Skip to comments.How the West Won : The Islamic Worldview and the End of Science
Posted on 01/02/2003 12:34:04 PM PST by Mr. Silverback
Breakpoint with Charles Colson
Muslim scientists were once the best in the world. A professor of the history of science at the University of Oklahoma says, "Nothing in Europe could hold a candle to what was going on in the Islamic world until about 1600."
The question of how they achieved it and then lost it is more than of academic interest. Many analysts believe one motive for September 11 was Islamic resentment against the United States for having displaced it in science and technology.
The book, THE BEST AMERICAN SCIENCE AND NATURE WRITING OF 2002, contains a thought-provoking article titled "How Islam Won, and Lost, the Lead in Science" by Dennis Overbye. Overbye says that by the Middle Ages, Islamic academics had invented algebra, named the stars, and produced a million-word medical encyclopedia. And the requirement to face Mecca when praying required knowledge of the size and shape of the earth.
A science advisor to former Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat said knowledge was part of Islam's creed. "When you know more, you'll see more evidence of God."
For five centuries, the Muslim world pioneered cutting-edge science. Today, by contrast, Abdus Salam, the first Muslim to win a Nobel Prize in physics, calls modern Islamic science "abysmal." Dr. Osman Bakar, of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, says, "Muslims have a kind of nostalgia for the past, when they could contend that they were the dominant cultivators of science." But a Pakistani physicist says that now, although Muslims are almost 20 percent of the world's population, they produce fewer than one percent of the world's scientists.
What dimmed the light of Islamic scholarship? A Pakistani professor says one major factor is an increasing emphasis on rote learning based on the QUR'AN. In his words, "The notion that all knowledge is in the Great Text is a great disincentive to learning. It's destructive if we want to create . . . someone who can analyze, question, and create." A Muslim astrophysicist in Paris adds that Islamic fundamentalists reject science "simply because it is Western."
On the extreme edge, some groups have abandoned the principle of cause and effect. For example, the Institute for Policy Studies in Pakistan once issued guidelines recommending that physical effects not be related to causes. Allegedly the Islamic worldview prohibited saying that combining hydrogen and oxygen would make water. A Pakistani physicist explained, "You were supposed to say that when you bring hydrogen and oxygen together, then, by the will of Allah, water was created."
That would be as if Sir Isaac Newton observed an apple falling, but shrugged off any thought of gravity by simply saying, "God did it," without asking how God did it.
So what made Islamic science great for centuries? Worldview: embracing the universe as God's creation and studying it as God's handiwork. And what caused Islamic science to decline? A change of worldview: rejecting science as the invention of "the great Satan."
The Muslim world needs to revisit its past and get over its anger toward the West. But there's a lesson here for Christians, as well as for Muslims: A healthy worldview promotes healthy science. A flawed, or false, worldview leaves you in the dark.
President Sadat chose to think for himself and was rewarded by his Islamic brothers. Sad.
There is a superb analysis of this in the book "The Arab Mind" by Raphael Patai (1973), chapter 15, "The Question of Arab Stagnation." There too this is pointed out as a major factor, but not the sole factor.
This book was strongly recommended to my father-in-law by the foreign relations department of the (giant) corporation he worked for, before he went to the Middle East as a corporate exec.
The evolutionists are going to lose in America and they may end up having to find some other place to peddle their wares.
1877 posted on 01/01/2003 7:14 AM PST by titanmike
Whoever wrote this is lying through their teeth to peedle how wonderful Islam was when actually it destroyed quickly any creative thought and advanced civilizations it invaded. One of the most glaring errors with regard to the entire mathematics claim in the article is that everything was entirely of Indian origin from the complete numerical system used today to the development of advanced mathematics which are mistakenly attributed to Arab and Western mathematicians. See: Islam's Other Victim: India
And one can go on about the Chinese, Egyptians, Persians from whom these Arab interlopers stole original ideas and claim as their own.
The Western Crusades ended, mainly due to reformation in the Western Church, a long time ago. It is past time to let it go. Get over it, even if it takes a reformation within Islam.
All that contributed to Muslim science came out of Graeco-Roman and Indian civilization. Even the proposition that they invented algebra is absurd. Any good student of the history of mathematics recognizes that this algebra was nothing more then a set of propositions used to develope algorithms. They consisted of logical statements in written form of axioms such as the communitive law for addtion and multiplication. The true advancements which constitute what we now consider to be algebra i.e. the definition of a variable, how we write and equation etc. were all created by European mathematicians of the Renaissance.
The reason for the popular myth of the superiority of science in the Muslim world as versus that of Europe has always been driven by the same reason that they present the fact that the Mayans had a more complex calendar than the Europeans--proof that the West is not the superior culture, which it is, with respect to all others.
In 1003, 1000 years ago, the West was dead. The Byzantines and the Muslims were definitely alive. The Byzantines and the Muslims got along fairly well. When the West came out of its stupor, Arabic scholarship was the source of much of the light that came into the West. That was then, of course, and this is now. A lot has happened in the meantime.
That's right. No one, including ALL the followers of the God of Abraham, has a clean history. It is time to stop stirring this up. The Wahabis will fail in their new Crusade, the sooner the better. Nobody is going to get anywhere.
This is a very doubtful assertion. For several centuries, survivors from the civilizations the Muslims conquered continued to work on science and mathematics. For the most part these scientists were slaves and dhimmi, not Muslims as such. The important Muslims were too busy swaggering about to do anything useful.
Hasn't it always been so? Scientists and philosophers stay in their cloisters and leave management of the empire to swaggerers?
That stopped here in the U.S. once the first atomic bomb was dropped.
This sentence alone is ridiculous. I can't believe that a professor of the history of science would never have heard of Albertus Magnus or Jean Buridan just to name two.