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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 modification of ideas. which may be helpful in weighing alternatives. There are. rather than their outright rejection. No matter how well one theory explains a set of observations. and confidence is as prevalent as tentativeness. Scientists assume that even if there is no way to secure complete and absolute truth. although they can sometimes contribute to the discussion of such issues by identifying the likely consequences of particular actions. increasingly accurate approximations can be made to account for the world and how it works. Nor do scientists have the means to settle issues concerning good and evil. In science. for instance. in calculating satellite trajectories. is the norm in science. In other cases. in the reliance they place on historical data or on experimental findings and on qualitative or quantitative methods. beliefs that—by their very nature—cannot be proved or disproved (such as the existence of supernatural powers and beings. from bullets to light rays. fortune-telling. in formulating the theory of relativity. for instance. from the smallest nuclear particles to the most massive stars. Science Cannot Provide Complete Answers to All Questions There are many matters that cannot usefully be examined in a scientific way. 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. Scientific Ideas Are Subject To Change Science is a process for producing knowledge. it is possible that another theory may fit just as well or better. Scientific Knowledge Is Durable Although scientists reject the notion of attaining absolute truth and accept some uncertainty as part of nature. whether new or other forces—and to the motion of everything. as powerful constructs tend to survive and grow more precise and to become widely accepted. and concepts . Nevertheless. 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. 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. from sailboats to space vehicles. Continuity and stability are as characteristic of science as change is. (The National Aeronautics and Space Administration uses Newtonian mechanics. the various scientific disciplines are alike in their reliance on evidence. information. and superstition). and in how much they draw on the findings of other sciences. the use of hypothesis and theories. the testing and improving and occasional discarding of theories. scientists differ greatly from one another in what phenomena they investigate and in how they go about their work. Still. The process depends both on making careful observations of phenomena and on inventing theories for making sense out of those observations. in their recourse to fundamental principles. Change in knowledge is inevitable because new observations may challenge prevailing theories. For example. SCIENTIFIC INQUIRY Fundamentally. and much more. astrology. or may fit a still wider range of observations. most scientific knowledge is durable. the kinds of logic used. or the true purposes of life).) Moreover. the exchange of techniques. go on all the time.

There simply is no fixed set of steps that scientists always follow. make collections (rocks. scientists can control conditions deliberately and precisely to obtain their evidence. and actively probe the world (as by boring into the earth's crust or administering experimental medicines). change the concentration of chemicals. They may. scientists use their own senses. and for guiding the . instruments (such as microscopes) that enhance those senses. or choose which organisms mate with which others. 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). or unethical (as in studying people). uncomplicated by changes in other conditions. Scientists do not work only with data and well-developed theories. and the findings of any one investigator or group are usually checked by others. however. and common sense. Although those features are especially characteristic of the work of professional scientists. Because of this reliance on evidence. everyone can exercise them in thinking scientifically about many matters of interest in everyday life. Scientific inquiry is not easily described apart from the context of particular investigations. Hence. or likely to distort the natural phenomena (as in studying wild animals in captivity). and there are common understandings among them about what constitutes an investigation that is scientifically valid. shells). demonstration. In some circumstances. Scientists may often disagree about the value of a particular piece of evidence. scientists concentrate on getting accurate data. no one path that leads them unerringly to scientific knowledge. control the temperature. or about the appropriateness of particular assumptions that are made—and therefore disagree about what conclusions are justified. for example. 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. There are. to testing the validity of arguments by applying certain criteria of inference. Often. and instruments that tap characteristics quite different from what humans can sense (such as magnetic fields). the validity of scientific claims is settled by referring to observations of phenomena. observations have to be made over a sufficiently wide range of naturally occurring conditions to infer what the influence of various factors might be. Science Demands Evidence Sooner or later. however.goes on all the time among scientists. By varying just one condition at a time. But they tend to agree about the principles of logical reasoning that connect evidence and assumptions with conclusions. To make their observations. great value is placed on the development of better instruments and techniques of observation. Often. Scientists observe passively (earthquakes. they have only tentative hypotheses about the way things may be. bird migrations). control of conditions may be impractical (as in studying stars). Such hypotheses are widely used in science for choosing what data to pay attention to and what additional data to seek. certain features of science that give it a distinctive character as a mode of inquiry. In such cases. they can hope to identify its exclusive effects on what happens. sooner or later scientific arguments must conform to the principles of logical reasoning —that is.

