Neil DeGrasse Tyson and the Myth of Islamic Anti Science

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Guest Post by Ibrahim Arsalan

Recently I was hipped to a presentation made by one of my favorite modern scientists, Neil DeGrasse Tyson. He’s one of my favorites, not on the basis of his erudition – after all it’s my constant contention that present scholarship is increasingly devoid of erudition – but because of his lively presence and acute wit. That being said, in this presentation he ventured into a field of study far removed from his expertise, something he ought not have done without adequate research – one of my criticism of present-day scholarship is their tendency toward specialization and almost abysmal lack of knowledge on various other sciences. He’d have gone a long way toward developing his premise had he done a bit more research into this new frontier for him; History.

The gist of his presentation was that the greatest scientific minds all fell back on a concept of intelligent design whenever faced with a problem beyond their reckoning. He was doing rather well so long as he focused on individual thinkers such as Galileo, Newton, Laplace, and others. But as a rule, scholarship shouldn’t rely on individual examples to prove a universal thesis, it’s anecdotal and such a method is relegated to a bygone age despite its modern prevalence. So to support his idea he references the massive advances in scientific thought developed by Islamic thinkers in Baghdad between 800 and 1100 CE. He prefaces this with a criticism of George Bushes statement in a speech after 911, “Our God is the one who named the stars”. He used this misstep by Bush to launch into his point that two-thirds of the known stars have Arabic names because of this 300-year period of intellectual development in Baghdad. Then he contends that it was extinguished by the writing of a single man, Al Ghazali, who equated mathematical and scientific research as the works of the devil. But, as Shakespeare would say, “There’s the rub”.

Al Ghazali was a religious reformer, philosopher and mystic who countered the Neoplatonist metaphysics espoused by Muslim philosophers in his work “The Incoherence of the Philosophers”. Furthermore, he would certainly forever alter the Islamic intellectual landscape, but it was not in opposition to scientific thought, as Tyson would have us believe. After all, Ghazali pioneered “methodic doubt” and “skepticism”, both of which would play a foundational roll in all the secular movements to come. He was also opposed by one of the greatest minds the Muslim world would produce, Ibn Rashid (Averroes). Both men were renowned polymaths in their day (accomplished in multiple fields of science, as apposed to the vast majority of present-day scholarship). The dispute Al Ghazali would have with the philosophers and that Averroes would have with him in his rebuttal “The Incoherence of the Incoherence” would be over the nature of Aristotlelian metaphysics, not the demonic nature of scientific thought. Such an attack on Al Ghazali by Tyson is laughable considering he furthered the development of secular methodology and would later be praised by European secular thinkers who Tyson is so eager to praise. Also, Tyson is in error when he says of Al Ghazali, “… out of his work, you get the philosophy that mathematics is the work of the Devil”. Al Ghazali actually called the sciences and mathematics of his day mamduh (praiseworthy) adding, “…because of their absence, the community would be reduced to narrow straits.”

But that’s not what I found most remiss about his presentation. He neglected to reflect on the single most important event to occur in Medieval Western Asia, the Crusades. Just as the intellectual and cosmopolitan developments of the Islamic world were in full swing, a rag-tag band of European barbarians called the Franks, armed bearded-axes and Papal sanction, stopped massacring each other and focused their genocidal efforts on “the Holy Land”. This would occur right around 1058 and continue right into the 12th century. These events would all occur in Al Ghazali’s lifetime and would radicalize the region. Pursuits in science would gravitate toward warfare, eclipsing questions of the universe; but not completely, as they would continue in Moorish Spain and Africa until Europe would visit upon them the same fate.

The true effect Al Ghazali would have on the philosophy of the Muslim world, and probably most egregious to Western thinkers, would be to steer it from the Greco-Roman stream of development and back toward an Afro-Asiatic stream by popularizing Sufism. Born from the cosmology of Ancient Egypt (Kemit) that was originally called Al-Kemi (Alchemy) by the Arabs, Sufism would come to define the philosophical teachings of the entirety of the Muslim world, as Greek metaphysics would quickly fade into obsolescence. That is until European would reclaim Greek thought from Arabic translations. In so doing, Al Ghazali would bring the Muslim world, if only for a short while, in mental alignment with such great minds as Imhotep, the worlds first recorded polymath, among whose achievements are the construction of the first pyramids and the writing of the first book of medicine. The turn away from the classical thinking of Greece and toward unified thinking of Egypt would cement unification in scientific and religious thought, where in “Allah” was seen as the living universe and the study of the universe the highest act of worship, as was the case in Egypt. In the Muslim world there would be no conclusions equivalent to those of Europe, ergo “whatever I cannot understand is a mystery known only to God” but rather “whatever I discover is proof of the wondrous order of God as the mysteries hide in plain sight.” Furthermore, the Quran and the precepts of Sufism would support all of this. For this reason, the schism between science and religion, secularism and orthodoxy would never occur as it had in Europe. Instead, the stagnation of totalitarian regimes, entrenched in the wake of successive invasions from Europe, would grip much of the Muslim world.

