AIOU Solved Assignments 1&2 Code 8627 Autumn & Spring 2024

aiou solved assignment code 207

Aiou Solved Assignments code B.ed 8627 Spring & Spring 2024 assignments 1 and 2  Course: Foundation of Science Education (8627) spring 2024. aiou past papers

Foundation of Science Education (8627)
B. Ed (1/5 Years)
Spring & Autumn, 2024

Q.1 “The Quran itself bears strong testimony to the supreme value of learning and science” debate giving references from the Quran.


Anyone who has had even a mild exposure to Islamic apologetics will have encountered the argument for the Qur’an’s divine origin based on its purported scientific miracles — that is, scientific assertions contained within the Qur’an which have only been validated by modern science. Out of all of the arguments for the Islamic religion, this is the one which, in my judgment, comes closest to being a real argument. Indeed, this is probably the best they’ve got, and it is frequently a lead argument by Muslim polemicists. Nonetheless, the argument has always appeared very strange to me. If the Qur’an is unrivaled at anything, assuredly it is only in its ability to conceive of a Universe so wildly disconnected from reality.

One problem with the positive Islamic argument is that it can only be falsified if one allows both correct and incorrect scientific statements to potentially validate or refute the Qur’an’s divine origin. If correct scientific statements provide evidence for the Qur’an’s divine origin, then surely incorrect scientific statements provide support for the opposite conclusion. For the argument to work, therefore, one must demonstrate not only that the Qur’an contains specific scientific information that could not have been known by a seventh century Arab, but also that the Qur’an does not contain demonstrable scientific errors that we might expect from a seventh century Arab. Unfortunately, it is usually the case that only the passages that are believed by Muslims to comport with modern science are presented in Muslim polemical literature.

What sort of arguments are deployed by Muslim apologists to demonstrate Muhammad’s unique scientific insight? Take a look at the following figure, excerpted from A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam by I.A. Ibrahim.

The book draws on Surah Al-Mumenoon 12-14, in which we read,

We created man from an extract of clay. Then We made him as a drop in a place of settlement, firmly fixed. Then We made the drop into an alaqah, then We made the alaqah into a mudghah (chewed substance)…

The word alaqah can be mean three things: leech, suspended thing, or blood clot. The book attempts to argue that an embryo at one stage resembles a leech. Such a claim is quite debatable, however, and the illustration above is clearly tailored to comport with the argument. The book even makes the argument that “suspended thing” can refer to the suspension of the embryo in the womb of the mother. This is a real stretch, however. Finally, we have this figure, which attempts to show similarity between a pharyngula stage embryo (which it calls the mudghah stage) and a piece of chewed gum.

This argument is so absurd that to state the argument is to refute it. Other such claims of miraculous scientific insight in the Qur’an do not fare much better. Another argument is that various ayat teach that mountains have roots (16:15, 23:31, 31:10, 78:7, 79:32-33), something which apparently Muhammad could not have known. These ayat do not, however, teach that mountains have roots. They assert that the mountains were placed on the earth to keep it fixed and standing firm. Again, such an argument is a real stretch. In any case, the roots of mountains were known about even in ancient times (e.g. see Job 28:9, Psalm 18:7, Jonah 2:6). I think it more likely that the author of the Qur’an viewed mountains as a sort of paperweight to keep the earth still. That would seem to be the best reading of Surah Qaf 7: “As for the earth, We have spread it out, and cast on it firm hills…” In support of this, there is also some indication that the author of the Qur’an viewed the earth as flat (e.g. 20:53; 23:65; 43:10; 71:15-20; 88:20).

In this article, we will examine a few of the problematic passages. We shall also look at some of the statements of Muhammad as reported by the ahadith literature. Some of these hadithic statements shed light or clarify the meaning of these Qur’anic verses. One may argue in response that these ahadith are inauthentic and do not truly reflect words spoken by Muhammad. Nonetheless, irrespective of whether these ahadith go back to Muhammad or not, they do tell us something about how the early Muslims understood the corresponding statements in the Qur’an, and are thus relevant to how we ought to interpret them. This list is far from exhaustive, but draws on a few illustrative examples.

