Dawkins worshiper can’t handle the truth

On a tip from Ken:

Tom Chivers  is the Telegraph’s assistant comment editor. He writes mainly on science. Not a poet – that’s the other Tom Chivers.

Please be quiet, Richard Dawkins, I’m begging, as a fan

Is Dawkins racist? Maybe not, depending on how narrowly you define it. But whatever he’s being, it’s not nice, and it certainly isn’t advancing the various causes of secularism, atheism or everyone just bloody getting along.

Shhh

I really don’t want to write this piece. I have long worshipped Richard Dawkins and sort of wish I’d never started following him on Twitter because it’s ruining all my happy memories of The Blind Watchmaker.

But, I mean, come on.

Dawkins just tweeted the following:

All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.

The part about the Nobel Prizes is right. The  part about “Muslims did great things in the Middle Ages”  is a product of leftist fantasy based on a shameless rewriting of history. Muslims, Islam, did nothing great. Ever.  Mohammedanism enslaves, exploits and destroys. It produces nothing but misery.

FJORDMAN TURNS THE PRO-ISLAM, ANTI-MEDIEVAL EUROPE PROPAGANDA ON ITS HEAD 

In an article at Brussels Journal entitled “The Truth about Islam in Europe, Fjordman writes:

Islam’s much-vaunted “golden age” was in reality the twilight of the conquered pre-Islamic cultures, an echo of times passed. The brief cultural blossoming during the first centuries of Islamic rule owed its existence almost entirely to the pre-Islamic heritage in a region that was still, for a while, majority non-Muslim.

More from Fjordman below the fold.  But first, read  ‘Dawkins worshiper can’t handle the truth’ by Telegraph fan boy Tom Chivers:

He’s absolutely right on one level, of course: Islam is a religion, not a race, and it would be ridiculous to accuse someone of racism for criticising its tenets. For instance, I actually (sorry, Mehdi) agreed with him when he said it was odd that someone of Mehdi Hasan’s undoubted intelligence could believe that Mohammed was taken up to heaven on a wingèd horse. I mean, that just didn’t happen, let’s face it. I also agree with him that many Islamic theocracies are viciously repressive, and that many cultural practices carried out by some Muslims are horrible, notably female genital mutilation and honour killings.

But as Heresy Club’s Alex Gabriel writes:

Asserting that because Islam is a religion and not a race, one can never discuss it (or treat its followers) in racist ways makes about as much sense as saying that because ballet is an art form not a sexual identity, it’s impossible to say anything homophobic about male ballet dancers. Hip-hop musicians and immigrants aren’t races either, but commentary on both is very often racist – or at least, informed and inflected to a serious degree by racial biases.

Treating all Muslims as featureless representatives of their religion (as Dawkins does when saying things like “Who the hell do these Muslims think they are? How has UCL come to this: cowardly capitulation to Muslims? Tried to segregate sexes in debate between @LKrauss1 and some Muslim or other”) is – well, it may not be directly racist, but it’s certainly not the sort of thing Martin Luther King would admire. The content of their character, and all that.

Because Dawkins has gone from criticising the religion itself to criticising Muslims, as a vast bloc. They’re not individuals with names, they’re “these Muslims” or “some Muslim or other”, undifferentiated, without personhood. They haven’t managed to get very many Nobel prizes, presumably because they’re stupid, or brainwashed into zombiehood by their religion. Yes, it’s only a “fact”, but in different contexts, the same fact can have different meanings. For instance, would Dawkins have tweeted another fact, which is that Trinity also has twice as many Nobel prizes as all black people put together? It’s just as true, but presumably he doesn’t believe that it’s because black people aren’t as clever. Yet he is willing to make the equivalent inference about Muslims, without further evidence.

And here’s what’s really awful: he’s failing as a scientist. It might be true that Islam is holding back scientific and other achievement among Muslims. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it were. But you don’t get to simply assert it, because there are far too many other variables. Islamic countries are themselves usually poorer than Western ones (and far poorer than the average Trinity alumnus). Their standards of public health are lower, nutrition, education, everything. Does the average Muslim do worse in the Nobel prize stakes than the average similarly deprived Christian or atheist or Hindu? I don’t know. You need to do proper analysis, statistical regression, to work that out. What’s worse, Dawkins knows that.

Dawkins may believe that he is criticising only the religion, and its effects on the people who hold it, rather than the people themselves (“don’t hate the player, hate the game”), but his gleeful hurling of rhetorical stick-bombs doesn’t make that sort of distinction. Is he being racist? Maybe not, depending on how narrowly you define it. But whatever he’s being, it’s not nice, and it certainly isn’t advancing the various causes of secularism, atheism or everyone just bloody getting along.

Back to Fjorman:

A History of Medicine in the Islamic World, Part 1

by Fjordman

17 May, 2008

I have written some essays on Islam and science before, but I will expand on them further here. Here, I will concentrate mainly on the medical traditions in the Middle East and Europe because those are the ones I have sufficient knowledge about.

Rhazes (Al-Razi) lived from 865 to 925 and was the author of numerous treatises on medicine. He expressed some doubts about the leading Greek physician Galen, but at the same time considered himself Galen’s disciple. He was among the first to describe the differences between smallpox and measles and was definitely one of the leading physicians in the history of the Islamic world, but it is doubtful whether we can call him a Muslim.

