Monday, June 8, 2009

Forget What You Thought You Knew

I became suspicious of the "everybody knows" theory of history very early in my life. In elementary school, we were told that "everybody knows" that the movies are wrong, and that white settlers invented the delightful practice of "scalping" which the Indians merely copied. In what I am sure was an attack of ethno-centrism, I just couldn't accept that, so I started reading up on the subject.

Son of a gun, it turned out that "everybody" was wrong. The natives had been practicing scalping for many, many years before the settlers ever arrived from the Old World. In one of the earliest attempts to "de-villainize" the Native Americans, some cultural anthropologists in the 1930's and 1940's had decided that they would isolate a few settlements of Europeans where the natives had not practiced scalping, and make that into a general thesis. Pretty soon, "everybody knew" it was true that Indians didn't scalp enemies before the foul Europeans arrived.

Until yesterday, I knew just like everybody else that the Arabs invented algebra. Well, everybody was wrong. Since President Peacemaker included this in his love-fest speech to the "Muslim World," a scholar at Tulane University decided to de-bunk that idea, along with more than a few others praising Arabs and Muslims. I did some further searches at the UC Bancroft Library at Berkeley, and Obama "knew" a whole lot of things that aren't true about the scientific past of the Caliphate.

In a post at Pajamasmedia, Tulane Professor of Mathematical Physics Frank J Tipler pointed out that "The non-Muslim Hindus of India invented algebra." Of course in his speech, Obama repeated what "everybody knows"--that the Arab Muslims invented algebra. Strike one.

So what else showed up in Obama's speech that "everybody knows?" The Arabs invented the magnetic compass. Well, no. The non-Muslim Chinese invented the magnetic compass. Strike two. The Muslims invented pens and printing. The pen has been around for thousands of years, and the Chinese invented printing. Printing as we know it was invented by Lutheran Johannes Gutenberg with the printing press and movable type. Strike three. Muslims invented the university. Nope, European nobility who wanted to get rid of their eldest sons for four years invented the university. We've run out of strikes, so I'll can the baseball analogy.

Muslims invented the decimal system. Wrong, oh Great One. The Hindus of India invented the decimal system. Astronomy? No, no, no. The Greeks of old came up with that largely via Ptolemy, and modern astronomy develops from Archimedes through Galileo and Copernicus. Nary an Arab nor a Muslim in the bunch. Though Ptolemy made the mistake of putting the earth in the center of the universe around which everything else revolves, his basic concept and calculations were tweaked a bit by his successors in Greece, Rome, Italy and Northern Europe, and we now have the heliocentric solar system. Muhammad and his progeny didn't get it. The earth isn't even the center of the solar system, let alone the entire universe.

But everybody knows the Moorish Arab Muslims invented physics, right? Wrong. Physics is founded on basic Greek mathematics and developed into its modern form largely through Western, Christian and Jewish (God forbid) scientists. The Muslim students had been taking a long recess. In fact, Muslim scientists never developed a system of physics because, as Tipier points out, "The leading Muslim theologians declared the idea of fixed physical laws to be heretical. The Qur'an states 'The Jews have said, God's hand is fettered. Fettered are their hands, and they are cursed for what they have said. God's hand is unfettered by such nonsense as the laws of physics, and Allah works his will as he chooses'." At least now we know why they hate the Jews. It is un-Islamic to believe that mixing hydrogen and oxygen in a consistent way will always produce water. "Water is produced solely by the will of Allah."

In his speech in Cairo, Obama singled out Al-Azhar University as a particularly shining example of Arab/Muslim scientific excellence. Small problem. That university still teaches exclusively Ptolemaic astronomy, with the earth still sitting there smack dab in the middle of all those revolving orbs--including the sun. Obama and his Islamoboosters should consider that the next time they want to make fun of some Southern Baptist college.