The Qur’an And Science

For many centuries, humankind was unable to study certain data contained in the verses of the Qur’an because they did not possess sufficient scientific means. It is only today that numerous verses of the Qur’an dealing with natural phenomena have become comprehensible. A reading of old commentaries on the Qur’an, however knowledgeable their authors may have been in their day, bears solemn witness to a total inability to grasp the depth of meaning in such verses. I could even go so far as to say that, in the 20th century, with its compartmentalization of ever-increasing knowledge, it is still not easy for the average scientist to understand everything he reads in the Qur’an on such subjects, without having recourse to specialized research. This means that to understand all such verses of the Qur’an, one is nowadays required to have an absolutely encyclopedic knowledge embracing many scientific disciplines.

I should like to stress, that I use the word science to mean knowledge which has been soundly established. It does not include the theories which, for a time, help to explain a phenomenon or a series of phenomena, only to be abandoned later on in favor of other explanations. These newer explanations have become more plausible thanks to scientific progress. I only intend to deal with comparisons between statements in the Qur’an and scientific knowledge which are not likely to be subject to further discussion. Wherever I introduce scientific facts which are not yet 100% established, I will make it quite clear.

There are also some very rare examples of statements in the Qur’an which have not, as yet, been confirmed by modern science. I shall refer to these by pointing out that all the evidence available today leads scientists to regard them as being highly probable. An example of this is the statement in the Qur’an that life has an aquatic origin ( “And I created every living thing out of water” Qur’an, 23:30 ).

These scientific considerations should not, however, make us forget that the Qur’an remains a religious book par excellence and that it cannot be expected to have a scientific purpose per se. In the Qur’an, whenever humans are invited to reflect upon the wonders of creation and the numerous natural phenomena, they can easily see that the obvious intention is to stress Divine Omnipotence. The fact that, in these reflections, we can find allusions to data connected with scientific knowledge is surely another of God’s gifts whose value must shine out in an age where scientifically based atheism seeks to gain control of society at the expense of the belief in God. But the Qur’an does not need unusual characteristics like this to make its supernatural nature felt. Scientific statements such as these are only one specific aspect of the Islamic revelation which the Bible does not share.

Throughout my research I have constantly tried to remain totally objective. I believe I have succeeded in approaching the study of the Qur’an with the same objectivity that a doctor has when opening a file on a patient. In other words, only by carefully analyzing all the symptoms can one arrive at an accurate diagnosis. I must admit that it was certainly not faith in Islam that first guided my steps, but simply a desire to search for the truth. This is how I see it today. It was mainly the facts which, by the time I had finished my study, led me to see the Qur’an as the divinely-revealed text it really is.

AIOU Solved Assignments 1 Code 8627 Autumn & Spring 2024

Q.2 “Development and progress in science and technology During the Golden era provide foundation for many areas of modern science/western science” discuss and give examples wherever necessary.

The history of science is the study of the development of science and scientific knowledge, including both the natural and social sciences (the history of the arts and humanities is termed history of scholarship). Science is a body of empirical, theoretical, and practical knowledge about the natural world, produced by scientists who emphasize the observation, explanation, and prediction of real-world phenomena. Historiography of science, in contrast, studies the methods employed by historians of science.

The English word scientist is relatively recent, first coined by William Whewell in the 19th century. Before that, investigators of nature called themselves “natural philosophers”. While observations of the natural world have been described since classical antiquity (for example, by Thales and Aristotle), and the scientific method has been employed since the Middle Ages (for example, by Ibn al-Haytham and Roger Bacon), modern science began to develop in the early modern period, and in particular in the scientific revolution of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. Traditionally, historians of science have defined science sufficiently broadly to include those earlier inquiries.[

From the 18th through the late 20th century, the history of science, especially of the physical and biological sciences, was often presented as a progressive accumulation of knowledge, in which true theories replaced false beliefs. More recent historical interpretations, such as those of Thomas Kuhn, tend to portray the history of science in terms of competing paradigms or conceptual systems within a wider matrix of intellectual, cultural, economic and political trends. These interpretations, however, have met with opposition for they also portray the history of science as an incoherent system of incommensurable paradigms, not leading to any actual scientific progress but only to the illusion that it has occurred

In the Middle East, Greek philosophy was able to find some support under the newly created Arab Empire. With the spread of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries, a period of Muslim scholarship, known as the Islamic Golden Age, lasted until the 13th century. This scholarship was aided by several factors. The use of a single language, Arabic, allowed communication without need of a translator. Access to Greek texts from the Byzantine Empire, along with Indian sources of learning, provided Muslim scholars a knowledge base to build upon.

