.

Nirman May 07, 2016 03:01pm

@Sarbjit S Sidhu What do you mean by "now for India too"? Indian education system has always been going up and it still is. Ask Obama.

Tamil Guru May 07, 2016 03:03pm

As an Indo Canadian, I admire and salute Mr Pervez Hoodbhoy for his braveness, vision and patriotism. He is a real gem and a priceless asset for Pakistan. There are many wonderful, highly educated and open minded people like him in Pakistan,

Jan affan May 07, 2016 03:03pm

Very well written article... That's why first p.m of India said to his country men to develop a scientific temper. Results r before you....keeping religion aside..

D May 07, 2016 03:04pm

perfect closure

Nirman May 07, 2016 03:13pm

I checked your website sir. Great work that you are doing. Keep enlightening the masses. Thank you.

Kadia May 07, 2016 03:19pm

@aslam shaikh you don't see anything wrong with this at all? You're a product of this very system that's why. Time to educate yourself before it's too late!

Imtiaz Piracha May 07, 2016 03:21pm

Thank you Dr sahib. I have often found myself arguing on this very concept with skeptic friends. Your reasoning is much more persuasive and I hope it will penetrate some frozen minds to save our collective attitudes.

Nasir Soomro May 07, 2016 03:26pm

I hang on to every word in this column.

Nasir Soomro May 07, 2016 03:27pm

I hang on to every word in this column.

Khan- Viet Nam May 07, 2016 03:33pm

Dear Doctor, I too was shocked to learn, but to blame Zia, He vanished decades ago: twice BB in power, than twice NS was in saddle, than 11 years Pervaiz M was in command, than full five year Zardari and now more than half term of yet another government . Why all these govts were unable or unwilling to change text books or boards, blaming Zia is not enough.

HN May 07, 2016 03:52pm

well said Mr. Hoodbhoy , well said!! thank you for writing this article.

pulak Mukherjee May 07, 2016 03:54pm

I wonder how one teaches theory of evolution as a scientific subject and present it as compatible with Alla's creationism! Only one of these can be true. Lets all be real!

imran khoso May 07, 2016 03:56pm

Brilliant sir, you have picked up a right point to highlight in front of the ignorants..

Mohammad S. Khalid May 07, 2016 04:15pm

You are right Professor.

Science and theology can not survive together. Please, do not confuse theology and Islam. Islam and science support each other. Both can maintain a positive nexus.

deepak May 07, 2016 04:34pm

I wish India had Parvez Hoodbhoy.

Shahid Ahmed May 07, 2016 04:53pm

Quite astonishing that 10th grade book is samely witten yet as it was in my days of school a decade back

citizen May 07, 2016 05:01pm

With these type of curriculum how our students can get in to prestigious MIT/Harvard etc? In India IIT's impart strong knowledge in basic sciences and you can see the result. MIT/Harvard and Ivy League dominated by Indians and also chinese students !

M. Amin Pathan May 07, 2016 05:18pm

Every word in the article depicts truth/ sorry state of affairs here.

Mohammad Ali Khan May 07, 2016 05:27pm

Wrong beliefs can impair power of rationalization.

Faisal May 07, 2016 05:27pm

Pakistan's Carl Sagan!

AdHawk May 07, 2016 06:00pm

Pervez Saheb's excellent observations do not inspire confidence in the future. Pakistan badly needs indigenous working scientists who could analyze and help understand local climatic conditions, geology, flora and fauna. This region is set to bear the brunt of climate change in the coming decades and lacking local know-how is going to hurt.

Insaaf May 07, 2016 06:08pm

We need F 16s first. Education etc can come later.

Talkn Parrot May 07, 2016 06:12pm

Science explains the working of the world better. This is why science is used to change the world for the better - for example to prolong lives. Anyone or any country ignoring this fact risks being left behind.

siddiq May 07, 2016 06:36pm


M. K May 07, 2016 06:42pm

Dear respected scholar,

Your thoughts are at right place, your concerns make sense, and your devotion to advance studies in Pakistan is admirable.

N_Saq May 07, 2016 06:51pm

I am not sure if the writer lives in Pak but if he does than man he is a remarkable person. He should be given a chance to lead Pak at least he should be made administrator of schools, colleges and universities board.

