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NATURE OF SCIENCE Over the course of human history, people have developed many interconnected and validated ideas about the physical, biological, psychological, and social worlds. Those ideas have enabled successive generations to achieve an increasingly comprehensive and reliable understanding of the human species and its environment. The means used to develop these ideas are particular ways of observing, thinking, experimenting, and validating. These ways represent a fundamental aspect of the nature of science and reflect how science tends to differ from other modes of knowing. It is the union of science, mathematics, and technology that forms the scientific endeavor and that makes it so successful. Although each of these human enterprises has a character and history of its own, each is dependent on and reinforces the others. Accordingly, the first three chapters of recommendations draw portraits of science, mathematics, and technology that emphasize their roles in the scientific endeavor and reveal some of the similarities and connections among them. This chapter lays out recommendations for what knowledge of the way science works is requisite for scientific literacy. The chapter focuses on three principal subjects: the scientific world view, scientific methods of inquiry, and the nature of the scientific enterprise. Chapters 2 and 3 consider ways in which mathematics and technology differ from science in general. Chapters 4 through 9 present views of the world as depicted by current science; Chapter 10, Historical Perspectives, covers key episodes in the development of science; and Chapter 11, Common Themes, pulls together ideas that cut across all these views of the world. THE SCIENTIFIC WORLD VIEW Scientists share certain basic beliefs and attitudes about what they do and how they view their work. These have to do with the nature of the world and what can be learned about it. The World Is Understandable Science presumes that the things and events in the universe occur in consistent patterns that are comprehensible through careful, systematic study. Scientists believe that through the use of the intellect, and with the aid of instruments that extend the senses, people can discover patterns in all of nature. Science also assumes that the universe is, as its name implies, a vast single system in which the basic rules are everywhere the same. Knowledge gained from studying one part of the universe is applicable to other parts. For instance, the same principles of motion and gravitation that explain the motion of falling objects on the surface of the earth also explain the motion of the moon and the planets. With some modifications over the years, the same principles of motion have applied
the growing ability of scientists to make accurate predictions about natural phenomena provides convincing evidence that we really are gaining in our understanding of how the world works. For example. No matter how well one theory explains a set of observations. a scientific approach that may be valid is likely to be rejected as irrelevant by people who hold to certain beliefs (such as in miracles. as powerful constructs tend to survive and grow more precise and to become widely accepted. from the smallest nuclear particles to the most massive stars. The modification of ideas. it is possible that another theory may fit just as well or better. scientists differ greatly from one another in what phenomena they investigate and in how they go about their work. In science. Change in knowledge is inevitable because new observations may challenge prevailing theories. the use of hypothesis and theories. although they can sometimes contribute to the discussion of such issues by identifying the likely consequences of particular actions. fortune-telling. Nor do scientists have the means to settle issues concerning good and evil. from sailboats to space vehicles. Albert Einstein did not discard the Newtonian laws of motion but rather showed them to be only an approximation of limited application within a more general concept. most scientific knowledge is durable. or the true purposes of life).) Moreover.to other forces—and to the motion of everything. There are. rather than their outright rejection. Scientific Ideas Are Subject To Change Science is a process for producing knowledge. and in how much they draw on the findings of other sciences. for instance. is the norm in science. information. in formulating the theory of relativity. (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration uses Newtonian mechanics. increasingly accurate approximations can be made to account for the world and how it works. Still. and concepts . which may be helpful in weighing alternatives. the kinds of logic used. or may fit a still wider range of observations. Nevertheless. from bullets to light rays. in calculating satellite trajectories. and much more. for instance. Scientists assume that even if there is no way to secure complete and absolute truth. Continuity and stability are as characteristic of science as change is. The process depends both on making careful observations of phenomena and on inventing theories for making sense out of those observations. whether new or old. and superstition). In other cases. the exchange of techniques. astrology. in their recourse to fundamental principles. and confidence is as prevalent as tentativeness. the testing and improving and occasional discarding of theories. SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY Fundamentally. beliefs that—by their very nature—cannot be proved or disproved (such as the existence of supernatural powers and beings. in the reliance they place on historical data or on experimental findings and on qualitative or quantitative methods. Science Cannot Provide Complete Answers to All Questions There are many matters that cannot usefully be examined in a scientific way. go on all the time. Scientific Knowledge Is Durable Although scientists reject the notion of attaining absolute truth and accept some uncertainty as part of nature. the various scientific disciplines are alike in their reliance on evidence.
Hence. Because of this reliance on evidence. Scientists do not work only with data and well-developed theories. demonstration. Although those features are especially characteristic of the work of professional scientists. and there are common understandings among them about what constitutes an investigation that is scientifically valid. Scientists may often disagree about the value of a particular piece of evidence. To make their observations. Science Demands Evidence Sooner or later. or about the appropriateness of particular assumptions that are made—and therefore disagree about what conclusions are justified. Often. and instruments that tap characteristics quite different from what humans can sense (such as magnetic fields). Scientific inquiry is not easily described apart from the context of particular investigations. or unethical (as in studying people). or choose which organisms mate with which others. Such hypotheses are widely used in science for choosing what data to pay attention to and what additional data to seek. There are. and the findings of any one investigator or group are usually checked by others. everyone can exercise them in thinking scientifically about many matters of interest in everyday life. uncomplicated by changes in other conditions. however. scientists can control conditions deliberately and precisely to obtain their evidence. and for guiding the . and actively probe the world (as by boring into the earth's crust or administering experimental medicines). control the temperature. to testing the validity of arguments by applying certain criteria of inference. bird migrations). the validity of scientific claims is settled by referring to observations of phenomena. scientists concentrate on getting accurate data. they have only tentative hypotheses about the way things may be. Scientists observe passively (earthquakes. great value is placed on the development of better instruments and techniques of observation. instruments (such as microscopes) that enhance those senses. however. and common sense. By varying just one condition at a time. Such evidence is obtained by observations and measurements taken in situations that range from natural settings (such as a forest) to completely contrived ones (such as the laboratory). control of conditions may be impractical (as in studying stars). scientists use their own senses. In some circumstances. certain features of science that give it a distinctive character as a mode of inquiry. They may. observations have to be made over a sufficiently wide range of naturally occurring conditions to infer what the influence of various factors might be. no one path that leads them unerringly to scientific knowledge. they can hope to identify its exclusive effects on what happens. Often. There simply is no fixed set of steps that scientists always follow. sooner or later scientific arguments must conform to the principles of logical reasoning —that is. Science Is a Blend of Logic and Imagination Although all sorts of imagination and thought may be used in coming up with hypotheses and theories. for example. In such cases. change the concentration of chemicals. But they tend to agree about the principles of logical reasoning that connect evidence and assumptions with conclusions. shells). or likely to distort the natural phenomena (as in studying wild animals in captivity). make collections (rocks.goes on all the time among scientists.