WAR, that’s the great death knell and silencer of all beneficial inquiry! Since the beginning of time, scientific research has relied heavily on social investment and peaceful interaction with neighboring populations. The only sciences that can thrive in wartime are those devoted to war, and so it is today. Our country slips the dogs of war at the slightest provocation, and nowadays with no provocation at all. Then the “scholars” of our nation, hopelessly dependant on that war-machine, point their fingers at everything but the elephant staring at us from the corner of our consciousness. The best of them are often sycophants while the worst of them are always sophists, distracting us from the truth that hides plainly in our sights.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson, like all scientists, should be held to a higher standard and simply ought to know better. Five minutes reading on Wikipedia could have prevented him from completely misquoting Al Ghazali and shamelessly misrepresenting history; let alone what he could have learned from actually reading his works. All the while the answer to the question he sought was in plain sight, with just a bit of research it would have revealed itself. But in his attempt to push a separate agenda he lost sight of his attempt to be as he claims in the presentation, “a truth seeker”. What’s worse is a large number of people who trust his scholarship will also be mislead by this abject unscientific approach to history.


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  • Eric

    Also, Aristotelian Metaphysics / Hellenism weren’t fully ejected from Islamlic theology -as per Al-Ghazali (NDT’s claims are untrue). They are rather hallmark tools in classical “orthodox” Islamic theology, known as the Ashari school of theological thought – the earlier stage of the school being less Hellenistic, the later being more Hellenistic.

  • Eric

    Yeah, ‘Sufism’ is an Orientalist word for the Islamic science of Tasawwuf – and it has nothing to do with ancient Egypt nor alchemy. Apparently the author is as equally glib as NDT.

  • Santa

    Question is:
    what made Neil DeGrasse Tyson to deduce that some
    event, based around one individual influence, from 800 years ago plunged
    Muslim ruled states into Dark Age of their own (serious claim which any
    decent western historian of that period will
    simply laugh off!) –
    which then lead him (Neil) to rhetorical question how is possible that
    1.3 billions Muslims won the Nobel Prize only on three occasions, while 15 million Jews have
    something like half of all laureates ?
    Because this is the dumbest claim possible, that could came out of a mouth of such distinguished
    mind, it does not deserve answer or any consideration at all – it
    deserves few contra questions, following DeGrasse own “logic” :
    – what disrupted 1.5 billion Chinese ?
    – or, what disrupted half a billion south Americans ?
    – how about nearly 400 million Japanese ?
    – there are almost 40 million Poles, and how many laureates ?
    – there was less then 1.5 million Bosnians when the second of 2 laureates was awarded to one of their own !

    Argument is ridiculous and shameful, entire thesis is bogus, and, sadly, it’s used as
    propaganda tool, straight from Hasbara tool shop – plain and simple !

    But Neil knows what his statement implies and what consequences could be, so he
    make a nice intro, with a mention of 300 years of Baghdad thought
    (Golden Age), with nice long list of star with Arabic names, and so on.

    Same as author of this article, I am too disappointed and even worried a bit, for
    realizing that such minds, intellectuals and distinguished scientists
    like Tyson and Weinberg, readily jumping on the bandwagon with people
    using Islamophobia (while they are not necessarily Islamophobes
    themselves, like Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennet, which is, actually, worse
    because it’s intellectually dishonest), which this particular narrative
    is part of, to justify western imperialism in the Near and Middle East
    and crimes of lunatic state of Israel (whose politician using exactly the same line of reasoning when they try to explain to Americans and Europeans how they Israelis, white-western-technological-industrial-nation, people that any westerner can recognize and identify with, live encircled by barbaric sub-humans – Nobel argument is popular and widely utilized!).

    So, unlike some of the commenter, I vehemently support article main ideas and authors’ claims !

  • Jeremy Klondike

    This article is laughable. It pretends it is refuting Dr. Tyson while displaying the author’s utter ignorance of history. Dr. Tyson was spot on in his analysis of the historical record, whatever you personally prefer to believe about history is irrelevant

  • George Wrigley

    The more important question for me is, can this happen in the USA if the right wing radicals, like the tea party win the presidency. They now own both houses. I don’t want the USA to descend into some Christian theocracy. Just look at the laws that are being passed in the red states. Women are actually being arrested and going to prison for having miscarriages. The politicians passing these laws, and the crazies introducing laws such as in CA, where a legislator has introduce a bill to kill all gay people, are not just crazy, but extremely dangerous to a democratic society.