To be useful. evolve more slowly than we can usually observe. in the recording or reporting of the data. for example. scientists respond by asking what evidence supports it. volcanoes. Demonstrating the predictive power of a theory does not necessarily require the prediction of events in the future. Theories should also fit additional observations that were not used in formulating the theories in the first place.interpretation of data. A hypothesis that cannot in principle be put to the test of evidence may be interesting. has grown in credibility as it has shown relationships among such diverse phenomena as earthquakes. It is also necessary for the study of processes that usually occur very slowly. But scientific evidence can be biased in how the data are interpreted. In fact. Scientists' nationality. may predict unsuspected relationships between features of starlight that can then be sought in existing collections of data about stars. and the contours of the ocean floors. the match between types of fossils on different continents. The use of logic and the close examination of evidence are necessary but not usually sufficient for the advancement of science. but it is not likely to be scientifically useful. But it is not enough for scientific theories to fit only the observations that are already known. The predictions may be about evidence from the past that has not yet been found or studied. Science Explains and Predicts Scientists strive to make sense of observations of phenomena by constructing explanations for them that use. Scientific concepts do not emerge automatically from data or from any amount of analysis alone. for example. a hypothesis should suggest what evidence would support it and what evidence would refute it. ethnic origin. or are consistent with. This approach is clearly necessary for reconstructing the events in the history of the earth or of the life forms on it. theories should have predictive power. sex. for many years the study of primates—by male scientists—focused on the competitive social behavior of . can be tested by new discoveries of human-like fossil remains. The credibility of scientific theories often comes from their ability to show relationships among phenomena that previously seemed unrelated. age. A theory about the origins of human beings. Stars. Scientists Try to Identify and Avoid Bias When faced with a claim that something is true. for example. 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. composing music. but they must be logically sound and incorporate a significant body of scientifically valid observations. and so on may incline them to look for or emphasize one or another kind of evidence or interpretation. such as the building of mountains or the aging of stars. currently accepted scientific principles. The theory of moving continents. But knowledge and creative insight are usually required to recognize the meaning of the unexpected. even by accident. Sometimes discoveries in science are made unexpectedly. or even in the choice of what data to consider in the first place. Such explanations —theories—may be either sweeping or restricted. the process of formulating and testing hypotheses is one of the core activities of scientists. The essence of science is validation by observation. Aspects of data that have been ignored by one scientist may lead to new discoveries by another. or designing skyscrapers. the shapes of continents. however. For example. that is. Theories of the evolution of stars. political convictions.

Scientific activity is one of the main features of the contemporary world and. for none are believed by other scientists to have special access to the truth. Not until female scientists entered the field was the importance of female primates' community-building behavior recognized. As a social activity. the sample. theory building. however famous or highly placed. has paralleled the development of ideas of social justice—at one . physicians. and they may be concerned with data gathering. the new one eventually takes its place. is empowered to decide for other scientists what is true. 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. social. and others—may focus on scientific knowledge either for its own sake or for a particular practical purpose. One safeguard against undetected bias in an area of study is to have many different investigators or groups of investigators working in it. or the instrument may not be completely avoidable in every instance. the method. as elsewhere. technicians. no scientist. distinguishes our times from earlier centuries. new ideas that do not mesh well with mainstream ideas may encounter vigorous criticism. Men and women of all ethnic and national backgrounds participate in science and its applications. The history of economic theory. mathematicians. Indeed. however. THE SCIENTIFIC ENTERPRISE Science as an enterprise has individual. Scientists want. perhaps more than any other. But esteemed authorities have been wrong many times in the history of science. and are expected. These people—scientists and engineers.males. to be as alert to possible bias in their own work as in that of other scientists. Science Is Not Authoritarian It is appropriate in science. Bias attributable to the investigator. librarians. science inevitably reflects social values and viewpoints. computer programmers. challenges to new ideas are the legitimate business of science in building valid knowledge. for example. but scientists want to know the possible sources of bias and how bias is likely to influence evidence. There are no preestablished conclusions that scientists must reach on the basis of their investigations. instrument building. usually people who specialize in relevant disciplines. Even the most prestigious scientists have occasionally refused to accept new theories despite there being enough accumulated evidence to convince others. or communicating. and scientists investigating such ideas may have difficulty obtaining support for their research. In the short run. although such objectivity is not always achieved. In the long run. and institutional dimensions. In the long run. to turn to knowledgeable sources of information and opinion. 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.

scientific disciplines do not have fixed borders. economists considered the optimum wage for workers to be no more than what would just barely allow the workers to survive. Physics shades into chemistry. such as prevailing opinion on what questions are most interesting or what methods of investigation are most likely to be fruitful. Some disciplines grow and break into subdisciplines. the dissemination of scientific information is crucial to its progress. for instance) are continually being formed at the boundaries of others. independent research organizations. Before the twentieth century. and kinds of outcomes desired. Science Is Organized Into Content Disciplines and Is Conducted in Various Institutions Organizationally. Some scientists present their findings and theories in papers that are delivered at meetings or published in scientific journals. or content disciplines.time. compilation. and shorten the time between discovery and application. Those papers enable scientists to inform others about their work. techniques and language used. industry. Universities. make new kinds of analysis practical. and analysis. business and industry. Elaborate processes involving scientists themselves have been developed to decide which research proposals receive funding. of course. 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. and geology. and. the remarkable few who overcame those obstacles were even then likely to have their work belittled by the science establishment. phenomena studied. They differ from one another in many ways. and scientific associations. which then become disciplines in their own right. They may work alone. including history. The disadvantage is that their divisions do not necessarily match the way the world works. Scientists are employed by universities. women and people of color were essentially excluded from most of science by restrictions on their education and employment opportunities. The advantage of having disciplines is that they provide a conceptual structure for organizing research and research findings. Their places of work include classrooms. and well into it. and so on. hospitals. With respect to purpose and philosophy. In any case. Those technologies speed up data collection. in small groups. to expose their ideas to criticism by other scientists. The direction of scientific research is affected by informal influences within the culture of science itself. . and government are also part of the structure of the scientific endeavor. and natural field settings from space to the bottom of the sea. laboratories. government. astronomy. all are equally scientific and together make up the same scientific endeavor. to stay abreast of scientific developments around the world. however. science can be thought of as the collection of all of the different scientific fields. or as members of large research teams. and they can make communication difficult. New scientific disciplines (astrophysics and sociobiology. and committees of scientists regularly review progress in various disciplines to recommend general priorities for funding. there are dozens of such disciplines. Science goes on in many different settings. From anthropology through zoology. offices. Because of the social nature of science. as does chemistry into biology and psychology.

