Iran reveals 'finger severing device' as evidence of its capacity for scientific innovation
As the latest sanctions were imposed against Iran in a continuing effort to force it to end its push to develop nuclear weapons, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said something which again demonstrates his detachment from reality.
Frustrations over the most recent sanctions, which included banking restrictions making it increasingly more difficult for Asian customers to pay for Iranian oil deliveries, clearly had raised Ahmadinejad's ire.
Speaking Jan. 22 in Hamedan in western Iran, Ahmadinejad railed against the West saying: "Don't buy our oil? To hell with you. It's better if you don't buy ... 10 times more money will head into people's pockets through the inventions of our scientists."
While claiming Iranian universities would generate money-making inventions, he failed to identify any.
Ironically, outside of oil and natural gas, there is not much in the way of Iranian exports for which there is a world demand.
The fiery demagogue explained the sanctions imposed upon Iran would only succeed in making the country less reliant on oil (responsible for 80 percent of its foreign currency revenues) and move it toward becoming more reliant on its creative brain trust to develop technologies capable of making up the difference. That is quite a gap to cover as Iran's oil and gas revenues have dropped almost 50 percent.
What is surprising about Ahmadinejad's claim is, while Iran's brain trust -- assisted by North Korea and Russia -- has focused on developing technologies of mass destruction as fulfillment of a religious prophecy, there is little indication it can generate money-making commercial technologies for export.
Under the strict religious control of its mullahs, Iran hasn't been an ideal environment for fostering the creative juices of those few feeling unconstrained by the tenets of Islamic law to develop inventions with non-military applications. A review of international patent grants is most telling.
From 1977-2011, a total of 4,508,076 international patents were granted. Of these, more than half were to U.S. applicants. Of the remaining 2,074,541 foreign patents, less than 3,800 went to Muslim countries. Although Iranians are Persian Muslims who consider themselves superior to Arab Muslims, their patent contribution was a mere 71.
These numbers reveal a clear trend that should come as no surprise: the more restrictive a state government is, the less creative are its people. This trend becomes particularly obvious when compared to Israel.
During this same period, Israel's patents exceeded 22,700 -- almost six for every one granted a Muslim country and almost 3,200 for every Iranian patent. This is particularly impressive when one considers the much smaller global population base of Jews compared to that of Muslims (0.2 percent versus 25 percent). (To be expected based on these grant numbers, Jews also have recorded a highly disproportionate share of Nobel Prize recipients compared to Muslims.)
Exportable inventions don't rank high as a notable achievement by Muslim countries. Concerning this region of the world, a 2005 article by James Lacey and posted on military.com, noted, "In economic terms ... the combined weight of the Arab states is less than that of Spain. Strip oil out of Mideast exports and the entire region exports less than Finland."
Muslim societies place so much focus on rote memorization of Islam's holy book and "hadiths" (traditions memorialized by those who allegedly heard an utterance by Muhammad or observed something he did) that general education and the logical reasoning that flows from it are severely lacking.
Promoting Islamic doctrine and practice as the major curriculum of most Muslim school education programs helps religious leaders maintain influence that might otherwise be threatened by logical reasoning and independent thought being exercised by believers.
Muslim leaders feared independent thinking for it inspires questioning life under strict Islamic law rather than generating blind loyalty to it. Such a limited focus leaves little time for exercising one's creativity which might lead to innovations improving life for mankind.
No wonder annual rankings by China since 2003 of the top 500 world-class schools has yet to include a university in a Muslim country.
Hadiths control the most mundane aspects of a believer's daily life, stifling creativity and turning him into an automaton. They even address using the toilet, dictating the foot with which the believer must first enter the facilities (left) and leave (right). Hadiths prohibit the believer from touching his genitals with his left hand and even dictates the number of times he must wipe after relieving himself. Upon departing the toilet, he must pray ("Praise be to Allah who relieved me of the filth and gave me relief").
Ahmadinejad amazingly claims out of such a controlled environment, creativity will flourish, giving rise to enough innovations for export capable of making up for billions of dollars in lost Iranian oil revenues.
As if to demonstrate it isn't totally devoid of innovation, Tehran did recently reveal a most unique invention. Unsurprisingly, its purpose is to carry out criminal punishment. It is a mechanical device for severing the fingers of a convicted thief from his hand. Undoubtedly, the Iranian inventor taking orders for this device will remain as lonely as was the Maytag repairman.
Thirteen years ago, comedian Bill Cosby hosted a television program "Kids Say the Darndest Things" in which he interviewed children who, in a display of childhood innocence, did just that.
Such innocence, however, isn't associated with Ahmadinejad -- a man pursuing nuclear weapons for use in a misguided belief it will restore Islam to its glory days by triggering a mystical imam's return to Earth from a state of occultation.
Ahmadinejad's suggestion his country is sufficiently innovation-friendly to make up for billions of dollars in lost oil revenues leaves one recognizing "Demagogues Say the Darndest Things!"
By James Zumwalt