Women in Science

Blog Women In Science

Iffat Mirza, Raynes Park

When we think of women and science the most well-known names that spring to mind are Marie Curie, Rosalind Franklin, and Ada Lovelace. Each was a pioneer of modern science and they have continued to serve as inspiration for generations of girls and women who have expressed interest in the sciences and have overcome many obstacles to achieve their aspirations. However, the issue remains that the male to female ratio of recognised scientists rests in the favour of men. It is surprising to note that of all the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, only 2.3 per cent are women, while in the field of physiology and medicine, only 5.3 per cent are women. (1)

The truth is that women have always been involved in the sciences but are only just beginning to be recognised for it. There is evidence of women in ancient civilisations contributing to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects. The earliest noted female in a STEM profession is Merit Ptah, who lived between 2700–2500 BCE, during the Ancient Egyptian era. (2) She was known as ‘the Chief Physician’ and was greatly respected in the court, however, as one would expect, there are far more recorded instances of men’s contributions to science.

Since the Dark Ages, particularly in Europe, many women were excluded from higher education and therefore from scientific societies, yet continued to contribute where possible, and were indeed, pioneers in many theories and discoveries. Indeed, many fundamentalists in many parts of the world would wish to see a return to the Dark Ages where women are confined to the four walls of the home. Belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, I am grateful that I have always been encouraged to pursue an education. The fifth Caliph of the community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, has reminded us that that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had placed great emphasis on the education of girls. However during the late 19th or early 20th century, girls and women had little access to education and particularly very few Muslim girls had the opportunity to pursue secular or religious education.

The Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah (peace be upon him), revived the true teachings of Islam and encouraged the pursuit of secular and religious knowledge amongst all Ahmadi Muslims including women. Hence, Ahmadi Muslim girls have been excelling in education and outperforming boys in many countries. Indeed, many women of our community are pursuing higher education in the sciences.

Women such as Ms Naeema Ahmad are paving the way towards a number of breakthroughs in many areas of science. She is the Founder and CEO of Africa Alternative Energy Initiative (AAEI). She is also the winner of the continental-wide Gathering of Africa’s Best Award in 2017. It is so encouraging to not only see women such as Ms Ahmad leading projects such as alternative energy, but also being recognised and appreciated for their works. This is what inspiration looks like.

One is inclined to ask, ‘how do we improve this?’ Steps have indeed been taken, for example the UN have declared 11th February as International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Furthermore, there are plenty of organisations conducting admirable work in offering bursaries, scholarships, and training for women who wish to pursue the sciences. However, the fact of the matter is that this can be too late for many girls.

Particularly in the British educational system, children are made to think about their career paths from about the ages of 14-16, whilst they are choosing and completing their GCSE qualifications. Therefore, young girls must be inspired and supported before they reach this age. It is imperative that primary and secondary students be taught about the many women that have led scientific research – not only in previous centuries, but those leading the disciplines in modern society. Serving as inspirations from a young age, girls will grow knowing that ‘scientist’ is not a profession reserved for men, which unfortunately is a stereotype which is consistently reinforced. As a young British woman, who has only just left the British school system, I cannot remember being taught about any female scientists in my GCSE curriculum, three year ago. This confused me. I knew that there were plenty of accomplished women in science throughout history, so why did I only ever hear of the men?

As with any problem, it must always be tackled at the root. In this case that means portraying the sciences as a realistic and achievable dream to young girls. To do this, they must be taught about the fascinating breakthroughs that women have achieved through the years: from Merit Ptah to Anousheh Ansari, the first Muslim woman in space.

1 http://www.un.org/en/events/women-and-girls-in-science-day/
2 https://www.britannica.com/biography/Merit-Ptah
Advertisements

The Ideology Of Cryogenic Freezing Debated

Cryo_chamber.png

By Faiza Qadeer, Luton, UK

Recently there was an article on Sky News which really interested me because it was about a terminally-ill 14-year girl from the UK who won a legal case shortly before her death to be cryogenically preserved in the hope that she may be brought back to life at some point in the future.

What is Cryonics?

Arctic explorers have learned that humans cannot stand extreme cold weather conditions. When our cells freeze, they produce ice crystals which break down cell walls as they develop, which would cause the body to mush once it is warmed up again.

The purpose of cryonics is to preserve human life by using cold temperatures around -196c so that a person beyond help by today’s medicine might be preserved for decades or even centuries until future medical technology can restore them back to life and full health.

The stages of cryonics are:

  • To declare the persons death and contact the cryonics team immediately.
  • To ensure the body is stabilized by keeping oxygenated blood circulating to minimise deterioration.
  • Next the body is injected with heparin (anticoagulant) to refrain blood from clotting.
  • Water is then removed from cells and replaced with human antifreeze.
  • Then the body is then cooled on dry ice till the temperature reaches -130 C.
  • Lastly the body is placed in a large container filled with liquid nitrogen at -196 C, which can hold up to 4 people.

Advantages of Cryonics

If the cryonic strategy works and humans can be revived after death unharmed, the possibilities will be infinite. It means that no one has to die! It could also mean that the option of dying for 100 years then being woken up to live another life would be possible. Would you not want to live another day or better still, see what the future is like?

Natural disasters seem to be happening everywhere these days; earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis all have destructive powers that are sometimes beyond comprehension.