  • jrandall

    The Golden age of Islam was characterized by it’s massively tolerant multiculturism wherein anyone even Jews (Averroes) rose to high rank if they had ability. When that tolerant multiculturism went away, so did the Golden age.

  • jrandall

    Wait a minute: “stagnation of totalitarian regimes”?? Are you kidding me? What could be more totalitarian than the Muslim empire ruled by an all-powerful Caliph? “Barbarians?” Has there ever been a more civilized, disciplined, ascetic, noble and principled group of people than the those who gave up all worldly riches to serve in the knights Hospitaler and knights Templar who spearheaded those Crusades? Your words sound buffoonish.

    And what preceded these so-called “barbarian” Crusades? Was it not the enslavement of the inhabitants of the birthplace of the prophet Jesus Christ by a rag-tag band of Arabic bearded tribal savages? (to use your verbage) The schism between secular science and religion is precisely what freed science from subjugation and suffocation by religion and enabled the explosion of knowledge and scientific advancement in the Renaissance.

  • DesertSun59

    The problem with religious bloggers of ALL stripes is that their premise is merely a claim. Their premise is that a deity of THEIR choosing exists (self-contained, self-generated and all powerful) and that all knowledge, thought, philosophy, etc stems from said deity. Without a shred of evidence for such a premise, the claim is made anyway.

    Sorry, folks. All of your deities are manifestations of your imaginations. All avenues of thought, be them religious or not stem purely from people who evolved on this planet along with the rest of the natural world.

    Human beings are capable of what I assert is INFINITE imaginative capability. Your deities have always existed as a manifestation of that imagination. Your deities have always been specific to a time and a place and, without FAIL, they reflect the culture they were invented in. There is not one single deity that didn’t reflect the culture it was invented in. NOT ONE. This tells me that deities are always inventions of human imagination. Period.

    • jrandall

      There is one thing that is not the creation of Human imagination, though: That is the universe. That would be the creation of ah..What?

  • Todd Lewis

    Tyson was smoking pot. If he had spent 25 minutes listening to Timothy Winter the leading English scholar on al-Ghazali then he would have not have made such an ignorant claim.


    see :

  • Trae Barlow

    Ahh phew, so as usual it’s all the white devil/man’s fault? For a second I thought people might be responsible for their own lot.

    • Crysus Bu

      The west or America has the greatest military complex ever. period

      Now go eat some more hamburgers and see if that makes you feel better.

      • idleworm

        Indeed Crysus. And when it comes to comparing body counts and brutality, mass murder and genocide, the Islamic world has a far greater case for being a religion of peace, at least compared with the alternatives.

        Like Tyson, the anonymous ‘Guest’ could have found this out with 5 minutes on wikipedia/google.

  • neither ben nor jerry

    This article is way off on several accounts.

    The Islamic Golden Age did not end because of the Crusades. It ended because of Turko-Mongol conquest of the region. The traditional ending date is 1258, with the sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols. Furthermore, the Turkish Mamluk Sultanate was created in Egypt in 1250.

    The debate of Averroes vs Ghazali, as I understand it, was one not of being for and against science, but rather one of being for and against being allowed to edit the Quran.

    In that way, Tyson is right that Ghazali was pro-dogma, and opposed to any editing of officially “perfect” books

    • Crysus Bu

      “The debate of Averroes vs Ghazali was not about the validity of science, but rather, about the supremecy of reason over the Quran

      Did you pull this one out of your ass? All Ghazali argued against the Islamic avicennian school of thought. ghazali had no problems with physics, logic, astronomy or maths. His issue was with metaphysics and how the philosophers (who pioneered and made advanced in physics, astronomy) did not apply this same logic when attempting critisism of metaphysics. They were basically inconsistent and incompetent. Averres insisted that avicenna had the wrong end of the stick to begin with so basically al ghazali was refuting a misrepresentation. He then attempted to create harmony and consistency with Aristotelian thinking and the Qur’an.

      This has absolutely nothing to do with” oh but no matter how reasonable and logical you are its from Satan”

      Tyson was completely wrong about what he said in this presentation.

      • neither ben nor jerry

        Alright, well, I’m no expert. I may be misunderstanding what the “sides” were in the debate. My source was not “my ass” (as you say), but rather this first paragraph from the following Wikipedia article:

        Muʿtazilah (Arabic: المعتزلة‎) is an Islamic school of theology based on reason and rational thought[1] that flourished in the cities of Basra and Baghdad, both in present-day Iraq,
        during the 8th–10th centuries. The adherents of the Mu’tazili school
        are best known for their having asserted that, because of the perfect
        unity and eternal nature of Allah, the Qur’an must therefore have been created, as it could not be co-eternal with God.[2] From this premise, the Mu’tazili school of Kalam
        proceeded to posit that the injunctions of God are accessible to
        rational thought and inquiry: because knowledge is derived from reason,
        reason is the “final arbiter” in distinguishing right from wrong.[3]
        It follows, in Mu’tazili reasoning, that “sacred precedent” is not an
        effective means of determining what is just, as what is obligatory in
        religion is only obligatory “by virtue of reason.”[3]

        It was my understanding that Ghazali took the opposing view. If I am way off here, thanks for clarifying.