Scientific method began developing in the Muslim world, where significant progress in methodology was made, beginning with the experiments of Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) on optics from c. 1000, in his Book of Optics. The most important development of the scientific method was the use of experiments to distinguish between competing scientific theories set within a generally empirical orientation, which began among Muslim scientists. Ibn al-Haytham is also regarded as the father of optics, especially for his empirical proof of the intromission theory of light. Some have also described Ibn al-Haytham as the “first scientist” for his development of the modern scientific method. 

In mathematics, the mathematician Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (c. 780–850) gave his name to the concept of the algorithm, while the term algebra is derived from al-jabr, the beginning of the title of one of his publications. What is now known as Arabic numerals originally came from India, but Muslim mathematicians made several key refinements to the number system, such as the introduction of decimal point notation.

In astronomy, Al-Battani (c. 858–929) improved the measurements of Hipparchus, preserved in the translation of Ptolemy’s Hè Megalè Syntaxis (The great treatise) translated as Almagest. Al-Battani also improved the precision of the measurement of the precession of the Earth’s axis. The corrections made to the geocentric model by al-Battani, Ibn al-Haytham, Averroes and the Maragha astronomers such as Nasir al-Din al-Tusi, Mo’ayyeduddin Urdi and Ibn al-Shatir are similar to Copernican heliocentric model Heliocentric theories may have also been discussed by several other Muslim astronomers such as Ja’far ibn Muhammad Abu Ma’shar al-Balkhi, Abu-Rayhan Biruni, Abu Said al-Sijzi, Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi, and Najm al-D?n al-Qazw?n? al-K?tib?.

Muslim chemists and alchemists played an important role in the foundation of modern chemistry. Scholars such as Will Durant and Fielding H. Garrison considered Muslim chemists to be the founders of chemistry. In particular, J?bir ibn Hayy?n (c. 723–815) is “considered by many to be the father of chemistry”. The works of Arabic scientists influenced Roger Bacon (who introduced the empirical method to Europe, strongly influenced by his reading of Persian writers) and later Isaac NewtonThe scholar Al-Razi contributed to chemistry and medicine. 

Ibn Sina (Avicenna, c. 980–1037) is regarded as the most influential philosopher of Islam. He pioneered the science of experimental medicine and was the first physician to conduct clinical trials His two most notable works in medicine are the Kit?b al-shif?? (“Book of Healing”) and The Canon of Medicine, both of which were used as standard medicinal texts in both the Muslim world and in Europe well into the 17th century. Amongst his many contributions are the discovery of the contagious nature of infectious diseases, and the introduction of clinical pharmacology.

Scientists from the Islamic world include al-Farabi (polymath), Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (pioneer of surgery), Ab? Rayh?n al-B?r?n? (pioneer of Indology, geodesy and anthropology),  Nas?r al-D?n al-T?s? (polymath), and Ibn Khaldun (forerunner of social sciences such as demography, cultural history historiography, philosophy of history and sociology),  among many others.

Islamic science began its decline in the 12th or 13th century, before the Renaissance in Europe, and due in part to the 11th–13th century Mongol conquests, during which libraries, observatories, hospitals and universities were destroyed. The end of the Islamic Golden Age is marked by the destruction of the intellectual center of Baghdad, the capital of the Abbasid caliphate in 1258. 

Q.3 Explain the importance and role of philosophy of science education in teaching science.


Realism, in philosophy, the viewpoint which accords to things which are known or perceived an existence or nature which is independent of whether anyone is thinking about or perceiving them.

Varieties Of Philosophical Realism

The history of Western philosophy is checkered with disputes between those who have defended forms of realism and those who have opposed them. While there are certainly significant similarities linking the variety of positions commonly described as realist, there are also important differences which obstruct any straightforward general characterization of realism. Many, if not all, of these disputes may be seen as concerned in one way or another with the relations between, on the one hand, human beings as thinkers and subjects of experience and, on the other hand, the objects of their knowledge, belief, and experience. Do sense perception and other forms of cognition, and the scientific theorizing which attempts to make sense of their deliverances, provide knowledge of things which exist and are as they are independently of people’s cognitive or investigative activities? It is at least roughly true to say that philosophical realists are those who defend an affirmative answer to the question, either across the board or with respect to certain areas of knowledge or belief—e.g., the external world, scientific theories, mathematics, or morality.