As Ibn Warraq writes in his modern classic Why I Am Not a Muslim, “Perhaps the greatest freethinker in the whole of Islam was al-Razi, the Rhazes of Medieval Europe (or Razis of Chaucer), where his prestige and authority remained unchallenged until the seventeenth century. Meyerhof also calls him the ‘greatest physician of the Islamic world and one of the great physicians of all time.'” He was also highly critical of Islamic doctrines, and considered the Koran to be an assorted mixture of “absurd and inconsistent fables.” Moreover, “His heretical writings, significantly, have not survived and were not widely read; nonetheless, they are witness to a remarkably tolerant culture and society – a tolerance lacking in other periods and places.”

Avicenna (Ibn Sina) was a talented Persian physician who continued the course set by Rhazes of mixing Indian, East Asian and Middle Eastern medical learning, but he relied heavily on Greek medicine, just like Rhazes did. A striking number of the Muslims who did leave some imprint upon the history of science were Persians. Avicenna based much of his research on the legacies of Hippocrates and Galen, as well as the Alexandrine schools and earlier Islamic physicians. His book The Canon of Medicine (Kitab al-Qanun) from the early eleventh century was a standard medical text for centuries, not only in the Middle East but also in Europe and in some regions of India under Islamic rule. It contained descriptions of the effects of various diseases as well as descriptions of hundreds of drugs for treatment. Avicenna was involved in many subjects besides medicine, was skeptical about alchemy (which was an unpopular viewpoint at the time) and did significant work on motion.

The issue of science in the Islamic world has become a topic of political controversy. Former French President Jacques Chirac has stated that European civilization is as indebted to Islam as it is to Christianity. In response to such ideas, the Frenchman Sylvain Gouguenheim, professor of medieval history at the university l’École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, has written a book attacking the “thesis of the West’s debt to Islam” as advanced by Edward Said, Alain de Libera and Mohammed Arkoun, among others.

He upgrades the Byzantine contribution to the preservation of learning, which is often slighted today, and calls the Mont Saint-Michel monastery, where many texts were translated into Latin, “the missing link in the passage from the Greek to the Latin world of Aristotelian philosophy.” Apart from a small number of thinkers – he mentions Al-Farabi, Avicenna, Abu Ma’shar and Averroes – Sylvain Gouguenheim believes Muslims retained from Greek teaching only what didn’t contradict Koranic doctrine. Europeans, he said, “became aware of the Greek texts because it went hunting for them, not because they were brought to them.”

Personally, I wouldn’t say that the impact of the translation movement from Arabic was zero. It is vastly overrated, but I don’t think you can write European history if you ignore it entirely. The medical texts of Avicenna and Rhazes were used for several centuries. Although most of the Greek texts available in Arabic were based on Byzantine originals, and Western Europeans later translated directly from Byzantine manuscripts, some of the medical texts incorporated contributions from the Middle East, India and other regions of Asia that were not included in the Greek texts. Yet the Islamic world made very few advances after the first few centuries, when the non-Muslim population declined, and even the initial advances they did make are often exaggerated.

I mentioned to Dr. Andrew G. Bostom that I was writing about medicine and science in the Islamic medieval world. He is the author of the excellent book The Legacy of Jihad as well as the upcoming The Legacy of Islamic Antisemitism, which I hope to publish a review of in a few weeks.

Mr. Bostom is a medical doctor by profession, and argues that “Avicenna and Rhazes made arguably no more contributions than their non-Muslim peers, and moreover were marginal Muslims.” According to him, the origins of modern science, as an organized, empirically directed effort to explain natural phenomena through theory construction and testing, were undeniably European. He quotes Edward Grant in The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages as saying that “it is indisputable that modern science emerged in the seventeenth century in Western Europe and nowhere else.”

Rhazes wasn’t a Muslim in anything but the name, and Avicenna at best an unorthodox one, that’s true, but the Flemish physician Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) wrote a thesis based on Rhazes as late as the sixteenth century. Of course, the advances made in anatomy that he and others did in Europe were specifically blocked by Islam. It is surprisingly difficult to define the specific advances in medicine made by Muslim physicians. The only tangible advance I have found so far is regarding the circulation of the blood. I don’t always agree with historian Bernard Lewis, but here is how he describes the discovery of the circulation of the blood in his bookWhat Went Wrong?: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East:

“In Western histories of science, this is normally credited to the English physician William Harvey, whose epoch-making Essay on the Motion of the Heart and Blood was published in 1628 and transformed both the theory and practice of medicine. His great discovery was preceded and helped by the work of a Spanish physician and theologian, Miguel Serveto, usually known as Michael Servetus (1511-1553), who owes his place in scientific history to the discovery, published in 1553, of the lesser or pulmonary circulation of the blood. This discovery was anticipated, in surprisingly similar detail, by a thirteenth-century Syrian physician called Ibn al-Nafis. Among his writings was a medical treatise in which, in defiance of the revered authority of Galen and Avicenna, he set forth his theory of the circulation of the blood in terms very similar to those later used by Servetus and adopted by Harvey, but unlike theirs, based on abstract reasoning rather than experiment. Modern orientalist scholarship has shown, with a high degree of probability, that Servetus knew of the work of Ibn al-Nafis, thanks to a Renaissance scholar called Andrea Alpago (died ca. 1520) who spent many years in Syria collecting and translating Arabic medical manuscripts.”

Ibn a-Nafis was apparently successful and died a wealthy man at the age of about 80, leaving his library to a Cairo hospital, but still: “His book and his theory remained unknown and had no effect of the practice of medicine. Servetus was arrested in Geneva on August 14, 1553, and charged with blasphemy and heresy. The Protestant authorities, and notably Calvin, demanded that he retract his religious opinions or face the consequences. Servetus refused; he was condemned on October 26, 1553, and burned next day as a heretic. His medical work remained, and formed the basis of major scientific advances in the years that followed.”

