Monday, January 16, 2012

My 100th Irtiqa Post + my own top-10 favorites

This is a weekly post by Nidhal Guessoum (see his earlier posts here). Nidhal is an astrophysicist and Professor of Physics at American University of Sharjah and is the author of Islam's Quantum Question: Reconciling Muslim Tradition and Modern Science. 

After almost two years of contributions to Irtiqa, I have hit the 100 milepost. Considering that numerous bloggers have reached the (for me) unimaginable 1,000 mark, my score is not too impressive. But since I never considered blogging, have never twitted, and have only been using Facebook for posting my articles (i.e. once every two weeks or so), this is something of an achievement…

I thus wanted to reflect, semi-seriously about this experience, and, as a fun exercise, list the 10 posts of mine that I think of as the “best” (under what criteria?); that may give a chance for some readers to discover or re-read those posts, as new readers join Irtiqa regularly. Likewise, Salman might sometime treat us to his own top-10 selection. That would be a much harder exercise, considering the fact that Salman has probably posted over 500 pieces by now…

My first remark concerns Salman (and other serious bloggers): I don’t know how you do it, coming up with interesting posts at least every other day! Really, for me just to come up with a topic and write it up once a week is a challenge that I have often struggled to overcome; I cannot imagine doing this more often than once a week.

My second remark concerns the interaction with Irtiqa readers: according to the stats, some 400 visitors check out the posts every day (on average), not counting the Facebook ‘friends’ and other ways of getting the posts (is Google Reader counted in the 400?); however, the average number of comments per post is less than 5! To be honest, that is frustrating, as one never knows whether silence is a sign of agreement, of boredom, of disinterest, or what… Frankly, this aspect of the experience, coupled with the periods when one struggles to find the time and a reasonably relevant topic to write about, has/have led me to contemplate giving it up. But on the other hand, I figure that there must be a number of readers, hopefully a large cohort, who silently appreciate these writings. But if you want to know why I do continue to write even when I get no feedback: it is because such writings force me to keep an eye on various issues, think about them, and sometimes research some topics further, something that is useful to me in general… So if someday I announce that I’m stopping, it will mainly be because I can no longer find the time.

Now, before the top-10 list, a few observations (for fun):
·  with my one-hundredth post, I will have matched the number of posts in the “education in the Muslim world” category; since I tend to think of many of Salman’s posts as (at least partly) educational, does this mean that many of mine are not? J
·  sometime ago, I “defeated” ‘Islamic creationism’ (in number of posts), and recently I “defeated” ‘creationism’ in all its forms; I’m that influential…
·  I am catching up on “Pakistan” – quite surprising, considering the popularity of the topic (judging by the number of comments that come on those posts);
·  I am also catching up on “Atheism”; we’ll see how that race goes, considering the various views on this among our audience J;
·  But I think I stand no chance with “film, theater, and television” (with 186 posts and counting), considering Salman’s expertise and productivity in this field;
·  And I don’t even think of catching up with “Evolution” (with 251 posts and counting – didn’t realize it was such a frequent topic!)…

Now for my (totally personal and subjective) top-10 list.

8. Islam and Astronomy: the tug-of-war continues

7. Euthanasia and Islam - Part 2

6. ET’s and their impact on us

5. What Makes Us Human? (has the largest number of comments on any post of mine on Irtiqa)

4. Statistical Analyses to Predict the Next Revolution(s) (in which my analysis, performed just after the fall of the Tunisian and Egyptian autocratic regimes, pointed to Libya and Yemen as the next two Arab-Spring countries, before uprisings and protests started there…)

3. Plagiarism in Arab-Muslim Academia (still a very serious issue)

2. Critiquing I'jaz - the claim of "scientific miracles in the Qu'ran" (need I say anything?)

1. Muslim Inquisition Today: the plight of Usama Hasan (the post I most proud of, for having made a small but real impact with it).

And here’s a bonus one (I didn’t want to rank it among the others J): Muslim Women Scientists Today. 

As you can see, it’s a rather large spectrum of topics. I am really not sure which ones readers actually have liked or prefer in general. Some of these generated many comments, others none…
Let’s see if I make it to the 200th post. But before I go back to writing (and thinking), I have one question for Irtiqa readers: why do you read this stuff?
Best wishes to all!


Anonymous said...

I found this blog while I was doing a paper on Evolution for a Biology course in college. I'm subscribed to the RSS feeds of this blog but to be honest I only rarely read it as I have a really busy college life and do other activities. You and Salman are both very knowledgeable, and it's interesting to read your posts. What I mainly read is topics on evolution.

As a former Blogger myself, I know how hard it can be to think up of posts. Keep it up!

Salman Hameed said...


First of all, thanks for your contributions. They have been absolutely fantastic! You bring a unique perspective as you are directly with both science and education in the Muslim world. Your comments add a lot to Irtiqa.

Second, the issue about comments is a tricky one. As you can see, some posts catch fire but most don't. Part of the reason, I think, is that our posts are not meant to be (that) provocative and our readers follow the same path. This does not mean that readers should not comment - but just that number of comments is directly proportional to the level of associated emotions.

Third, I also hope that the blog is of use to readers - even if they don't comment regularly.

Thanks Nidhal!

Gary said...

Salaams Nidhal

I agree with Salman what I find here are two things:

Information on items of interest I would not have found otherwise.

Opinions and analysis of issues that often reflect my own views put in a concise way that I would not do unless I was forced to write or speak about them.

I will add a third. I regularly do battle with the more theologically inclined who start their discussions of matters of science, (particularly evolution)and religion with a base of either pseudoscience or misrepresented science. I call it a battle because when I begin by correcting their "science", I am frequently accused of being ignorant. I view your weekly posts as a breath of fresh air.

Keep on posting and I will keep breathing.

Nidhal Guessoum said...

Thanks, folks.
Salman, it's been a pleasure doing this with you on Irtiqa, and believe me, I wouldn't have embarked on this "experiment" with any other blog. And your own great contributions have been a constant source of encouragement for me to go on.
Gary, thanks for reminding me/us of the educational role that a blog like this plays. I just wish it could have a larger dissemination and impact, for example high-school students reading it and writing essays about such topics.
BTW, you may all be pleased to know that this blog has encouraged the creation of an Arab-language blog on "astronomy and culture"; it's not exactly the same theme, but there is quite a bit of overlap, and most importantly the idea came from Irtiqa.
Best wishes to all.

Asad M said...

I found this blog 3 months ago and have been a regular visitor since then. Nidhal, your posts are very interesting and to come up with a different topic each week and write a comprehensive piece is just remarkable.

Why I read stuff here? Just the for love of science I guess, the subjects I find most fascinating (such as astronomy, physics, evolution) are regularly presented here and I find the views & opinions of both yourself and Salman very enlightening.

Nidhal Guessoum said...

Many thanks, Asad, for your comment and feedback; this is all greatly appreciated.
I hope we all (Salman, myself, and the readers) continue to provide a great forum of views and pointers.
Best to you.

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