The affirmative answer may seem no more than the merest common sense, because the vast majority of one’s beliefs are certainly most naturally taken to concern mind-independent objects whose existence is an entirely objective matter. And this seems to be so whether the beliefs in question are about mundane matters such as one’s immediate surroundings or about theoretical scientific entities such as subatomic particles, fundamental forces, and so on. Nevertheless, much argument and clarification of the issues and concepts involved (e.g., objectivity and mind-independence) is required if the realism favoured by common sense is to be sustained as a philosophical position.

Any general statement of realism, however, inevitably obscures the great variation in focus in controversies between realists and antirealists from antiquity to the present day. In some controversies, what is primarily at issue is a question of ontology, concerning the existence of entities of some problematic kind. In others, the opposition, while still broadly ontological in character, concerns rather the ultimate nature of reality as a whole, a historically important example being the controversies generated by various forms of idealism. In yet others the dispute, while not entirely divorced from questions of ontology, is primarily concerned with the notion of truth, either in general or in application to statements of some particular type, such as moral judgments or theoretical scientific claims about unobservable entities.

Realism In Ontology

In application to matters of ontology, realism is standardly applied to doctrines which assert the existence of entities of some problematic or controversial kind. Even under this more restricted heading, however, realism and opposition to it have taken significantly different forms, as illustrated in the following three examples.


One of the earliest and most famous realist doctrines is Plato’s theory of Forms, which asserts that things such as “the Beautiful” (or “Beauty”) and “the Just” (or “Justice”) exist over and above the particular beautiful objects and just acts in which they are instantiated and more or less imperfectly exemplified; the Forms themselves are thought of as located neither in space nor in time. Although Plato’s usual term for them (eido) is often translated in English as Idea, it is clear that he does not think of them as mental but rather as abstract, existing independently both of mental activity and of sensible particulars. As such, they lie beyond the reach of sense perception, which Plato regards as providing only beliefs about appearances as opposed to knowledge of what is truly real. Indeed, the Forms are knowable only by the philosophically schooled intellect.

Although the interpretation of Plato’s theory remains a matter of scholarly controversy, there is no doubt that his promulgation of it initiated an enduring dispute about the existence of universals—often conceived, in opposition to particulars, as entities, such as general properties, which may be wholly present at different times and places or instantiated by many distinct particular objects. Plato’s pupil Aristotle reacted against the extreme realism which he took Plato to be endorsing: the thesis of universalia ante res (Latin: “universals before things”), according to which universals exist in their own right, prior to and independently of their instantiation by sensible particulars. 

AIOU Solved Assignments 2 Code 8627 Autumn & Spring 2024

Q.4 Write a detailed note on philosophical aspects of scientific discovery.

Scientific discovery is the process or product of successful scientific inquiry. Objects of discovery can be things, events, processes, causes, and properties as well as theories and hypotheses and their features (their explanatory power, for example). Most philosophical discussions of scientific discoveries focus on the generation of new hypotheses that fit or explain given data sets or allow for the derivation of testable consequences. Philosophical discussions of scientific discovery have been intricate and complex because the term “discovery” has been used in many different ways, both to refer to the outcome and to the procedure of inquiry. In the narrowest sense, the term “discovery” refers to the purported “eureka moment” of having a new insight. In the broadest sense, “discovery” is a synonym for “successful scientific endeavor” tout court. Some philosophical disputes about the nature of scientific discovery reflect these terminological variations.

Philosophical issues related to scientific discovery arise about the nature of human creativity, specifically about whether the “eureka moment” can be analyzed and about whether there are rules (algorithms, guidelines, or heuristics) according to which such a novel insight can be brought about. Philosophical issues also arise about rational heuristics, about the characteristics of hypotheses worthy of articulation and testing, and, on the meta-level, about the nature and scope of philosophical reflection itself. This essay describes the emergence and development of the philosophical problem of scientific discovery, surveys different philosophical approaches to understanding scientific discovery, and presents the meta-philosophical problems surrounding the debates.

