[ExI] Islamic culture (current) was Religions and violence

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Thu Jul 29 16:23:17 UTC 2010

On Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 5:00 AM,  Tomasz Rola <rtomek at ceti.pl> wrote:

> On Mon, 26 Jul 2010, John Clark wrote:
>> On Jul 23, 2010, at 6:38 PM, Jeff Davis wrote:
>> >
>> > The Jews are successful because their historical coincidences
>> > pushed them in the direction of mercantilism and finance capitalism.[...]
>> > Islam has followed a course more in line with religious conservatism.
>> > That this has held Muslims "back"

As you point out, Islamic culture was more advanced than western
culture at one time.  The question is not so much about Muslims being
held back but why western culture (Jews included) shot ahead.  Clark
calls this the great divergence and it is the major characteristic of
the world since the industrial revolution.

>> I could not agree with you more, although the same ideas could be
>> expressed more concisely as "Islamic culture sucks".

> As has been already stated, Islamic culture saved a lot of ancient (in a
> sense of ancient Greece and Rome) wisdom for us. True, there was also
> burning of the books. So, some people burned the books, because of their
> Muslim faith. And some people (because of the same faith) read those Greek
> maths texts (I have once heard, that while in Europe at the time some
> people could understand Greek, still they were unable to understand what
> all this means). They have been extending the knowledge, even building
> flying apparatus on occassion. In their finest years, Islamic scientists
> and thinkers did whatever one would expect from any other enlightened
> people.

So what caused the divergence that left them in the dust?

I don't know if it was a cause or an effect, but the Islamic world was
very slow to accept printing.

"In the Islamic community--seat of scientific progress from 750 to
1100 AD--great Islamic empires arose about the time of the printing
press and effectively suppressed that technology until the nineteenth
century, when it did transform the culture. Robinson speculates that
printing threatened the fundamental oral transmission of the Quran,
delaying introduction of the printing press into Islamic culture for
four centuries.[79]

[79] Francis Robinson, "Technology and Religious Change: Islam and the
Impact of Print," Modern Asian Studies (1993), Vol. 27, No. 1, pp.


And even when they did, the number of books printed was a very small
fraction of the massive output of western culture.

Gregory Clark would (I think) make a case that the
Malthusian/Darwinian selection process with downward social mobility
caused the psychological traits behind literacy/numeracy to become the
population norms in large areas of Europe where they did not in the
huge swath of Islamic culture (or any other culture in the world I
should add).  Why I don't know.  It would be worth while (if there are
records) to do a study similar to the one Dr. Clark did with English
records to see if some segments of the Arab/Islamic population did
better genetically.


Of course it is even more of a question why the Chinese did so poorly
for so long after being considerably ahead of western culture.  And
why are they doing so well now?


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