        • idleworm

          Stanford > Wikipedia.

          Now let’s remember Tyson’s astonishing claim that Ghazali equated mathematics with “The Devil”. Even a cursory glance at the history of the man shows that the actual story is so far beyond that childish caricature as to be mind-boggling.

          Tyson is just the latest clapped out proponent of Cornell’s ‘Conflict Thesis’ bunkum. He never misses a chance to make a fool out of himself by mutilating history to fit his binary fable (as he did with Giordano Bruno in ‘Cosmos’, for example).

          On the Arabic and Muslim side al-Ghazâlî’s acceptance of demonstration (apodeixis) led to a much more refined and precise discourse on epistemology and a flowering of Aristotelian logics and metaphysics. With al-Ghazâlî begins the successful introduction of Aristotelianism or rather Avicennism into Muslim theology. After a period of appropriation of the Greek sciences in the translation movement from Greek into Arabic and the writings of the falâsifa up to Avicenna (Ibn Sînâ, c.980–1037), philosophy and the Greek sciences were “naturalized” into the discourse of kalâm and Muslim theology (Sabra 1987). Al-Ghazâlî’s approach to resolving apparent contradictions between reason and revelation was accepted by almost all later Muslim theologians and had, via the works of Averroes (Ibn Rushd, 1126–98) and Jewish authors a significant influence on Latin medieval thinking…

          3. Al-Ghazâlî’s “Refutations” of falsafa and Ismâ’îlism

          Al-Ghazâlî describes the Incoherence of the Philosophers as a “refutation” (radd) of the philosophical movement (Ghazâlî 1959a, 18 = 2000b, 61), and this has contributed to the erroneous assumption that he opposed Aristotelianism and rejected its teachings. His response to falsafa was far more complex and allowed him to adopt many of its teachings. The falâsifa are convinced, al-Ghazâlî complains at the beginning of the Incoherence, that their way of knowing by “demonstrative proof” (burhân) is superior to theological knowledge drawn from revelation and its rational interpretation. This conviction led “a group” among the Muslim falâsifa to disregard Islam and to neglect its ritual duties and its religious law (sharî’a). In his Incoherence al-Ghazâlî discusses twenty key teachings of the falâsifa and rejects the claim that these teachings are demonstratively proven. In a detailed and intricate philosophical discussion al-Ghazâlî aims to show that none of the arguments in favor of these twenty teachings fulfills the high epistemological standard of demonstration (burhân) that the falâsifa have set for themselves. Rather, the arguments supporting these twenty convictions rely upon unproven premises that are accepted only among the falâsifa, but are not established by reason. By showing that these positions are supported by mere dialectical arguments al-Ghazâlî aims to demolish what he regarded was an epistemological hubris on the side of the falâsifa. In the Incoherence he wishes to show that the falâsifa practice taqlîd, meaning they merely repeat these teachings from the founders of their movement without critically examining them (Griffel 2005).

          • jrandall

            But if “With al-Ghazâlî begins the successful introduction of Aristotelianism or rather Avicennism into Muslim theology”,
            Then why did Averroes preject Ghazali’s Incoherence of the Philosophers with his Incoherence of the Incoherence?

          • jrandall

            Tyson merely is repeating this:
            “The Incoherence of the Incoherence was not well received by later Islamic scholars. In the 15th century, a strong refutation of Ibn Rushd’s arguments in Tahāfut al-Tahāfut was written by a Turkic scholar Mustafā Ibn Yūsuf al-Bursawī, also known as Khwājah Zādā (d. 1487), defending Al-Ghazali’s views. This once again asserted the weakness of human understanding and the strength of faith. In Europe on the other hand, Ibn Rushd’s philosophical writings were generally well received by Christian scholars and gave rise to the philosophical school of Averroism.[1]
            The interesting question is why did the Islamic world rejected The Incoherence of the Incoherence? in favor of Bursawi’s defense of Ghazali?

