Tuesday, June 09, 2009

At Least Obama Didn't Claim That Muslims Created The Internet! (Updated)

People are still picking apart Obama's Cairo speech--mostly over the language he he used and the implications of things he said. Some however point out that some of the things Obama said are just plain not true.

For instance, Obama--a self-described student of history--had this to say about the contributions of Islam:
As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam — at places like Al-Azhar University — that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing.
Frank J. Tipler, Professor of Mathematical Physics at Tulane University, co-author of The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, and author of The Physics of Immortality and The Physics of Christianity points out the errors in Obama's list.
Obama is not much of a “student of history” if he believes this. Almost every advance he attributes to the Muslims was due to someone else.

The non-Muslim Chinese invented the magnetic compass and printing (Gutenberg invented not printing, but movable type). The non-Muslim Hindu Indians invented algebra and the decimal numbering system. The non-Muslim European Christians invented the university.
Tipler goes even further, denying Muslim contributions to astronomy and physics. He points out that modern physics comes from Galileo who started his work based on Archimedes; Copernicus relied heavily on Ptolemy.
Certainly, the Muslims were a conduit for the discoveries of others. The word “algebra” is indeed derived from an Arabic word. The books of Archimedes and Ptolemy used by Galileo and Copernicus were indeed translations into Latin from the Arabic. But let us never forget that Archimedes and Ptolemy wrote their books in Greek, not Arabic. They were Greeks, not Muslims.
Tipler also points out that the Quran itself presents the earth as being in the center--instead of the sun. As a result, Al-Azhar University--the very same university Obama singles out for praise--continues to teach Ptolemaic, instead of Copernican, astronomy.

As Ed Morrissey writes:
Doesn’t the White House do research and fact-checking on Obama’s speeches? No, of course not. If they don’t do it for their economic policies, why bother to do it for foreign panderfests?
By the same token, why should we take the US evaluation of agreements with Israel on the status of the settlements at face value?

“Mastery of pens” might be true, although pens themselves certainly came long before Islam — about 5,000 years before for the cruder reed pens, and 1,000 years before for quills. Arabic calligraphers created marvelous manuscripts, but then again, so did Christian monks, who began that work before Mohammed ever appeared on the scene, and pens and books predate both the Christian and Islamic period. In fact, the Christian monks spent their time copying the books of ancient Greece and Rome.
Printing, however, is another matter altogether. The Chinese developed block printing, which Marco Polo brought back on his travels. The Koreans invented movable type in the 13th century, using metal type a century later. Europe caught up in the 15th century. The Islamic states didn’t have anything to do with the development of printing, which makes this particular claim completely baffling.
There are a number of things that Obama says about the Middle East that are baffling--and downright aggravating.

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