Monday, January 05, 2009

Levi Goldstein the Christian scientist

'The 'first true scientist'

By Professor Jim Al-Khalili
University of Surrey'

There is now whole mini-industry whose goal is to persuade us that islam isn't actually the religion of dusty ignorance and superstition that we all think it is. This mini-industry puts out reams of stories like this about the genius academicians, scientists and thinkers who lived in moslem countries.

I don't mind this, but I do think it should be across the board. In future, whenever a scientist is mentioned in any context, the dominant religion of the country he lives in, whether he personally happens to be Jewish, Zoroastrian or Jainist, should be affixed to his name. So for instance, any Jewish scientists in America will be called for instance 'The Christian scientist Levi Goldstein' or Hindu scientists 'The Christian scientist Krishna Chiprapati'. If the rule is that anybody working in say 11th century Iraq is 'The Islamic scientist Moshe Abrams', it only seems fair to make that the rule for everybody.

Right? Er, obviously ludicrous. But then the ludicrous appears in many contexts to do with islam, if you'd noticed.

'For, without doubt, another great physicist, who is worthy of ranking up alongside Newton, is a scientist born in AD 965 in what is now Iraq who went by the name of al-Hassan Ibn al-Haytham.'

What difference did it make to Mr al-Haytham that he lived in a country where islam was the dominant religion? How did it interact with his scientific jottings and musings and investigations? Not one teeny tiny bit. So why is he an islamic scientist and not just a scientist?

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