or designing skyscrapers. can be tested by new discoveries of human-like fossil remains. even by accident. But it is not enough for scientific theories to fit only the observations that are already known. In fact. or are consistent with. Theories should also fit additional observations that were not used in formulating the theories in the first place. But scientific evidence can be biased in how the data are interpreted. a hypothesis should suggest what evidence would support it and what evidence would refute it. The credibility of scientific theories often comes from their ability to show relationships among phenomena that previously seemed unrelated. The use of logic and the close examination of evidence are necessary but not usually sufficient for the advancement of science. may predict unsuspected relationships between features of starlight that can then be sought in existing collections of data about stars. A hypothesis that cannot in principle be put to the test of evidence may be interesting. but they must be logically sound and incorporate a significant body of scientifically valid observations. or even in the choice of what data to consider in the first place. Scientific concepts do not emerge automatically from data or from any amount of analysis alone. however. Sometimes discoveries in science are made unexpectedly. Inventing hypotheses or theories to imagine how the world works and then figuring out how they can be put to the test of reality is as creative as writing poetry. and the contours of the ocean floors. This approach is clearly necessary for reconstructing the events in the history of the earth or of the life forms on it. in the recording or reporting of the data. Aspects of data that have been ignored by one scientist may lead to new discoveries by another. scientists respond by asking what evidence supports it. For example. evolve more slowly than we can usually observe. composing music. the shapes of continents. volcanoes. It is also necessary for the study of processes that usually occur very slowly. Stars. Such explanations —theories—may be either sweeping or restricted. Scientists Try to Identify and Avoid Bias When faced with a claim that something is true. and so on may incline them to look for or emphasize one or another kind of evidence or interpretation. for many years the study of primates—by male scientists—focused on the competitive social behavior of .interpretation of data. The essence of science is validation by observation. such as the building of mountains or the aging of stars. To be useful. the process of formulating and testing hypotheses is one of the core activities of scientists. that is. sex. The theory of moving continents. the match between types of fossils on different continents. but it is not likely to be scientifically useful. But knowledge and creative insight are usually required to recognize the meaning of the unexpected. for example. Demonstrating the predictive power of a theory does not necessarily require the prediction of events in the future. Theories of the evolution of stars. A theory about the origins of human beings. for example. theories should have predictive power. Scientists' nationality. for example. age. Science Explains and Predicts Scientists strive to make sense of observations of phenomena by constructing explanations for them that use. political convictions. has grown in credibility as it has shown relationships among such diverse phenomena as earthquakes. ethnic origin. currently accepted scientific principles. The predictions may be about evidence from the past that has not yet been found or studied.
librarians. In the short run. is empowered to decide for other scientists what is true. The history of economic theory. and are expected. But esteemed authorities have been wrong many times in the history of science. to turn to knowledgeable sources of information and opinion. In the long run. Not until female scientists entered the field was the importance of female primates' community-building behavior recognized. Scientists want. Indeed. Science Is Not Authoritarian It is appropriate in science. Scientific activity is one of the main features of the contemporary world and. perhaps more than any other. science inevitably reflects social values and viewpoints. These people—scientists and engineers.males. Science Is a Complex Social Activity Scientific work involves many individuals doing many different kinds of work and goes on to some degree in all nations of the world. challenges to new ideas are the legitimate business of science in building valid knowledge. as elsewhere. or the instrument may not be completely avoidable in every instance. technicians. theory building. theories are judged by their results: When someone comes up with a new or improved version that explains more phenomena or answers more important questions than the previous version. THE SCIENTIFIC ENTERPRISE Science as an enterprise has individual. but scientists want to know the possible sources of bias and how bias is likely to influence evidence. however. the new one eventually takes its place. usually people who specialize in relevant disciplines. however famous or highly placed. social. Bias attributable to the investigator. the method. In the long run. although such objectivity is not always achieved. mathematicians. and scientists investigating such ideas may have difficulty obtaining support for their research. physicians. the sample. instrument building. for none are believed by other scientists to have special access to the truth. for example. has paralleled the development of ideas of social justice—at one . Men and women of all ethnic and national backgrounds participate in science and its applications. new ideas that do not mesh well with mainstream ideas may encounter vigorous criticism. to be as alert to possible bias in their own work as in that of other scientists. There are no preestablished conclusions that scientists must reach on the basis of their investigations. One safeguard against undetected bias in an area of study is to have many different investigators or groups of investigators working in it. and they may be concerned with data gathering. Even the most prestigious scientists have occasionally refused to accept new theories despite there being enough accumulated evidence to convince others. no scientist. or communicating. computer programmers. and others—may focus on scientific knowledge either for its own sake or for a particular practical purpose. As a social activity. and institutional dimensions. distinguishes our times from earlier centuries.