Moreover. is considered by many scientists to be a matter of personal ethics. and state governments also support research. and well-being of animal subjects. The long-term effects of science may be unpredictable. for example. of course. mathematicians may infer that it has application to new military technology and therefore would likely be subject to secrecy measures. and engineers. 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. the Department of Defense offers contracts for working on a line of theoretical mathematics. however. 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. Such a violation of the very nature of science impedes science. Scientists Participate in Public Affairs Both as Specialists and as Citizens Scientists can bring information. students. Informed consent entails full disclosure of the risks and intended benefits of the research and the right to refuse to participate. One aspect is the treatment of live experimental subjects. Another domain of scientific ethics relates to possible harm that could result from scientific experiments. Modern scientific ethics require that due regard must be given to the health. In addition. Industries and businesses usually emphasize research directed to practical ends. If. even if this constraint limits some kinds of potentially important research or influences the results. 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. and analytical skills to bear on matters of public . buttressed by the critical review of one's work by peers. but many also sponsor research that has no immediately obvious applications. When discovered. serve to keep the vast majority of scientists well within the bounds of ethical professional behavior. although much of it is also directed toward practical problems. not one of professional ethics. the neighborhood. public-interest groups. There Are Generally Accepted Ethical Principles in the Conduct of Science Most scientists conduct themselves according to the ethical norms of science. insights.University research usually emphasizes knowledge for its own sake. partly on the premise that it will be applied fruitfully in the long run. it is strongly condemned by the scientific community and the agencies that fund research. Private foundations. Military or industrial secrecy is acceptable to some scientists but not to others. such as nuclear weapons or germ warfare. scientists must not knowingly subject coworkers. The ethics of science also relates to the possible harmful effects of applying the results of research. Universities. Whether a scientist chooses to work on research of great potential risk to humanity. The strongly held traditions of accurate recordkeeping. mathematicians. openness. but some idea of what applications are expected from scientific work can be ascertained by knowing who is interested in funding it. or the community to health or property risks without their knowledge and consent. are also particularly committed to educating successive generations of scientists. Sometimes. Funding agencies influence the direction of science by virtue of the decisions they make on which research to support. comfort. and replication. research involving human subjects may be conducted only with the informed consent of the subjects.

has pointed out that "Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of facts. Moreover." [1] A 1998 National Academy of Sciences book contains a superb chapter that distinguishes between facts and theories and between scientific beliefs and faith [2]. . many scientists may understandably be less than objective in their beliefs on how science is to be funded in comparison to other social needs. Usually "faith" refers to beliefs that are accepted without empirical [observed] evidence. "theory" does not mean "guess" or "hunch" as it does in everyday usage. corporate. Scientific theories are explanations of natural phenomena built up logically from testable observations and hypotheses.concern. Ph. that is. Science differs from religion because it is the nature of science to test and retest explanations against the natural world. because of their commitment to science. institutional. The late astronomer Carl Sagan. scientists are expected to be especially careful in trying to distinguish fact from interpretation.. Scientists most often use the word "fact" to describe an observation.D. or community interests are at stake. Some issues are too complex to fit within the current scope of science. 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). and research findings from speculation and opinion. Thus. . The book states: In scientific terms. For example. they are expected to make full use of the principles of scientific inquiry. But in matters of public interest. let alone to all science-related social issues. In playing this advisory role. the agreement does not extend to all scientific issues. In their work. Stephen Barrett. the opinions of scientists should enjoy no special credibility.D. The scientific method offers an objective way to evaluate information to determine what is false. like other people. or there may be little reliable information available. . Some Notes on the Nature of Science Joe Schwarcz. And of course. although there may be at any one time a broad consensus on the bulk of scientific knowledge. M. can be expected to be biased where their own personal. . 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. on issues outside of their expertise. its reasoning is equally applicable to health-related issues. scientists. or the values involved may lie outside of science.D. Although the book focuses on evolution. Most religions have tenets of faith. Often they can testify to what is not possible. . Ph. Even so. scientific explanations are likely to . scientists can seldom bring definitive answers to matters of public debate. . scientists go to great lengths to avoid bias—their own as well as that of others.

