What the scientific method gives us

As a practising scientist and a humanist, I believe that what is referred to as the ‘scientific method’, and the knowledge that humanity has gained from rational science, gives us far more than just ‘one way of viewing the world’. Progress, through reason and rationality, is by definition a good thing; knowledge and enlightenment are always better than ignorance. Growing up in Iraq, I learnt at school about such great thinkers as Ibn Sina (Avicenna), al-Kindi and Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen), not as remote figures in history but as my intellectual ancestors. Many in the West will have heard, for instance, of the Persian scholar Ibn Sina. But there are many other great names that have been largely forgotten. Even in Iraq, I encountered these characters not in science classes but in history lessons. For the teaching of science in the Muslim world today follows the Western narrative. While it is not surprising that European children are taught that Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler were the fathers of astronomy, it is rather more disappointing that children in the Muslim world are taught the same thing. Might they not sit up and take notice if they were told that most of the stars we see in the night sky have Arabic names? For instance, the names of five of the seven main stars that make up the constellation Ursa Major (or ‘Great Bear’) – also known as the Big Dipper or the Plough – are Arabic in origin: Dubhe, Megrez, Alioth, Mizar and Alkaid.

– From the preface of the book ‘Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science’ by Jim Al-Khalili, 2010.

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