astronomy. and scientific associations. and shorten the time between discovery and application. government. the remarkable few who overcame those obstacles were even then likely to have their work belittled by the science establishment. and analysis. offices. of course. business and industry. as does chemistry into biology and psychology. Their places of work include classrooms. to stay abreast of scientific developments around the world. Elaborate processes involving scientists themselves have been developed to decide which research proposals receive funding. Those papers enable scientists to inform others about their work. and kinds of outcomes desired. From anthropology through zoology. Physics shades into chemistry. and. all are equally scientific and together make up the same scientific endeavor. hospitals. women and people of color were essentially excluded from most of science by restrictions on their education and employment opportunities. Some scientists present their findings and theories in papers that are delivered at meetings or published in scientific journals. to expose their ideas to criticism by other scientists. The disadvantage is that their divisions do not necessarily match the way the world works. and geology. make new kinds of analysis practical. which then become disciplines in their own right. independent research organizations. In any case.time. . industry. phenomena studied. Science goes on in many different settings. such as prevailing opinion on what questions are most interesting or what methods of investigation are most likely to be fruitful. New scientific disciplines (astrophysics and sociobiology. They differ from one another in many ways. in small groups. and well into it. They may work alone. techniques and language used. and natural field settings from space to the bottom of the sea. and they can make communication difficult. however. for instance) are continually being formed at the boundaries of others. Because of the social nature of science. Universities. or as members of large research teams. economists considered the optimum wage for workers to be no more than what would just barely allow the workers to survive. The advantage of having disciplines is that they provide a conceptual structure for organizing research and research findings. Some disciplines grow and break into subdisciplines. Scientists are employed by universities. Those technologies speed up data collection. laboratories. compilation. science can be thought of as the collection of all of the different scientific fields. scientific disciplines do not have fixed borders. and so on. the dissemination of scientific information is crucial to its progress. and committees of scientists regularly review progress in various disciplines to recommend general priorities for funding. and government are also part of the structure of the scientific endeavor. The advancement of information science (knowledge of the nature of information and its manipulation) and the development of information technologies (especially computer systems) affect all sciences. The direction of scientific research is affected by informal influences within the culture of science itself. Before the twentieth century. there are dozens of such disciplines. or content disciplines. including history. Science Is Organized Into Content Disciplines and Is Conducted in Various Institutions Organizationally. With respect to purpose and philosophy.
Private foundations. Other deliberate controls on science result from federal (and sometimes local) government regulations on research practices that are deemed to be dangerous and on the treatment of the human and animal subjects used in experiments. comfort. Moreover. buttressed by the critical review of one's work by peers. partly on the premise that it will be applied fruitfully in the long run. The federal government funds much of the research in universities and in industry but also supports and conducts research in its many national laboratories and research centers. public-interest groups. the Department of Defense offers contracts for working on a line of theoretical mathematics. such as nuclear weapons or germ warfare. insights. the neighborhood. and state governments also support research. Funding agencies influence the direction of science by virtue of the decisions they make on which research to support. If. The ethics of science also relates to the possible harmful effects of applying the results of research. In addition. and analytical skills to bear on matters of public . but many also sponsor research that has no immediately obvious applications. even if this constraint limits some kinds of potentially important research or influences the results. Military or industrial secrecy is acceptable to some scientists but not to others. Scientists Participate in Public Affairs Both as Specialists and as Citizens Scientists can bring information. Whether a scientist chooses to work on research of great potential risk to humanity. There Are Generally Accepted Ethical Principles in the Conduct of Science Most scientists conduct themselves according to the ethical norms of science. research involving human subjects may be conducted only with the informed consent of the subjects. not one of professional ethics. Modern scientific ethics require that due regard must be given to the health. openness. and engineers. mathematicians may infer that it has application to new military technology and therefore would likely be subject to secrecy measures. One aspect is the treatment of live experimental subjects. serve to keep the vast majority of scientists well within the bounds of ethical professional behavior. Another domain of scientific ethics relates to possible harm that could result from scientific experiments. students. are also particularly committed to educating successive generations of scientists. is considered by many scientists to be a matter of personal ethics. Industries and businesses usually emphasize research directed to practical ends. Universities. or the community to health or property risks without their knowledge and consent. for example. scientists must not knowingly subject coworkers. The strongly held traditions of accurate recordkeeping. although much of it is also directed toward practical problems. Sometimes. Informed consent entails full disclosure of the risks and intended benefits of the research and the right to refuse to participate. Such a violation of the very nature of science impedes science. of course. but some idea of what applications are expected from scientific work can be ascertained by knowing who is interested in funding it. the pressure to get credit for being the first to publish an idea or observation leads some scientists to withhold information or even to falsify their findings. mathematicians. The long-term effects of science may be unpredictable. and well-being of animal subjects. and replication. it is strongly condemned by the scientific community and the agencies that fund research. When discovered.University research usually emphasizes knowledge for its own sake. however.
Some Notes on the Nature of Science Joe Schwarcz. Although the book focuses on evolution.concern. In their work. scientists can seldom bring definitive answers to matters of public debate. scientists are expected to be especially careful in trying to distinguish fact from interpretation. Ph. Thus. "theory" does not mean "guess" or "hunch" as it does in everyday usage. or there may be little reliable information available. Most religions have tenets of faith. its reasoning is equally applicable to health-related issues. or the values involved may lie outside of science. .D. Usually "faith" refers to beliefs that are accepted without empirical [observed] evidence. they are expected to make full use of the principles of scientific inquiry. Often they can help the public and its representatives to understand the likely causes of events (such as natural and technological disasters) and to estimate the possible effects of projected policies (such as ecological effects of various farming methods). Even so. scientists go to great lengths to avoid bias—their own as well as that of others. Science differs from religion because it is the nature of science to test and retest explanations against the natural world.D. . Moreover.D. Scientific theories are explanations of natural phenomena built up logically from testable observations and hypotheses. the agreement does not extend to all scientific issues."  A 1998 National Academy of Sciences book contains a superb chapter that distinguishes between facts and theories and between scientific beliefs and faith . In playing this advisory role. and research findings from speculation and opinion. The late astronomer Carl Sagan. let alone to all science-related social issues. scientists. The book states: In scientific terms. on issues outside of their expertise. Stephen Barrett. Often they can testify to what is not possible. But in matters of public interest. although there may be at any one time a broad consensus on the bulk of scientific knowledge. the opinions of scientists should enjoy no special credibility. . Scientists most often use the word "fact" to describe an observation. Ph. And of course. The scientific method offers an objective way to evaluate information to determine what is false. because of their commitment to science.. has pointed out that "Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of facts. scientific explanations are likely to . can be expected to be biased where their own personal. many scientists may understandably be less than objective in their beliefs on how science is to be funded in comparison to other social needs. . like other people. corporate. Some issues are too complex to fit within the current scope of science. For example. . or community interests are at stake. M. . institutional. But scientists can also use "fact" to mean something that has been tested or observed so many times that there is no longer a compelling reason to keep testing or looking for examples. that is.