We therefore have to rely on less-direct evidence in formulating many of our conclusions. because testing is such an important part of this way of knowing. if anything. . The following ideas can help you evaluate information you encounter about science and health. Any new finding should be examined with skepticism. If there is a component of faith to science. An association of two variables does not necessarily imply cause and effect. Nonsensical lingo can sound very scientific. To determine whether bottled water is preferable to tap water. consider the strong association between breast cancer and the wearing of skirts. When chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were introduced as refrigerants. it is the assumption that the universe operates according to regularities. which is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. . for example. no matter how much advance research has been done. slowly building towards a consensus. Results should be independently confirmed by others. . No major lifestyle change should be based on any one study. it is not necessarily because someone has been negligent. Certainty is elusive in science. a slate of studies has demonstrated that. Oxygen is the prime nutrient and chlorophyll is the central molecule for increasing oxygen available to your system. It may not be possible to predict all consequences of an action. Science is a truth-seeking process. and it is often hard to give categorical "Yes" or "No" answers to scientific questions. It is always important to take into account who carried out a given study. 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." This is nonsense. Studies have to be carefully interpreted by experts in the field. sometimes show an amazing aptitude for coming up with inappropriate rationalizations for their pet theories. however. . how well it was designed. no one could have predicted that 30 years later they would have an impact on the ozone layer. Obviously. the chance of making substantial errors decreases. In fact. But it is incorrect to conclude that science cannot be trusted because for every study there is all equal and opposite study. Keep in mind that science does not proceed by "miracle breakthroughs" or "giant leaps. taking many small steps. Therefore. As an extreme example. however. If something undesirable happens." It is. This is quite different from most religious beliefs." It plods along. Scientists. "belief" is really not an appropriate term to use in built on and modified with new information and new ways of looking at old information. 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. This "faith" is very different from religious faith. Repeating a false notion does not make it true. a self -correcting discipline. There often are legitimate opposing views on scientific issues. This is virtually impossible. Skeptics base their beliefs on scientific proof and do not swallow information uncritically. Chlorophyll does not transport oxygen in the blood. Healthy skepticism does not mean unwillingness to believe. 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. It is not a collection of unassailable "truths. wearing skirts does not cause the disease. An ad for a type of algae states that "the molecular structure of chlorophyll is almost the same as that of hemoglobin. sugar has a calming effect on children.

Animal studies are not necessarily relevant to humans. Mencken once said. Rats do not require vitamin C as a dietary nutrient but humans do. the effectiveness of specific foods or nutrients in the treatment of diseases is usually overstated. 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. is safe for humans but toxic for guinea pigs. such as ricin from castor beans or botulin from the Clostridium botulinum bacterium. Often. A magnificent array of names which it would not be difficult to extend.L. There is universal agreement among scientists that a high consumption of fruits and vegetables is beneficial. Licking an aspirin tablet will do nothing for a headache. Ibn al-Haitham. Abul Wafa. the smaller the chance that important nutrients will be lacking. our diet. al-Biruni. al-Razi. because positive results are much more likely to be reported than negative ones. al-Kindi. The wider the variety of foods consumed. Thabit ibn Qurra. The choice is ours. In other words. al-Tabari. . but swallowing two tablets will make the headache go away. . stress. what they say" is only gossip. Furthermore. al-zarqab. About 80% of illnesses are self-limiting and will resolve in response to almost any kind of treatment. there is no relation between the risk posed by a substance and the complexity of its name. "Dihydrogen monoxide" is just water. and pure luck. They are neither good nor bad. just quote . . Abul Qasim. There is no goose that lays golden eggs." "It will suffice here to evoke a few glorious names without contemporary equivalents in the West: Jabir ibn Haiyan. Nature is not benign. Be mindful of who the "they" is in "they say that . The deadliest toxins known. level of exercise. "Natural" does not equal "safe. While diet clearly plays a role in the promotion of good health." George Sarton's Tribute to Muslim Scientists in the "Introduction to the History of Science. and wrong. al-Khwarizmi. al-Fargani. al-Kashi. not by whether it was synthesized by a chemist in a lab or by nature in a plant. As H. a remedy will receive undeserved credit. Anecdotal evidence is unreliable. Omar Khayyam. although they may provide much valuable information. Ibn Yunus. exposure to microbes. although overall diet may be described as such. 'Ali Ibn 'Isa al-Ghazali. The human body is incredibly complex. are perfectly natural. Food poisoning from microbial contamination is a far greater health risk than trace pesticide residues oil fruits and vegetables." and "synthetic" does not equal "dangerous. Penicillin. Ibrahim ibn Sinan. Individual foods are not good or bad. "Every complex problem has a solution that is simple. It makes no sense to talk about the effects of certain substances on the body without talking about amounts. plausible. inaccurately reported. our mother's diet during pregnancy. Nitroglycerin can alleviate the pain of angina or blow up a building. direct. Our health is determined by many variables. 'Ali ibn Abbas." The properties of any substance are determined by its molecular structure. for example. al-Farabi. if something sounds too good to be true.and whether anyone stands to gain financially from the results. Ibn al-Jazzar. it probably is. Hunain ibn Ishaq. Ibn Sina." In many cases. If anyone tells you that the Middle Ages were scientifically sterile. "Chemical" is not a dirty word. Chemicals are the building blocks of our world. Swallowing a whole bottle of pills will make the patient go away. Perceived risks are often different from real risks. al-Masudi. al-Battani. Whether a substance is a poison or a remedy depends on the dosage. which include genetics. exposure to occupational hazards.

colleges. Schools.these men to him.Persians. such were fundamental principles taught and acclaimed by the the masters of the sciences. the Arabs began to encourage learning of all kinds. all of whom flourished within a short period. Palestine. In early days at least. observatories and hospitals were built throughout the whole Islamic state. Persia.adopted the Arabic language. and were adequately staffed and endowed. Berbers. Proceeding from the known to the unknown. and Baghdad was the intellectual center of the world. translated and provided with scholarly and illuminating commentaries. The old learning was thus infused with a new vigor. Greek manuscripts were acquired in large numbers and were studied. Syrians. In the same time. or established by experiment. accepting nothing as true which was not confirmed by experience. A. and the term Arab acquired a linguistic sense rather than a strictly ethnological one.D. The Arabs quickly assimilated the culture and knowledge of the peoples they ruled. Asia Minor. 750 to 1100 A. having accomplished the marvelous task of uniting the tribes of Arabia into a homogeneous and powerful nation. taking precise account of phenomena. In the interval. the Prophet Mohammed (Peace and Prayers be upon Him) died. and a new civilization had been established. the whole North Africa." Preface On 8 June.D. 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 . Historians have justly remarked that the school of Baghdad was characterized by a new scientific spirit. Syria. scholars were invited to Damascus and Baghdad without distinction of nationality or creed. Gibraltar and Spain had been submitted to the Islamic State. As soon as Islamic state had been established. The nationality of the Muslim thus became submerged. and the intellectual freedom of men of the desert stimulated the search for knowledge and science. while the latter in turn . Copts. and others . Egypt. The Islamic Empire At Its Greatest Extent 750 c George Sarton in his introduction. 632. the Muslims were eager seekers for knowledge. libraries.

