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Science and Islam

I’ve just (3 August 2010) finished watching Science and Islam, a three-part TV series written and presented by Professor Jim Al-Khalili, the Anglo-Iraqi physics professor whose book Quantum: a guide for the perplexed gave me such enjoyable headaches back in March.

This series was a real eye-opener.

Why didn’t I know how many of the foundations of modern ’Western’ science had been established before 1000AD by scholars working in the great Islamic empire?

Why were these men able to pursue their researches without drawing down the ’Wrath of God’ as did the likes of Galileo in the early days of the Renaissance in Europe?

And why isn’t it more widely known that Copernicus and Newton used tables of astronomical data drawn up centuries earlier by Islamic scholars?

The series was full of fascinating science, but also dealt concisely with the geopolitics that led to the decline of Islamic science. It seems that the vast Islamic empire was caught between the Mongol hordes invading from the East and the crusades from the West.

This isn’t the sort of stuff that should be tucked away discreetly on BBC4. It should be known much more widely, so that westerners learn more respect for Islamic tradition - and so that Muslims, especially those living in cultures like ours, can be justly proud of what their great scientists contributed to the sum of human knowledge.

Personal site for Paul Marsden: frustrated writer; experimental cook and all-round foodie; amateur wine-importer; former copywriter and press-officer; former teacher, teacher-trainer, educational software developer and documenter; still a professional web-developer but mostly retired.

This site was transferred in June 2005 to the Sites4Doctors Site Management System, and has been developed and maintained there ever since.