Author Topic: Sam Harris on the golden age of Islam  (Read 527 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Sam Harris on the golden age of Islam
« on: March 21, 2017, 04:38:32 PM »


He also goes into India and Hinduism in this video.

This Sam Harris reply to a question (that's what it is) is likely to be controversial, as is much of his commentary. Yet it will hopefully result in some good and interesting discussion.
"Large skepticism leads to large understanding. Small skepticism leads to small understanding. No skepticism leads to no understanding." - Xi Zhi

Offline nameofthewave

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Re: Sam Harris on the golden age of Islam
« Reply #1 on: March 22, 2017, 06:21:19 PM »
He comes across as exceedingly smug and condescending in this video, lots of gross generalisations and presumptions. I don't think you can so easily compare Muslim majority countries against non Muslim majority countries and arrive at a "my civilisation is better than yours" conclusion, there are just too many factors of which religion is just one.

Offline Nemmzy

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Re: Sam Harris on the golden age of Islam
« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2017, 11:33:45 PM »
So to be clear his thesis is the Golden Age of Islam is not as significant as commonly considered or did not occur at all? Going forward I am assuming he is arguing the Golden Age of Islam is not an important event in human development. Nothing significant could come out of this part of the world because it practiced Islam.

Theocracy will inhibit scientific growth I am not arguing against that premise. But, this video is just amateur historic analysis. No one who is a professional in the field would take him seriously. He really spends most of his time on modern examples. He can't stay on topic. Really, I couldn't tell what the video was about other than the ‘West is awesome’.

What do  Kuwait's math scores have to do with how important the Golden Age of Islam was to human development?

What does bride burning in India have to do with the Golden Age of Islam? As a side note the colonists were horrified by Sati and outlawed it but Harris is omitting the contributions of Hindu reformers like Ram Mohan Roy.  A bunch of Westerners didn't sweep down and save India from itself.  They were not there as idealistic democratic liberty reformers they were there to exploit the subcontinent.  Much of the reform was implemented by people from India.

He uses  false equivalency in this argument comparing modern Massachusetts to the whole of Islamic civilization.  Because, Islamic civilization as a whole has been slow to advance scientifically it  does not mean the Islamic Golden Age did not contribute to the pool of human knowledge. The achievements of an Golden Age must be take into consideration with what was possible in that point in time. Not what has happened in a state in the USA in the modern era. You could do a similar comparison with Pax Roma, Pax Mongolia, Hellenic Golden Age,  etc and get the same result.  The technological and scientific advances of most "Golden Ages" are rather shallow compared to the rapid rate of modern advances.

The lack of scientific growth in the Islamic world today does not negate the existence of the Golden Age of Islam. This occurred in the Middle Ages. The caliphates of the time were highly pluralistic when compared to other societies. Jewish illustrators were hired to do the diagrams in  medical texts. In the 800s a Christian ran the medical school in Baghdad. He’s a pretty interesting guy here’s the Wikipedia article on him. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunayn_ibn_Ishaq Pluralism generally fosters technological and scientific growth. While  today many modern Islamic societies are not considered pluralistic.


There is a shit ton of apple to oranges going on here. Most of the Islamic world is dirt poor even the "wealthy" SA has significant poverty. Wealthy Islamic countries outside of Malaysia are one product countries which are susceptible to economic shock. They lack the economic diversity needed to generate a great deal of scientific development.   Of course they are going to produce less scientific and technical advances. There is more to the story than just ‘Islam is bad for science.’

Societies contribute more than just scientific progress to human development. The Golden Age of Islam is known for its Art. While he does briefly mention modern book production he largely ignores that civilizations can contribute to human literature, architecture, art, and music. Harris ignores astronomy,  parchment, medicine, and architectural advancements of the era to argue ‘preserving  the works of Aristotle was not all that important’ . However, more than just Aristotle’s works were preserved during this period. We know Plato, Hippocrates, Galen, and other classical scholars because of the preservation of this era.
 
The thing that absolutely drives me up the wall with some “skeptics” is that somehow when discussing topics outside of hard science expert consensus does not count. This is very noticeable in the argument over whether or not Jesus was a historical figure. But, that is a topic for another thread. The majority of historians agree the Golden Age of Islam was significant part of the human story.


« Last Edit: March 22, 2017, 11:40:29 PM by Nemmzy »

Online Rai

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Re: Sam Harris on the golden age of Islam
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2017, 05:37:58 AM »
I wonder how many such examples it take for most people to realise the fact that Sam Harris is a complete nincompoop who somehow managed to climb onto a soapbox. He isn't even making a coherent argument here, just weaving a tapestry of non sequiturs and strawmen, mixed with ignorance, bigotry and a misplaced sense of superiority.

Also, lol at the argument about the caste system, which, in its current form, was a British invention created to divide Indian society into more manageable chunks and to create divisions that can be exploited by the glorios Western overlords. But this is part of his tendency to ignore the results of Western colonialism, and how centuries of Western genocide, exploitation and occupation is the main reason why non-Western societies, that were doing fine before the Westerners showed up are still trying to catch up, instead of religion.

The tolerance shown towards clueless gits like him is one of the reasons I can't be arsed about the sceptic movement any more.

Offline Jeremy's Sea

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Re: Sam Harris on the golden age of Islam
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2017, 01:30:44 PM »
The tolerance shown towards clueless gits like him is one of the reasons I can't be arsed about the sceptic movement any more.
His is a two-fold problem in my observations: he speaks with an air of rationality, and is right often enough, that people can't generally tell the difference between him being a good skeptic and him having an ideological axe to grind, and he is sort of a tough guy type and a certain part of humanity will always line up behind someone who talks tough.
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Sam Harris on the golden age of Islam
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2017, 03:17:13 PM »
The tolerance shown towards clueless gits like him is one of the reasons I can't be arsed about the sceptic movement any more.

This seems a bit overblown. Harris is speaking in a Youtube video for himself, not as a representative for a skeptical organization, much less the movement as a whole.
"Large skepticism leads to large understanding. Small skepticism leads to small understanding. No skepticism leads to no understanding." - Xi Zhi

Online Rai

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Re: Sam Harris on the golden age of Islam
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2017, 03:52:05 PM »
The tolerance shown towards clueless gits like him is one of the reasons I can't be arsed about the sceptic movement any more.

This seems a bit overblown. Harris is speaking in a Youtube video for himself, not as a representative for a skeptical organization, much less the movement as a whole.

He is still an accepted member whose videos are being watched by a lot of people, insted of being ridiculed and ignored. Sam Harris is one of THE faces of the atheistic wing of the movement, there is no going around that.

Offline nameofthewave

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Re: Sam Harris on the golden age of Islam
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2017, 05:32:52 PM »
Some of his output is very good in my opinion. It's just he has these weird blind spots where his reasoning seems to go out of the window, Islam being one.

 

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