Saturday, May 14, 2005

Myths about Islamic Science

In response to arguments presented in the previous post, I will post Hugh Fitzgerald's reply at Jihad Watch to claims made by Muslim reformist Irshad Manji. The one bad thing about Jihad Watch is that the largely unmoderated comments do not always hold the same quality as those of Robert Spencer and Hugh:

Irshad Manji and Islamic history


What is called, too loosely, "Islamic" or -- still worse -- "Arabic" science was in fact the product of many non-Muslims as well as Muslims. The famous translators in Baghdad and Corboda were almost entirely Jews and Christians. Even among the Muslims, none of the major figures were Arabs, but rather Persians and some from Central Asia (as al-Farabi) -- a possible reflection of the importance of having something other than Islam, which is all the Arab Muslims possessed, in the cultural background.

Who cares what the real story was? Who cares that so much of the 200-300 years of achievement depended so much on borrowing and transmission -- paper-making from China brought to Damascus (see Dard Hunter), the concept of zero brought from India to the MIddle East. And those acts of translation were important -- but why act as if the translation of some books of Aristotle rival in importance Aristotle himself, or why refuse to note that while Aristotle was translated, as a living thing, to be acted upon and developed, it was only in the Western world that Aristotle had influence. He remained, an authority but an inert one, for Islamic students of Aristotle.

There were two possible outlets: architecture, and calligraphy. As for Islamic architecture, so heavily dependent on Byzantine models (e.g., the squinch) and naturally on Byzantine workmen -- for Arab tribesmen could not suddenly become experts in architecture. The Dome of the Rock is a Byzantine martyrium -- there is nothing especially Islamic about it. The Umayyad Mosque in Damascus is essentially built upon the vast Christian church that was there first, and much of which remains. There have been Islamic architects -- Sinan comes to mind -- and some beautiful mosques, mainly in Persia and Central Asia. But a good-sized city in Italy contains more art work than all of Islamic civilization ever produced. Surely that is worth noting.

12 Comments:

At May 14, 2005 2:36 PM, Anonymous John B said...

Below is a link to a very interesting letter that was sent to Carly Fiorina (then CEO of Hewlett Packard Corp.) in response to a speech she gave praising the contributions of Arab/Muslims to science, medecine, etc. The author makes a very compelling case for Christian Assyrians and other non-muslims who were present in the Middle East at the time.

http://www.ninevehsoft.com/fiorina.htm

 
At May 14, 2005 9:42 PM, Blogger Jude the Obscure said...

Mohammed died 8 June 632AD. He was illiterate and an epileptic. Islam came out of Arabia in mid 600's. Islam itself had no intellectual history. They brought little material culture to the ancient civilisations they captured – only religion and language. They adopted the dress, architecture, philosophy, literature, mathematics and science of the Persians, Greeks and Indians. (Arab numerals should be rightly known as Indian numerals.) The golden age of literature, science and architecture centred in Baghdad reached its apex during 750 – 850. Baghdad itself was weakened by constant civil wars after 900AD and completely destroyed by Mongols 1258.
By 1000AD the Islamic empire was long gone, succeeded by shifting emirates and sultanates, religously conservative and uninterested in learning. It had lasted less than 300 years. As far as being a conduit through which ancient learning passed to the western world, even that is an exaggeration. Sound scholarship can prove there were many other areas of learning during the dark ages of the western world which were moving surely forward. Islamic fundamentalism brought the Abbasid empire to a complete halt. Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, and now Indonesia (to mention but a few) are conquered peoples who have lost their history and culture. They must believe the mullahs because to think anything else would be unbearable.

 
At May 14, 2005 11:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fjordman

Please remove the post by me on this thread

Thanks

DP111

Mathematics has a long history of development in Greece, China, India and Mesopotamia.

To be fair, the Arabs did introduce the decimal number system and the concept of zero to Europe. But both these inventions were the product of Hindu mathematicians. The Arabs were the messengers rather then the originators of the message.

The one mathematician that the Arabs claim as their own is Al-Khwarizmi. But even in the field of Algebra, the Greeks and Hindus, several centuries prior to Al-Khwarizmi, were more advanced then he. For instance Al-Khwarizmi solved quadratics but these were developed by the Hindu mathematicians who gave general solutions rather then particular ones. Given the trade routes of the time, it is conceivable that Al-Khwarizmi got most of what he wrote from India. It is also conjectured that Al-Khwarizmi travelled to India to study Maths. Quite possible.

Given the primitive times, it is unlikely we will ever know the exact truth, but I find the Arab /muslim mentality of stealing other people's ideas and claiming it as their own, very distasteful, though it seems to go with the general nature of Arab tribal society, where brigandage is considered a honourable profession. It is unfortunate that such a trait persists even to the modern era.

It is very diffucult to really secure a factual history of ancient Mathematics. So much of it was tied to philosophy, music or even meditation. But if one had to mark one event, then it has to be Pythagoras's theorem. In this one theorem, one moves from rhetoric to proof. As G.H.Hardy, one of 20th centuries greatest mathematicians put it, "All mathematics is but a footnote to Pythagoras".