how well it was designed. consider the strong association between breast cancer and the wearing of skirts. for example. To determine whether bottled water is preferable to tap water. Chlorophyll does not transport oxygen in the blood. it is not necessarily because someone has been negligent. If something undesirable happens. Scientists. Results should be independently confirmed by others. . Nonsensical lingo can sound very scientific. It is not a collection of unassailable "truths. the chance of making substantial errors decreases. Certainty is elusive in science." It plods along. . This is quite different from most religious beliefs. wearing skirts does not cause the disease.be built on and modified with new information and new ways of looking at old information. no one could have predicted that 30 years later they would have an impact on the ozone layer. It is always important to take into account who carried out a given study. An association of two variables does not necessarily imply cause and effect. however. . however. An ad for a type of algae states that "the molecular structure of chlorophyll is almost the same as that of hemoglobin. This is virtually impossible. Science is a truth-seeking process. Therefore. When chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were introduced as refrigerants. . "belief" is really not an appropriate term to use in science. It may not be possible to predict all consequences of an action. Any new finding should be examined with skepticism. one would have to design a lifelong study of two large groups of people whose lifestyles were similar in all respects except for the type of water they consumed. Many people are convinced that sugar causes hyperactivity in children—not because they have examined studies to this effect but because they have heard that it is so. As an extreme example." This is nonsense. a slate of studies has demonstrated that. In fact. because testing is such an important part of this way of knowing. a self -correcting discipline. Obviously. We therefore have to rely on less-direct evidence in formulating many of our conclusions. and it is often hard to give categorical "Yes" or "No" answers to scientific questions. This "faith" is very different from religious faith. The following ideas can help you evaluate information you encounter about science and health. sugar has a calming effect on children. No major lifestyle change should be based on any one study. no matter how much advance research has been done. slowly building towards a consensus. Healthy skepticism does not mean unwillingness to believe. Studies have to be carefully interpreted by experts in the field. Oxygen is the prime nutrient and chlorophyll is the central molecule for increasing oxygen available to your system. it is the assumption that the universe operates according to regularities. if anything." It is. If there is a component of faith to science. Such corrections may take a long time—the medical practice of bloodletting went on for centuries before its futility was realized—but as scientific knowledge accumulates. which is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. But it is incorrect to conclude that science cannot be trusted because for every study there is all equal and opposite study. sometimes show an amazing aptitude for coming up with inappropriate rationalizations for their pet theories. taking many small steps. Keep in mind that science does not proceed by "miracle breakthroughs" or "giant leaps. Skeptics base their beliefs on scientific proof and do not swallow information uncritically. Repeating a false notion does not make it true. There often are legitimate opposing views on scientific issues.
if something sounds too good to be true. a remedy will receive undeserved credit. "Natural" does not equal "safe. Anecdotal evidence is unreliable. Whether a substance is a poison or a remedy depends on the dosage. it probably is. the effectiveness of specific foods or nutrients in the treatment of diseases is usually overstated. . Ibn Yunus. and wrong. al-Khwarizmi. In other words. Abul Qasim. Ibrahim ibn Sinan. such as ricin from castor beans or botulin from the Clostridium botulinum bacterium. plausible. al-Masudi. Ibn Sina. Swallowing a whole bottle of pills will make the patient go away. Thabit ibn Qurra. inaccurately reported. Furthermore. Food poisoning from microbial contamination is a far greater health risk than trace pesticide residues oil fruits and vegetables. Perceived risks are often different from real risks. They are neither good nor bad. . As H. About 80% of illnesses are self-limiting and will resolve in response to almost any kind of treatment. what they say" is only gossip. level of exercise. "Chemical" is not a dirty word. There is no goose that lays golden eggs. The human body is incredibly complex. exposure to occupational hazards. Animal studies are not necessarily relevant to humans. our diet." "It will suffice here to evoke a few glorious names without contemporary equivalents in the West: Jabir ibn Haiyan. Licking an aspirin tablet will do nothing for a headache. Ibn al-Haitham. The deadliest toxins known. "Every complex problem has a solution that is simple. 'Ali Ibn 'Isa al-Ghazali. Nitroglycerin can alleviate the pain of angina or blow up a building. Feeding high doses of a suspected toxin to test animals for short periods of time may not accurately reflect the effect on humans exposed to tiny doses over long periods of time." The properties of any substance are determined by its molecular structure. our mother's diet during pregnancy. al-Fargani. Be mindful of who the "they" is in "they say that ." George Sarton's Tribute to Muslim Scientists in the "Introduction to the History of Science. the smaller the chance that important nutrients will be lacking. Ibn al-Jazzar.L. Hunain ibn Ishaq. al-zarqab. al-Kindi. al-Farabi. . al-Tabari. because positive results are much more likely to be reported than negative ones. al-Razi. There is universal agreement among scientists that a high consumption of fruits and vegetables is beneficial. al-Battani. although they may provide much valuable information. al-Kashi. there is no relation between the risk posed by a substance and the complexity of its name. Omar Khayyam. If anyone tells you that the Middle Ages were scientifically sterile. The wider the variety of foods consumed. 'Ali ibn Abbas. are perfectly natural. exposure to microbes. for example." and "synthetic" does not equal "dangerous. Abul Wafa. Individual foods are not good or bad. Mencken once said. and pure luck. al-Biruni. direct. stress. While diet clearly plays a role in the promotion of good health. is safe for humans but toxic for guinea pigs. Rats do not require vitamin C as a dietary nutrient but humans do. Nature is not benign.and whether anyone stands to gain financially from the results. not by whether it was synthesized by a chemist in a lab or by nature in a plant. Our health is determined by many variables." In many cases. Penicillin. just quote . The choice is ours. Often. Chemicals are the building blocks of our world. It makes no sense to talk about the effects of certain substances on the body without talking about amounts. A magnificent array of names which it would not be difficult to extend. which include genetics. "Dihydrogen monoxide" is just water. but swallowing two tablets will make the headache go away. although overall diet may be described as such.
