Scientists need more media exposure if youths are to take up studies and subsequently careers in science and engineering to curb the shortage of those opting into science professions.
Professor Nidhal Guessoum, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) spoke at the Belief in Dialogue conference hosted by AUS last week. The conference was held in conjunction with the British Council.
"If we want people to pursue science we need to give the scientists more importance by at least some exposure," said Guessoum. "There is not enough regional interest in science and this is a societal issue that chooses to give some professions either big or small importance."
Guessoum added the emphasis the media and society places on celebrities and sports stars is what gears the aspirations of the majority of youths towards those professions.
"If I ask a class of students to name famous scientists the numbers don't compare to if I ask them to name footballers or entertainers," he said. "This is because they [footballer and entertainers] are constantly on TV and make big money and live the good life."
Scientists, in comparison, are not privy to any of these career perks.
"Scientists have none of this, they are never on TV, they don't live the good life and they don't get big salaries," said Guessoum. "So people think who wants to be like that." However science is and has always been central to a society and its people as it is the root of all of its developments.
"Science is central in the life and minds of societies and this has been the case forever," he said. "People need to realise that science is absolutely crucial for modern societies just as they were for old and past ones."
Contrary to scientific teaching principles in the West, Guessoum believes science and religion cannot be separated or segregated in university classrooms in the Muslim world.
"When I teach, especially astronomy, I will invariably have students bring in their religious knowledge and relate it to scientific principles," he said. "We find ourselves always having to deal with these things in this part of the world or the non-Western world, where long ago they established some sort of separation."
He added his students always seem to address the relation to what science says and what they have been told from their religious backgrounds and therefore establishing a direct relation between the two.
However, for science and religion to co-exist in the classroom, science clearly needs to be outlined and defined as a mere methodology of achieving results and not a belief system.
"Teaching science is to teach the methods by which we reach certain results so therefore by definition it is separate to religious studies," he said. "It is not necessary to reject one or the other but just distinguish the methodologies."
From / Gulf News