The only truth about Muslim/Arab scholarship is that they were great librarians. When the West tore itself apart during the religious and territorial wars, many great works were destroyed or disappeared. The Arabs in North Africa and Spain had held onto the works, but they had all been translated into Arabic. So many names of celestial bodies have Arabic names because the West never bothered to translate them back into their original non-Arabic form. They invented or improved nothing. They just catalogued it. And the few Middle Eastern works with some original scientific concepts come from pre-Muslim Persia (modern day Iran), not from any Arabic Muslim thinkers. Furthermore, the Arabs didn't invent the library, either. Assurbanipal the Assyrian king of Nineveh did that about 680 B.C., and the Greeks brought it to its height in the library at Alexandria, which the Romans unfortunately burned to the ground. Muhammad was not even yet a twinkle in his great-great-great grandfather's eye.

So when the day comes that Obama praises the "Muslim World" for inventing computers and the internet, you may want to consider that he's just full of European baloney.

28 comments:

ScottDS said...

"So when the day comes that Obama praises the "Muslim World" for inventing computers and the internet, you may want to consider that he's just full of European baloney."

I'm trying to think of a good pun about Al Gore and a Muslim whose last name is al gore but it's too early in the morning. I'll try to come back to it. :-)

BevfromNYC said...

So what you are saying? I now have to blame all my math rage on Hindus and not Muslims? With the exception of that suttee issue, I kind of like Hindus. Okay, but you better be right because therapy is expensive...

Writer X said...

ScottDS, I was thinking the same thing. Lawhawk, thanks for doing the research; too bad the President and his writers don't spend more time at the library.

I'm surprised President Obama didn't simply pull an AL GORE and say that he discovered all of these things. Funny things, facts. They keep getting in the way of all his pretty speeches.

freedom21 said...

I wonder if they still get the credit for inventing the zero. I'd be willing to concede that to them, i think.

Islam: Founder of Zero

Sidenote: ROLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL WAVE! (gotta have the Tulane pride)

John Keats said...

I always knew that Muslims invented chess and coffee. I was wrong at least about the chess, which apparently originated in India. (Interesting note, though, if my memory serves correctly: the phrase "checkmate" comes from the Persian "shah mat," literally, "the king is ambushed.")

The jury's still out on coffee. It was apparently invented by an Ethiopian shepherd. I remember the Bible story about the Ethiopian eunuch who turned to Christ. Maybe he came up with the idea of drinking coffee. One way or another, I still believe coffee is God's special gift of love to teachers.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, great piece. Very nice dispelling of these myths they are foisting on us in the hopes that we don't look behind the curtain of Islam.

Melissa Marsh said...

Man, I am sharing this post with everyone I know. Thanks for the in-depth research.

LawHawkSF said...

ScottDS and Writer X: Al Gore (Muhammad Al-Gor) actually invented the abacus, the earliest form of computer.

Bev: I didn't experience math rage because I had a Hindu friend to help me out. I always wondered why he knew so much about math.

Freedom21: Alas, even "zero" is not an Arab concept. Like the word algebra (Al-Jibr, meaning transposition), the symbol for zero is Arabic in origin, along with what we call Arabic numerals. But the mathematical concept of zero was used in Hindu India as early as 680 BC, and a blank space on a counting device to represent the concept may even go back to ancient Babylonia. An Indian mathematician in 498 A.D. actually used both a symbol for zero and may have been the compiler of the modern decimal system as well. But indeed, the actual big O we use to represent zero is Arabic in origin.

John Keats: If the Arabs did invent coffee (it must be true, I'm drinking an Arabica right now), then I forgive them for everything bad they may ever have done. Without coffee, this brilliant column would never have been written (lol).

SQT said...

Don't you love how it works for the Dems? Al Gore can claim to have invented the Internet and it doesn't hurt his credibility at all. Now he's the Global Warming guru (did he invent that too?).

So all these historical inaccuracies should do nothing to mar Obama's image of perfection. He'll be known, years from now, as the most educated, erudite, charismatic -- you know-- God-like, President to have ever lived.

Unless his presidency falls apart. (fingers crossed)

LawHawkSF said...