68 Muslim years (Hegra).e. He was the second 'Abbasid caliph and ruled from 754 to his death. the other a Persian called al-Naubakht. Both caliphs encourage the work of translators who were busily unlocking the treasures of Greek knowledge. Imaginative portrait of Jabir Ibn Haiyan (Photograph. Ibrahim al-Fazari is said to have been the first Muslim to construct astrolabes. the second. and literature. Ya'qub ibn Tariq and Muhammad. 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.Makers of Chemistry. at the age of 63 . In addition to transmission of some Hindu mathematics. E. Al-Naubakht's son. son of Ibrahim al-Fazari... are the first to be mentioned in connection with Hindu mathematics: Ya'qab met at the court of al-Mansur. He was a great statesman and the founder of Baghdad.first half of the eighth was followed by a period of renewed activity which was entirely due to Muslim initiatives. art. the fifth and one of the greatest 'Abbasid monarchs. the victorious. It is interesting to recall that the mathematical work of the previous period had been done almost exclusively by Chinese. a Hindu astronomer called Kankah (?). A. al-Fadl. wrote astrological treatises and translations from the Persian into Arabic. Some amount of stimulation had come from India. who acquainted him with the Siddhanta. Harun al-Rashid. Chelazzi. 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. In 807 he presented a very remarkable water-clock to Charlemange (King of the Franks since 768. Two astrologers. Abu Ja'far 'Abdallah al-Mansur. near Mecca. Died in 775 at Bir Maimun. whether in Arabic or Latin. are one of the most urgent and promising tasks of scholarship. one of them a Jew named Mashallah. Jabir's texts. The name Jabir Ibn Haiyan came from the highly important contributions by him in this period.. He will remain a very impressive personality. that is why this period gave an Arabic name marking the beginning of Muslim science. i. Harun-al-Rashid (whose fame has been immortalized by many legends). died at Tus in 809. Memorable because of the many translations from the Syriac. and Muhammad was ordered to translate it. alMansur (founded Baghdad) and the fifth. L. and distinguished themselves greatly in this respect. and Hindu languages into the Arabic which were accomplished in his reign. Magnificent patron of science. Many more Greek works were translated by his order. The physician al-Batriq translated Ptolemy's Quadripartitum. Persian. worked together to make the measurements necessary for the building of Bagdad. i.e. 61-66 Christian years. born in 763 or 766 at al-Ray. Greek. Florence. Caliph from 786 to his death. .

Muslim scientist and astronomer. but there are many mediaeval Latin and Hebrew translations. 4. Freiburg. Son of the astronomer Ibrahim dealt with above.Ibrahim al-Fazari Abu Ishaq Ibrahlm ibn Habib ibn Sulaiman ibn Samura ibn Jundab. pr.. One of the greatest astronomers of his time. Other astronomical and astrological writings are quoted by Suter and Steinsehneider. C. Died c. The Arabic text extant deals with the prices of wares and is the earliest book of its kind in that language. 777. Text and Translation. translation.1900). 777). the Hindu Kankah (or Mankah?). He took part with the Persian astrologer al-Naubakht in the surveying preliminary to the foundation of Baghdad in 762-63. as Macellama. Suter: Die Mathematiker und Astronomer der Araber (p. Latin translators named him Messahala (with many variants. H. on the tables derived from the Siddhanta. 815 or 820. The second edition is entitled: 'De elementis et orbibus coelestibus'. E. He wrote memoirs on the sphere (c. One of the earliest astronomers and astrologers in Islam. died c." printed in Nuremberg 1501. himself an Egyptian (?) Jew. and glossary. Mashallah is a contraction of ma'aha Allah meaning "What wonders Allah has willed. the preface is uncritical). and contains 27 chapters. 1907). Cantor: Geschichte der Mathematik (I. 1911) Mashallah His real name was probably Manasseh (in Arabic. translated by Gherardo Cremonese. D. He probably met. The De compositione et utilitate astrolabii was included in Gregor Reisch: Margarita phylosophica (ed. The first to construct astrolabes. 4. Suter: Die Mathematiker und Astronomen der Araber (p. Died c.. 194 p. His most popular book in the Middle Ages was the 'De scientia motus orbis'. at the court of al-Mansur. H. by Afaula Power (Irish Texts Society. he wa the author of a poem (qasida) on astrology and of various astronomical writings (on the astrolabe. vol. Suter says the text is included in the Basel edition of 1583)." (What hath God wrought.. The De scientia motus orbis is probably the treatise called in Arabic "the twenty-seventh. on the calendar). Misha).767-778 died c. 796 to 806. 208. . for whom he is sometimes mistaken (he may be the author of the astrological poem ascribed to his father). H. He was ordered by the Caliph al-Mansur in 772/3 to translate the Sanskrit astronomical work Siddhanta. Karpinski: The Hindu-Arabic Numerals (p. Edited with preface. A relatively modern translation of the De scientia motus orbis. 796. Muslim astronomer. on the division of the kardaja. 1549. Suter: Die Mathematiker und Astronomer der Araber (3. 1900) Muhammad Ibn Ibrahim Al-Fazari Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad ibn Ibrahim al-Fazari. Smith and L. who had brought there the Siddhanta. 1914. 1900) Ya'qub Ibn Tariq Probably of Persian origin. Only one of his writings is extant in Arabic. Boston. flourished in Baghdad. 698. c. This translation was possibly the vehicle by means of which the Hindu numerals were transmitted from India to Islam. An Irish astronomical tract based in part on a mediaeval Latin version of a world by Messahalah.92. 767. 3rd ed. Macelarma).) Flourished under al-Mansur. 14. c. 1503. on the armillary spheres.