      • jrandall

        No, Ghazali joined the Asharites in saying that Rather than simply set laws in motion for man to discover (science), God must constantly cause every little thing to happen every little time. Therefore, why bother to discover scientific laws? As in his explanation of why cotton burns below:

        “…our opponent claims that the agent of the burning is the fire exclusively;’ this is a natural, not a voluntary agent, and cannot abstain from what is in its nature when it is brought into contact with a receptive substratum. This we deny, saying: The agent of the burning is God, through His creating the black in the cotton and the disconnexion of its parts, and it is God who made the cotton burn and made it ashes either through the intermediation of angels or without intermediation. For fire is a dead body which has no action, and what is the proof that it is the agent? Indeed, the philosophers have no other proof than the observation of the occurrence of the burning, when there is contact with fire, but observation proves only a simultaneity, not a causation, and, in reality, there is no other cause but God.”
        Among the faithful, this clearly squashed scientific inquiry. Since the answer to why, was from then on to be simply “because God made it so”. Case closed.
        I would also add, the Asharite position also diminished God. For which is more powerful–a God who merely commands the earth to spin once for it to continue forever? or one who, as the Asharites (and Ghazali) say, must labor continuously every moment to keep it spinning?

  • Haris Siddiqui

    It is with out an ounce of doubt that the mental, economical and socioreligious state of present day Muslim world is at complete odds with its predecessors who lived a 1000 years ago. While much of Europe was plagued with the Dark ages, the Islamic caliphate and the region under its authority was going through the Golden age of Islam. One pioneering difference when compared with the Christian world was not only the open acceptance of science but also the notion that every and anything can and should be questioned. Sadly, the Crusade was just the first blow to the rapidly growing hub of science and research that took in academic scholars from every part of the world. In my view the decisive blow was actually delivered by the invasion of Mongolian war lord Gengis Khan whose armies decimated anything in its path ,including the Bayth al-Hikam (House of wisdom) library, during the siege of Baghdad in 1258. In essence, the muslim world never recovered from the destruction caused and what ever little remained was wiped out during the European colonization in the subsequent centuries. All those who sided with the colonial powers were rewarded with the leadership of their respective lands which explains why not a single leader in the middle east is loved of admired by its own people. They all have ruled in the case of Saddam, Gaddafi, House of Saud etc with an iron fist and continue to do so at times with the support of much of the western worlds leadership.

    What most people fail to understand is that the population of every Muslim country including places such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia etc want and desire the same freedoms and lifestyle that we have here in the west. However those in power do no wish to relinquish their tight hold over the masses. A simple example of this can be see from the nearly Trillion $ net worth of the House of Saud that has controlled the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia after it seized control in the coup at the turn of the 20th century. In the example of Pakistan, the current President and Prime minister are ranked among the top 5 richest Pakistani’s in the world.

    When you factor all of the above, you are than able to see the systemic and catastrophic destruction of the very stepping stone that paved the way for the European renaissance. As someone who is a student of science and a believer in the existence of God, I have not at any point felt the need to ignore Science or found my religion to be at odds with Science.

    • yestradamous

      I’ve had many conversations with women in the Islamic world and they defend their male imposed restrictions. Shocked me, for sure, because I thought we all wanted the same things. but turns out we really don’t.

      • DesertSun59

        Correct. This is precisely why Christian women in the US continue to vote for men who campaign on restricting women’s rights. They’re brainwashed as well.

    • Trae Barlow

      De Gras Tyson never said “Islam” was responsible for the xenophobia and anti-intellectualism in the middle east, he said it was fundamentalism and anti-intellectualism.

      The Bible and the Koran (very similar stories) say and share many things, in many ways they are parallell and in many ways they serve a needed purpose. Religious teaching is the soil in which a mind learns to ask questions, for a mind to discover Philosophy if not Science. A child doesn’t understand “be nice to people because everyone is going through a struggle you know nothing about”, but he understands “thou shalt not kill” or “love thy neighbor”. Unfortunately a child also understands he who works on the Sabbath / infidels must be put to death.”

      The problem occurs when religions are twisted into vehicles for teaching prejudice and hate instead of enlightenment and peace. In fact it’s a growing problem here in the west as well.

      • jrandall

        The problem that derailed science in Islam was occasionalism school of thought introduced by the Asharites specifically, not Islam itself.

  • conspiracy is for idiots

    Thank you so much for this essay. Like you I am a great admirer of Tyson, but I always doubted his claim in that video about Islamic intellectual decline being caused by one man. I had promised myself to one day research this claim further. Now that I have found your essay and the answer – that Tyson is wrong about it – I feel relived and vindicated.

  • Joao Morais

    It’s funny how you blame mostly the crusades in particular and war in general for the abrupt decline of scientific inquiry in Muslim world. Al Ghazali and Nizam Al Mulk , grand vizier of the Seljuk Dinasty and founder of a system of education known has “Nizamiyah” that focused on religious studies at the expense of independent inquiry, both, steer away the Arabic world away from scientific discovery and innovation.