What is difficult to explain is why al-Nafis died successful and wealthy in an important city in the Islamic world, yet his work was not followed up by other Muslims. He is by no means the only example of this cultural failure. Servetus was executed, yet even his work was continued in Europe. The Islamic world took little care of the few genuine talents it did produce.

In A Brief History of Disease, Science and Medicine, Michael Kennedy takes a look at the discovery of the pulmonary circulation of the blood, and credits Ibn al-Nafis with the first known description of this. His work was supposedly “discovered by Spanish physician and scholar Michael Servetus (1511-1553) and transmitted by him to Realdo Colombo, a professor of anatomy at Padua, who is usually credited with the concept.” Servetus, also known as Miguel Serveto, “probably learned of al-Nafis through the writings of a Syrian scholar and translator of Arabic works named Andrea Alpago, who died about 1520.”

Yet according to Kennedy, “Al-Nafis’ writings had no effect on science (other than through Servetus) and were only discovered in 1924. They exist as an example of what might have been in the world of Islam. Other than al-Nafis, Arabic medicine contributed little original, being based on the Greek models, but they made huge contributions in pharmacology, discovering and cataloging thousands of new drugs. The word ‘drug’ is Arabic as are alcohol, alkali, syrup, jujube, and spinach. New drugs introduced by Arabs include benzoin, camphor, myrrh, musk, laudanum (the alcohol solution of opium), naphtha, senna, and alcohol itself. Both al-Razi and Avicenna emphasized reason and suggested that mineral or chemical remedies would be superior to the magical potions and herbs of folk medicine. The great value of Arab contributions to medicine lies in the thoroughness of their preservation and systematic organization of knowledge. Aside from pharmacology, they contributed little that was new and the influence of Avicenna, like that of Aristotle, finally became a barrier to new learning.”

I take issue with the term “Arabic” here and would prefer “Middle Eastern,” as many of the leading individuals were Persians, most of the translators were Christian or Jews and the works that were used were of Greek, Indian or other pre-Islamic origins. Kennedy mentions that resistance to new learning was enhanced by the negative concept of imitating the infidel. Moreover, bidaa (innovation) has very negative connotations, close to heresy. There was also powerful religious resistance to the adoption of printing.

Razi, or Rhazes, was a committed alchemist and allegedly made an attempt to demonstrate to a Muslim Emir how he could turn base metal into gold. When this failed, he was beaten over the head with his own book.

According to Kennedy, “His great book was translated into Latin in 1279 as Liber Continens and became a reference work in the West for centuries. No copy of his work survives in Arabic, a commentary on the decline to come.” Among his achievements, “Al-Razi described the glassware and instruments of alchemy, which would remain the standard equipment of chemists until the nineteenth century. He described the processes of distillation, sublimation (solid to vapor), calcination (powdering of solids), and solution. He classified substances and was the first to use the categories of animal, vegetable, and mineral in describing matter. He described the use of sal ammoniac (ammonium chloride) and conducted sophisticated experiments, which have been duplicated in modern times so thorough are his descriptions.”

As indicated above, one possible advance made by Muslims in this age could ironically be the creation of distilled alcohol. Some forms of primitive distillation may have existed in India, China, the Middle East and Egypt in ancient times, and was later practiced among Greek alchemists in Alexandria. Nevertheless, the modern distillation of pure or nearly pure alcohol (ethanol) appears to have been a product of medieval times, spreading west, but perhaps also east through Central Asia. A number of persons in the Middle East did at the very least contribute to the dissemination of this idea, if not to its creation. It was mentioned in the writings of Rhazes, whose work was later introduced to Europe during the High Middle Ages.

Beverages containing distilled alcohol made their first appearance among alchemists at about this time. They were primarily interested in medical “elixirs,” but it is significant that the first “brandies” or spirits for non-medical purposes, such as whiskey, vodka and cognac, were all invented in Europe during late medieval or early modern times.

In A History of Beer and Brewing, I. Hornsey explains how the use of filamentous fungi for alcoholic fermentation was employed in East Asia: “The koji process was developed centuries ago in the Far East and, nowadays, is predominantly a starter culture and a source of enzymes for the saccharification of rice starch in the brewing of saki. Thus, in this process, koji performs the same function as malted barley does in a Western brewing regime.”

Hornsey claims that commercial sake is pasteurised. It is interesting to notice that “a pasteurisation technique was first mentioned in 1568 in the Tamonin-nikki, the diary of a Buddhist monk, indicating that it was practised in Japan some 300 years before Pasteur.”

China appears to have been the first country to develop anything resembling pasteurisation, in medieval times. The beverages were heated, but the resulting “pasteurized” drink was then put back into bacteria infected containers. The process was thus not fully developed or understood at the time. It could not be so until the invention of the microscope and the development of microbiology. The latter happened in Europe in the nineteenth under the leadership of individuals such as Louis Pasteur.

In The Gifts of Athena: Historical Origins of the Knowledge Economy, Joel Mokyr explains that prior to the Industrial Revolution, innovation was not sustained over long periods of time. When new techniques came around, often important ones, they usually crystallized at a new technological plateau and did not lead to a stream of cumulative microinventions. As he says:

“In both Europe and China, techniques worked despite a lack of understanding of why they worked. Normally, it was enough if someone recognized some exploitable regularity. Whether we look at steelmaking, cattle-breeding, or obstetric surgery, most techniques before 1800 emerged as a result of chance discoveries, trial and error, or good mechanical intuition and often worked quite well despite nobody’s having much of a clue as to the principles at work.”

