Professor Noam Chomsky, world-renowned philosopher, linguist, and cognitive scientist, has pointed out that Pakistan is drifting away from science. He said it has now “virtually disappeared” from the country’s educational system. “Pakistan used an advanced scientific establishment, Nobel Prize laureates, and so on. Now science has virtually disappeared from the education system,” he said.
Today @noamchomskyT had a session at HU Karachi.
"Pakistan used to have advanced science with Nobel laureates and so on…, Pakistan has no future if it lives in religious superstition" Noam Chomsky Said
~ Would it open Pakistanis' eyes or even Mr. Chomsky couldn't do that? pic.twitter.com/0l2cwJmEyq
— Muhammad Shehzad Khan (@MShehzadKhanPK) December 8, 2020
Chomsky warned that the country will have no future if it lives in a world of religious superstition. “Serious scientists who have been trying to preserve a rational educational system, which deals with the reality of the world. Pakistan has no future if it’s going to live in a world of religious superstition,” said the philosopher.
In the lecture titled “Bullet Dodged or Merely Delayed: Reflections on the Future of Democracy, Nuclear Proliferation and the Looming Environmental Catastrophe in a Post-Trumpian World,” he also spoke of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, saying the world would come out of it “at a very terrible and unnecessary cost”. The lecture was part of the Habib University’s flagship Yohsin Lecture Series.
Later on, Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology, Fawad Chaudhry has supported the comments of Chomsky.
Very apt analysis of prof Noam Chomsky…. pic.twitter.com/4tzFOokzGr
— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) December 8, 2020
A misleading correlation?
However, many Pakistani academics and public intellectuals do agree with Chomsky. Farah Adeed, a Lahore-based young academic, opines that Chomsky’s comments are quite misleading.
“There is no question about the significance of our engagement with the world to help evolve our cultural discourse, education system, political imagination, and religious thought,” he wrote in his note.
“I am an admirer of Prof. Chomsky. I am offering a course (Media Politics and Democracy) at UMT and my students are required to go through some chapters of Prof. Chomsky’s famous book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” he added.
While specifically pointing out the flaws in Chomsky’s analysis, he argued that “from a researcher’s standpoint, what Chomsky has said is a misleading correlation”.
He continued: “As a matter of fact, Pakistan’s economic backwardness and high level of authoritarianism is not because of unreformed religious thought but largely due to the presence of anti-democratic forces in this country. By anti-democratic forces, I mean the involvement of military dictators in our political process, the presence of dynastic political parties, and the legitimacy these groups get from the western liberal democracies (Pakistan’s all dictators had cordial relations with the US).”
He also argued that “it may be noted that no religious party was ever able to form government in Pakistan but, on the contrary, PPP has been in power despite its some desi-styled socialist credentials. Blasphemy laws were not a result of popular demand but a well-thought-out design to exploit religion for political objectives. Notably, a group of religious fanatics roaming around does not represent common Pakistanis and this needs to be understood for developing better public policy in the country”.
He suggested that “we need to come out of our theoretical differences and philosophical biases and accept the truth that our problems lie in a broken political system hijacked by undemocratic forces, not in religion or religious thought. Historically speaking, Muslims have been very religious and very dynamic at the same time. There is nothing wrong with being a practicing Muslim and a serious scientist or mathematician”.
“We won’t be able to solve our problems unless we help ourselves understand them accurately,” he concluded.