    Europe, without interruption, was plagued with wars until the middle of the twenty century. That in no way changed the mind frame of Europeans who , along the way and in the teeth of Catholicism that tried always to stop scientific inquiry as well, developed, mostly after the renaissance, scientific method and further the knowledge of mankind in all areas. War is not the culprit for the decline of science and innovation in the Arabic nations. Religion, specifically Islam, is the responsible for the backward thinking that we observe nowadays, the treatment of women, the lack of freedom the suicide bombing and all the middle age mentality that populates still most of the Arabs. Hopefully the Arab spring Revolutions will make young people, young Arabs, to look for values like democracy, equal rights for women, due process in the courts of law instead of stoning, raping en beheading.
    As usual blame in the Arab nations falls into everyone else outside instead on themselves.

    • yestradamous

      Excellent comment. Two months later, but still!

    • Crysus Bu

      Don’t regurgitate outdated rhetoric. For one thing suicide bombing and rape is forbidden in Islam and terrorism is not a new phenomena. Europe only continued its practice through war. War fought against nations which were already crippled.

      The Eastern world kept Islam, whereas the western world lost Christianity for material gain. The leaders of the modern middle eastern world do not represent the people. If Islamic caliphate came to power again science would never be banned, it would to be taught in harmony.

      • Ana Caroline Vasconcelos

        Suicide bombing and rape is forbidden in Islam?! Don’t make me laugh. There are hundreds of cases..hundreds ! When the twin towers were attacked I saw people celebrating from the Gaza Strip to Teheran and most Arab countries rejoice on the terrorist attack. I NEVER saw a so called ” moderate” Muslim of relevance in the Arab world condemning the attack. They make up all kinds of justification and excuses but they did not called them what they are , murderers!
        Islam is not a religion of peace, it’s violent and dangerous. Of course you can tell me that many or even most Muslims are peaceful but that majority is irrelevant. The peaceful majority is irrelevant when faced with a violent fanatic minority that supports its beliefs in ancient books spawned by ignorant peasants. The German people are not assassina but they couldn’t stop the nazis with their ideal of purity and race. Russians are not assassins but they couldn’t stop Stalin and his goons on a communist rampage. So your peaceful Muslims are irrelevant when 19 pious man full of pious belief murder more than 3000 people for ancient books and virgins. Islam kills apostates does it not? Subjugate woman! Does it not? So don’t ell me Islam is peaceful it’s an hateful belief that seeks to destroy democracies all over. Shame on you!

        • Crysus Bu

          You have to be a troll. There is no way a human being who has had an education be so bat shit stubborn and idiotic.

          • DesertSun59

            More amusing posts from CB. If rape and suicide bombings are forbidden in Islam then why do they rape and blow themselves up. And, why do you totally discount the evidence in front of you? Do you believe that 19 MUSLIM terrorists didn’t kill themselves and 3000+ people on Sept 11, 2001 in NYC? If so, you are not living in the world with us but in a fantasy you put together in your head.

          • DesertSun59

            I have a body count. You can continue to discount it if you wish but it doesn’t change the FACTS of the violent nature INHERENT in Islam as directed specifically by the Koran.


        • idleworm
        • helmij

          Rationalism in the Islamic World, Now and Then :: StPiningit Blog

      • DesertSun59

        Very amusing. If suicide bombing and rape are forbidden in Islam then why to Muslims rape and blow themselves up?

        Because your assertion is false and you don’t exist in the same world we live in.

    • Peixecoruja

      But how could Islam be the sole responsible for anti-scientific backward thinking is it was under Islamic regimes that science flourish during centuries? It must have been a conbination of factors! There are many examples of political/economial/military decline leading to religious extremism, both in the Islamic and Crhistian worlds. In the case of the Islamic Golden Age, wouldn’t it be reasonable to assotiate this decline and radicalization with the Mongol and Turkish invasions of the 12th and 13th centuries?

    • jrandall

      I think we can be more specific than to say “Religion and specifically Islam”. I would say it is primitive Tribal culture that predated Islam in the Arab desert, that lives on in remote places like Afganistan, elements of primitive tribal culture that got imbedded in the religion and were never removed– things like concubinage, harems, sanctioned child marriage (pedophilia); general debasement and abuse of women were there before Islam, remain today, enshrined by it.

  • Frank Blunt

    a decent speculation, but a speculation still… would have could have… sigh… the bottom line is still, that the followers of ancient superstitions, with angry old books, toppled Baghdad.

  • Denver Goddess

    Btw, if you want anti-Science in Islam, look no farther than the Bukhari Hadith collection, viewed nearly universally as wholly valid and reliable.

    What does it say happened to the library of Alexandria and why? There ya go.

    • Saâd Akchich

      Bukhari hadith collection is man-made and contains a lot of contradictions and even lies about what prophet Muhammad said, and a lot of muslims know that! If you want to look for anti-science in Islam, go to the source: the Quran, a source that is wholly reliable. Muslim scholars criticized Bukhari throughout history and still do! I can refer you to Adnan Ibrahim videos, he has a lot to say about the subject.