SQT: Obama is all about firsts. He may be the first President of the United States to leave office, give up his citizenship, convert [back?] to Islam, and become the President of Egypt. Now THAT'S a first.

patti said...

omg! the computers AND the internets?! al gore is gonna be pissed....

Captain Soapbox said...

John, your Farsi recollection is correct, that's where it comes from. In Arabic it would be "The king is dead" which gives an insight into Arabic vs Persian (at least pre-Islam Persian) attitudes about what to do with losers of games...

Lawhawk, awesome article. The thing is Islamic culture isn't just rife with inaccuracies about what they invented, but it's rife with inaccuracies and contradictions within itself. I could rant on that for a good 4 hours, but I have to get the house cleaned because I just found out I was getting an unexpected houseguest out of the blue so I won't.

I'll just say this: Islam is the only major world religion (either explicitly or implicitly)that has no version of the Golden Rule in it, in fact the exact opposite is expected from a good Muslim when relating to an Infidel...or from a Shi'a to a Sunni, or from a Saudi to a Pakistani, or...you get the picture.

LawHawkSF said...

Captain: You're absolutely correct about The Golden Rule.

The Muslims have been self-promoting most of this stuff since 1492, but it never made it big time in the West until recently. With the fall of the Soviet Union, the left needed a new straw man to contrast with ignorant and uncreative western civilization. Communists pretty much invented everything, but with them gone, the best substitute was Islam. Western civilization contributed nothing to humanity, because communism/Islam did it first. The left didn't even have to change the playbook much--just change one word, and it's off to the races.

CrispyRice said...

Stunning.

Also embarrassing because I didn't know the vast majority of what you wrote. Since my sorry history education is probably similar to that of most Americans, you can rest assured that everyone will just believe everything the great O said. We sure haven't had anyone teach us anything different.

As for coffee, I'll stick with American-grown Kona. ;)

LawHawkSF said...

Crispy Rice: It's amazing what we've been spoon-fed by the "education" establishment isn't it? (OK, bad pun on breakfast cereals. Sorry, sometimes I just snap, crackle and pop).

When I'm particularly stressed, I have one jar of Kona, and one of Jamaica Blue Mountain. Very mellow. For chewing up the internet, I stick to Arabica. I just can't get angry enough on Kona. One of my clients was a Hawaiian Jewelry retailer/wholesaler/manufacturer. Boy--did I look forward to meeting with them. Kona and macadamias, and they brought them in large bags!

Captain Soapbox said...

CrispyRice, in my opinion the American education system is not only lacking when it comes to real study of Islam but actively promotes a biased and only marginally true version of it because it jives with their goal of "multi-culturalism" and "inclusion." Many professors do know these things, but will they pass them on to the students? No, because it doesn't mesh with the narrative they want to create.

When I was a Junior in college they introduced a Cultural Diversity requirement. We were all nudged towards taking classes about "exotic" cultures to make us aware of the goodness of them. I took one called Emerging Africa because it sounded interesting and my adviser taught it, and I always loved annoying my adviser. This was in the early '90s and if the class was to be believed by 2005 Africa would be a dominant force in the world because of the vast natural resources they had, the "final end of colonialism", and the reawakening of their naturalistic native spirituality. Yeah that worked out as planned didn't it?

Needless to say I was unimpressed with the whole idea of Cultural Diversity being required, let alone the sheer volume of pandering liberal crap that they were shoveling out. And that was years ago, I can only imagine what it is like today, let alone for someone who is taking Sociology as a major.

Lawhawk, you're correct there just scratch the word communist out and replace it with Islam and you can reuse the textbooks even. It's sickening that many in the West have such a low opinion of it that they'll lie, even to themselves, about the superiority of "The Other" in that manner. But it's been going on for a long time now, so I don't see it stopping anytime soon. Once the infatuation with Islam ends, if it ever ends that is, I'm sure the Chinese will be next up as The Greatest Culture Ever. If the Muslims haven't wiped them out by then of course.