The Arabs quickly assimilated the culture and knowledge of the peoples they ruled. In early days at least.D. libraries.adopted the Arabic language. and the intellectual freedom of men of the desert stimulated the search for knowledge and science. such were fundamental principles taught and acclaimed by the the masters of the sciences. and others . accepting nothing as true which was not confirmed by experience. Persia. Copts. colleges. The old learning was thus infused with a new vigor. Proceeding from the known to the unknown. Syrians. the Arabs began to encourage learning of all kinds. taking precise account of phenomena. Berbers.Persians. Greek manuscripts were acquired in large numbers and were studied. the Prophet Mohammed (Peace and Prayers be upon Him) died. Schools. As soon as Islamic state had been established. observatories and hospitals were built throughout the whole Islamic state. Gibraltar and Spain had been submitted to the Islamic State. Asia Minor. Historians have justly remarked that the school of Baghdad was characterized by a new scientific spirit. Syria. and a new civilization had been established. all of whom flourished within a short period. Palestine. or established by experiment. and were adequately staffed and endowed. In the same time.these men to him. while the latter in turn . 750 to 1100 A. Egypt. 632. The Islamic Empire At Its Greatest Extent 750 c George Sarton in his introduction. marks the time from the 2nd half of eighth century to the 2nd half of the eleventh century into: The time of Jabir Ibn Haiyan which covers the 2nd half of eighth century The time of Al-Khwarizmi which covers the 1st half of ninth century The time of Al-Razi which covers the 2nd half of ninth century The time of Al-Mas'udi which covers the 1st half of tenth century The time of Abu-l-Wafa which covers the 2nd half of tenth century The time of Al-Biruni which covers the 1st half eleventh century The time of Omar Khyyam which covers the 2nd half of eleventh century The Time of Jabir Ibn Haiyan Second half of Eighth Century The intellectual relaxation which characterized the second half of the seventh century and the . and the term Arab acquired a linguistic sense rather than a strictly ethnological one. In the interval. and Baghdad was the intellectual center of the world. A. having accomplished the marvelous task of uniting the tribes of Arabia into a homogeneous and powerful nation." Preface On 8 June. scholars were invited to Damascus and Baghdad without distinction of nationality or creed. translated and provided with scholarly and illuminating commentaries. the whole North Africa. the Muslims were eager seekers for knowledge. The nationality of the Muslim thus became submerged.D.
the victorious. are one of the most urgent and promising tasks of scholarship. It is interesting to recall that the mathematical work of the previous period had been done almost exclusively by Chinese. Many more Greek works were translated by his order. one of them a Jew named Mashallah. the fifth and one of the greatest 'Abbasid monarchs.Makers of Chemistry. art. Holmyard) Cultural Background of this Period in the East Two rulers of the Abbasid caliphs used their authority to promote the intellectual welfare and progress of the peoples. In addition to transmission of some Hindu mathematics. Harun-al-Rashid (whose fame has been immortalized by many legends). worked together to make the measurements necessary for the building of Bagdad. Died in 775 at Bir Maimun. A. and Hindu languages into the Arabic which were accomplished in his reign. Florence. and distinguished themselves greatly in this respect. that is why this period gave an Arabic name marking the beginning of Muslim science. He will remain a very impressive personality. E.first half of the eighth was followed by a period of renewed activity which was entirely due to Muslim initiatives. the other a Persian called al-Naubakht. In 807 he presented a very remarkable water-clock to Charlemange (King of the Franks since 768. 61-66 Christian years. Ibrahim al-Fazari is said to have been the first Muslim to construct astrolabes.68 Muslim years (Hegra). wrote astrological treatises and translations from the Persian into Arabic.. Harun al-Rashid. The physician al-Batriq translated Ptolemy's Quadripartitum. at the age of 63 . Both caliphs encourage the work of translators who were busily unlocking the treasures of Greek knowledge. the second. Chelazzi. Greek. Abu Ja'far 'Abdallah al-Mansur. who acquainted him with the Siddhanta.e.. The name Jabir Ibn Haiyan came from the highly important contributions by him in this period. Persian. Ya'qub ibn Tariq and Muhammad. Two astrologers. Memorable because of the many translations from the Syriac. Caliph from 786 to his death. He was the second 'Abbasid caliph and ruled from 754 to his death. whether in Arabic or Latin. Al-Naubakht's son. Imaginative portrait of Jabir Ibn Haiyan (Photograph. son of Ibrahim al-Fazari.e. Magnificent patron of science. are the first to be mentioned in connection with Hindu mathematics: Ya'qab met at the court of al-Mansur. near Mecca. al-Fadl. a Hindu astronomer called Kankah (?). i. and Muhammad was ordered to translate it.. Jabir's texts. He was a great statesman and the founder of Baghdad. i. born in 763 or 766 at al-Ray. crowned Emperor of the West on Christmas 800 by Leo III in Rome) Islamic Mathematics and Astronomy All of the mathematical and astronomical work of this period was done by Muslims. died at Tus in 809. L. alMansur (founded Baghdad) and the fifth. . Some amount of stimulation had come from India. and literature.
