Thursday, June 04, 2009

Obama, Student of History

IT WAS ISLAM… that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed.”

Well, it sounds pleasant enough. But even a cursory examination of the Wikipedia articles on algebra, the compass, pens, and the germ theory of disease reveals that not one of those four things is settled fully, and the compass is just incorrect.

Algebra goes back to non-Islamic Baylonians. The compass may likely have gone back to the Olmecs, and if not them then the Chinese. Again, not Islam. The pen was not a new idea, being thousands of years old when the ink reservoir was first added to the implement itself. The idea of germs spreading disease originated in the Hindu world.

But let's say he is 100% correct on the facts, he is a student of history, as he tells us in the speech. For one thing, those Wikipedia entries can be cleaned up now. After that, he'd still be wrong, from the first sentence. It was not Islam that did anything. It was an individual. It was a person, with a mind-- not a belief system.