XI." the "Little Book of the Balances. varnishes to waterproof cloth and protect iron. his alchemical doctrines were very anthropomorphic and animistic. basic lead carbonate. Jabir appears already as a very great personality. use of iron pyrites for writing in gold. 1925. distillation of vinegar to concentrate acetic acid. It is possible that some of the facts mentioned in the Latin works." the "Book of Concentration.Astrolabe Astronomers Using Astrolabe Islamic Alchemy It is noteworthy that the earliest alchemical texts in Arabic and Latin are contemporaneous. 10 pl. L'alchimie arabe. arsenic and antimony from their sulphides). if our dating of them is correct. He may be the author of a book on the astrolabe. It is only then that we shall be able to measure the full extent of his contributions. vol. 776.M. use of manganese dioxide in glass making. It is impossible to reach definite conclusions until all the Arabic writings ascribed to Jabir have been properly edited and discussed. See E.1893. J. We find in them remarkably sound views on methods of chemical research. 451-455. al-Harrani meaning that he was a Sabian?.g. 479-499. 1922. Eine lateinisehe ubersetzung des grosseren Kitab al-rahma (Archive fur Geschichte der Medizin. e. 181-197. one of the greatest in mediaeval science. p. Isis. al-Sufi)." and others. 1924). V. French translation. al-Tartusi." the "Book of Eastern Mercury. Flourished mostly in Kufa. Ernst Darmstaedter: Die Alchemie des Geber (212 p. The Arabic text of a few of Jabir's writings is edited by Octave Houdas." the "Book of Mercy. Text and Translations:. The most famous alchemist of Islam. Jabir deals also with various applications. Paris. the so-called sulphur-mercury theory of metals (the six metals differ essentially because of different proportions of sulphur and mercury in them). concluding that these Latin treatises are apocryphal). c. he was the most famous Arabic alchemist. German translation of the Latin treatises ascribed to Geber. 3. Ruska in Isis. 126-224. Holmyard's criticism in Isis. 17. According to the treatises already translated (by Berthelot). But other treatises (not yet available in translation) show him in a better light. a theory on the geological formation of metals. Jabir ibn Haiyan Abu Musa Jabir ibn Haiyan al-Azdi (al-Tusi. but even on the slender basis of our present knowledge.. Liber misericordiae Geber. preparation of steel. preparation of various substances (e. that is. Berlin. refinement of metals. dyeing of cloth and leather. the alchemist Geber of the Middle Ages. he was also an able theoretician. ascribed to Geber and dating from the twelfth century and later.. must also be placed to Jabir's credit.g. . He observed the imponderability of magnetic force. Berthelot: La chimie au moyen age (vol. but his fame rests on his alchemical writings preserved in Arabic: the "Book of the Kingdom. Jabir Ibn Haiyan. seems to have had a good experimental knowledge of a number chemical facts. reviewed by J.

five percent of all the scientific research being done currently is directly or indirectly meant for developing weapons. progress in agriculture. On the contrary. at peace with themselves. knowledge always gives power and is useful because it increases our abilities. because of the scientific knowledge accumulated over the last three centuries. if we look at the level of violence throughout the world during a ten-year period. The Impact of Science on Society by Prof. transportation. 737). on the one hand.VIII. in no part of the world are human beings happy. Varanasi 221001. which are all by-products of wisdom. but that has been belied. inwardly in our consciousness? Science has generated tremendous power. Krishna Ex-Rector. . But when we do not have wisdom and love. greater violence. Rajghat Education Centre. computerization and so on. is part of our daily living. in every country. P. telecommunications. medicine and health care. greater prosperity — so-called globalization — and. It was hoped that the development of science would usher in an era of peace and prosperity. 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. India Though modern science is of relatively recent origin. tension. sorrow. In spite of all this progress. In the last one century. from 1900 to 1910. or 1910 to 1920 and so on. the graph is going up. and its application in the form of technology. the consequent development of technology and industry. 208 million people have been killed in wars. Sixty. and newer diseases. then power can be used destructively. it has made very rapid progress and completely transformed outwardly the manner of our living. So. living without violence. or the quest for truth. and the conveniences. comforts and power we have got through this knowledge. Krishnamurti Foundation India. in every decade. having started with Galileo about 350 years ago. So the impact of science on society is very visible. and supported by the Defence Ministry in every nation. which is without precedent in any previous century. compassion or brotherhood. It is said that our life outwardly has changed more in the last one hundred years than it did in thousands of years earlier. on the other.