      • Denver Goddess

        I have no interest in a junk religion which I studied and rejected over 15 years ago. Islam is not sola scriptura, and without Hadiths – as messed up as they are – there is no Islamic Law as Quran does not contain specifics on much of daily Islamic practice. I realize that Muslims tend to be in denial and brush off Hadiths they don’t like as false, however they do so without addressing the validity of that chain of narration. The Quran is not wholly reliable, either. Just saying.

        • Jacob Stamm

          In Christianity, they have the opposite problem – all of the deplorable Abrahamic laws laid out fromt he beginning, which are later ignored by people who aren’t twisted in the head. Kind of funny how both religions are full of people cherrypicking what they like and don’t like, but in different ways.

          • Denver Goddess

            No, Jesus came and brought the New Covenant which replaced the Old.

          • Jacob Stamm

            When I was a Christian, I clung to this idea as well. However, that is not at all what Jesus taught, and it is not what his disciples, Paul, or the early Christians believed. Here’s Jesus during his most treasured teaching, the sermon on the mount, Matthew 5:17-19 –
            “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

          • Denver Goddess

            Yes I already left a link explaining that. Thanks.

          • Jacob Stamm

            And where may I find said link?

      • Denver Goddess

        And since you admit Bukhari (the most highly-regarded and authentic collction of hadith out there) is full of garbage, then how do you justify using it to fill in parts of Islamic practice the Quran leaves out?

        • Saâd Akchich

          Because it’s not “full of garbage”, the authenticity can be measured by how does it relate to the Quran. It would take me an article to explain that to you that’s why I refered you to Adnan Ibrahim’s videos. And it’s very normal that the Quran leaves out daily practice, because Islam is supposed to merge with the culture not the other way around (salafis and wahhabis don’t agree but they’re not the majority), Islam is a way of life, not a bunch of legislative dictations that tell people what they should do in every given situation, that’s only salafism. Islam shows you where A and B are, and tells you to go to B, but doesn’t dictate which path should you take, that’s for you to figure out.
          (I tried replying to both you comments here)

          • Connor Kennway

            so if it agrees with the quran it’s authentic, if it disagrees it’s not authentic you muslims are like stupid 5 year old kids

    • idleworm

      Unadulterated rubbish. There are four dates for the destruction, from Caesar in 40BC onwards. The event you refer to gets this treatment:

      E. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chapter 51: “It would be endless to enumerate the moderns who have wondered and believed, but I may distinguish with honour the rational scepticism of Renaudot, (Hist. Alex. Patriarch, p. 170: ) historia … habet aliquid ut απιστον ut Arabibus familiare est.” However Butler says: “Renaudot thinks the story has an element of untrustworthiness: Gibbon discusses it rather briefly and disbelieves it.” (ch.25, p.401)

      The civilisation of Arabs, Book no III, 1884, reedition of 1980, page 468

      Trumble & MacIntyre Marshall 2003, p. 51. “Today most scholars have discredited the story of the destruction of the Library by the Muslims.”

      MacLeod 2004, p. 71. “The story first appears 500 years after the Arab conquest of Alexandria. John the Grammarian appears to be John Philoponus, who must have been dead by the time of the conquest. It seems, as shown above, that both of the Alexandrian libraries were destroyed by the end of the fourth century, and there is no mention of any library surviving at Alexandria in the Christian literature of the centuries following that date. It is also suspicious that Omar is recorded to have made the same remark about books found by the Arab during their conquest of Iran.”

    • helmij

      Arab culture, a culture that is Deeply Loved by Americans and Europeans ::
      StPiningit Blog


        You misspelled “Loved” correct spelling is “Lothed”

    • helmij

      Arab culture, a culture that is Deeply Loved by Americans and Europeans ::
      StPiningit Blog

    • Peixecoruja

      Weren’t the Romans and the Egypicians coptic christians the ones who burned the Library of Alexandria?

  • Denver Goddess

    It’s beyond me why politically left-leaning Jews go so on to kiss Muslim butts. They don’t like you and they never will, regardless of how much you want them to because of your old historical grievances against Europeans of Christian background that you’ve carried your hostility toward from the Old World to the Americas.

    You’d think you’d not have to be told this?

    Who is Israel’s biggest ally again? Enemies? What do its enemies have in common? Islam? Right.

    • Albert Heisenberg

      I have ZERO clue why the Jews continue to try to appease the Islamist agitators surrounding the peninsula. The Islamist theocrats will not stop until Israel is wiped off the face of the earth. Period. My concern is even if they were to come to a compromise and allocate land in excess of the Gaza Strip to the Palestinians, would that really change anything? Or will they continue to attack Israel until they reclaim the land in its entirety? Hmm. I’m inclined to opt for the latter.

