Thursday, March 16, 2006

Looking at historical Muslim contributions

Younghusband at Coming Anarchy links to a site enumerating many contributions made over the years to science, medicine, music and other cultural artifacts. It's an interesting place to visit, but among the comments are a couple of pointed observations that take some of the wind out of the sails.

A lot of the inventions attributed to ‘Islam’ (why dont other religions get kudos for inventions?) were actually invented in muslim controlled lands by infidel non muslims.
There are some instances of muslim achievement in the sciences, but often Islam intervened to make sure that scientific development was halted. In medicine, muslims were the first to establish pharmacies and require standards of doctors and pharmacists, to be enforced by an examination system. Under the reign of the fifth caliph, Harun al-Rashid (753-809), the first hospital was established in Bagdad, and others followed. But modern medical advances were not made by muslims...because muslims were forbidden to dissect human bodies.
...I mean to say that far from ‘Islam’ being responsible for scientific discovery, whatever muslims discovered as in spite of having Islam holding them back.

And this:

This site was disappointing in that they took for granted that any invention made by Arabic, Persian, or Turkic people was automatically “Muslim”. For example, I noticed that chess is noted as Muslim, because they came to the west through the “Muslim” world. But even people who attribute chess to the Middle East (though it’s disputed) believe that the game was invented long before Mohammed was a twinkle in his daddy’s eye.
Also, it asserts that Muslims introduced cosmetics to the West ... Call me crazy, but I think that it’s been shown that peoples all over the world, from South America to the sub-continent have been using cosmetics ever since they realized that blackberries turn your lips red.
The list goes on.
Certainly Muslims are not the only people to attribute everything to their own civilization, but this was a real disappointment. I went looking for science and got more bluster.

I was enjoyed looking at the site because I tend to take all claims, Muslim or otherwise, with a grain of salt. This delightful caption was under an illustration.

Rather than eating potatoes and soggy swedes like Medieval Europe, the Islamic world over 800 years ago had a constant supply of fresh foods to eat throughout the whole year.

I recall hearing Harry Golden years ago make a similar remark...

When Europeans were still roaming the forests, painting their bodies green, the Jews already had diabetes.

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