Distortions in Western Science

by Salah Zaimeche Published on: 1st November 2002

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The centuries termed as the 'Dark Ages' are the missing centuries in history. It is not as one would think that there is nothing about such centuries; as that is far from the truth.

Summarised extracts from a full article:
An Introduction to Muslim Science by Salah Zaimeche

The brilliant Greek civilisation encompassed subjects such as philosophy, mathematics, geography, astronomy and medicine. Archimedes, Aristotle, Euclid, Socrates, Galen, and Ptolemy are just a few of the great pioneers.

When the Romans took over, a large empire extended from the doors of Asia to England, that also included North Africa and much of the Middle East.

Christianity appeared in Roman times, the Roman civilisation thus straddling both sides of the Christian calendar: BC and A.D. The Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century AD after the invasions of ‘barbarian’ people, the Vandals, Anglo-Saxons and Franks, who gave the foundations to today’s European nations (the Franks to France, the Anglo-Saxons to England etc.) Following the fall of the Roman Empire began what are generally known as the dark ages, which elapsed from roughly the late fifth century to the late fifteen century.

Whilst the period of Antiquity, the time of Greco-Roman civilisation and the Renaissance, receive high praise, the period in between (late fifth to the late fifteenth) is highly obscured. Indeed, the amount of works of all sorts on the Greek civilisation, for instance, is absolutely staggering, with millions of books, articles, web sites, institutes, courses, conferences, seminars, films, documentaries etc.

The Renaissance, needless to say, is even more publicised. The centuries termed as ‘the dark ages’, however, are the missing centuries in history. It is not as one would think that there is nothing about such centuries; as that is far from the truth. There are actually millions of works on the dark ages with many departments and thousands of scholars now dealing with this period. Such a focus, however, is mainly on the successive ruling dynasties, religion, warfare, the feudal system and the crusades.

Science and civilisation, until fairly recently, on the other hand, have received little attention. Somehow, the picture that has dominated scholarship, and opinion, was that Europe went from the brilliance of antiquity straight into ten centuries of darkness, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, into the Revival; that very Revival that gave the West the power and lead it still keeps today.

This means, basically, that Western civilisation owes all and everything to Greece. In other words, Greek learning was dormant for ten centuries (during the dark ages), then, one day, it was recovered, for no reason, just like that, and Europe blossomed again. Somehow, the mathematics, the astronomy, the optics, the medicine left by the Greeks being absolutely the same, untouched in ten centuries, just dusted off.

To explain this theory, however devoid of any sense or logic, or scientific or historical truth, thousands upon thousands of ‘historians’ and opinion makers assembled spurious facts and fiction and concocted history. This ‘history’ is reproduced in books, classes, films, magazines, on television, daily, all the time; the truth is unchallenged (except by the highly intellectual books, for the initiated). Just recently, thus, on the BBC(endnote 1), was the programme ‘The Greeks’, narrated by an actor (Liam Neeson), turned historian for the occasion, pursuing on the same theme that all modern civilisation owes to the Greeks.

Western history, as generally presented, contains big distortions. Daily, nowadays, everything about such a history is questioned. No need to go into every single matter here. Just on the subject that matters here, as Wickens puts it:

‘In the broadest sense, the West’s borrowings from the Middle East form practically the whole basic fabric of civilisation. Without such fundamental borrowings from the Middle East,’ he adds, ‘we should lack the following sorts of things among others (unless we had been quick and inventive enough to devise them all for ourselves): agriculture; the domestication of animals, for food, clothing and transportation; spinning and weaving; building; drainage and irrigation; road-making and the wheel; metal-working, and standard tools and weapons of all kinds; sailing ships; astronomical observation and the calendar; writing and the keeping of records; laws and civic life; coinage; abstract thought and mathematics; most of our religious ideas and symbols’.

He concludes that:

‘there is virtually no evidence for any of these basic things and processes and ideas being actually invented in the West.’ (endnote 2)

The fitting conclusion is that, in the crucial centuries of the Middle Ages, Europe acquired much knowledge from the Muslims, and could begin its revival. This revival stretched from present day Italy to Germany, to Holland, an outburst of creativity in all forms, from science to arts. It was the time of Da Vinci, Copernicus, Gallileo, Kepler, and many more… Muslim navigators had also passed on their skills and knowledge that opened the doors of ocean navigation. Christopher Columbus, via his Jewish links, relied on Muslim charts, and possibly navigators. Magellan’s success in the Indian Ocean owes nearly all to Ibn Majid’s guidance and nautical legacy. Europe then built most of its power on its new colonies.

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