      • neither ben nor jerry

        Because they are opposed to the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. Furthermore, there was no terrorism before the Israelis occupied the West Bank and Gaza in ’67

    • Crysus Bu

      Jews always lived with Muslims in peace for a considerable period relative to other nations.

      Study history

  • Chriswaterguy

    5 minutes on Wikipedia, as recommended by the blogger, didn’t convince me. I did find this, which seems to support Tyson: ‘al-Ghazali rejected non-Islamic philosophers such as Aristotle and saw fit to discard their teachings on the basis of their “unbelief,”…’

    • Albert Heisenberg

      Chris, I concur wholeheartedly. Wikipedia reveals nothing that refutes NDT’s claim that the renaissance of theocracy in the region has hamstrung scientific progress (his principal thesis). I’m sorry to say this but 5 minutes on wikipedia obviated my belief in the factually integrity of your article. Even till this day de facto theocracy rules the region. The Middle-East is full of extremely intelligent, bright, innovative minds; the ones with opportunity and capital simply go to school in Europe or the States. Ibrahim, your argument is not very persuasive. Lastly, your characterization of NDT as “shamelessly misrepresenting history” is hyperbolic at best. If anything, you’ve done yourself no favors by failing to point out that it was the Ottomans that were the principal military agitators in the region after the Great Schism of Pope Leo. I believe the mantra then was “convert or die.” Alas, I digress.

      • skwills

        Wikipedia is not relaly the best resource, you know.

        • idleworm

          Always amusing though, when you read an article where each paragraph was written by a different contributor, each one contradicting the preceding.

        • Chris Watkins

          The blogger made a claim about what Wikipedia would make clear in 5 min, so I checked it out. Didn’t add up.

    • Dami

      Fyi Philosophers are not scientists.

      • Fahad Khan

        lol. What does PhD stand for I wonder…

    • Maktoum

      I’m not sure why a rejection of Greek and Hellenistic philosophy amount to being “anti-science.” Al-Ghazali did not reject Greek philosophy simply on the basis of the unbelief of its authors– if you read his “Incoherence of the Philosophers,” he makes logical arguments. And he certainly never says that math comes from the devil like Tyson says– Tyson supporters need to produce that reference.

  • Dawna Williams

    war has hit almost everywhere, along with genocide, mass prejudice, natural disasters, and disease. why is this one of the areas that did not rise again since then? they’ve had a lot of time and certainly now much more money. they are very anti-science. check out their educational videos, especially for children. much less science, some out right anti-science statements, and more religious indoctrination.

    • zak

      Hell o Mr. Expert, in the balanced article above 2 important things were mentioned: European crusade and stagnation of totalitarian regimes, the latter still persist till today in that region. Drink your coke & Cheeseburger, you are too simplistic like Mr. Tyson the so called scientist who did not even do his homework. The history is never one man made.

      • Dawna Williams

        Regimes built on RELIGION history buff…

    • Ashok

      Well, yes, let’s say they are anti-science now– though I still find this to be an uncomfortable generalization.

      The Turkic invasions and the Crusades all happened ca. 1000 CE. Thus, your claim reduces to this: the region was anti-science for 1000 years.

      But what would that even mean? There were no scientific facts to oppose for most of that period, such as evolution or the age of the earth. So how would you find evidence for your claim? Edicts banning inquiry? I’ll wait for you to produce it.

      Why science did not flourish in the reason simply boils down to the lack of cultural capital and the lack of state effort to promote them. Every country has gone through this. Germany was the scientific capital of the world until Hitler expelled its best scientists on the basis of religion. German science now is all right, but it never regained its ground– the U.S. has simply taken its place.

      Science does not flourish in the Arab world TODAY for the same reason it doesn’t flourish in Thailand and Nigeria– talent attracts talent, and the best minds are coming to Europe and North America.

      • yestradamous

        That’s not the only reason. The Koran is revered as containing all knowledge worth knowing. Even for people who didn’t go to madrassas, things like evolution aren’t commonly believed. It’s cultural. And since the culture is Koran based, Q.E.D.

        • Maktoum

          Anyone who thinks that Middle Eastern culture can be reduced to the Quran knows nothing about the Middle East or the Quran and gives a perfect example of Saidian Orientalism.

        • jrandall

          No, the primitive elements of the culture predates Islam and the Koran. That culture for the sake of easy acceptance by Arab desert tribes, was imbedded and codified in the Koran

      • yestradamous

        And Germany hasn’t lost their brain power, they’ve traded entrepreneurial energy for socialism and security.

        • Maktoum

          That Germany lost its brain power is a historical fact. The United States is the epicenter of science now.

    • Ashok

      And by the way, the region did rise again to have quite a colorful history. Genghis Khan? The Ottoman Empire? Tamerlane? The first gunpowder empires were all Muslim.


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