on the division of the kardaja. 1503. Latin translators named him Messahala (with many variants. on the tables derived from the Siddhanta. He was ordered by the Caliph al-Mansur in 772/3 to translate the Sanskrit astronomical work Siddhanta. Died c. Son of the astronomer Ibrahim dealt with above.767-778 died c. Suter: Die Mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber (p. Macelarma). Edited with preface. The De compositione et utilitate astrolabii was included in Gregor Reisch: Margarita phylosophica (ed. D. 194 p. 1549. died c. the Hindu Kankah (or Mankah?). C. H. 1900) Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim Al-Fazari Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Fazari.. 14. but there are many mediaeval Latin and Hebrew translations. Muslim astronomer. Suter: Die Mathematiker und Astronomer der Araber (3. The Arabic text extant deals with the prices of wares and is the earliest book of its kind in that language. pr. Suter says the text is included in the Basel edition of 1583).92. himself an Egyptian (?) Jew. E. as Macellama. . at the court of al-Mansur. 4. Smith and L. 796. He probably met. H. 1911) Mashallah His real name was probably Manasseh (in Arabic. Died c. 777). Suter: Die Mathematiker und Astronomer der Araber (p. One of the earliest astronomers and astrologers in Islam.) Flourished under al-Mansur. the preface is uncritical). on the calendar). by Afaula Power (Irish Texts Society." printed in Nuremberg 1501. 1907). An Irish astronomical tract based in part on a mediaeval Latin version of a world by Messahalah.. and contains 27 chapters. for whom he is sometimes mistaken (he may be the author of the astrological poem ascribed to his father). 777. Text and Translation. 1914. One of the greatest astronomers of his time. This translation was possibly the vehicle by means of which the Hindu numerals were transmitted from India to Islam. Muslim scientist and astronomer. The De scientia motus orbis is probably the treatise called in Arabic "the twenty-seventh. The first to construct astrolabes. Karpinski: The Hindu-Arabic Numerals (p. he wa the author of a poem (qasida) on astrology and of various astronomical writings (on the astrolabe. Cantor: Geschichte der Mathematik (I. Freiburg. translation. 1900) Ya'qub Ibn Tariq Probably of Persian origin. He wrote memoirs on the sphere (c.1900). He took part with the Persian astrologer al-Naubakht in the surveying preliminary to the foundation of Baghdad in 762-63. H. Mashallah is a contraction of ma'aha Allah meaning "What wonders Allah has willed. 767. Only one of his writings is extant in Arabic. 796 to 806. c.. on the armillary spheres. and glossary. flourished in Baghdad. The second edition is entitled: 'De elementis et orbibus coelestibus'. vol. 698. A relatively modern translation of the De scientia motus orbis. Other astronomical and astrological writings are quoted by Suter and Steinsehneider. 3rd ed.Ibrahim al-Fazari Abu Ishaq Ibrahlm ibn Habib ibn Sulaiman ibn Samura ibn Jundab. Misha). His most popular book in the Middle Ages was the 'De scientia motus orbis'. 815 or 820. who had brought there the Siddhanta." (What hath God wrought. translated by Gherardo Cremonese. Boston. 4. c. 208.
ascribed to Geber and dating from the twelfth century and later. 1924).g. J." the "Book of Mercy. He observed the imponderability of magnetic force. varnishes to waterproof cloth and protect iron. he was the most famous Arabic alchemist.. 776. 1922. Berthelot: La chimie au moyen age (vol. distillation of vinegar to concentrate acetic acid. vol.Astrolabe Astronomers Using Astrolabe Islamic Alchemy It is noteworthy that the earliest alchemical texts in Arabic and Latin are contemporaneous. Holmyard's criticism in Isis. c. preparation of steel. basic lead carbonate." the "Book of Eastern Mercury. It is possible that some of the facts mentioned in the Latin works. We find in them remarkably sound views on methods of chemical research. use of manganese dioxide in glass making. Jabir appears already as a very great personality. the alchemist Geber of the Middle Ages. if our dating of them is correct. Berlin." the "Little Book of the Balances. reviewed by J. 3. Paris. preparation of various substances (e. Jabir Ibn Haiyan. a theory on the geological formation of metals. It is impossible to reach definite conclusions until all the Arabic writings ascribed to Jabir have been properly edited and discussed.g. his alchemical doctrines were very anthropomorphic and animistic. Flourished mostly in Kufa.. 17. Jabir deals also with various applications. he was also an able theoretician. Liber misericordiae Geber. See E. L'alchimie arabe. 10 pl. al-Tartusi." the "Book of Concentration." and others. concluding that these Latin treatises are apocryphal). The most famous alchemist of Islam. 181-197. 1925. Ernst Darmstaedter: Die Alchemie des Geber (212 p. 451-455. use of iron pyrites for writing in gold. al-Sufi). According to the treatises already translated (by Berthelot). But other treatises (not yet available in translation) show him in a better light.1893. refinement of metals. . He may be the author of a book on the astrolabe. Text and Translations:. that is. p. Eine lateinisehe ubersetzung des grosseren Kitab al-rahma (Archive fur Geschichte der Medizin. Isis. The Arabic text of a few of Jabir's writings is edited by Octave Houdas. French translation. German translation of the Latin treatises ascribed to Geber. Ruska in Isis. Jabir ibn Haiyan Abu Musa Jabir ibn Haiyan al-Azdi (al-Tusi. 126-224.M. It is only then that we shall be able to measure the full extent of his contributions. arsenic and antimony from their sulphides). the so-called sulphur-mercury theory of metals (the six metals differ essentially because of different proportions of sulphur and mercury in them). seems to have had a good experimental knowledge of a number chemical facts. dyeing of cloth and leather. 479-499. one of the greatest in mediaeval science. XI. e. V. but his fame rests on his alchemical writings preserved in Arabic: the "Book of the Kingdom. but even on the slender basis of our present knowledge. must also be placed to Jabir's credit. al-Harrani meaning that he was a Sabian?.