Mokyr explains further: “For example, if a manufacturer does not know the nature of the fermentation that turns sugar into alcohol, he or she can still brew beer and make wine, but will have only a limited ability to perfect their flavor or to mass produce at low prices. When no one knows why things work, potential inventors do not know what will not work and will waste valuable resources in fruitless searches for things that cannot be made, such as perpetual-motion machines or gold from base metals. The range of experimentation possibilities that needs to be searched over is far larger if the searcher knows nothing about the natural principles at work. To paraphrase Pasteur’s famous aphorism once more, fortune may sometimes favor unprepared minds, but only for a short while.”

Pasteur explained not just that the process now known as pasteurization works, but why, which is why it should be properly named after him. The distinction is not trivial, since the establishment of microbiology created modern medicine as we know it, and led to making the European medical tradition into the global medical tradition.

According to I. Hornsey, “Japanese saki is closely related to the Chinese rice wine, shaosing chu, but it is clear, pale yellow, and slightly sweet, whereas shaosing chu has a deeper colour and is much sharper, due to natural oxidation. The normal alcoholic content of saki is around 15%, although it can reach 20%.”

The creation of alcoholic beverages such as wine, beer or mead has been done on all continents for thousands of years, but through such “natural” processes, the maximum alcohol content rarely exceeded 15% – 20%. This changed about one thousand years ago. In theCambridge World History of Food, James Comer writes about distilled beverages:

“Alcoholic beverages have been a part of human culture since at least the Neolithic period. Yet until recently, beverages made from fruits, grains, or honey were considered to be what historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch (1992) has called ‘organic,’ meaning that the amount of sugar in the ingredients produced the amount of alcohol in the drinks. Examples of such beverages are beer and wine. Beginning in the period from about A.D. 800 to 1300, however, people in China and the West learned to distill alcoholic liquids.”

As he explains, “Distillation is a method for increasing the alcohol content (and, thus, the potency) of a liquid already containing alcohol – the existing alcohol content usually the result of the fermentation of vegetable sugars. The distillation process separates the alcohol from other parts of the solution by the heating of the liquid to 173° Fahrenheit [78° Celsius], a temperature sufficient to boil alcohol but not water. The resulting steam (vaporized alcohol) is collected and condensed, returning it to liquid form – but a liquid with a much higher proportion of alcohol than before. Repeating the process increases the liquor’s potency yet further.”

The basic tools for this process were known in Antiquity, but were developed further during the Middle Ages, first in the Islamic world and later in Europe:

“Stills are the traditional equipment needed to destill alcohol. There are many different types. The earliest known is the ambix (plural ambices) used by Greek alchemists. Ambices were ceramic or metal pots with heads shaped so that liquid would condense inside the head and drain out through a collecting tube. Later, during the Middle Ages, Muslim alchemists, who also employed the ambix, added the Arabic article al- to its name, hence the term ‘alembic’ for a still (Forbes 1948). When larger amounts of alcohol began to be destilled in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the ambix was improved, giving rise to several types of stills.”

Several leading alchemists experimented with distillation. They believed that they had extracted the “essence” or “spirit” of wine and that repeated distillations resulted in aqua vitae – the “water of life.” This substance was mostly used as a medicine. Tea in China and later chocolate when it was first imported from pre-Columbian Mesoamerica to Europe (see my essay A History of Cacao and Chocolate) were initially used as medicine, too, but distilled alcohol is still used for medical purposes in the twenty-first century.

According to Comer, “both the Irish and the Scots claim to have produced liquor from grain (in contrast to brandy from wine) since the beginning of the last millennium; the Scots called ituisge beatha (pronounced wisky-baw) and the Irish called it uisce beatha. Both meant ‘water of life,’ and the English term ‘whiskey’ derived from them.”

The question of Ireland and Scotland is somewhat controversial. Whiskey was definitely known in both countries in the fifteenth century, probably several centuries before. There are those who claim that distillation was invented independently on the British Isles and that it predates the improvements of distillation in the Middle East, but there is so far little evidence for this. In medieval times, the processes of aging and the separation of the different fractions of the distillate were unknown. Because distilled alcohol contains bad-tasting and dangerous chemicals, it is often aged in a procedure, originating in the eighteenth century, that rids the beverage of these chemicals. As the liquid ages, its container (preferably made of wood) colors and flavors it to produce a smoother and better-tasting product.

The first real brandy that was not thought of as medicine is said to have been distilled in 1300 by Arnaldus de Villa Nova, a professor at the medical school of Montpelier. During the fifteenth century, better methods for cooling the still’s head developed. This led to increased production of distilled beverages, which spread rapidly across Europe in various forms and names. France became an important center of the expanding brandy industry, especially the region surrounding the town of Cognac.

According to James Comer, “Paracelsus (Philippus Aureolus) had employed the Arabic termalcool vini to describe spirits. But it was not until 1730, when the Dutch physician Herman Boerhave used the word alcohol to mean distilled spirits, that it became commonly understood that ale, wine and distilled beverages all owed their mood-altering capabilities to this chemical.”

A constant theme in the discussion of brandy was fire, because beverages are “burnt” or distilled over the flame of a still, because distilled alcohol is capable of combustion, and because of the “burning” sensation experienced by those who drink it. Comer again:

“First called ‘brandy wine’ (from the Dutch brandewijn), brandy means ‘to burn’ or ‘burnt’ in Dutch as well as in other languages, such as the German Brand and the Middle English ‘brand.’ Brandy is more expensive to make than grain spirits because it must be distilled from fruit and, in the case of cognac, from wine (Ray 1974). As noted, brandy first emerged as medicine in the eleventh century and only later became popular as a beverage.”

