The erosion of progress by fundamentalism

I found this great video with Neil deGrasse Tyson where he talks about the rise in intellectual accomplishments by those in the Middle East between the years 800-1100 and how everything went downhill shortly thereafter. The rise was brought forth through free thought and inclusiveness of ideas from all walks of life. Unfortunately, one influential fundamentalist Muslim convinced people that mathematics was the work of the devil around 1100. From there everything started to fall apart. To make his point, Tyson notes that there are well over a billion Muslims in the world while there are about 15 million Jews. And how many Muslims have won Nobel prizes? A couple. How many Jews? Probably close to a quarter. It isn’t because there’s something inherently superior in the intellect of Jews; it’s because fundamentalism erodes scientific (and social and moral) progress. We face the same problem with intelligent design creationism today. If as a society we were to follow the course of the Christians (and Muslims and sometimes Jews and others) who advocate for that sort of anti-scientific/anti-science position, we would find ourselves down a very worrying path indeed.

Two final points. One, my post title is different from the video title because Tyson is not talking about religion in general. Two, you’ve got to love what he says at the end:

I want to put on the table not why 85% of the National Academy [of Science] rejects God, I want to know why 15% don’t.

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5 comments on “The erosion of progress by fundamentalism

  1. I was being sarcastic. It’s one of my pet peeves when anyone tries to place blame on “people”, as if they aren’t composed of ideas and individual perspectives and religious beliefs and cultural and some kind of moral and ethical system.

    Back on Tyson, I think the ending was edited in a funky way. The connection between what he was saying through most of the video and what he said at the very end seems to have a link or two missing. I’m confident he didn’t bring up religious belief in the NAS randomly. Though for the record, he still blamed the fundamentalist idea that mathematics is somehow evil.

  2. Because people have ideas, perspectives, and such is precisely why I place the blame on the Imam. He used God to further his own cause (ideas, etc), and as a result brought free thought to a stand still. Thus, religion it seems, is safer in the hands of the people that it is in the government.

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