Sunday, May 22, 2011

Forever in Islam's Debt

A review in the NYT Book Review applauds The House of Wisdom, a new book about the incalculable debt we kafirs owe "Islamic science" because it supposedly "saved  ancient knowledge and gave us the Renaissance." But even reviewer James Noble Wilford acknowledges that Islamic science, whose apogee "spanned the 9th and 11th centuries," has been in a bit of a slump of late:
But that was then, and al-Khalili is obligated to end on an inescapable but deflating note: science today is in a chronic state of neglect in the Arab world and the broader Islamic culture of more than one billion people. Al-Khalili spreads the blame widely, citing inadequate financing for research and education, sclerotic bureaucracies, religious conservatism, even an ingrained fear of science. The Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, perhaps the greatest Muslim scientist of the last century, won a Nobel Prize in 1979 and did what he could to promote a scientific renaissance among his people, without success. “Of all civilizations on this planet, science is weakest in the lands of Islam,” Salam said in despair. “The dangers of this weakness cannot be overemphasized since the honorable survival of a society depends directly on its science and technology in the condition of the present age.”       
By recounting Arabic science’s luminous past, al-Khalili says, he hopes to instill a sense of pride that will “propel the importance of scientific enquiry back to where it belongs: at the very heart of what defines a civilized and enlightened society.”  
And here I thought he might have written it because he wanted to make lefty infidels feel guilty and indebted. Silly me.

1 comment:

Carlos Perera said...

Two points regarding the "scientific flowering" of the Dar-al-Islam in the 9th through the 11th centuries:

1. Islamic science was largely a rebranding of Greek, Persian, and Hindu discoveries made centuries earlier.

2. The scholars who recovered and transmitted ancient scientific and mathematical learning to the West during the "flowering" were disproportionately Jews and Christians, _not_ Moslems.