That was the story of distilled alcohol. Back to the history of mainstream medicine. Abu al-Qasim Khalaf ibn al-Abbas al-Zahrawi, known in the West as Albucasis, was born in 936 in Cordoba in Spain. He described many surgical instruments, some of which he designed. Yet he is virtually the only significant physician in the Islamic world who had practical experience with surgery. Surgery was widely neglected by Middle Easterners at this time, also by Rhazes and Avicenna. According to Michael Kennedy, “These two bodies of work, that of al-Razi and that of Avicenna, dominated medicine and science until almost modern times. Neither reached beyond Galen in theory.”

The Greek physician Galen worked in the Roman Empire during the second century A.D. He produced an enormous body of writings, summing up the medical knowledge of the Mediterranean world at the time, and later became regarded as the leading medical authority of Greco-Roman Antiquity, rivalled only by Hippocrates. He was deeply influenced by the Hippocratic corpus.

In his book The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450, second edition, David C. Lindberg states the following:

“Galen studied medicine in Pergamum and Smyrna (both in Asia Minor), then in Corinth on the Greek mainland, and finally in Alexandria. From Alexandria, he returned to Pergamum as physician to the gladiators, then moved to Rome in search of patronage, returned to Pergamum, went back to Italy, and eventually settled in Rome, where he enjoyed the friendship and served the medical needs of the rich and powerful, including the emperors Marcus Aurelius, Commodus, and Septimius Severus. He died after 210.”

The dissection of human corpses was taboo in ancient times. Galen lamented this, but based his studies of anatomy on dissections of animals such as monkeys, pigs and dogs. This is funny if you are familiar with the low status these animals have in Islam, and know that subsequent medicine in the Muslim world was inspired by Galen. Since Jews are “sons of monkeys and pigs” in the Koran, does that mean that “Islamic medicine” was based on Jew anatomy?

Toby E. Huff, author of the excellent book The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West, takes a look at the development of science. A landmark in Western science was Nicholas Copernicus’ The Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres from 1543. The same years also saw another milestone in the rise of modern science: Vesalius’ On the Fabric of the Human Body, which created the foundations for modern medicine by representing an empirical agenda, the first-hand examination of the body through human dissection (autopsy).

According to Huff, “Vesalius claimed to have corrected over 200 errors in Galen’s account of human anatomy,” and his “illustrations are far superior to anything to be found in the Arabic/Islamic tradition (where pictorial representation of the human body was particularly suspect) or, for that matter, in the Chinese and (I presume) Indian traditions.”

The Syrian Ibn al-Nafis, who worked in hospitals in Damascus and Cairo in the thirteenth century, was a capable physician. However, according to Huff, “al-Nafis tells us that he avoided the practice of dissection because of the shari’a [the religious law] and his own ‘compassion’ for the human body. He also says that, ‘we will rely on the forms of the internal parts [of the human body] on the discussion of our predecessors among those who practiced this art [of dissection], especially the excellent Galen, since his books are the best of the books on this topic which have reached us.’ Ibn al-Nafis, it should be noted, was also a specialist in Islamic jurisprudence, so that his construal of the practice of dissection as un-Islamic carries special weight.”

During the High Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the knowledge of medicine improved in Europe, thanks to the medical institutes at the rapidly expanding number of universities, where dissections of human corpses were sometimes performed to train students. Dissections of pigs, which are anatomically similar to humans, were also performed. As Huff says:

“In short, by the thirteenth century there was no major ideological resistance to the performing of human dissections in Europe. At the time of Ibn al-Nafis, European anatomists were practicing dissections on the pig and also the human body. Consequently, they had a considerable stock of empirical knowledge about human anatomy that was not available in the Arab-Muslim world. Inspired by the pursuit of scientific knowledge, European physicians engaged in a variety of practices that would have been forbidden in a Muslim context. These included (1) the dissection of human bodies, (2) the dissection of a pig, (3) the performance of the operation in a public forum, and (4) the publication of richly detailed drawings of the human anatomy in all of its minute, and many would say, offensive detail. In contrast to the European practice, Muslims had a religiously conditioned aversion to pigs and their dissection. In addition, Middle Eastern medical education of the time was still based mainly on the memorization of authoritative texts.”

According to Michael Kennedy: “Surgery was unchanged by the new developments in anatomy because, with the absence of anesthesia, operations were largely limited to the surface of the body and to amputations. Neither of these fields required details of internal anatomy or physiology.”

It is correct that the improvements in the understanding of human anatomy during the Renaissance and the sixteenth century didn’t trigger any immediate medical revolution, but they did lead to significant, if gradual, improvements and paved the way for the even greater changes that took place in the Western medical tradition later. The true revolution happened in the nineteenth century, when efficient methods of anesthesia were adopted and the germ theory of disease was decisively proven. The crucial step towards a realistic understanding of cells and nerves as well as microorganisms such as bacteria was achieved in Europe because Europe was the first civilization to invent the microscope as well as the scientific method. Ironically, the Islamic world gave birth to one of the greatest of medieval scientists, Alhazen, who was the world’s leading expert on the optical sciences during his time, but his work received little follow-up by fellow Muslims, and further scientific progress was blocked, frequently due to Islamic religious resistance.