If we cannot. The laws of Nature are independent of the scientist. we are badly divided into groups — caste. which gives the direction to that step. giving more and more power. in the right direction? Through genetic engineering we might develop new power. linguistic. That is something which has already happened in the last century. which is virtue. is it responsible? Yet. Are the problems of humanity today caused by not having sufficiently fast aeroplanes or computers? Of course not. love. then there would be no science. but to understand how Nature works and discover the tremendous order and intelligence operating around us. to bring about greater prosperity and peace? We have been at war for thousands of years. peace of mind. So humanity has succeeded in the quest for science. Socrates wrote that there is only one virtue — that is order in consciousness. which is the essence of Theosophy. he merely studies it.’ You are also responsible for the whole of society. A million things take place in perfect order within our body without any conscious voluntary effort on our part. The scientist does not create order. though we may describe it in different words in different situations. he would never have done that research or published the findings. that mass is just another form of energy — will be used to make atomic bombs and kill large numbers of people in Japan. Joy Mills in her talk said: ‘It is important to watch your next step. as if that is our priority. because there is order already there. and even the earth. does humanity deserve to have the knowledge which science is generating? We do not let children play with fire. And is not humanity in that state. 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. Is it then responsible for scientists to generate knowledge. but what is so great about the scientific age? Have we used the discoveries of science to be more protective. and coming upon virtue. Its aim is not to produce technology. We are living in a very intelligent universe. national. all of humankind. If Nature were chaotic. without the wisdom to use it rightly? Responsibility from a theosophical point of view is universal responsibility. But definite causes produce definite effects. Einstein is on record saying that had he known that his equation E = mc2. is the quest for order in consciousness. non-violence. we should distinguish between science and technology. If you ask why Nature . which existed a million years before Newton and will exist a million years hence. but before you take the next step. freedom from conflict. Is the new knowledge. but we now have nuclear weapons. without wisdom? There is hatred in our motivations. for they might set the whole house on fire or burn themselves. The problems exist because of lack of understanding of life and the psychologically primitive state in which we find ourselves. religious and other groups. and that is why science is possible. all the nations of the world are spending huge amounts in developing scientific knowledge. if sometimes a stone went up and sometimes down. which stated a great truth about Nature. compassion. Newton only discovered gravitation. It means not saying: ‘I am only responsible for generating scientific knowledge. and wisdom. Science is the quest for truth about Nature. We are living in a scientific age. which is a new step. happiness. but we have not discovered order in consciousness.So. why do science? Of course. kind and gentle. make sure that you have a long vision. And the quest for truth. So.

‘This is my culture and this is my country and I will work only for this. History shows that man has used it and is still using it primarily for destruction rather than for construction. Scientific knowledge is said to be value-neutral. There is the spirit of religion. and the steps go wrong. There is the spirit of education. You can learn the technique. He can only say: ‘I am a student of Nature. but if you do not have the spirit. and there is the outer form or structure of religion: the rituals. But that was not the reason why Faraday discovered electromagnetism. a current is generated in the wire. but of what use is this discovery?’ And he replied: ‘It is a new-born child. and there is the technique of education. which is the sensitive perception of beauty in sculpture. with what is right and what is wrong — it does not say that you should be kind. Before Faraday. that we are all citizens of this planet. who discovered electromagnetism. Scientists are pointing out that the third world war would be the last. depending on whether education is regarded as merely training somebody to earn a living. or as meant to draw out his entire potential. the method. or generate electricity. the vision. I observe and find that order there and I am studying the laws that govern that order. Although in society we have valued scientific knowledge and its application as technology. the knowledge or the method in any activity. The path becomes mechanical. and use knowledge in a destructive way. We are an unscientific society. in coming upon a deeper understanding of life and of ourselves? Science. There is the spirit of art. the beliefs and so on. War is not scientific in spirit. empty. He was very excited about this new discovery. Of what use is a new-born child?’ Today we know that discovery has made possible this ordered. So is there anything we can learn from science as Theosophists interested in wisdom. we will not use knowledge for destructive purposes. But he discovered that if you push a magnet towards a metallic wire. And if there is no wisdom. motorcars and aeroplanes and so on.’ The technologist takes the knowledge which the scientist discovers and uses it to make guns. and there is the technique. the scientist cannot answer. After he demonstrated this in a big hall. rituals become hollow. which is wisdom. If there is no vision. as shown by a galvanometer’s deflection. bringing our planet and our lives to a level of danger which never existed before. does not deal with values per se.’ For the benefit of our nation we have armies to exploit other nations. or scientific knowledge. we are violent and selfish. This is also true of many things in our life. for the spirit is always more important than the technique. Science says that the whole earth is one. If there is wisdom. these lights and fans. if it takes place. he was just studying Nature. we have not really valued the scientific spirit. you do not become a true artist. painting and so on. without which it is wrong to call ours a scientific society. . but science itself is the quest for truth about Nature. the technique. All this is not scientific. somebody asked: ‘All this is very well. it was thought that electricity and magnetism are two completely separate things. the manner of praying. or a motorcar. Human beings use the knowledge gained by science and decide what kind of application to make of it. Without the spirit. but it is we who divide ourselves and say. But one must discover what is called the scientific spirit. Technology is a by-product of science.

