At the outset, it must be stated that I am, in fact, an atheist.
Upon reading Sam's The End of Faith twice in succession, I must conclude that I absolutely adore the book. It is marvelously well-written, and evinces a plethora of information to a steadily widening audience. This is wonderful. Now, on to my question:
On page 109, Sam quips:
There is no telling what our world would be like had some great kingdom of Reason emerged at the time of the Crusades and pacified the credulous multitudes of Europe and the Middle East. We might have had modern democracy and the Internet by 1600.
While I think the possibility of an event of such magnitude cannot be overlooked, I'm a bit apprehensive toward Sam's confidence in the statement. Adding salt to the wound, there is very little factual grounding of the statement involved.
A key word in the above quotation is "might," but that doesn't alleviate the necessity of citation of some sort.
Any thoughts? Spirited debate is welcome.
I have not read the END OF FAITH, but I am sure that if the words of wisdom from the East, Middle East, West and all corners of the world, and all quantum of our universe are being spread among all sentinent beings, the universe would be a better place for all.
Carl Sagan made a similar supposition, except he used the golden era of classical Greek civilization in the sixth century BC. Apparently that era ended with the rise of authoritarian rule in Greece, with scientists focused on pleasing autocrats instead of enhancing knowledge.
It is—no doubt—a very interesting proposition.
Just how big of a gap in science can we expect from the Crusades, etc.?
This is all very great material. Thanks so much for taking the time to do the research.
[quote author=“Carstonio”]Carl Sagan made a similar supposition, except he used the golden era of classical Greek civilization in the sixth century BC. Apparently that era ended with the rise of authoritarian rule in Greece, with scientists focused on pleasing autocrats instead of enhancing knowledge.
Not quite, the Greeks didn’t have empirical science, only rational deduction from speculations (or first principles). With the lack of general education in the Hellenistic world, philosophy was only for the few and was considered personal rather than public. Knowledge was a matter for contemplation except in the trades (medicine, metalworking, navigation, etc.).
The European dark ages had several leading causes: the closure of the Greek philosophical schools by the Emperor Justinian in 529 was the final blow for learning, especially in the West. Exacerbating this was the fact that most of the Greek knowledge was in Greek, while in the Western Empire the language was Latin—Greek was essentially unknown after about 600AD. The invading tribes (Huns, Vandals, etc) didn’t help out.
In the Islamic world, on the other hand, science/philosophy thrived until around 1200AD. There were several factors that stopped it there: (1) the brilliant theologian Muhammad al Ghazali (d.1111AD) used skeptical arguments (similar to Hume) to discredit reason as a way of obtaining knowledge of the world. His work saved the Islamic religion from attacks by philosophers, but at the same time was taken by his followers to discredit reason. The fatalism that shows up in Islam today is in part a result of Ghazali. Even more was the Mongol invasions that essentially destroyed the cultural centers of the Middle East. The combination of these seems to have led to the rise of religious fundamentalism and a rejection of reason. There were other factors as well, but these were a couple of the strongest.
Interesting bit of Islamic history.
I wonder too if humankind was even mentally ready on an evolutionary scale to begin such work as the types Sam describes—-democracy perhaps, but the internet? Doubtful.