Cryonics could preserve life so that after a disaster, the region could re-populate with plant, animal and human life.

For generations, science fiction authors have imagined that cryonics could be the answer to how humans can travel safely to stars and planets beyond our solar system and science is starting to catch up with those theories; there could be a possibility that the answer is near!

Cryonics could allow people with a deadly virus to be preserved so that the illness does not progress until a cure or treatment can be found.

People who die young can have the opportunity to continue their lives from where they left off.

Disadvantages of Cryonics

Nevertheless the costs and work to preserve people through cryonics may ultimately be pointless and the theories might not ever render into facts.

If the demand for cryonics increased, this would put pressure on resources currently available such as fossil fuels. If and when the theory of cryonics is proven we may be in a position where millions of people could be revived causing further pressure on countries to accommodate the sudden surge in population. Having more people on earth would impact the food and oil supply. How would we preserve enough resources for a larger more densely populated area?

The theory of Cryonics touches on many ethical issues. Death is a natural part of life. For Christians, Muslims and other major religions, to interfere with ‘Mother Nature’ is deemed wrong and unethical as they would be playing God. One thing that comes to mind regarding cryonic preservation is how is it possible for the scientists of the distant future to resurrect the dead without restoring their souls?

Also, what if the process takes decades, how will these ‘patients’ adapt to their future environment, most probably all their loved ones might have already passed away by that time. It would be hard to re-create your life again with no support, family and friends in a new environment.

How would people treat each other if death is not an option? If people could be preserved for an indefinite period waiting for a cure to a disease,

we would certainly have different dynamics in every choice that we make and not all of those dynamics would be positive. It violates the sense of what is certain and precious in life.

Cryonics is used on people who cannot be sustained by contemporary medicine. Why only preserve those who die of incurable illness, what about those who die of other causes? How is that fair?

If cryonics works wouldn’t everyone want to have a longer life? The cryonics process slows down the metabolism of cells but it may not actually slow cell aging.

Someone may emerge from being cryogenically preserved only to rapidly age. So what’s the point if your money is going to be wasted on watching yourself grow older faster?

Conclusion

In my opinion, from a purely scientific perspective, your money is probably better spent, while you are still alive, on scientific research into incurable diseases in the hope that a cure is found in this day and age.

As a Muslim I feel and strongly believe that we should not be trying to play God by attempting to preserve and then bring incurably ill people back to life in the future when a cure is found. This is because I believe that there is everlasting life after death, you are here in this world for a purpose and God created you and only God will know when our return is?!

In conclusion analysing the pros and cons there appear to be many more disadvantages than advantages which suggest that cryonics should be stopped and re-thought.

What is Afterlife; Cryogenics or Paradise?

b40ea875cfe6029b04f9e481e7da0dc0

Dr Maleeha Mansur, Hayes, UK

With the news of the mother of a 14 year-old girl who has died of cancer being granted the right to cryo-preserve her body in line with her wishes, many questions, and indeed emotions, about death have come to the fore.

Whilst medicine and science give little support to the proposition of revival of cryopreserved bodies in the future, it seems some are still keen to invest in such a proposition, with individuals setting aside pots of up to £30,000 to be cryopreserved in a pursuit of immortality.

It is not just the little scientific reasoning that is baffling but the ethics of being revived in a world unknown to you, surrounded by people unknown to you. Perhaps fascinating to begin with but what purpose would such a life serve?

The science and ethics can be debated endlessly; however, there are deeper issues such pursuits raise. A longing for “something” after death, for surely death cannot be the “end”. Is life without purpose and only for the acquirement of wealth and physical comforts? Pinning hope on a fictional concept of revival following cryopreservation, the argument is that it is “something”, the alternative being up in fumes or buried in the earth.

But, is there an alternative? An alternative with evidence? Indeed, an alternative with evidence, and in which one can find deep solace and meaning to life?

What about a life after death; a never-ending life where there is only peace, truth and justice. A life free from trials and tribulations. A life of peace and tranquillity where one’s every wish and desire is fulfilled. Where the goodness one strives for in this world is remunerated in abundance and the patience shown through tribulations one endures is also remunerated. A life after death that gives meaning and purpose to life on earth.

Such is the after-life that Islam presents to us.

It is an afterlife determined by one’s actions in this life, for man has not been created in vain to merely pursue the physical comforts of this world. Man has a far greater purpose – to attain spiritual excellence and closeness to his Creator, God Almighty.  This life is not the “be all and end all”, but merely an examination hall to determine one’s standing in the everlasting life to come. With this hopeful future in mind, life on earth gains purpose – Man becomes sincerely devoted to God, he sails through all the trials and obstacles in life with a higher objective in mind. He knows that all the injustices or inequalities in the world will be justified and rectified in the life to come. Suddenly, all the anguish and anxiety of the heart dissipates and is replaced with oceans of tranquillity. Having recognised that there is a Creator, a Maker, a Fashioner Who has begun the seed of life, He has not left His creation to wonder idly. Rather, He has given Man the freedom and opportunity to strive and determine his Paradise.

One may ask, why is such a Paradise left to the afterlife alone? Not quite! For those who strive in the way of God, there is enjoyment of two gardens of Paradise – the garden of tranquillity from being freed from the clutches of material pursuits and the garden of God Almighty’s pleasure in the afterlife.