Philosophical reflection on scientific discovery occurred in different phases. Prior to the 1930s, philosophers were mostly concerned with discoveries in the broadest sense of the term, that is, with the analysis of successful scientific inquiry as a whole. Philosophical discussions focused on the question of whether there were any discernible patterns in the production of new knowledge. Because the concept of discovery did not have a specified meaning and was used in a very broad sense, almost all seventeenth- and eighteenth-century treatises on scientific method could potentially be considered as early contributions to reflections on scientific discovery. In the course of the 19th century, as philosophy of science and science became two distinct endeavors, the term “discovery” became a technical term in philosophical discussions. Different elements of scientific inquiry were specified. Most importantly, the generation of new knowledge was clearly and explicitly distinguished from its validation, and thus the conditions for the narrower notion of discovery as the act or process of conceiving new ideas emerged.

The next phase in the discussion about scientific discovery began with the introduction of the so-called “context distinction,” the distinction between the “context of discovery” and the “context of justification”. It was further argued that conceiving a new idea is a non-rational process, a leap of insight that cannot be captured in specific instructions. Justification, by contrast, is a systematic process of applying evaluative criteria to knowledge claims. Advocates of the context distinction argued that philosophy of science is exclusively concerned with the context of justification. The assumption underlying this argument is that philosophy is a normative project; it determines norms for scientific practice. Given these assumptions, only the justification of ideas, not their generation, can be the subject of philosophical (normative) analysis. Discovery, by contrast, can only be a topic for empirical study. By definition, the study of discovery is outside the scope of philosophy of science proper.

The introduction of the context distinction and the disciplinary distinction that was tied to it spawned meta-philosophical disputes. For a long time, philosophical debates about discovery were shaped by the notion that philosophical and empirical analyses are mutually exclusive. A number of philosophers insisted, like their predecessors prior to the 1930s, that the philosopher’s tasks include the analysis of actual scientific practices and that scientific resources be used to address philosophical problems. They also maintained that it is a legitimate task for philosophy of science to develop a theory of heuristics or problem solving. But this position was the minority view during much of 20th-century philosophy of science. Philosophers of discovery were thus compelled to demonstrate that scientific discovery was in fact a legitimate part of philosophy of science. Philosophical reflections about the nature of scientific discovery had to be bolstered by meta-philosophical arguments about the nature and scope of philosophy of science.

Today, however, there is wide agreement that philosophy and empirical research are not mutually exclusive. Not only do empirical studies of actual scientific discoveries inform philosophical thought about the structure and cognitive mechanisms of discovery, but researches in psychology, cognitive science, artificial intelligence and related fields have become an integral part of philosophical analyses of the processes and conditions of the generation of new knowledge.

2. Scientific inquiry as discovery

Prior to the 19th century, the term “discovery” commonly referred to the product of successful inquiry. “Discovery” was used broadly to refer to a new finding, such as a new cure, an improvement of an instrument, or a new method of measuring longitude. Several natural and experimental philosophers, notably Bacon, Descartes, and Newton, expounded accounts of scientific methods for arriving at new knowledge. These accounts were not explicitly labeled “methods of discovery”, but the general accounts of scientific methods are nevertheless relevant for current philosophical debates about scientific discovery. They are relevant because philosophers of science have frequently presented 17th-century theories of scientific method as a contrast class to current philosophies of discovery. The distinctive feature of the 17th– and 18th-century accounts of scientific method is that the methods are taken to have probative force (Nickles 1985). This means that those accounts of scientific method function as guides for acquiring new knowledge and at the same time as validations of the knowledge thus obtained (Laudan 1980; Schaffner 1993: chapter 2).

Bacon’s account of the “new method” as it is presented in the Novum Organum is a prominent example. Bacon’s work showed how best to arrive at knowledge about “form natures” (the most general properties of matter) via a systematic investigation of phenomenal natures. Bacon described how first to collect and organize natural phenomena and experimental facts in tables, how to evaluate these lists, and how to refine the initial results with the help of further experiments. Through these steps, the investigator would arrive at conclusions about the “form nature” that produces particular phenomenal natures. The point is that for Bacon, the procedures of constructing and evaluating tables and conducting experiments according to the Novum Organum leads to secure knowledge. The procedures thus have “probative force”.

Similarly, Newton’s aim in the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica was to present a method for the deduction of propositions from phenomena in such a way that those propositions become “more secure” than propositions that are secured by deducing testable consequences from them (Smith 2002). Newton did not assume that this procedure would lead to absolute certainty. One could only obtain moral certainty for the propositions thus secured. The point for current philosophers of science is that these approaches are generative theories of scientific method. Generative theories of scientific method assume that propositions can only be established and secured by showing that they follow from observed and experimentally produced phenomena. In contrast, non-generative theories of scientific method—such as the one proposed by Huygens—assumed that propositions must be established by comparing their consequences with observed and experimentally produced phenomena. In 20th-century philosophy of science, this approach is often characterized as “consequentialist” (Laudan 1980; Nickles 1985).