To this model they apply logic. and then deduce that when light goes near a star it must bend. It is a deep quest because they are not accepting the reality as they see it. They are saying there is an underlying reality which is not visible. Then again the scientists go back to observation and do experiments to check if their predictions are correct. we do not know. Then having collected a lot of data about the phenomenon. honest documentation and measurement. and to what extent it is correct. Galileo wrote that mathematics is the language in which God wrote the universe. or they discard it altogether and start all over again. observation. So the spirit of science is one of great humility. Einstein could do two hundred pages of mathematics. and recording. which is really a mystery. you look for correlations among them. they either modify the model. evolved by the human mind. But since it is not visible. and Einstein will agree and thank him: ‘Yes you are right I made a mistake. ‘We do not know the truth about Nature. which everybody can be convinced of. using the known laws of Nature. which means that those two hundred pages of mathematics apply in Nature. and I have found a method by which I can test whether this conjecture is correct or not. It begins with saying. we do not know. and we are going to find it. that is. It begins with observation. A young student can question Einstein. and calculate how much it must bend. And then they deduce ‘a theory’. they are talking about an imaginary model of the underlying reality. Nobody has seen electrons actually going around a nucleus inside an atom. about reality. Science demands proof. But if you ask: ‘Why do they apply?’ We do not know. Somehow. testing with experiments. using the existing known laws determined from previous work and the peculiar form of logic called mathematics. to imagine it. . and the truth must be something which is universal. and try to explain all observed facts and also predict new facts which have not been observed until then. actually applies. let me take the example of the particular science I am familiar with. If the experimental values do not tally with the theoretically predicted values. Of course. That is a conjecture. It is fortunate that the logic called mathematics has an application in Nature. and point out an error.’ So nothing is accepted on authority. From empirically found data. we have to guess. I am making a conjecture. and this seems to be true. and that is the model. they limit themselves to studying phenomena which are measurable. If you ask why Nature is ordered.So what is this scientific spirit? What can we learn from science which is precious? To understand this. Whenever scientists talk about theory. When twenty years later they are able to do the experiment because technology has got refined to that point.’ And that is how science has progressed — without accepting authority. they find that indeed it bends by exactly the amount he has calculated. which is a product of the human mind. starting from certain hypotheses. Mathematics. Nature follows mathematics. a model about the underlying reality. If you ask why there are laws. and they have only to modify it and make successive models closer and closer approximations to reality. physics. Usually the model gives approximately correct results. for understanding any phenomenon in Nature calls for careful observation. That is what the physicist calls ‘the model’ — that is where his insight or his genius manifests. and then guessing what is the underlying reality which would cause those correlations. for he has to guess what is unknown. which is fairly basic to all science. correlations between two variables are established.

because that experiment is then repeated in another country by another group of scientists. doubt our perceptions. but the religious mind is not a part of the scientific mind. Religious truths are also universal. a dialogue among thousands of people who have never met. These are values constituting the scientific spirit. It is also a truly democratic endeavour. That is precisely what the scientist is doing too. and that is also wisdom. according to whims. and the truth is the same for everybody. The same mistake is made in regard to religion. it is not the private property of any individual. . irrationally. to carry out our own purpose. through science. humility. not imbibing its spirit.violence. testing what is observed. and scientists. through the perception of beauty in Nature. nor authority. Indeed. Science is no longer the architect of society. There is no such thing as American truth and Indian truth. is the enemy of man. and wisdom means seeing the deeper inner nature of things. of dialogue. That is the motto of the Theosophical Society. it cannot exist for Indians and not for Americans. of religion. in what area it does not matter. truth becomes beauty and beauty truth. doubt. great scientists like Einstein and Shrödinger have come to the religious feeling. the same approach is also valid for discovering religious truths. and students are learning the knowledge and techniques of science. whatever his government wants. Scientists are not humble. but we can in humility enquire. are helping him do whatever he wants. as we said. and conduct dialogues about our perceptions. The superficial understanding of ourselves. we have not imbibed the spirit of religion. Theosophy is essentially the quest for wisdom. but science is done in that way. There is a process of dialogue and constant correction. decides to go to war. violence is not used. So truth is global. Whichever aspect of the earth or this universe you explore deeply — whether the human mind or the tree — you will discover marvellous beauty. and mutual respect. or it does not exist. which is the field of religion. A statement was made by Krishnamurti: ‘The scientific mind is a part of the religious mind. So the spirit is one of non. the scientist adopts that policy in the laboratory but not at home nor in his life. and publish them. Science has become the servant of society.There is also much in life which is not measurable. and everybody reads them. science is humble. The politician illogically. universal. which we can learn from science. not different for different people. Either a stone is attracted by the earth and gravitation exists. And they write the results. is humility. We have not seen the truth. there is wisdom. So. It is the same for everybody. All scientists may not be true scientists if they do not work with that spirit.’ To discover the truth about Nature this scientific mind is competent. We have taught science like a technique. it is a global activity. as employees. it is unknown to us. In order to settle a dispute. Theosophy is really to delve deep. Unfortunately. based on cooperation. It encourages observation. There is no Indian mathematics and American mathematics. But there are a number of values which are inherent. When we really care for the spirit and delve deep. and thereby discover for ourselves what the truth is. questioning. of the meaning of science. When you go deep. One. In the depths. we will discover that the true religious feeling and the scientific spirit are not separate. ‘There is no Religion Higher than Truth’.