Islam And Science

For many years now it has been commonplace amongst the commentariat to credit the Islamic Empire for providing Dark Ages Europe with the translated texts of Greek philosophy and science of Aristotle and Plato that kick-started the Renaissance and lit the Enlightenment and created the science and technology that gave Europe the military muscle to conquer the world. In contrast to the "Dark Ages" of Christian Europe Islam was supposedly a brilliant culture of knowledge and tolerance. This is the Ridley Scott version of history where the Europeans are ignorant, genocidal bigots and the Muslims are cultured, magnanimous and wise. During this so-called Golden Age of Islam, the Muslim world was the centre of knowledge and culture but it was not a Muslim knowledge and culture, it was the intellectual and cultural legacy of the conquered Byzantine and Sassanid empires.

Do they think this knowledge was stored in the Arabian sands? It was the Greek-speaking Christian Byzantine Empire that created and retained the libraries and scholars while the Arabs were only using books to clean their arses, if that. Within a few centuries of the Muslim conquest of the Middle east an anti-rationalist movement had taken over Islam and cowed Muslim scientists and the intellectual stagnation of Islam had begun. The achievements of Islamic civilization are pretty modest compared to those of other civilizations and many of these can be attributed to dhimmis and recent converts. As the dhimmi populations dwindled so Islam began its social and cultural "decline." If the Arab conquest hadn't happened Greek culture and philosophy would have continued to develop and there would have been no break in cultural communication between the Byzantines and Western Europe. If the Byzantine Empire hadn't had to spend 800 years fighting off the Muslims there would have been no need to translate texts back from Arabic into Greek and Latin and the Renaissance may have begun earlier and encompassed the whole of the Middle East and Europe. Think of the possibilities.

The fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 was the Muslims' major contribution to learning in Western Europe as Byzantine scholars and émigrés took to their feet bringing more of the preserved and accumulated knowledge of their civilization with them. As the Islamic conquests were the cause of the so-called "Dark Ages" they deserve no congratulations for being part of the belated solution which, after all, they had no intention of causing.

The modern Islamic contribution to knowledge can be easily assessed by checking the Nobel Prize winners. We'll ignore the 9 Muslim and 9 Jewish "Peace Prize" winners as this is a very dubious category. At any time since the creation of the Nobel Prize, there have been over a billion Muslims in the world, there have been (at most) less than 15 million Jews:

Five Muslims have been awarded the Nobel Prize for science and literature.
At least 185 Jews and people of half- or three-quarters-Jewish ancestry have been awarded the Nobel Prize.

  • Aladdin's Lamp - John Freely
  • The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis - Robert R. Reilly