greater prosperity — so-called globalization — and. and the conveniences. In the last one century. telecommunications. medicine and health care.five percent of all the scientific research being done currently is directly or indirectly meant for developing weapons. inwardly in our consciousness? Science has generated tremendous power. it has made very rapid progress and completely transformed outwardly the manner of our living. having started with Galileo about 350 years ago. living without violence. and newer diseases. if we look at the level of violence throughout the world during a ten-year period. tension. computerization and so on. It is said that our life outwardly has changed more in the last one hundred years than it did in thousands of years earlier. Rajghat Education Centre. which is without precedent in any previous century. Krishnamurti Foundation India. the consequent development of technology and industry. Krishnamurti raised the question: Has there been psychological evolution at all in the last two or five thousand years? Have we progressed at all in wisdom. and supported by the Defence Ministry in every nation. then power can be used destructively. . is part of our daily living. Sixty. The Impact of Science on Society by Prof. the graph is going up. So. It was hoped that the development of science would usher in an era of peace and prosperity.VIII. and its application in the form of technology. India Though modern science is of relatively recent origin. Varanasi 221001. 208 million people have been killed in wars. progress in agriculture. But when we do not have wisdom and love. So the impact of science on society is very visible. from 1900 to 1910. sorrow. in every decade. in every country. P. In spite of all this progress. compassion or brotherhood. on the other. or the quest for truth. on the one hand. comforts and power we have got through this knowledge. at peace with themselves. On the contrary. but that has been belied. knowledge always gives power and is useful because it increases our abilities. transportation. because of the scientific knowledge accumulated over the last three centuries. 737). Krishna Ex-Rector. which are all by-products of wisdom. in no part of the world are human beings happy. greater violence. or 1910 to 1920 and so on.
And the quest for truth. and even the earth. to bring about greater prosperity and peace? We have been at war for thousands of years. which gives the direction to that step. and coming upon virtue. peace of mind. all of humankind. compassion. We are living in a very intelligent universe. The problems exist because of lack of understanding of life and the psychologically primitive state in which we find ourselves. Is the new knowledge. The scientist does not create order. which is a new step. If you ask why Nature . linguistic. We are living in a scientific age. Science is the quest for truth about Nature. and wisdom. happiness. which stated a great truth about Nature. So humanity has succeeded in the quest for science. but before you take the next step. non-violence. for they might set the whole house on fire or burn themselves. we should distinguish between science and technology. freedom from conflict. is it responsible? Yet. but what is so great about the scientific age? Have we used the discoveries of science to be more protective. And is not humanity in that state.’ You are also responsible for the whole of society. love. he would never have done that research or published the findings. but we now have nuclear weapons. Joy Mills in her talk said: ‘It is important to watch your next step. but to understand how Nature works and discover the tremendous order and intelligence operating around us. then there would be no science. all the nations of the world are spending huge amounts in developing scientific knowledge. without wisdom? There is hatred in our motivations. kind and gentle. Its aim is not to produce technology. Newton only discovered gravitation. if sometimes a stone went up and sometimes down.So. national. religious and other groups. but we have not discovered order in consciousness. he merely studies it. But definite causes produce definite effects. and that is why science is possible. in the right direction? Through genetic engineering we might develop new power. giving more and more power. A million things take place in perfect order within our body without any conscious voluntary effort on our part. So. why do science? Of course. that mass is just another form of energy — will be used to make atomic bombs and kill large numbers of people in Japan. That is something which has already happened in the last century. The laws of Nature are independent of the scientist. does humanity deserve to have the knowledge which science is generating? We do not let children play with fire. without the wisdom to use it rightly? Responsibility from a theosophical point of view is universal responsibility. If Nature were chaotic. as if that is our priority. we are badly divided into groups — caste. Socrates wrote that there is only one virtue — that is order in consciousness. Are the problems of humanity today caused by not having sufficiently fast aeroplanes or computers? Of course not. because there is order already there. but can we ensure that we will use that power for the benefit of mankind and for the earth at large? We cannot ensure that. though we may describe it in different words in different situations. is the quest for order in consciousness. Is it then responsible for scientists to generate knowledge. which is virtue. which existed a million years before Newton and will exist a million years hence. make sure that you have a long vision. which is the essence of Theosophy. If we cannot. It means not saying: ‘I am only responsible for generating scientific knowledge. Einstein is on record saying that had he known that his equation E = mc2.
and there is the technique. empty. or generate electricity. rituals become hollow. Of what use is a new-born child?’ Today we know that discovery has made possible this microphone. Human beings use the knowledge gained by science and decide what kind of application to make of it. If there is no vision. but if you do not have the spirit. the manner of praying. The path becomes mechanical. So is there anything we can learn from science as Theosophists interested in wisdom. we will not use knowledge for destructive purposes. we have not really valued the scientific spirit. the method. After he demonstrated this in a big hall.is ordered. or as meant to draw out his entire potential. that we are all citizens of this planet. but science itself is the quest for truth about Nature. But one must discover what is called the scientific spirit. Although in society we have valued scientific knowledge and its application as technology. but of what use is this discovery?’ And he replied: ‘It is a new-born child. without which it is wrong to call ours a scientific society. Scientists are pointing out that the third world war would be the last. He was very excited about this new discovery. somebody asked: ‘All this is very well. If there is wisdom. the scientist cannot answer. You can learn the technique. bringing our planet and our lives to a level of danger which never existed before. which is the sensitive perception of beauty in sculpture. the vision. There is the spirit of education. and the steps go wrong. motorcars and aeroplanes and so on. Science says that the whole earth is one. But that was not the reason why Faraday discovered electromagnetism. History shows that man has used it and is still using it primarily for destruction rather than for construction. Technology is a by-product of science. Without the spirit. does not deal with values per se. the beliefs and so on. or scientific knowledge. ‘This is my culture and this is my country and I will work only for this. painting and so on. or a motorcar. There is the spirit of art. as shown by a galvanometer’s deflection. War is not scientific in spirit. these lights and fans. This is also true of many things in our life. he was just studying Nature. And if there is no wisdom. which is wisdom. the technique. But he discovered that if you push a magnet towards a metallic wire. the knowledge or the method in any activity. There is the spirit of religion. for the spirit is always more important than the technique. with what is right and what is wrong — it does not say that you should be kind. We are an unscientific society. and there is the outer form or structure of religion: the rituals. and use knowledge in a destructive way. if it takes place. you do not become a true artist. and there is the technique of education. All this is not scientific. but it is we who divide ourselves and say. it was thought that electricity and magnetism are two completely separate things. Scientific knowledge is said to be value-neutral. He can only say: ‘I am a student of Nature.’ The technologist takes the knowledge which the scientist discovers and uses it to make guns. a current is generated in the wire. depending on whether education is regarded as merely training somebody to earn a living. I observe and find that order there and I am studying the laws that govern that order. who discovered electromagnetism. Before Faraday. we are violent and selfish. in coming upon a deeper understanding of life and of ourselves? Science.’ For the benefit of our nation we have armies to exploit other nations. .
