Re: "Epicycles": How Islam Won, and Lost, the Lead in Science

From: Mike Linksvayer (
Date: Tue Oct 30 2001 - 12:53:22 MST

On Tue, Oct 30, 2001 at 01:01:42PM -0500, Brian Atkins wrote:
> This is an interesting article describing how for a long time the Islamic
> world was the center of science and learning, and how it probably fueled
> the renaissance.

I wish for my edification that the article had mentioned Islamic/Chinese
exchange. I'd expect such to be significant given that both cultures
were more advanced in many ways than Christiandom during the time
periods covered.

The article really doesn't credit Islamic science with much
originality, mainly stressing that Islamic scholars had much better
access to Greek knowledge than did their European peers.

This bit "Islam is one of the few religions in human history in
which scientific procedures are necessary for religious ritual ...
The requirement that Muslims face in the direction of Mecca when
they pray, for example, required knowledge of the size and shape
of the Earth. The best astronomical minds of the Muslim world
tackled the job of producing tables or diagrams by which the qibla,
or sacred directions, could be found from any point in the Islamic
world. Their efforts rose to a precision far beyond the needs of
the peasants who would use them" seems wrong. What about the
intricate measurements done by the Egyptians, Mayans, and builders
of Stonehenge, to name just a few?

The most provocative paragraph in the article isn't followed up
on: 'Others argue, however, that Islamic science seems to decline
only when viewed through Western, secular eyes. "It's possible to
live without an industrial revolution if you have enough camels
and food," Dr. King said.'

  Mike Linksvayer

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