People believe that this disease is sacred simply because they don't know what causes it? But some day I believe they will, and the moment they figure out why people have epilepsy, it will cease to be considered divine.
The man pictured here on an Iraqi currency is
Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan ibn al-Ḥasan ibn al-Haytham, better known as Al Hazen.
He is a titanic figure in the history of science. His works on optics were absolutely critical in Europe in the 15th century when Europe was pulling it's ignorant ass out of the dark ages during the Renascence. It was Al Hazen, a 10th century Arab, who figured out why we see what we see. That is, how light works.
He used logic, reason and experiment to demolish all the old theories about how we saw things - like the idea that light came from your eyes to light up what you were looking it. Al Hazen figured out that light came into your eye from all the objects around you. And the reason that your eye didn't get confused by all this input was that most of the light rays were refracted in your eye, allowing you to see some light, but not all of it. His work was used later in Europe to figure out problems in geometry, optics and architecture.
There is a pretty good chance you've chance you've not heard of Al Hazen. His name doesn't come up much in high school history lessons (or university lessons for that matter) and it appears, neither has Dinesh D'Souza.
You see, D'Souza likes to claim that everything good about the western world is the baby of Christianity. He really does. And this includes science. Take this from one of his recent blogs promoting his new book:
..where did Western man get this idea of a lawfully ordered universe? From Christianity. Christians were the first ones who envisioned the universe as following laws that reflected the rationality of God the creator. These laws were believed to be accessible to man because man is created in the image of God and shares a spark of the divine reason.It's a lovely conceit I suppose. It's also completely wrong. Now it is true that for believers, a rational universe created by god makes sense, and explains for them why science works. However, it is utterly false to say that "Western man" first got his idea that the universe was knowable through reason from Christianity.
Apparently, D'Souza has never heard ofAnaxamander, Epidicles or Anaxagoras or Hippocrates. These men went about figuring out how the universe worked long before a certain Hebrew carpenter was a twinkle in a virgin's eye. All of them opperated on the notion that the universe was knowable through reason. Not because a god had created it thus, but because that was how the universe was. Men like Democritus weren't even sure the universe and the Earth had been created at all, and suggested that everything had existed forever. Moreover, they looked for material explanations of the universe. In fact, it is from these Greeks that we get the term "cosmos" - the orderly universe. The important thing to note here is that these men came about to this realization without Christianity and their ideas formed the spine of what would become modern science.
Indeed, once the Christians had finished, or thought they had finished, crushing the Greek schools of philosophy with their crazy ideas of rational inquiry and logic, and Europe plunged into the dark ages, did they continue or improve upon the traditions of Greek science? Not in the least. They turned instead to mysticism and superstition. The bible was all the education anyone needed. Augustine's maxim, "believe and then you'll understand" ruled the day. The natural world, from this point of view, wasn't worth bothering about. You know, life is a veil tears and that sort of thing? That was dark ages Europe for the most part.
But, as Jonathan Miller points out, the term "dark ages" is little more than a cliche because it is impossible to totally wipe out free thought. But it is true that this period was one of deep ignorance compared to what came before it.
Yet rationale inquiry lived on, particularly in the Muslim world. It might be hard for us to imagine it now, with rise in Islamist terrorism and draconian Muslim laws regarding women and blasphemy, but there was a time when the Arab world was the most sophisticated culture on the planet. Long before Muslim clerics came up with the bizarre notion that in order to please god, Muslim societies had to try and restore their world to the days of the prophet, the scholars of Islam were the leading scientists on earth.
Men like Al Hazen had kept the old Greek knowledge alive and were taking the next steps. Picking up where the Greeks left off and advancing human knowledge about the universe. And what is critical to remember about this is that Europe began to dig itself out of the dark ages because of an influx of Arab texts. Where once all Europe had was the bible, religious writings and scraps of Aristotle and Ptolemy, now they had volumes of long forgotten Greek and Roman texts, complete with Arab commentaries - not to mention the direct writings of men like Al Hazen. All of these texts operated on that Greek idea of cosmos. That the universe was knowable through reason. An idea much older, and more profound, than any revelation found in the bible or koran.