Captain Soapbox said...

Oh and for the record, I do not like coffee, at all. How can something that smells so good taste so hideous? I mean I'll drink it if I have to, when you're sitting in the bottom of a waterlogged trench coffee does hit the spot, but as part of a normal routine? Not on your life.

I'm with you on the macadamia nuts though Lawhawk, those things should be illegal because once you start eating them you have to eat them all. Then when you run out, you cry, because they're all gone. Worse than crack on the addiction scale.

CrispyRice said...

LOL @ "I just can't get angry enough on Kona."

Soapbox, I go to bed looking forward to waking up so I can have more coffee...

My undergrad U also had a "diversity" requirement. Oddly enough "History of the American West" fulfilled the requirement. We also did a diversity training thing as incoming freshman, and we had to do skits at one point. My group had sexual harassment. We switched it around and had a female harassing a guy - everyone had a good laugh, except the facilitator, hee hee.

I also just finished reading Thomas Sowell's _Economic Facts and Fallacies_ and he had a fascinating chapter on Third World fallacies. One of the things he hits hard is the idea that because a country has natural resources, it should automatically make them a rich country unless they are being oppressed by the west. In reality, it's about having economic freedom, no corruption, and consistent laws from within a country's own government. It's a good read.

StanH said...

Lawhawk good read! Barry’s speech sliced and diced like the good counselor. I’ve learned with Barry, just don’t believe a word he says and you’ll be right. Western civilization is correct and the rest of the world is wrong, it’s the problem with the morale equivalence arguments that make my temples throb. Not to be snobbish, but IMO there isn’t one thing we can learn from Islam or any Islamic country, we’re right, and they’re wrong. Spin the globe and point out one Islamic country that’s nothing more than a backwards $hit hole, they get excited about a flush toilet for God’s sake! Almost every shooting conflict in the world has a Muslim on one side. Islam great librarians at best, plagiarist at worst, and most of the things as you have so astutely pointed out were indeed invented a thousand years before Islam. But to the mindless leftist/Islamic myrmidons man that was a good speech, just damn folks. Good read a lot of fun.

LawHawkSF said...

Crispy: Back in the dark ages when I was in college, we had a diversity requirement as well. It was called the core curriculum, which included western civilization. And the only diversity that mattered was diversity of thought.

Thomas Sowell is one of our gifts. The myth of natural resources producing wealth is spot-on. We have exactly the opposite problem. We're loaded with natural resources that made us a great nation because freedom, law, and enterprise were also in abundance. Today, with an embarrassment of riches at our disposal, our government is determined to turn us into a third-world nation, lacking freedom, unable to use our natural resources, and with the nanny state breathing down our necks at every turn. The rule of cream rising to the top has been replaced with the rule of the least common denominator. Wealth creating plenty has been replaced by wealth being destroyed to feed poverty.

Sif said...

So why do people think Arabs invented algebra - just because they catalogued things and we took their name from it? Or did Westerners get it from them, even though people in another civilization came up with it first? And where did the Muslims get it? I'm not saying you're wrong at all (these kinds of misunderstandings happen!) I just want to know how the knowledge traveled. If, as Wiki says, it was the Babylonians, that would make sense, bc they lived in Mesopotamia. This is really interesting! ^__^

Captain Soapbox said...

Sif, the transmission of knowledge and inventions is something that has been a subject of interest to me too, but the thing is that records aren't very good in some cases, and in others various civilizations have gone out of their way to claim credit for things that they didn't invent. And with any Big Lie if you repeat it often enough, well then you wind up with a politicized mass of contradictions.

The largest, and most popular, aspect of that right now is with the contributions of the Islamic peoples. Obama's speech went out of the way to highlight those even though many points were just flat out wrong.

