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He said it: A barrier to science achievement in majority Muslim nations …

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How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too)

In How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam Is Dying Too) (Regnery, 2011) , David P. Goldman (blogger “Spengler”), offers an explanation of the difficulties the Middle Eastern Muslim world experiences with science achievement. The root of the problem, he says, is theological:

A religion that abolishes cause and effect does not naturally incline to innovation in natural science, and it is not an exaggeration to say that the previous fecundity of Islamic science died up within generation after the twelfth-century triumph of al-Ghazali’s occasionalist view of creation. That philosophy gives rise not to scientific achievement an technological advance, but to th mad, jinn-haunted “science” of Turkish Islamist-in-exile Fethullah Gulen. (p. 147)

Which poses a paradox to Islam. Allah is a god who offers not succor, but success. Yet the full acceptance of Allah’s capricious power over every occurrence at every instant hardly promotes success in a science-driven world.

Good luck sorting that one out.

9 Replies to “He said it: A barrier to science achievement in majority Muslim nations …

  1. 1
    Alan says:

    I can understand why, in the current political climate, a religious Jew might be tempted to single out Islam in the title of his book: “How Civilizations Die”. Such an important and interesting question should not be reduced to party politics. I would have read this book if I had confidence that the main aim was to address the primary question, rather than to push a certain line.

    Dr David Berlinski, while being no friend of Islam does Al Ghazali more justice by pointing out the reasons why the Muslim scholar was forced to reject the naturalistic worldview, apparently reponsible for so much scientific progress in the West (even though many of the enlightenment scientists weren’t naturalists)

    Berlinski points out that having at first greatly praised the work of the naturalists:

    “At once, Al Ghazali withdraws the commendation (of naturalism) that he has offered. A complicated inference is set in play. The naturalists argue, he observes, that “intellectual power in man is dependent on [his] temperament.” It is a point that neurophysiologists would today make by arguing that the mind (or the soul)is dependent on the brain, or even that the mind is the brain. From this it follows that “intellect is also corrupted and ceases to exists.” When the brain is destroyed, so, too, the mind. Death and disease mark the end of the mind. On the naturalist view, Al Ghazali argues, “the soul dies and does not return to life.” The globe of consciousness shrinks in each of us until it is no larger than a luminous point, and then it winks out……”

    Ghazali goes on to highlight the scientific and moral consequences of such a view…..

    While Westen philosophers rejected Al Gazali, they proceeded to follow other Muslim philosphers into naturalism. The consequence of this is well documented by Dr
    Cornelius Hunter in his book “Sciences Blind Spot” He points out that the effect of “theological naturalism” was to make the emergence of Darwin, or some other Darwin inevitable. And we know the rest….

  2. 2
    News says:

    Thanks, Alan. However that may be, occasionalism has been particularly devastating in Muslim counties, and we have heard Western world Muslims say so. Clearly, an account of the affair would come better from a Muslim. But we didn’t have one ready to hand, and Goldman said nothing we hadn’t heard in passing from them.

  3. 3
    Robert Byers says:

    I want to echo a suspicion this Jewish writer is diminishing Islam as a civilization because of Israel loyalty. A educated suspicion.
    A good hunch.

    Who cares about the Islamic world.?
    Just its impact on Israel and then America, the liberal establishment etc, passion for Israel.

    “science’ is just the result of a intelligent population.
    I don’t see Christianity, even Protestant, as making a more scienctic world because of great concepts.
    Simply the protestant peoples were taught to be more motivated about how to live ones life and so we got smarter.
    “science’ being a example of a general rise in intelligence.

    Islamic countries are simply not as intelligent but not because of Islamic philosophy. In fact before the reformation they prevailed over Europe or at least in some things.

    Not to be unkind but whatever did Judaism contribute to science?
    Did Jews in Islamics lands contribute anything?
    Instead all one finds is that jews or Muslims “contribute’ only because they moved to our nations and were brought up to our level of intelligence or these days because we export to the third world our knowledge.

    Yes some establishments can interfere with progress and so religious establishments also but the big conclusions of religion are irrelevant.
    Protestantism only freed people to strive in a more natural way.
    It removed shackles rather then adding a better philosophy. It did ask for man to reach for a higher state but in practical terms this is still just getting out of the way shackles.

  4. 4
    Alan says:

    Hi Robert Byers

    “Instead all one finds is that jews or Muslims “contribute’ only because they moved to our nations and were brought up to our level of intelligence or these days because we export to the third world our knowledge.”

    See:

    http://www.1001inventions.com

    Muslims were the first civilisation to treat science as a universal system for acquiring knowledge that transcended religion, culture and time. Universities were set up all over the Muslim empire, which was twice the size of the Roman empire at it’s greatest extent. Early Muslim scientists brought knowledge from the four corners of the earth, and translated it into Arabic, allowing this unprecidented synthesis to occur.

    Universities such as Bayt al-Hikma (“House of Wisdom”)and the university of Cordoba were The centres of world scientific learning at the time. The culture was such that talented Christian and Jewish scientists were permitted to rise to high positions in these institutions. Many early Christian and Jewish scholars studied under Muslim scholars. All of this happened at a time referred to as “the Dark Ages” in Western europe.

    The rennaissance was triggered by Islamic learning channeled through Muslim spain into Europe. Unfortunately, the contribution of Muslims was erased. When the Arabic texts were translated into latin, invariably, the translator neglected to credid his Muslim source. Crudely speaking, for centuries, the West was led to believe that it’s knowledge had been obtained directly from the Greeks and Romans, and the Muslim contribution was written out of history.

