Category Archives: Science

Visible Helpers of the Islamic World

House of Wisdom

Scholars broadly agreed that for much of the medieval period Islamic societies led the world in both technology and science. During the dark ages of medieval Europe, incredible scientific advances were made in the Muslim world. Islam was producing great minds from places like Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus and Cordoba. New disciplines emerged—Algebra, trigonometry, chemistry and agriculture. Major leaps in medicine, astronomy and engineering helped opened new windows for more opportunities. Arabic text replaced Greek as the favored font for wisdom. But this high status didn’t last for very long.

By the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Islam had begun slowing down in science. Although by this time, medieval Christian Europe was beginning to take up the leading role — what specifically led to the decline of science in Islam has remained for a long time a subject for debate amongst scholars. Some have attributed this decline to strong religiosity driven by the start of the Crusades. Western scholarship reasonably assumes that followers of Islam who inhabited those territories most affected by the Crusade had to move towards a less tolerant version of Islam. This line of explanation, however, acknowledges that certain versions of Islam responded overwhelmingly well to popular demand for traditionalism while at the same time discouraging independent scientific inquiry amongst its own adherents.

City of Baghdad

We didn’t see European Muslims experiencing decline in science as did their Middle Eastern brothers, although there was crisis in Europe. Concerning this, we know what happened because history informs us that around the same time, Europe had begun the great process of reformation. And the formidable Roman Empire had weakened almost the entire continent. Still, Islam in the West flourished in Spain and continued to some degree in its scientific pursuits.

Another view which I think is equally reasonable but perhaps less conventional is that at certain time in the Islamic world, there was increase in the demand for religious services. This discovery adds to one other fact, that for the first time during this era the Islamic world began to see the emergence of madrasas. And this drew heavily upon human resources to provide the type of services needed. Moreover, those who helped provided those services had to had been religious elites who were there to supervise the ordinary day-to-day persons who typically provided the direct-care both for the poor and illiterates. What this means is that the idea of helping a fellow human, gradually took precedence over science. In order words, the desire to help one’s fellowman became much more appealing to adherents of this simple faith- based religion. Thus, began the decline in the proportion of works on scientific topics.

Madrasa

A third explanation argues that an increase in the popularity of mystical Islam —not the political empowerment of religious leaders— was the most consequential aspect of the surge in mysticism. Yet recent scholarship increasingly links the rise of Sufism to the institutional changes of the Revival, suggesting that the surge in Sufism after the Revival should be viewed as a “downstream outcome” of the political empowerment of traditionalist religious leaders rather than as an independent event.

It’s beyond me, however, to deal with this issue in any conclusive manner, about what exactly led to the scientific “fallback.” But I sense that it might help to look back upon the life of some of the World’s most outstanding Visible Helpers. men who were Muslims, and who, by some considerable personal effort made the world a better place for all of us. For example, the great Islamic teacher and statesman; Ibn Khaldun who died 1406, in Egypt, but whose influence led Samarkand to “become a late intellectual center,” was no ordinary Muslim. Therefore, it’s no wild jump either, to link the decline of science to the death of this great man who, together with men such as Muhammad iban Musa al-Khwarizmi; the Persian mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, geographer and scholar in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad, whose great scientific contribution helped led the whole world towards civilization, and mankind into understanding a little more of nature. It’s for this reason that I say that Islam has contributed much more to Western Civilization than perhaps any other religion.

When one look back at the life and accomplishments of those great men, it then becomes easy to say with certain degree of confidence, that science after these saintly men was no longer a choice of aggressive undertaking in the Islamic world.

I think, however, that there are many proxies out there which have been floating around for ages, each presenting itself as the best explanation for what led to the “slowdown.” But among the many hypothesis, there are other more convincing versions including the rise of the Turkish tribes, such as the Seljuk, a powerful force that radically influenced Islam, which I find more credible as part of the factors leading to the “slowdowns.”

Save Ocean Coral reef

Coral reef

Struggling Ocean Reefs

In an article published in the Christian Science Monitor last month, one scientist has been working to find ways that would protect coral reefs. Mary Hogedon who works as a marine biologist, is planning on using liquid nitrogen
together with freezers to provide life-saving condition and preservation methods to the exquisite lives of coral. But what makes her project more interesting to the public is that she’s using a relatively new process called cryopreservation, to do so. And so far- due to rapidly changing climatic condition, it’s a race against time.

Mary’s hope is to prevent another of our ocean- residents from extinction. The work of saving corals from human actions and from the effect of global -warming and rising sea level, have become a painful reality for most people including myself. This happened after completing a ten- week course this fall, in Oceanography. Here’s the painful truth of our world. If humanity continues on in its present path, there’s a chance that the next generation of human beings and their offspring are more likely to witness what could be the beginning of the disappearance of the countless other marine lives which depend largely on coral communities in the ocean for their own survivor.

Yellow Coral

Mary Hagedon and her team of scientists whom I have dubbed the “Visible Helpers, are designing means that would help them develop a “reef sperm bank” or something very similar to it, which would then be able to freeze reproductive cells of coral, algae, including other habitats such as fish- which make their home among coral reef. This selfless goal these scientists are trying to achieve is to maintain the genetic diversity of ocean coral reef through Cryopreservation. The fear though is that there could be extinction due to changing weather patterns and human actions on the world oceans. And so, they are hoping that, with this new idea, they would be able to maintain the blueprint which in the future could help them repopulate the ocean from this bank of frozen coral gametes.

The article also points out that though there is consensus amongst coral researchers concerning the danger that threatens ocean reefs existence, they differ widely on a whole range of issues including on how best to achieve this goal. For some, the question is; “at what level should human even interfere in trying to preserve the ocean ecosystem?” But some researchers, including Ohio State University marine scientist Andrea Grottoli, who believes that “it’s not a question of should we save reefs – they have to be save- it’s a matter of how do we do that and how much of it can we save?” Still, some of these conservationists are split on issue like whether it’s even important to give each individual threatened species the life-saving attention or simply focus on how to minimize the overarching threats which both human and climate change are causing.

People like Terry Hughes, the director of the” Australian Research Council’s Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, “believes that Small-scale restoration projects aren’t the best way to save coral reefs. Terry’s argument is that, such a method can only do so much, given the immense size of the ocean. Contrary to Terry’s argument, however, other prominent researchers in the field, who, for example, have delved deep into the breathtakingly colorful environment of the ocean ecosystem, feel otherwise. They think the idea that “if you can’t save all, then don’t save any,” is a poor judgement for someone like Mary who is painfully aware of the “back-to-back mass bleaching of coral reefs in recent years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; coral reefs are giant “economic resource at nearly 30 billion in annual revenue. You must stop and think about that, and about the positive impact this can have on local economy.

In another article published in the New York Times, by Justin Gillis, Scientists have recorded that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016, beating a record set only a year earlier. Based on the finding, scientists noticed that it’s the first time in recent history for global warming data to get blown past previous record three years in a row. Scientists are now convinced that the global temperatures are heading toward levels that many experts believe will pose significant threat to the natural world and to human civilization.

I drove right up to the Oregon Coast last month along with two other students, who were very helpful in gathering data on the geology of the Oregon’s magnificent coastline. We took pictures of Whales, Seals, Sea lions, Sea anemones and mollusks on the beaches and beneath the many huge boulders scattered all over in the tidal zone. The headlands in certain areas along the beach, I noticed appear very steep and threatening. Beaches along the Pacific North West, for example, show obvious signs of active margins.