Friday, January 26, 2007

Summer Reading

One might have noticed Nick undertaking much of the posting duties over the past few weeks.

I've not been idle, but instead using the summer break to catch up on some reading.

I had always wondered about the claim that it was Muslims that brought Greek and Roman philosophy to the ignorant, pre-Enlightenment Christendom of Medieval Europe. It appears to be accepted as 'the common sense' but had never really rung true.

If it were so - that Muslims were progressive, enlightened folk who could show those Christians a thing or two about science and philosophy - then what happened?

Apart from some architecture, little appears to remain, historically or contemporaniously, of such academic ventures.

So was it actually true?

It would appear not.

The opinion web site American Thinker has run a series of outstanding articles that critically examines the role Islam has played in spreading science and philosophy. I'll link to each of these sites and give a little foretaste of the arguments you'll find.

What Islamic Science and Philosophy?
By Jonathan David Carson

If the true cause of events is the will of Allah, and if the will of Allah is inscrutable, then the causes of events are inscrutable and science a vain pursuit. The issue is ultimately whether the universe and its creator are in any way intelligible. The West, with its traditions of natural law and natural theology, agrees for the most part that the universe is astonishingly intelligible and God somewhat so. Islam, at least at its most rigorous, denies any intelligibility whatsoever to either.

Islam and the Problem of Rationality
By Patrick Poole
Occasionalism was rigorously opposed by the two great philosophers of Medieval Europe, Albert Magnus and Thomas Aquinas, along with the great medieval Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), who lived and wrote in Muslim-occupied Spain. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) also addressed the threat posed by Islamic occasionalism by affirming the ancient Christian truth that God created the universe ex nihilo (from nothing). This prevented the volunteerist view from gaining ground in the West, and thus occasionalism, merely by stating that God had actually created, and that objects in the natural world created by God have an actual inherent existence and do not need to be constantly recreated.

Hyping Islam 's role in the History of Science
By Jonathan David Carson
The 'Islamic scholars' who translated 'ancient Greece's natural philosophy' were a curious group of Muslims, since all or almost all of the translators from Greek to Arabic were Christians or Jews, as were the translators from Arabic to Latin. Consider the astonishing statement of Bernard Lewis in The Muslim Discovery of Europe:

We know of no Muslim scholar or man of letters before the eighteenth century who sought to learn a western language, still less of any attempt to produce grammars, dictionaries, or other language tools. Translations are few and far between. Those that are known are works chosen for practical purposes [philosophy being considered a practical discipline] and the translations are made by converts [who knew western languages before conversion] or non—Muslims.

The not-so-golden age of Islamic philosophy
By Jonathan David Carson
When Islam conquered most of the Christian lands of Asia and the Middle East and all of them on the north coast of Africa, including Egypt and with it Alexandria, part of the spoils of victory were small centers of Hellenistic scholarship, often Nestorian Christian, that continued for a while translating Greek philosophy into Syriac. Eventually most of the extant writings of Aristotle were translated into Arabic, generally via Syriac, sometimes via Hebrew, on rare occasions directly, together with influential pseudo—Aristotelian texts. These translations became the basis of the Aristotelianism of the Islamic world, which was innocent of the Greek of the original and of the originality of its author.

Islam, Christianity, Classical Civilization, and Modernity
By Jonathan David Carson
When it became apparent to the early Church that it might have to wait a long time before the end of world and that it would, as a result, have to develop institutions and a way of life appropriate for a long sojourn on earth, perhaps the most pressing issue was how to respond to the immense legacy of the ancient Mediterranean. With but a few exceptions, Tertullian being the most prominent, the Fathers of the Church took the attitude most succinctly expressed by Saint Ambrose: Christians should "spoil the Egyptians" by using for their own purposes the treasures of the ancient world, including its philosophy.

Despite what opponents of Christianity say and what perhaps most educated people believe, the mainstream of Christianity has always been open to the achievements of the world in which it lives, whether they be the Plato and Aristotle of ancient Greece, the science and mathematics of medieval India and early Islam, the intellectual and political successes of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, or the scientific advances of the modern world.
Understanding what little Islam had to contribute to the understanding of the world and progress was despoiled by Islamic thinking itself, had me wondering about the information sources it twisted for the selfish and murderous impulses of its leader Mohammed.

Fortunately someone else has done the leg work, Craig Winn whose web site Prophet of Doom, contains the full text of his book that goes nearly line by line to explain the origins and flaws of the Koran and its expository Suras and Hadiths.

As Winn summarises in an 'open letter to the reader':

Islam is a caustic blend of regurgitated paganism and twisted Bible stories. Muhammad, its lone prophet, conceived his religion solely to satiate his lust for power, sex, and money. He was a terrorist. And if you think these conclusions are shocking, wait until you see the evidence.
Mix yourself a Long Island Iced, sit back in a comfy lounger and enjoy the read.

Long Island Iced Tea
0.5 Shot Vodka
0.5 Shot White Rum
0.5 Shot Gin
0.5 Shot Tequila
0.5 Shot Triple Sec
1 Dash Coke
1 Teaspoon Caster Sugar
0.5 Shot Lemon Juice
Shake all the ingredients except the coke with ice and strain into a highball. Then pour the coke on the top.
-- Nora

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