  5. 5
    Alan says:

    “we have heard Western world Muslims say so.”

    I have heard Muslims strongly defending Darwinian theory, so this point isn’t really relevant. It’s simplistic to pin the blame for the decline in Islamic science on a particular philosophy of science, when there were many factors involved.

    It’s also a mistake to judge a religion largely by the number of prominent scientists that it is producing. The truth of a religion should not be tied to scientific “progress”. It’s quite possible that China will surpass the West in the sciences, as Western civilisation continues to decline. Should we take this as a sign that the Chinese have a superior philosophy?

    For sure, Muslims would no doubt have claimed Islam as the reason for several centuries of dominance in the sciences, but it is more likely that the extent to which a society follows Gods laws will have a bearing on whether it will advance to the point where society will have the luxury to pursue science in some depth.

    Having been the dominant power in the the world for centuries, the Muslim empire fell appart under the weight of corrupt leadership, infighting, external threats, a decline in Islamic observance etc. It is natural to expect that it would be impossible for Muslims to continue churning out leading scientists as it did during the high periods. The Muslim world is only beginning to recover from the devastation of colonialism and the post colonial dictatorships. Perhaps we will see a resurgence in Islamic science when Muslims shake free from there dictators…

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    Yes I know this story as they go on and on about mostly to deny Christian civilizations achievement.

    I did note this in my comment above.

    It is my point that Islam does not and did not innately frustrate science etc.

    They did well for a while just as the early Greeks etc did for a while.
    Then it came to a end.
    What they did was still minor and especially so relative to the power, wealth, and numbers of their civilization.

    It simply was easy to do better then very primitive Catholic Europe.

    It was , I say, not the rennaissance but rather the protestant reformation that changed the motivations and brought the great progress.
    The small numbers in old Italy only pushed things a little. Italy never moved forward.
    It was not trickle down intelligence that raised us but a rising tide of a common intelligence of the populaces in the very Protestant nations.
    Especially the British world as it was more puritan or deeply protestant.

    As to who gets credit for early discoveries well we need accurate patents.
    It still is all trivial to the rapid progress of small protestant nations.
    Motivation is everything in human achievement .
    discover the motivation and one has the answer to human progress or failure.

  7. 7
    Alan says:

    “What they did was still minor and especially so relative to the power, wealth, and numbers of their civilization.”

    What did they do? Yours is quite a dismissive statement. It gives me little confidence that you are aware of the Muslim contribution to science. Even today, we have a great deal to learn, and will never likely know the full debt that Europe owes to the Muslims. For sure, even basics such as the works of ancient Greece, would have been lost, were it not for the fact that this knowledge was translated, preserved and advanced by Muslim scientists.

    The emphasis of science was shifted by Muslims from philosophising to observing and testing. This was an enormous shift, that seems obvious today, but it had a profound effect on science.

    The Muslim empire laid the foundations for modern science as a universal pursuit and handed the blueprint to an invigorated Christian Europe. This is no minor achievement. Perhaps Muslims, having laid the foundations, would have developed these lines further had their empire survived.

    To take the Bayt Ul-Hikma as a case in point, it was destroyed, along with all the other libraries in Bagdad, during the Mongol invasion in 1258.

    BTW. No one is detracting from the spectacular achievements of Christian Europe. I believe that Christians need to reclaim the credit for advances made during the rennaisance from the secularists. I personnally rate Isaac Newton as the greatest scientist of all time.

    But it is a mistake to sell faith based on scientific progress. A huge amount of the advances in science of recent decades can be attributed to greed, fear, arrogance and the desire to destroy. Christians should not delude themselves into believing that the majority of recent advances are either attributable to Christianity, or are even helping the Christian cause.

    Faith in scientific progress has replaced faith in God for secularists. Neither the scientific enterprise, nor science, are worthy of worship. Unchecked by any kind of responsibility to a Higher power, science has already provided humans with the tools they neede to destroy the planet. Lets not fall into this secular belief that science must be absolutely free to develop in any way that scientists choose, and that scientists are not responsible for the consequences of their work.

  8. 8
    Alan says:

    Hi Robert Byers

    The post below was in response to your latest comment.

  9. 9
    Robert Byers says:

    i don’t agree at all with how you score achievement or its origins.
    I see the Muslim contribution as very little to mankind .
    Its trivial to our modern world. Yes a lot compared to old primitive Catholic Europe and the rest.
    Yet few scholars back then need be read today.

    I don’t see progression in human knowledge but simply activity.
    Thers no reason anyone could not of done everything very quick.
    More wealthy nations simply have a few more thinkers. then the nation or civilization takes the credit.
    In fact motivation is the origin for success in all things.

    It was the Protestant motivation that suddenly raised poorly populated countries into the modern world.
    Not Italy. Again they did little and only historians remember the small crowd there of thinkers.

    Our world is based on a higher inteliigence and not based on old obscure civilizations.
    We never needed any help.
    India and China could of done the same thing without help.
    They didn’t but not because of Greek and Muslim exclusion.
    They just didn’t allow the people to rise up as Protestantism did.
    It is not today a Protestant motivation but only a inheritance and continuence.

    Yet there is no comparison between us and the past. THe past was just a few people. now its a great many.

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