Saturday, January 8, 2011

When you already know everything

That's a shocking indictment of the Arab world, don't you think? This is based on the 2002 Arab Human Development Report which states, in part:
The Arab world translates about 330 books annually, one fifth of the number that Greece translates. The cumulative total of translated books since the Caliph Maa’moun’s time (the ninth century) is about 100,000, almost the average that Spain translates in one year (Galal, S., 1999).

These numbers have been criticized, of course, and the report is almost a decade old. The whole point of the development report was to highlight improvements which needed to be made, and the translation gap is one of those being targeted. Nevertheless, even more optimistic estimates seem to show "a crisis in the creation, access and dissemination of knowledge in the Arab world."

Is this all because of religion? Of course not. But religion doesn't help. The whole idea of blasphemy certainly doesn't help. When you fear other ideas, it's because you don't think your idea is good enough to compete. When you censor books, you're simply trying to protect your erroneous beliefs from better ones. And when you kill people for blasphemy, well, that's self-explanatory, isn't it?

As Michael Servetus said, before he was burned at the stake in 1553, "To kill a man is not to defend a doctrine, but to kill a man." If you can't defend your doctrine through rational argument, how good can it really be?

Incidentally, Jesus and Mo is one of the finalists for Best Webcomic of 2010 and for the 2011 Riffy Award, both at the Washington Post. Check out both links and vote for your favorite.

Admittedly, there's some tough competition. Pearls Before Swine is one of my favorite comic strips, and so is Calamities of Nature. But I'm sorry that Bug isn't a finalist. (I did nominate it.)

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