Ishtiaque May 07, 2016 07:03pm

Just look HSC I and II Text book of Chemistry published by Sind Govt which is a piece of junk with so many wrong things, Even the solved problems are wrong, nomenclature of inorganic compounds are wrong, The Chemistry book before this which I had studied in the past was much better than this. The exam paper grading is also not good and many teachers just give average number without checking properly, mass cheating is another problem. Without solving all these problems Pakistani students cant prosper in science, we are just teaching rattafication (memorizing without understanding).

Arun May 07, 2016 07:18pm

As an Indian I can safely say that in the next few decades, Pakistan will not even be in a position to compete with Bangladesh and SL. This kind of education will destroy a nation.

Mohammad Afsar May 07, 2016 07:29pm

This is another gift that the late dictator forced upon the helpless nation during his dictatorship.

Pnpuri May 07, 2016 08:38pm

Probably Pakistan is only a little behind, Darwinian evolution vs creation based on bible continued till end of 20th century and spilled over in 21st in USA . Why complain?

aslam shaikh May 07, 2016 08:40pm

@Kadia what a typical reply. Please stick to theory of darwin.

Vijay May 07, 2016 08:42pm

@Nasir Bhatti How do you stop smoking? By stopping to smoke, GENIUS!

Minhaj May 07, 2016 09:02pm

You are a good writer sir!

It's Economy Stupid May 07, 2016 09:17pm

There is nothing wrong if a scientist is religious. The problem starts when they forget to be objective and mix two. Example comes to mind is that of Gregor Johann Mendel (Czech: Řehoř Jan Mendel;[1] 20 July 1822[2] – 6 January 1884) was a German-speaking Moravian-Silesian[3] scientist and Augustinian friar and abbot of St. Thomas' Abbey in Brno who gained posthumous fame as the founder of the modern science of genetics. He never introduced religion in the field of Genetics. The key phrase is objectivity.

M Mirza May 07, 2016 09:29pm

And science has no conflict with any religion whatsoever. We can follow our religion as well as read science for our economic betterment and knowledge

TQ May 07, 2016 09:50pm

@RANGANATHA what I have noticed is that some of them do a display of piety. I am a muslim and I work on festivals and have friends from other religions and we all enjoy life.

Arman Zain May 07, 2016 10:22pm

Nice write up indeed!!

In an Islamic country like Pakistan, religion and science can't be separated completely. The question of creationism vs evolution will always be there, but most important thing is that we let our students clearly know the difference between science and religion and their respective position on the mutual matters.

We have to educate our kids in science so they can compete in modern world but it necessarily doesn't have to be at cost of religion. Science and religion can co-exist as long as we can teach our kids how to differentiate between both.


bilal May 07, 2016 10:28pm

Very eruditely written but you are making a mountain out of a mole hill in my opinion. If professors in Pakistan would devote more of their time in researching and teaching than discussing than politics Pakistan would be very different (sniff).

Amon May 07, 2016 10:30pm

Excellent article.

However, your statement regarding the nature of science and religion is not correct. Religion is not based on the hereafter, rather, it is a faith-based belief system. On the other hand, science is a reason-based belief system. They DO apply to one another, and one can systematically debunk religious beliefs with reason and evidence. Although, the civilizing elements of religion cannot be ignored; despite geographic distance, roughly all civilizations worth their salt converged on a similar moral/religious code.

Sunilsm May 07, 2016 10:48pm

@UFO sir appreciate the honesty. Don't be one of those deens and chairman mentioned by Mr.hoodbhoy in this article. It is rally lesson for all irrespective of there faith.

Akbar May 07, 2016 10:51pm

sadly professor is so prejudiced against religion that he understands neither religion nor science. May Lord have mercy on your soul, dear professor.

Mustafa R. May 07, 2016 11:31pm

@Satyameva Jayate;

And the universities need money, these universities are more a monument to colonialism and capitalism than they are to science.

Mustafa R. May 07, 2016 11:37pm

Very conspicuous by his absence is another MIT Ph.D and author's contemporary, Subramanian Swamy. Swamy jee has claimed that Indians were working on space travel 7000 years ago.

Saeed Yousafzai May 07, 2016 11:44pm

Mr. Dr. Though many points may debatable but 100% agree.

IFTIKHAR KHAN May 08, 2016 12:01am

This is an excellent example of Pakistani dilemma. As an Islamic Republic, they should not support teaching subjects which lead to suspicion and rejection of religions and God, when studied at graduate and postgraduate level. Yet in this age, it is impossible to stop teaching sciences. The best example on the record is the famous 1998 survey of beliefs among the members of top notch scientific body in USA, called National Academy of Sciences, with 93 percent scientists responded as atheist or agnostics. The most common comment on this survey was, "what is wrong with 7 percent of the scientists of NAS".

Syed kamal May 08, 2016 12:53am

Good luck dr perveez

Parvez May 08, 2016 01:04am

Frightening read.....I keep saying, this state of affairs is not by default, it is by design.

Khubaib Usmani May 08, 2016 01:32am

Indeed an eye opener. The most worrying aspect of this dangerous trend is that no attention is being paid to pull the nation out of this fiasco.Religion has become an overriding all encompassing factor in Pakistan.You cannot raise question on anything or you will be labelled a heretical, fit to be dispatched to hell.While other nations are making great strides in the field of Science, we are still trying to mold it according to over dogmas ! TERRIFYING

Insaaf May 08, 2016 02:31am

@Mohammad Afsar : "This is another gift that the late dictator forced upon the helpless nation during his dictatorship." Zia died in 1988. How come no one had dared to reverse the changes be brought about in the last 28 years? Stop blaming him. Fact is that the majority of Pakistanis want this sort of education and this sort of Islamization. Otherwise in a democracy they would have demanded change and we would have done away with whatever Zia had thrust upon us !

Sajida May 08, 2016 04:04am

Students can enlighten themselves with free online courses from top universities.

Kk May 08, 2016 07:22am

Brave effort Very good article showing mirror.

Bin Ismail May 08, 2016 08:28am


george May 08, 2016 09:51am

We went to the same school in Karachi. Of course I was much junior to him. But I remember when ever our math TEACHER could not solve a problem, he would call on Pervez.......

LOGIC May 08, 2016 10:04am

The issue is we try and find gaps in science and fill it up with religious texts. The two cant happen. Science is about experience which can be repeated by everybody, not few or most. ie: 2+2 = 4 and not 3.995 or 4.005.

Another issue is that people of faith have already made up their mind, while people of science will change their mind if experiments give results which are contrary to what has been learnt in books.

Power to the people who question !!

kabhi khud pe kabhi halaat pe rona aya May 08, 2016 10:11am

I cry for us. My name says it all - kabhi khud pe kabhi halaat pe rona aya. At this frenzied level of devoutness we are hurtling towards stone age.

JP May 08, 2016 10:50am

@aslam shaikh As long as it is not in a science book. That statement can be made in a social studies book (cultural claim), if not in a theology book (religious claim).

asadshehzad May 08, 2016 11:36am

This is a huge problem, as an A level student who had to study inter textbooks for certain university tests, I was shocked by how difficult they were. difficult in that they are simply a collection bits of information thrown at you, often haphazardly, and a quranic verses and religious or nationalist teachings often begin any section, and following them is there is suddenly a bunch of stuff that randomly appears without much explain or background knowledge specificc to it. The reason rote learning in govt schools is so widespread is because there is no other way for students to extract information from the textbooks provided to them.

Irfan Afzal May 08, 2016 11:57am

Such a relief to have voices like Dr. Hoodbhoy.

Sajid Ali May 08, 2016 12:01pm

Again a master piece sir. :) You have wonderfully depicted the sub standards in our educational institutions and textbooks. There is another blunder i should say that runs parallel to the outdated textbooks is the problem of Intellectual theft and plagiarism. Many of of the Pakistani authors have published their books, but shockingly, entire passages have been copied without references. Which implied that these authors are not only hypocrites but also cheaters.

Amir May 08, 2016 12:13pm

A wonderful article,a sane voice,which can save various our students from bewilderment of religion and science.

Mostly Bull May 08, 2016 12:41pm

Pervez Hoodbuoy is right on the money, as he always is. Since the establishment is considered the wise-all, know-all, do-all in pakistan, why can't we task it to bring out text books ?

I see a lot of people mocking Sartaj Aziz and his foreign policy exploits; yes, he is old, but the fact that he can respond and respond well at all is courtesy his education (which had nothing to do with religion); with cpec, hafeez saeed, mullah omar and obl plus the non-stop blackmail of neu kapability, pakistan's future is totally assured. Good luck.

Anwar Shah May 08, 2016 12:56pm

AOA Dear Readers: I am wondering at the logic of the article. Science helps us improving our skills about the cause and effect in this universe. But the most important question is that how to use these skills. When it comes about the question of how then choice between wrong and right arises. Philosophers of the world tired to provide exact answer of what is right and wrong. Without theology this is impossible. Who will teach a scientist to use the knowledge he gains in right direction. This is religion. And uniting religions from science has led the world to see disaster in the shape of world war 1 and 2. Mere acquiring knowledge is not important. At the same time it is important to teach kids how to use knowledge. selling knowledge for destroying peace in the world is the outcome of this so called philosophy which Mr Hoodby is propagating. There is sound reason of linking both so that our next generation must know how and where to use the knowledge instead of becoming tool in the hands of capitalist world.

Yousuf May 08, 2016 02:03pm

Reflective of sad state of affairs of education in our country. Once again as a nation we are split in the middle. Those with resources send their children to O and A levels and then on university education abroad. Rest of us go through education which is not competitive in today's world. The question of national curriculum that makes us competitive with the rest of the world is long lost.

Naveed May 08, 2016 02:14pm

Point well made.

Agha May 08, 2016 02:22pm

Well article but, actually manipulation in religious lesson has created distances between Science and Religion.

Elya May 08, 2016 02:28pm

The website is very useful! I liked it.

Waqar Ali May 08, 2016 02:38pm

Hope is a great thing, when all else fails.

aslam shaikh May 08, 2016 03:48pm

@JP so we should hide all discoveries and inventions made by Muslims and only talk about non Muslims scientists

Dr. Asadi May 08, 2016 04:05pm

Science is not about getting people "employment and employability." From its start by which I mean its ascension as epistemology, science has been linked intimately with capitalism, from which it seeks funds for any and all (skewed btw) advancement, and as every student of the economy knows, capitalism has produced misery and periodic unemployment and dependency for the many. Science to Hoodbhoy is a religion, what we refer to as scientism, a cure all panacea and like the middle ages the group he belongs to is in a political fight with the theologians, so instead of giving an essentially "good" nature to science- contrary to what it really is, merely a method to uncover facts within a particular type of societal structure- he should realize that he himself is perverting science.

JP May 08, 2016 04:59pm

@Anwar Shah Science can absolutely help us define what is right and wrong by giving us a strong base of facts and reality for moral analysis, rather than myths. Theology cannot however be the modulator. General Philosophy is far superior to theology because it is rational speculation and it never overrides the science available at the time. Theology does not mind overriding facts and engages in problematic supernatural speculation. There is not always one answer to right and wrong in many matters because it is a matter of culture and values, not just reality. Dr. Hoodbhoy is against the use of science for war and suffering (as is any decent scientist with a modicum of philosophical depth). Your charges against him are not fair. No one is advocating for exploiting science for greed, only for the the betterment of society. I agree students need more depth in thought than we give them. But modern philosophy is a far richer source than theology for shaping our perspectives on science.

HZR May 08, 2016 05:04pm

The Arab contribution to science was like the role of the postman delivering it to the west from India and China. Even today there is so little contribution to science from muslim nations....and one wonders why?

HZR May 08, 2016 05:10pm

@Pikpok Not so simple these days.There is an attempt to 'standardise' teaching after the new regime took over.Subjects like astrology,vedic maths and Sanskrit is getting more prominent.

ROHIT PANDEY May 08, 2016 05:16pm

Since humans share an arboreal ancestry with other primates, humans ( possibly due to incomplete evolution) still have flawed thought which are emotionally colored, and not driven by rationality.

That is possibly the reason for this confusion about science and religion?

It takes a lot of discipline and schooling to remain on the rational plane?

ROHIT PANDEY May 08, 2016 05:37pm

@Mustafa R. Dr.Subramaniam Swamy is a Ph.D. in economics from the Harvard University.

He NEVER makes outlandish scientific claims but is very adept at scoring political brownie points.

Patriot May 08, 2016 05:38pm

Great , someone asked me about the difference between development and urbanization - all misunderstood. It left me confused.

Barak May 08, 2016 05:48pm

It is nor sience or technology, but the human needs that change the world, science or technology was used only to achieve those targets.

Prof. Dr. Anwar Ul Haque May 08, 2016 06:15pm

Prof. Hoodbhoy is confused like many of those who put their comments! First we must understand that "religion" is not one entity. Lets take example of simple question; how much is 2+2; obviously there is only correct answer i.e. 4 but there could be infinite wrong answers. Religion as it's taken a guide from our Creator can't be many but only one. Contradictory as different "religions" are; poles apart from each other can't be true and correct. His comments are true about false, man made, fabricated and altered religions but not about the One true religion that had been Islam from Adam till the last believing person on this earth. To say that we must believe only in things that which we could see, hear, feel etc. is absolute idiocy! There is no contradiction between the Great Creator and His creations e.g. laws of physics and genetics. References; 1. 1001 inventions published by National Geographic (Salim T. S. al-Hassani Chief Editor 2. History of The Arabs by Philip K. Hitti

m.khan May 08, 2016 06:24pm

I can feel and understand your pain, and the restraint you have to exercise as I do have to. Evolution is no more a theory-it is the law of Evolution. So science and religion don't reside together-they have to be kept separate.There is so much more I can write but I know it won't be published.

Rashid.H May 08, 2016 06:27pm

An excellent article from someone who are in a dwindling monority.I, feel we need to have a lot of people like Pervaiz to get the nation out of deep sleep we are in. We have to see that reasoning and logic prevail if we as a nation are to survive or otherwise ''hamari dastan bhee na hogi daston main''. A ''wake up call''is necessary.

Abbas Naqvi May 08, 2016 07:26pm

Which religion should be kept separate from science? It is the religion that places lid on the development of intellect. Or shall we say it is the ignorant interpretation of religion by the pseudo religious experts that has led to the belief that religion is separate from science. As all Devine religions speak to the human intellect and the message conveyed could be judged through objective analysis, the main theme is based on uplifting the mental horizon of the mankind to be able to learn and comprehend what lies in and around us and the universe. So, looking closely at it, religion and science speak the same language and lead to the same ultimate goal of attaining perfection and perfecting our knowledge of what is around us and beyond. The overall level and quality of education in Pakistan need to be improved to produce scholars worth the name.

Indian May 08, 2016 07:27pm

@Mustafa R. Fortunately this is out of the school curriculum.

JP May 08, 2016 07:41pm

@Dr. Asadi How was science linked to capitalism from the beginning? Regardless of where you draw the line for its start, science is one institution that was always least linked to capitalism - no matter whether you start at Aristotle, Bacon, Newton, Darwin or Einstein. That is because basic sciences take decades or centuries to evolve products that make profits such that no capitalist would fund them. To say science is tightly linked to capitalism is a profound misunderstanding of its history.

ROHIT PANDEY May 08, 2016 07:45pm

@Dr. Asadi I would love to hear more about your ideas? Please phrase it better please?

JP May 08, 2016 07:47pm

@aslam shaikh Islamic intellectual history isn't theology. No one is asking anyone to hide it. It is the speculation of the supernatural that does not belong in science books. Science is strictly about the natural world.

Bitter truth May 08, 2016 07:58pm

@Anwar Shah don't be so critical he just warned against the ideology because of that long ago a scientist called Galileo was jailed due to speaking in the base of science. What's wrong if he dare to say the truth.

Keti Zilgish May 08, 2016 08:26pm

Its simply that those groups who always encouraged science at the same time discouraged theology. Why did they do that? Because they felt that theology was just making more of a mistake than science was and yet both were always opposing each other. The argument boils down to one of relativity.

Abdul Majeed Khawar May 08, 2016 09:04pm

I just finished reading Pervez Hoodbhoy’s article “Is it science or theology?”
To me, it was a revelation. I could not imagine the religious concept being force fitted into the science textbooks. It is unbelievable that applicants for scientific posts have to be tested for their religious beliefs at the start of the interviews. Science does not need Muslims. Muslims need science for economic development and to compete in this well connected world, a global village. Science is a secular. It does not aim to compete with or negate the religion. It must be pursued solely for the progress of individual and societies. The science is marching on. We better get on board, quickly, in a consummate manner or face continue to be left behind in the unforgiving race for progress of human kind. Thank you Pervez Hoodbhoy for your work to highlight the unnecessary and dogmatic inclusion of religious tenets in our science textbooks and society practices. ------Khawar

mehr May 08, 2016 09:14pm

i totally agree with this article.

Indian May 08, 2016 09:15pm

Sir, you are a legend..