But sticking to what is germane to this thread, it is a fact that invention, and particularly invention in abstract thought, arises only in settled societies. This is plainly obvious, as a nomadic herder society, just does not have the resource or the time to sustain an individual's indulgence in abstract thought. OTH, a settled society does and encourages individuals in this mode of activity. Thus all the great inventions of mankind arise only from settled societies and none from the nomadic tribal ones. Arabs who mere the first muslims, were right until the nineteenth century, essentially tribal nomadic societies. One sees this even now in wealthy Saudi Arabia, as rich Saudis play/pretend being nomads. Have Saudis, given all the wealth and as a consequenbce, free time that they have, invented anything of significance in the last few decades?

What is so disheartening is that by constant repetition of a lie, even Westerners have been duped into thinking of Arabs/muslims being the progenitors of a civilisation. The Arab muslims were conquerors of civilisations because they had islam as a politico-religious ideology, which was ideally suited for warfare i.e. unity of an idea that they were destined to win, clear lines of command from allah down and a divinely ordained distribution of booty coming to you, in case you fell in combat, even in paradise. Having conquered though, it was not long before the civilisation that they conquered, died from atrophy, neglect and the inability to think freely in an Islamic society.

DP111

 
At May 14, 2005 11:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

jude the obscure posted:Islamic fundamentalism brought the Abbasid empire to a complete halt. Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, and now Indonesia (to mention but a few) are conquered peoples who have lost their history and culture.

Very true. V.S.Naipaul has more to say on this.

When a people lose their collective memory, they have no idea of who they are. Muslims are taught, that all that was before they became muslims, was really a state of ignorance. Everything that is to be known is already in the koran. It is not surprising then that muslim culture is so lacking in originality of any kind. Pakistan for instance, that is heir to a rich Hindu culture, goes out of its way to hate its past while all the time slavishly adopting the Arab mindset. That is the worst aspect of islamic conquests - it colonised the subject people's mind. Islam is submission ie slavery. It is the worst kind of slavery imaginable, as it is the slavery of the mind.

DP111

 
At May 15, 2005 5:24 AM, Blogger Don Miguel said...

Islamic Science? That's another oxymoron I can add to my list.

 
At May 15, 2005 6:28 AM, Blogger Jude the Obscure said...

DP111 - What is so disheartening is that by constant repetition...
A big lie, repeated often enough, will eventually be believed.
Goebbels.
Has anyone noticed the gradual disappearance of old books from the libraries? (By old I mean pre-1960.)

 
At May 15, 2005 3:38 PM, Anonymous John B said...

DP111

That was a very nice post. Thanks.

 
At May 15, 2005 6:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you DP111 for your excellent posts. I have forward them to some of my sensitivity-multiculti-indoctrinated friends to read.

 
At May 16, 2005 8:12 AM, Blogger Brian H said...

I think if a lot of Muslims took this on board their heads would explode from cognitive dissonance.

Perhaps, this all suggests, the greatest achievement of Islamic culture is the best method yet of deep-conditioning whole populations into a state where they are truly unable to challenge the assertions and lynchpins of the "faith".

 
At May 19, 2005 5:17 AM, Anonymous IndianKaffir said...

The Arabs call the "arabic number system" the HINDU Number system

The arabic word for mathematics is "Science of the Hindus"

Pythagoras Theorem was known in India centuries earlier as Baudhyayana's Sulba Sutra - http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=pythagoras+theorem+sulba+sutra&btnG=Search

Germ theory / Vaccination / Smallpox vaccines were used in India for 1000 years berfore the west - http://www.sulekha.com/expressions/column.asp?cid=305881

Gautam Buddha studied in Nalanda University in 600 BC before he became enlightened - this is 1000 years earlier than any other university
http://www.visitlordbuddha.com/cities/nalanda.htm
http://www.tourismofindia.com/hibuddh/buddh_nalanda.htm

A huge amount of Indian math and science was stolen by the British and Muslims and passed off as their own. We are going to clean this up and take back credit

Here is the project to give back credit to India
http://www.indianscience.org/scope.shtml
http://www.indianscience.org/
http://www.indianscience.org/dyk/dyk.shtml

All the martial arts went from India to China - The Shaolin temple has paintings from the 8th century showing a brown skinned monk "Bodhidharma" teaching the martial arts to the Chinese.

 
At November 07, 2005 11:36 PM, Blogger L610 said...

The number system is called "Aryan Numbers" or "Indian Numbers" in Arabic.
So even the contribution some think is Islam's only legitimate claim is not their own.
Insightful post about nomadic cultures not being inventive. It is only when you sit still in one place that you can make pottery and art and culture. When man could stop foraging and grow crops, civilization happened.
The Islamic world is the illiterate world. Arabic culture was envious of the people of "the book" hence their eternal enmity toward education.

 
At November 07, 2005 11:37 PM, Blogger L610 said...

The number system is called "Aryan Numbers" or "Indian Numbers" in Arabic.
So even the contribution some think is Islam's only legitimate claim is not their own.
Insightful post about nomadic cultures not being inventive. It is only when you sit still in one place that you can make pottery and art and culture. When man could stop foraging and grow crops, civilization happened.
The Islamic world is the illiterate world. Arabic culture was envious of the people of "the book" hence their eternal enmity toward education.

 

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