Recent philosophers of science have used historical sketches like these to reconstruct the prehistory of current philosophical debates about scientific discovery. The argument is that scientific discovery became a problem for philosophy of science in the 19th century, when consequentialist theories of scientific method became more widespread. When consequentialist theories were on the rise, the two processes of conception and validation of an idea or hypothesis became distinct, and the view that the merit of a new idea does not depend on the way in which it was arrived at became widely accepted.

3. Elements of discovery

In the course of the 19th century, the act of having an insight—the purported “eureka moment”—was separated from processes of articulating, developing, and testing the novel insight. Philosophical discussion focused on the question of whether and to what extent rules could be devised to guide each of these processes. William Whewell’s work, especially the two volumes of Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences of 1840, is an important contribution to the philosophical debates about scientific discovery precisely because he clearly separated the creative moment or “happy thought” as he called it from other elements of scientific inquiry. For Whewell, discovery comprised all three elements: the happy thought, the articulation and development of that thought, and the testing or verification of it. In most of the subsequent treatments of discovery, however, the scope of the term “discovery” is limited to either the first of these elements, the “happy thought”, or to the first two of these elements, the happy thought and its articulation. In fact, much of the controversies in the 20th century about the possibility of a philosophy of discovery can be understood against the background of the disagreement about whether the process of discovery does or does not include the articulation and development of a novel thought.

AIOU Solved Assignments 1 & 2 Code 8627 Autumn & Spring 2024

Q.5 Give an overview of growth of science in the Muslim world during 7th, 8th
and 12th A.D.


The Islamic era began in 623. Islamic armies conquered Arabia, Egypt and Mesopotamia, eventually displacing the Persian and Byzantine Empires from the region. Within a century, Islam had reached the area of present-day Portugal in the west and Central Asia in the east. The Islamic Golden Age (roughly between 786 and 1258) spanned the period of the Abbasid Caliphate (750–1258), with stable political structures and flourishing trade. Major religious and cultural works of the Islamic empire were translated into Arabic and occasionally Persian. Islamic culture inherited Greek, Indic, Assyrian and Persian influences. A new common civilisation formed, based on Islam. An era of high culture and innovation ensued, with rapid growth in population and cities. The Arab Agricultural Revolution in the countryside brought more crops and improved agricultural technology, especially irrigation. This supported the larger population and enabled culture to flourish. From the 8th century onwards, scholars such as Al-Kindi[3] translated Indian, Assyrian, Sasanian (Persian) and Greek knowledge, including the works of Aristotle, into Arabic. These translations supported advances by scientists across the Islamic world. 

Islamic science survived the initial Christian reconquest of Spain, including the fall of Seville in 1258, as work continued in the eastern centres (such as in Persia). After the completion of the Spanish reconquest in 1492, the Islamic world went into an economic and cultural decline.[2] The Abbasid caliphate was followed by the Ottoman Empire (c. 1299–1923), centred in Turkey, and the Safavid Empire (1501–1736), centred in Persia, where work in the arts and sciences continued

By any index, the Muslim world produces a disproportionately small amount of scientific output, and much of it relatively low in quality. In numerical terms, forty-one predominantly Muslim countries with about 20 percent of the world’s total population generate less than 5 percent of its science. This, for example, is the proportion of citations of articles published in internationally circulating science journals. Other measures — annual expenditures on research and development, numbers of research scientists and engineers — confirm the disparity between populations and scientific research.

This situation leads to some hard questions: Is Islam an obstacle to modern science? If not, how does one explain the huge gap in scientific output between the Muslim world and the West or East Asia? And what must change so that science can flourish in Muslim countries?

While Islam has yet to reconcile faith and reason, other factors such as dictatorial regimes and unstable funding are more important obstacles to science and technology’s again flourishing in the Muslim world. Significant progress, in other words, depends on changes in values and institutions — no small order.