14 thoughts on “Dawkins worshiper can’t handle the truth”

  1. Richard Dawkins under fire as “racist” for daring to point out that Muslims have won few Nobel Prizes

    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2013/08/all-the-worlds-muslims-have.html

    He’s a racist! He’s a bigot! Richard Dawkins can criticize Christianity all he wants, but when he dares simply to note an “intriguing fact” about Muslims and Islam, he incurs the wrath of the gods of political correctness. This controversy illustrates yet again that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you have done or accomplished: if you stand against jihad violence and Islamic supremacism, or criticize Islam in any way, you will be targeted, vilified, smeared, and defamed, and every attempt will be made to destroy you.

    “‘Muslims peaked in the Dark Ages. But since then?’: Richard Dawkins embroiled in Twitter row over controversial comments,” by Tara Brady in the Daily Mail, August 9 (thanks to all who sent this in):

    Professor Richard Dawkins has become embroiled in a Twitter row after he claimed the last time Muslims contributed something worthwhile was during the Dark Ages.
    The 71-year-old author went on to tweet that the world’s Muslims had won fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge.

    His comments sparked anger among high-profile Twitter users including writer Caitlin Moran and economics editor at Channel 4 News, Faisal Islam.

    Moran tweeted: ‘It’s time someone turned Richard Dawkins off and then on again.

    ‘Something’s gone weird.’

    While Islam said: ‘Actually, over the last two decades, it’s 8-4 against Trinity.

    ‘I say this as a muslim alumnus of Trinity College, Cambridge.

    ‘Of course if @RichardDawkins had any clue what he was talking about, he’d know to strip out the Economics Nobels, which aren’t quite real’

    One Twitter user said Muslims were responsible for alchemy and algebra.

    But Dawkins replied: ‘Indeed, where would we be without alchemy? Dark Age achievements undoubted. But since then?’

    There has been a total of 10 Nobel prizes awarded to Muslims while Trinity College, Cambridge, has 32 Nobel laureates.

    It is not the first time Dawkins has angered the Muslim population after he described looters who destroyed manuscripts in Mali as ‘Islamic barbarians’ in January.

    The 71-year-old author was referring to the severe damage caused by Islamist extremists to a sacred library in Timbuktu but his remarks were seen as insulting to all Muslims.

    Dawkins is an award-winning ethologist and author.

    He is perhaps best known for his strong religious criticism and his atheist views.

    Author of several books, his contempt for religion is most evident in his 2006 bestseller, The God Delusion.

  2. Too many atheists try to desist from criticizing Islam in the 21st century.

    As Thomas Cothran notes on http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/08/against-faith-in-faith

    “It has become a strange and unfortunate commonplace that one must have faith in faith—faith, that is, in the ability to commit oneself to truths that transcend rational justification—not only out of respect for faith’s intrinsic (if futile) beauty, but also as a means to the truth. Confronted with inadequate evidence for the deeper truths of life, one must conjure up a commitment to ideas for which the subjective act of faith can be the only ground, and one must believe not only in the content of faith but in the faith-act itself.

    This, at least, is the picture of faith one finds in the writings of Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, and it has an embarrassing currency among Christian believers.”

    But not only among Christians, it has to be noted. Indeed, the aforementioned writers have often enough described a tendency not only among Christians but also among atheists, that religion in their minds seems to bear a sacred and untouchable character that elevates itself above all potential criticism, whereby having faith itself seems to be enough of a qualifier to treat all religions with “equal respect”. Among atheists it seems that those “having faith in faith” covet a certain type of deference to the authority of all religions, which is ironically a crypto-religious standpoint in itself.

    Basically, having faith in faith can explain, to some extent, why some atheists simply do not bother with criticizing any religion during their lifetime, but with regards to Tom Chivers’ piece, something more ominous takes place. In this case, having faith in faith morphs into the standard rhetoric of the “progressive” Leftwing PC/MC atheist, bending backwards to distance himself from Richard Dawkins’ logic that no religious doctrine should ever be exempted from criticism. The main anxiety of Tom Chivers and the likes is to try and show deference to Islam in particular, (rather than to any other religion) exempting this doctrine from all criticism and keeping in mind the horrendous consequences sustained criticism of it will have in the long run. As a consequence, the notion of having faith in faith becomes solely applicable to the deferential treatment of a single doctrine, namely Islam. It simply morphs into cowardice.

    A classic case of progressive-liberal Stockholm Syndrome, that permeates not only some echelons within Christian communities of various sub-denominations or liberal Jews, but also a large portion of atheists around the world. Which turns into a whole array of feeble attempts by pseudo-intellectuals to find “moderate” Islam or “moderate” Muslims with a proverbial electron microscope.

    1. Faith is not reason; it’s only criminal negligence, lying fraud; expressing one’s merely fact-free opinion AS fact, insisting on one’s false right to remain irresponsibly wrong.

      Here’s the most simple difference between philosophy, science, & religion:

      Philosophy is speculation, presented AS speculation.
      Science is tested speculation, presented AS tested speculation.
      Religion is speculation, presented AS FACT.

      So religion is a lie (farud) and thus, a crime.
      “Faith” is only another idolatrous alibi excuse to continue one’s crimes.

      As for islam, it’s not even a “religion” at all (much less one “of peace”)!