Tahir A May 08, 2016 09:58pm

@Dr. Asadi

So really if it wasn't for science you wouldn't proudly be addressing yourself "Dr"

Jehan Zeb Mir, M.D. USA May 08, 2016 10:17pm

The graduates of these universities are not going to send anything to moon anytime soon.

Abdul Qayoom May 09, 2016 12:33am

excelent sir

kabhi khud pe kabhi halaat pe rona aya May 09, 2016 01:40am

@Dr. Asadi I marvel at your convoluted logic.

Shan Kazmi May 09, 2016 10:37am

Very sad Dr. SB, I suppose you haven't seen the curriculum in UK, Italy and other European countries. Why should we take out the names of Muslim scientist of all ages? And mind you the name of our beloved Dr. Abdus Salam, AQ Khan will remain there. This is Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Either change the name first or serve the people honestly.....please.

p r sharma May 09, 2016 10:42am

what about science books taught in private schools ? Hope they are not infected.

Abbassin May 09, 2016 11:48am

@Dr. Asadi /Perverting science, a man of his credentials, oh really? by simply stating that when you talk about science you can not forget the contribution of Newton and Einstein. Further, the author is lamenting the fact that while religion and religious teachings have indeed a place in the curriculum, to include them as introductory subjects in the books of Biology and Physics, is out of place and does not serve any purpose, except to confuse the young minds. Fortunately, people of our generation were lucky, we had separate books and teachers to teach us religion and science, and since we did not face this dichotomy, we are very clear about the role of religion and science in our lives.

Sridhar May 09, 2016 02:28pm

@Anirban There are a lot of academicians in India. If you care to read books (which few Indians do), you would know. Professor Hoodbhoy is not just an academician but a fighter against religious bigotry taking over Pakistan. In that capacity, his role is unique and worth applauding.

suren sahni May 09, 2016 02:48pm

brilliant articulation

Eramanagalam Somapalan May 09, 2016 04:05pm

@Abbas Naqvi I fully agree.

Saqib May 09, 2016 04:51pm

Obviously the content of science books should be up to date and present the facts.

ROHIT PANDEY May 09, 2016 05:26pm

@Prof. Dr. Anwar Ul Haque Going by your post, I inferred that it is going to be a long time before Pakistan makes a serious bid to challenge India in space research or economic prowess.

kpk May 09, 2016 05:40pm

yes i agree at some extent, some things must be change with the passage of time.

Ahmad May 09, 2016 09:52pm

Sir your articles had been great but you know, I don't have problem with this science and religion stuff.

Currently I am in 12 grade. I read those books and I don't find anything awkward there! Why do we need to study that subject? To know those inapproppriate theories that suddenly there was a blast and flat Earth came into being and Sun was revolving around it?

If your boy read only a chapter consisting five pages that links Islamic history with science, I hope that won't bug.

And sir in the updated version of Physics secondary level by Punjab Text Book Board there is no chapter linking Islam with Physics. ( Thanks to some useless critics)

Sam Didymus May 09, 2016 11:28pm

No issues with Dr. Hoodbhoy's central thesis of separating science and religion. However, I do have an issue with his diminishing the contributions of Al-Kindi, Al-Beruni and Ibn-Sena. Whether they were practicing Muslims or not, they made enormous contributions in the history of science, and were direct participants in the compilation, understanding, unifying and transmission of ancient Indian sciences and ancient Greek sciences to Europe, via the Arabic to Latin translation schools in Toledo of the 11th-13th centuries. It is this transmitted knowledge that enabled Europe to become enlightened in later centuries. Just because Euro-centric narratives plagiarize the works of earlier Asian scientists, and have created a Western universe that began with the so-called "Renaissance", it does not in any way mask the reality of Indian/Greek/Arabic works. Pakistan is setting the record straight, but it should do so by also acknowledging the later scientists - Newton and Einstein.

Nasser May 10, 2016 12:45am

@Insaf Spot on.

Zulfiqar May 10, 2016 02:54am

Awesome write up. He has courage.

Zulfiqar May 10, 2016 02:54am

Awesome article, very courageous.

Thoroughthinker May 10, 2016 02:29pm

Very pertinent and bewildering facts. Our text-books are solid proof of deep seeped corruption in education.

Aimal May 10, 2016 03:27pm

BRAVO.... A good precedence in extra conservative state.