As for how inventions got transmitted in the past, there was a practical benefit of rarity. If something was common and dirt cheap in the East yet wondrous in Europe then you stood to make a healthy profit if you could manage the trade between them. Phoenicia, Byzantium, Trebizond, etc. all made fortunes by doing just that. And if someone asked "Where did this come from?" you were better off not saying precisely. Best to just tell them to come back when they had some more money and you'd get them more of whatever it is that took their fancy.

The Calphite did one better but not only not saying where the items came from, but saying,"Oh well my cousin Hamid invented it." "Can we talk to Hamid?" "No he lives really far away, you wouldn't want to go there. But if you come back when you have some more stuff to trade or coins to spend, we'll make sure to get you some more of Hamid's stuff."

And there you go, Arabs "invented" everything east of the Euphrates because they were the ones with a lock on the trade routes between East and West from the time Constantinople became irrelevant and Venice became a power. Or were the ones who read the books the Greeks, and Romans left behind that were being used for wattle and daub reinforcement in Western Europe. As well as having a wealth of Mesopotamian, Indian, Jewish, Egyptian, etc. lore that never had been transmitted to the West previously in any numbers to begin with.

Possession is 9/10th of the law when it comes to knowledge too. They exploited that, and even though great strides have been made to actually discover where many discoveries were made the old or sometimes even new(-Age) assumptions about many remain.

LawHawkSF said...

Sif: The Arabs thought they invented algebra (and all those other things listed) because they wanted to believe it. Prior to about 1980, the algebra myth was the only one being widely transmitted outside the Arab world. With the slow collapse of the Soviet Union which had previously claimed nearly every scientific invention, the left needed a new, specifically non-western, non-American location to attribute the best of everything to. With the rise of Islam to replace the Soviet Union as the greatest threat to western democracy, the left had their new heroes.

The knowledge traveled the way knowledge always travels. Word of mouth. Written records. By horse, camel, and by foot. And sitting in the middle of all the knowledge of the east and the west was the Arab world. All the major trade routes of the early middle ages through the Renaissance passed right through Arab lands,many of them previously Roman and Greek provinces.

Great civilizations have no need to claim things that are not true. The Moors paid homage to the people who actually invented things, but with their decline, the stories of Arab scientific greatness increased as their influence in the modern world decreased.

LawHawkSF said...

An interesting sidelight of the "Muslims as physicists" myth is that for the inventors of physics, they have had only one great physicist. That was Nobel Prize winner, Pakistani Mohammed Abdus Salam. He belonged to the Ahmadi sect of Islam which accepts modern science. In 1974, the Pakistani parliament declared the sect heretical, and they have been persecuted ever since. As Professor Tipler pointed out, had Salam remained in Pakistan instead of taking a teaching position in the West, he would probably have been killed.

Pahude said...

ok, we have debunked the falsehoods. you have all the answers. good. now what?
if we can show they have contributed nothing, do they then have no value?
not sure i understand what the point is?
but then, i admit, i rarely do.

#6 said...

As enemies of civilisation they should be made war upon by civilisation until they are extinct. Like Nazism, islam is something that is lovingly detailed in its plans for when it gains power. Like Nazism, it uses soft terror and coercive pressure in the context of exploiting its enemies' own cultural mechanisms against them until it is strong enough to wage wars of aggression. Unfortunately this all means that you will in fact have to stop drinking coffee, eating junk food and playing games long enough to join the armies of the West against the hordes of Sauron.

LawHawkSF said...

Pahude: The point is quite clear. Obama is a panderer, and an ignorant one at that. I have no problem with him trying to find common ground with Islam, but making things up or repeating folk tales as if they're history is not very, well, presidential.

As far as what it proves, it at least establishes that we are dealing with primitives who have not only failed to keep up with the civilization of the West, but have even abandoned or forgotten much of their own learning from the Middle Ages.

LawHawkSF said...

#6: I must admit that I saw clever parallels in LOTR. The great war speech that was chilling and inspiring was capped with: "By all that you hold dear on this green earth, I bid you stand, men of the West." Too bad Obama could never give a speech that meaningful and that inspiring here in the real world.

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