      Muslims, like leftists, who only hate all ‘real’ gods because they imply that there might be real moral principles the liberals might have to live up to and real rules of laws they might have to be responsible to, in order to have commensurate rights; liberals seem to have no problem at all with “allah” because they know it’s only an extortive excuse for crime, not a god who would blame them for wasting the free will it had bestowed on them – nor really even by muslims, who assert that their allah is both unknown and unknowable, that the secular and religious cannot be separated because allah is everything, and, since allah is generally everything, he is also specifically nothing (existentialism is nihilism) and so cannot be separated from his creation, and so cannot really be said to exist at all. Allah’s alleged indivisible oneness is intrinsic to the muslim atheist’s main excuse of pre-deterministic force, (“I didn’t do it! The allah made me do it! In fact, I didn’t do it at all – ONLY The allah did it! Whee!”) which is both why and how both liberals and muslims always insist there can be no real evil, crime nor criminals because we’re all really only helpless victims of society, products of our environments, and slaves of allah. Their total lack of belief in even their own version of a god’s own desire nor ability to enforce even it’s own us-versus-them and might-makes-right “laws” is why, at worst, all real religions only say:

      “Obey our silly rules, or GOD (/’the gods’) will get you!”

      But ONLY islam says:

      “Obey our silly rules, or WE will get you (‘for god’)!”

      [8.17] So you did not slay them, but it was Allah Who slew them, and you did not smite when you smote (the enemy), but it was Allah Who smote, and that He might confer upon the believers a good gift from Himself; surely Allah is All-Hearing, Knowing.

      Sura 4:77: “Those who whined “Hold back your hands (from attacking)” were corrected: “War is compulsory for us – the good and
      bad both come from allah!”

      “Fight them; Allah will punish them by your hands and will disgrace them and give you victory over them” – 9:14-15

      “Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizya willingly while they are humbled.” – 9:29

      etc.

      Here’s islam’s “holy Message from god” as exemplified by the collective words and deeds of it’s Founder:

      “I will save humanity by lying to, extorting, torturing, robbing, burning out of their homes, kidnapping and ransoming, enslaving, raping and murdering everyone who even only verbally disagrees with me – and you can, too!”

      -Muhammad-

      So obviously, islam is ONLY an ancient, ongoing extortion-racket CRIME-syndicate, and the only “religious” part in it, is where they say:

      “God told us to commit these crimes!”

      (Capisce?)!

      😉

      We should simply BAN ISLAM – because everything moslems pretend to consider “holy” is already a crime!

      ;-(

  3. Too many atheists try to desist from criticizing Islam in the 21st century.

    As Thomas Cothran notes on http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/08/against-faith-in-faith

    “It has become a strange and unfortunate commonplace that one must have faith in faith—faith, that is, in the ability to commit oneself to truths that transcend rational justification—not only out of respect for faith’s intrinsic (if futile) beauty, but also as a means to the truth. Confronted with inadequate evidence for the deeper truths of life, one must conjure up a commitment to ideas for which the subjective act of faith can be the only ground, and one must believe not only in the content of faith but in the faith-act itself.

    This, at least, is the picture of faith one finds in the writings of Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, and it has an embarrassing currency among Christian believers.”

    But not only among Christians, it has to be noted. Indeed, the aforementioned writers have often enough described a tendency not only among Christians but also among atheists, that religion in their minds seems to bear a sacred and untouchable character that elevates itself above all potential criticism, whereby having faith itself seems to be enough of a qualifier to treat all religions with “equal respect”. Among atheists it seems that those “having faith in faith” covet a certain type of deference to the authority of all religions, which is ironically a crypto-religious standpoint in itself.

    Basically, having faith in faith can explain, to some extent, why some atheists simply do not bother with criticizing any religion during their lifetime, but with regards to Tom Chivers’ piece, something more ominous takes place. In this case, having faith in faith morphs into the standard rhetoric of the “progressive” Leftwing PC/MC atheist, bending backwards to distance himself from Richard Dawkins’ logic that no religious doctrine should ever be exempted from criticism. The main anxiety of Tom Chivers and the likes is to try and show deference to Islam in particular, (rather than to any other religion) exempting this doctrine from all criticism and keeping in mind the horrendous consequences sustained criticism of it will have in the long run. As a consequence, the notion of having faith in faith becomes exclusively reserved to sustain the deferential treatment of Islam with, thus turning into self-explanatory cowardice.

    A classic case of progressive-liberal Stockholm Syndrome, that permeates not only some echelons within Christian communities of various sub-denominations or liberal Jews, but also a large portion of atheists around the world. Which turns into a whole array of feeble attempts by pseudo-intellectuals to find “moderate” Islam or “moderate” Muslims with a proverbial electron microscope.

  4. Richard, Richard, Richard,
    An Atheist who refuses to sign up to the “Religion” of choice of Sociopath’s for the past 1400 years, is clearly an endangered species and anything he or she has ever said thought or wrote is of no consequence to his or her fellow Atheists and Leftist thinkers.

    Richard you are out of step with the new world order and its new best friend and Mad Rabid Attack Dog / “Progressive Religion” called Islam.
    Surely there is a “World Court” somewhere that could order that he be taken into custody and re educated by any of the United Nations approved Imam’s

    Poor Richard, I would pray for you, but what would be the use according to you I would be wasting my time.

    Is Dawkin’s the first of the Lefts useful idiots to be rounded up now that their drivel is no longer required?

  5. It’s easy to pick on Richard Dawkins, but he is worth more to civilization than every Muslim on the planet.
    May Islam and all its adherents become extinct in our lifetimes.
    Islam is poison and death.

  6. seems muslems are going thru another “golden age”. if free food, housing, education, health care isn’t a golden age, I don’t know what is.

  7. The Muslims created the Dark Ages for the West by sealing off the Mediterranean and contracting the Byzantine Empire around Constantinople, but for awhile some scholars did take the loot of ancient Greek and Roman mss. and actually advance science a little, about to the level of a Fifth Grader, until the theologians took over and shut them down. The West later actually benefited from mss. they got from the Muslims to help relaunch their scientific enterprise, but thanks to no Muslim straitjacket to worry about they left them in the rearview mirror. Now that the Muslim World is resurging and has big money to hire agitprop artists, they’re making their move in rewriting history, but nobody’s buying it because there’s too much truth available on the Internet.

