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Islamic Science In The Medieval Era

2566 words - 10 pages

There are many terms used to describe the period after the fall of Rome and before the Renaissance, three main terms being the Middle, Medieval, and Dark Ages. In general, these terms are used interchangeably, but are these fair substitutions? In recent years the term “Dark Ages” is becoming less and less acceptable as a phrase which describes the span of years it is meant to refer to. The use of the term “dark” implies a period of stagnation, which is becoming a questionable concept. In particular, the span of time referred to in this paper is 530-1452 BCE, with specific attention paid to the scientific discoveries and innovations rather than art or literature. These dates are significant because in 529 the Academy and Lyceum in Athens were shutdown by the Byzantine emperor, thus ending the Greek intellectual influence. The date of 1453 is chosen because many Greek texts arrived in Europe in 1453 after the fall of Constantinople at the hands of the Turks, thereby reviving the struggling European scientific fields (Bunch 93). This essay will show that the medieval period was not a so-called “dark age” because of scientific innovation in the Islamic world, and is only referred to as such because of the popular bias in the West of focusing on Europe. In order to make this clear, firstly, two objections to this proposition will be analyzed and clearly refuted. Following these counter arguments, the main weight of historical facts and events in the identification and explanation of Islamic scientific innovation will be presented, showing the inaccuracy of referring to the medieval period as dark. Finally, I will show that the misleading perception of the medieval era as stagnant is due to the modern bias for the superiority of Western ideas.
One could argue that the “Dark” Ages were dark if one focuses only on Europe and ignores scientific innovation in other parts of the world. One might assert that the ideas of Islamic science during this period were not of value because if the innovations were so great, and the halt of progress in Europe was so encompassing, a knowledge vacuum would have been created, and the ideas would have poured into the knowledge starved areas. Further more, Europeans would expand outward to the Middle East in search of new-found knowledge due to the stagnation present in Europe. However, this is not the case, so therefore it is logical to assume that the knowledge in the Middle East was not that significant. In opposition, I would assert that major scientific innovation in some area in the world during a given time period is enough to remove the negative connotation of “dark”. The scientific discoveries do not have to be world-wide. Furthermore, the reason there was no spread of knowledge to Europe during this time was due to the isolation of the two very different cultures from one another, not the insignificance of Islamic ideas. The language barrier alone would be enough to interfere with natural flow of technology....

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