From the 8th through the 13th centuries, the Arabic world was at the forefront of cultural advancement. Advances in medicine, human anatomy, mathematics and astronomy abounded throughout the region. It was the Golden Age of Islam. During these years Baghdad was one of the world’s foremost scientific and cultural centers.
But then came the anti-rationalist Ash’ari school whose increasing dominance is linked to the decline of Arabic science. With the rise of the Ash’arites, the ethos in the Islamic world was increasingly opposed to original scholarship and any scientific inquiry that did not directly aid in religious regulation of private and public life. The Arab world, once the height of civilization, fell victim to religious fundamentalism. Where once people stood in the light of knowledge, they now struggle to survive in darkness.
During the European Middle Ages, critical thinking and generally anything contrary to the Catholic worldview was punishable as a crime. Galileo was an Italian astronomer, physicist, engineer, philosopher, and mathematician who played a major role in the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century. But he was severely punished for his free-thinking ways by the church, even subjected to house arrest. Others were less fortunate and were cast into prison or even executed. The Catholic church was the law of the land.
The Renaissance in Europe brought a welcome period of enlightenment as the people slowly began to shake off the chains of the church. That enlightenment continues to this day as more and more of Europe embraces secularism. Europe is continuing to grow more secular, and their standard of living is improving as a result.
But what of America? At one time America enjoyed a period in which science and religion existed peacefully if not always comfortably. Astounding discoveries in all fields of science came in rapid succession after WWII all the way into the 1980s. But as science continued to move forward with both new answers and new questions, religion remained stagnant, rooted deeply in it’s “infallible” scriptures.
And now, like the Arabs of old, Christians are becoming increasingly militant. They reject any discovery that conflicts with their holy book. They have tried repeatedly to have Creationism taught as fact in public schools, even though Evolutionary Theory and The Big Bang are proven and documented correct around the world. And now we have a President and Congress willing to drag America backwards both scientifically and culturally. The USA is at a crossroads. We can continue to move forward, or we can allow the Donald Trumps and Ken Hams among us to drag us down into the cesspools of ignorance and religious bigotry.
And mind you, I find much to like about Donald Trump. His knowledge of how an economy works and his desire to strengthen the Middle Class and improve the lot of the poor has done much good in a relatively short period of time. No one can take that from him. But he’s proven repeatedly that he’s no friend of modern science. He depends upon the support of the religious right to push his agenda and as his primary voting bloc. In the long term, this does not bode well for our future. Hopefully he can be made to see the light – though likely not in his first term.
If we allow such regressive, superstitious nonsense to prevail, all of the progress we’ve made in the last quarter century will be lost. So it’s time to ask ourselves, “What sort of America do I wish to live in?” Will you mindlessly cling to a holy book written by a bunch of Bronze Age goat herders (complete with a talking snake), or will you cast off the yoke of ignorance and move forward? America’s future generations deserve better than to have to clean up the messes made by their ancestors.