Einstein could do two hundred pages of mathematics. observation. actually applies. and we are going to find it. It is a deep quest because they are not accepting the reality as they see it. which is fairly basic to all science. If you ask why there are laws. they are talking about an imaginary model of the underlying reality. about reality. Of course. It begins with saying. they limit themselves to studying phenomena which are measurable. From empirically found data. we do not know. we have to guess. they find that indeed it bends by exactly the amount he has calculated. they either modify the model.So what is this scientific spirit? What can we learn from science which is precious? To understand this. Then having collected a lot of data about the phenomenon. using the existing known laws determined from previous work and the peculiar form of logic called mathematics. They are saying there is an underlying reality which is not visible. evolved by the human mind. and try to explain all observed facts and also predict new facts which have not been observed until then. and then deduce that when light goes near a star it must bend. and I have found a method by which I can test whether this conjecture is correct or not. and point out an error. And then they deduce ‘a theory’. A young student can question Einstein. or they discard it altogether and start all over again. It is fortunate that the logic called mathematics has an application in Nature. correlations between two variables are established.’ And that is how science has progressed — without accepting authority. But if you ask: ‘Why do they apply?’ We do not know. Science demands proof. But since it is not visible. honest documentation and measurement. and that is the model. which is a product of the human mind. for he has to guess what is unknown. and recording. and they have only to modify it and make successive models closer and closer approximations to reality. and then guessing what is the underlying reality which would cause those correlations. for understanding any phenomenon in Nature calls for careful observation. to imagine it. Whenever scientists talk about theory. we do not know. using the known laws of Nature. ‘We do not know the truth about Nature. So the spirit of science is one of great humility. . physics. I am making a conjecture. which is really a mystery. and Einstein will agree and thank him: ‘Yes you are right I made a mistake. Somehow. If the experimental values do not tally with the theoretically predicted values. testing with experiments. let me take the example of the particular science I am familiar with. That is a conjecture. which everybody can be convinced of. That is what the physicist calls ‘the model’ — that is where his insight or his genius manifests. which means that those two hundred pages of mathematics apply in Nature. Nobody has seen electrons actually going around a nucleus inside an atom. Galileo wrote that mathematics is the language in which God wrote the universe. If you ask why Nature is ordered. and this seems to be true. that is. It begins with observation. a model about the underlying reality. and to what extent it is correct. starting from certain hypotheses.’ So nothing is accepted on authority. To this model they apply logic. Then again the scientists go back to observation and do experiments to check if their predictions are correct. Usually the model gives approximately correct results. and the truth must be something which is universal. Nature follows mathematics. When twenty years later they are able to do the experiment because technology has got refined to that point. and calculate how much it must bend. Mathematics. you look for correlations among them.
not different for different people. and conduct dialogues about our perceptions. There is a process of dialogue and constant correction. doubt our perceptions. Theosophy is really to delve deep. Science has become the servant of society. violence is not used. is the enemy of man. It is the same for everybody. as we said. science is humble. Whichever aspect of the earth or this universe you explore deeply — whether the human mind or the tree — you will discover marvellous beauty. So truth is global. irrationally. Indeed. A statement was made by Krishnamurti: ‘The scientific mind is a part of the religious mind. not imbibing its spirit. a dialogue among thousands of people who have never met. It is also a truly democratic endeavour. The same mistake is made in regard to religion. The politician illogically. In order to settle a dispute. decides to go to war. We have taught science like a technique. the scientist adopts that policy in the laboratory but not at home nor in his life. nor authority. but the religious mind is not a part of the scientific mind. and publish them. There is no such thing as American truth and Indian truth. But there are a number of values which are inherent. universal. great scientists like Einstein and Shrödinger have come to the religious feeling. whatever his government wants. we have not imbibed the spirit of religion. of dialogue. Religious truths are also universal. doubt. . through the perception of beauty in Nature. of religion. and the truth is the same for everybody. and students are learning the knowledge and techniques of science. we will discover that the true religious feeling and the scientific spirit are not separate. because that experiment is then repeated in another country by another group of scientists. there is wisdom. That is precisely what the scientist is doing too. in what area it does not matter.violence. and scientists. it cannot exist for Indians and not for Americans. So. through science. but we can in humility enquire. When we really care for the spirit and delve deep. That is the motto of the Theosophical Society. It encourages observation. One. Unfortunately. Science is no longer the architect of society. These are values constituting the scientific spirit. it is a global activity. In the depths. and mutual respect.’ To discover the truth about Nature this scientific mind is competent. When you go deep. humility. questioning. is humility. There is no Indian mathematics and American mathematics. but science is done in that way. The superficial understanding of ourselves. So the spirit is one of non. All scientists may not be true scientists if they do not work with that spirit.There is also much in life which is not measurable. which is the field of religion. and everybody reads them. according to whims. and that is also wisdom. Scientists are not humble. it is unknown to us. which we can learn from science. And they write the results. or it does not exist. of the meaning of science. and wisdom means seeing the deeper inner nature of things. truth becomes beauty and beauty truth. ‘There is no Religion Higher than Truth’. Either a stone is attracted by the earth and gravitation exists. and thereby discover for ourselves what the truth is. based on cooperation. testing what is observed. are helping him do whatever he wants. to carry out our own purpose. as employees. Theosophy is essentially the quest for wisdom. the same approach is also valid for discovering religious truths. it is not the private property of any individual. We have not seen the truth.
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