Thoughts on what science is from The Week in the 12/31/10 National Review
The New York Hall of Science, a popular destination for outings from city schools, is hosting an exhibition titled “1001 Inventions – Discover the Muslim Heritage in Our World.” The theme of the thing is that from the seventh century to the 17th, while Christendom slumbered in backwardness, Muslims came up with all the key ideas and techniques that inspired modern sciences. Did you know that Al-Jahiz wrote about evolution by natural selection in the ninth century? That the first flying machine was made by Abbas ibn Firnas around the same time? That the camera obscura was invented by Ibn Al0Haytham in the tenth? The whole silly business was critically dissected by Edward Rothstein in the December 9 New York Times. One can understand insecure cultures’ making exaggerated historical claims, but 1001 Inventions is being promoted by British and American science educators: It has already had a successful run in London. There have been tinkerers and calculators in every civilization, and it is good for school children to know that. The scientific revolution was, however, an entirely European phenomenon. It is hard not to suspect that these displays of ethnic boasting are intended mainly to prevent children from knowing that.
This too is an entirely European phenomenon related to science: