Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Now for some News

I sent in the corrections to my thesis last week for approval by the examiner. If she gives the nod then it is all done. Otherwise, I hope that it doesn’t lead to the degree being downgraded. I’m reasonably confident that I have covered everything but you can never tell. Any spare prayers or thoughts on this would be much appreciated.

Professor Jim Al-Khalili, a professor of physics at the University of Greenwich has been championing the achievements of medieval Islam in science in the Telegraph and the Guardian. Naturally, this has gone down like a lead balloon with some people as you can see. I found the Christian creationist commenting here, who refused to give an ounce of credit to Islam, particularly unfortunate but restricted my comments to taking on the Telegraph’s village atheist. I do have a policy of not arguing with fellow Christians in public no matter how much I disagree with them as it just gives succour to the real enemy.

Respected opponent Charles Freeman has a new book out called 381AD. It appears to run back over the same ground as Closing of the Western Mind but dealing with the years around the end of the fourth century in more detail. There is a glowing and utterly ignorant review by John Carey in the Sunday Times. Freeman’s problem is with ‘authoritarian’ Christianity rather than the ‘touchy-feely’ sort. I can see what he means here and it is certainly true that the religion lost its innocence by cosying up to the Roman Empire. Where he is wrong is to imagine that the Empire became more authoritarian as a result of Christianity rather than the other way around. As usual, St Augustine is the one dug up and placed on the throne for trial. As usual, he is found guilty of speaking the truth about human nature that progressives just don’t want to hear. I’ll try to get around to reading and reviewing 381AD later in the year.

I will be re-activating the search for a publisher of my book in the near future. If possible, I want to have the PhD done and dusted first, if only for appearance’s sake. My agent will be shifting his attention to America and hopefully also some of the smaller houses in the UK which we have not considered to date.

Finally, my article on the closure of the School of Athens by Emperor Justinian is up at Bede’s Library. It looks at the few primary sources related to the event and weighs up the evidence, asking what happened and what the effects were. One of the most interesting points that came out of my research was that the school closed by Justinian was not the same as the one founded by Plato. Plato’s academy had been closed by the (pagan) Romans when they first annexed Athens in the second century BC. It had been refounded as a neo-Platonic school around the third century AD. Despite the four hundred year break in existence, the neo-Platonists were happy to encourage the Platonic pedigree and many modern authors have imagined the school had been in existence for a millennium when Justinian (probably) closed it.

Click here to read the first chapter of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science absolutely free.


Andrew Criddle said...

After the alleged events of 531/2 lived on until at least 538AD and Simplicius enjoyed a lively career as a philosophical writer
Seems wrong has a word been omitted ?

(Also page has metatag (meta name="Description" content="The Jesus Mysteries Orpheus Amulet") and title (title The Jesus Mysteries Orpheus Amulet) which may be a mistake)

Tragic Clown Dog said...

I appreciate attempts to show that Islam has done some good things in the world. Most of the time, articles that attempt to do so, however, exaggerate, and so leave themselves open to debunking. Al-Khalili's article was better than most, but he still exaggerated. He quotes al-Jahith as a foreshadowing of Darwin, but I think he's reading too much into it.