    Speaking of the Internet, you can learn the complete history of science and technology including the Muslim contributions anytime in your browser with the Historyscoper.

    http://historyscoper.com/scienceandtechnologyhistoryscope.html

  8. Bejeesus but Tom Chivers does blather on and likes the sound of his own voice:
    “No nazi shall be impugned because of his group membership; Martin Luther king would not approve of us denigrating the quality of said nazi’s character” and all that other tripe.

    As for islamic inventions or discoveries in science:

    Islam invented absolutely NOTHING. It simply violently invaded and enslaved many previously Greek, Christian countries, like Egypt, Syria, Libya, Iraq (and India and Iran,) destroyed them, and then, centuries later, pretended to rediscover their inventions.

    Islam is a barbaric, might-makes-right-based, predatory parasite. It stifles thought, invents nothing, makes nothing, and does nothing but enslave and live off the works of all the civilized people it attacks.

    From:

    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2012/08/pamela-geller-1001-pieces-of-islamic-supremacist-propaganda-fabricated-exhibit-comes-to-dc.html

    AS FOR ALGEBRA:

    You’ve heard Muslims invented the zero, right? Actually, as Spencer writes:

    The zero, which is often attributed to Muslims, and what we know today as “Arabic numerals” did not originate in Arabia, but in pre-Islamic India.

    They preserved Greek philosophy when Christian Europe had thrown it away, correct? No. Spencer:

    Aristotle’s work was preserved in Arabic not initially by Muslims at all, but by Christians such as the fifth century priest Probus of Antioch, who introduced Aristotle to the Arabic-speaking world. Another Christian, Huneyn ibn-Ishaq (809-873), translated many works by Aristotle, Galen, Plato and Hippocrates into Syriac. His son then translated them into Arabic. The Syrian Christian Yahya ibn ‘Adi (893-974) also translated works of philosophy into Arabic, and wrote one of his own, The Reformation of Morals. His student, another Christian named Abu ‘Ali ‘Isa ibn Zur’a (943-1008), also translated Aristotle and others from Syriac into Arabic.

    Aristotle’s philosophies would be prohibited under Islam; Muhammad most likely would have beheaded him. He stands for everything Islam is against. Ayn Rand wrote this of Aristotle: “Aristotle’s universe is the universe of science. The physical world, in his view, is not a shadowy projection controlled by a divine dimension, but an autonomous, self-sufficient realm. It is an orderly, intelligible, natural realm, open to the mind of man.” These very ideas are anathema to Islam; they are blasphemy.

    But what about medicine? The Muslims were great innovators in the medical sciences, weren’t they? Here again, Spencer points out that it was non-Muslims in the Islamic world who were doing the heavy lifting:

    The first Arabic-language medical treatise was written by a Christian priest and translated into Arabic by a Jewish doctor in 683. The first hospital was founded in Baghdad during the Abbasid caliphate — not by a Muslim, but a Nestorian Christian. A pioneering medical school was founded at Gundeshapur in Persia — by Assyrian Christians.

    The bottom line: the inventions and discoveries attributed to the Muslim world were actually stolen from conquered peoples.

  9. The Left loved Richard Dawkins when he was calling Catholics paedophiles, now he’s racist because he’s attacking Islam tooThe Commentator

    By Yorker on 10 August 2013

    The nastier stuff centred on plans to arrest the Pope for alleged complicity and/or cover-ups over paedophile priests. While Dawkins was on his “crusade” against Catholics the Left loved him. See this fawning piece from Guardian star columnist George Monbiot (which bizarrely manages to end up as an attack on Israel!). …

  10. A Muslim poptart from the Grunard springs into action:

    Richard Dawkins’ tweets on Islam are as rational as the rants of an extremist Muslim cleric

    My Eid was interrupted by Richard Dawkins tweeting about how few Nobel prizes Muslims have won. His logic rings a bell .

    (Muslims have not gained one, I repeat: NOT ONE Nobel price on merit, but all of them have been handed out of stupidity like in the case of Hussein Obama. The others have been given to make Muslims feel good. The Sudanese twit, Nesrine Malik, offers nothing to prove this fact wrong, she can’t, but she defecates all over Dawkins for telling the truth. Typical Muslim behaviour)

  11. There is no equivalent of Richard Dawkins in the Islamic world .
    He believes(quite rightly) that taking the piss out of Mulims is fair free speech!
    He cornered Mehdi Hasan by asking him if malevolent Mo went to heaven via Jerusalem on a flying donkey(in white).
    He has developed a severe distaste for Islamoturds!

  12. Religion is a human concept – this does not mean that a creator or even God does not exist but that the concept of God is open to question. From a formal logical point of view the existence of God raises more questions than answers and this violates a fundamental hypothesis called Occam’s razor which, simply stated, postulates that the simplest viable explanation for any observation is most probably the correct one. Note that both the reference frame of both observation and explanation are critical. This is, I suggest, the platform adopted by Dawkins and it cannot be faulted within the framework within which it is framed. If you want to believe in God then you are free to, but you need to understand that your belief can ONLY be justified by (your) faith and that your faith is applicable ONLY to you. This is a concept that muslims appear to be too stupid to understand. The same comment can be made to a few other groups but only muslims consistently demonstrated the stupidity and arrogance that is displayed by a dumb bully unwilling to comprehend that it knows and understands little.

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