We start with a brief history of science and technology in the Muslim world, the first place to search for clues to these questions. In a nutshell, the Muslim experience consists of a golden age in the tenth through thirteenth centuries, a subsequent collapse, a modest rebirth in the nineteenth century, and a history of frustration in the twentieth century. The deficiency in Muslim science and technology is particularly intriguing given that Muslims were world leaders in science and technology a millennium ago — something that distinguishes them from, say, the peoples of Latin America or sub-Saharan Africa.

Golden Age. The period 900-1200 A.D. represents the approximate apogee of Muslim science, which flourished in Baghdad, Damascus, Cairo, and Cordoba, among other cities. Significant progress was made in such areas as medicine, agronomy, botany, mathematics, chemistry, and optics. As Muslims vied with Chinese for intellectual and scientific leadership, Christian Europe lagged far behind both.

This golden age was definitely Muslim in that it took place in predominantly Muslim societies, but was it Islamic, that is, connected to the religion of Islam? States were officially Islamic, and intellectual life took place within a self-consciously Islamic environment. Ahmad al-Hassan and Donald R. Hill, two historians of technology, see Islam as “the driving force behind the Muslim scientific revolution when the Muslim state reached its peak.” But non-Muslims had a major role in this effort, and much of the era’s scientific achievements took place in a tolerant and cosmopolitan intellectual atmosphere quite independent of the religious authorities.

Decline. Things started to go awry in the early thirteenth century, when the Muslim world began to stagnate and Europeans surged ahead. Even revisionist historians who challenge this date as the time that decline set in do accept that decline eventually took place. Thus, Marshall Hodgson — who argues that the eastern Muslim world flourished until the sixteenth century, when “the Muslim people, taken collectively, were at the peak of their power” — acknowledges that by the end of the eighteenth century, Muslims “were prostrate.”

Whatever its timing, this decline meant that Muslims failed to learn from Europe. In Bernard Lewis’s phrasing, “The Renaissance, Reformation, even the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, passed unnoticed in the Muslim World.”6 Instead, Muslims relied on religious minorities — Armenians, Greeks, Jews — as intermediaries; they served as court physicians, translators, and in other key posts. With their aid, the Muslim world accomplished what is now known as a limited transfer of science and technology.

Decline in science resulted from many factors, including the erosion of large-scale agriculture and irrigation systems, the Mongol and other Central Asian invasions, political instability, and the rise of religious intolerance. In particular, the great theologian Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali (1059-1111) used the tools of the philosophers to undermine philosophical and scientific inquiry. The revival of science. In combination, the Enlightenment and French Revolution made European science accessible to the Muslim world. The former detached science from Christianity, thereby making it palatable to Muslims. The latter, and especially Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798, with its entourage of scholars and supplementary mission of knowledge, imposed European power on and brought European science to a Muslim people. Within years, some rulers — led by Muhammad `Ali of Egypt — recruited European technicians and sent students to Europe.

Technology takes root. An extraordinarily rapid diffusion of Western technologies throughout most of the Middle East took place in the period 1850-1914. With the approval of local elites, European colonial authorities imposed public-health measures to contain cholera, malaria, and other contagious diseases. The Suez Canal, opened in 1869, reduced shipping time and distance and generated new trade. Railways, telegraphs, steamships and steam engines, automobiles, and telephones all appeared. Much of this technology transfer took the form of Middle Eastern governments’ granting monopoly concessions to European firms. Muslim rulers had little concern about developing indigenous capabilities in technology adaptation, design, or maintenance.

Science was an afterthought, at best embedded in scientific technologies but not transferred explicitly as knowledge or method. Instead, members of minority communities continued to intermediate by providing clerical and skilled labor. Minorities also helped to establish the first Western education institutions in the region, such as the Syrian Protestant College in Beirut (founded in 1866) and the Jesuits’ St. Joseph’s College (founded in 1875). These schools and others in Istanbul, Tunis, Tehran, Algiers, and elsewhere primarily served minority communities and Europeans, though some elite Muslims also attended. Middle Eastern medical schools quickly accepted and taught the medical discoveries of Pasteur, Koch, and others concerning microbes and bacteria. The schools contributed to the translation and publication in Arabic of major scientific works and to the organization of the first scientific societies in the region. Such societies were founded in Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, and Istanbul in the late nineteenth century, often sponsoring journals that featured translations. Thus, Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, was translated in Arabic journals by 1876, though not in book form until 1918. Throughout this period, Muslim intellectuals presented minimal resistance to the diffusion of Western scientific ideas.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *