1001 myter?

Edward Rothstein recenserar utställningen ”1001 Inventions” i New York Times. Utställningen visar upp de vetenskapliga och teknologiska bedrifter som den islamiska världens guldålder lämnade efter sig, bedrifter som lär ha påverkat hela världen, inte minst västvärldens vetenskapsmän och uppfinnare. Men trots att männen bakom utställningen påstår att de inte har någon agenda är det inte svårt att se att utställningen åtminstone delvis utgör propaganda. Man förvränger fakta, utelämnar fakta, försöker etablera kopplingar utan bevis, etc. (Inte ens namnet på utställningen stämmer, då det inte finns 1001 uppfinningar.) Varför gör man på detta viset?

It is less a typical science exhibition than a typical “identity” exhibition. It was created by the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization in London, whose goal is “to popularize, spread and promote an accurate account of Muslim Heritage and its contribution.” The show also tries to “instill confidence” and provide positive “role models” for young Muslims, as Mr. Hassani puts it in the book. And it is part of a “global educational initiative” that includes extensive classroom materials.

The promotional goal is evident in every display. The repeated suggestion is that Muslim scientists made discoveries later attributed to Westerners and that many Western institutions were shaped by Muslim contributions.

Ett exempel:

Consider one label: “Setting the Story Straight.” We read: “For many centuries, English medic William Harvey took the prize as the first person to work out how our blood circulates.” But “what nobody knew” was that the “heart and lungs’ role in blood flow” was figured out by Ibn al-Nafis, the 13th-century physician. And yes, al-Nafis’s impressive work on pulmonary circulation apparently fell into oblivion until 1924. But Harvey’s 17th-century work was more complete; it was a theory of the entire circulatory system. So while neglect is clear, differences should be as well.

But the exhibition even seems to expand its claim. Historians, the label continues, have recently found evidence that Ibn al-Nafis’s Arabic text “may have been translated into Latin, paving the way to suppose that it might have indirectly influenced” Harvey’s work. The “may have,” the “suppose,” the “might have” and the “indirectly” reflect an overwhelming impulse to affirm what cannot be proved.

Rothstein gör en annan intressant observation:

What is peculiar too is that the current Hall of Science show presumes a long neglect of Muslim innovations, but try finding anything comparable about Western discoveries for American students. Where is a systematic historical survey of the West’s great ideas and inventions in contemporary science museums, many of which now seem to have very different preoccupations?

Mycket bra fråga. Jag rekommenderar att ni läser hela artikeln.

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