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- The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China, and the West.
- Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science
- The big shift
The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China, and the West.
The chapter analyses reasons why the scientific revolution that has so profoundly affected the modern world developed in Europe, not in China, which before the sixteenth century boasted a far more highly developed level of scientific knowledge than was the case in Europe. It proceeds from the work of the great British scientist Joseph Needham — , who masterminded the multi-volume Science and Civilisation in China series.
The reasons for the difference between Europe and China include material factors such as the physical environment. However, this chapter focuses more on the philosophical and cultural factors, including negative factors in China such as Confucian bureaucratism. It argues that comparative science is a topic of the utmost importance for global history. One of the most important and intriguing facts in global history is the dominance that the West established over the rest of the world in terms of scientific discovery and innovation from the sixteenth century onwards.
It is not too much to say that this scientific spirit was one of the key factors behind the Industrial Revolution and the growth of the technology that enabled Europe to colonize so much of the world and to assume a position of some degree of domination more or less everywhere. This scientific spirit remains a key feature of the contemporary world, with access to advanced technology among the most important of all levers of power.
Yet the fact is that civilizations other than the West have developed significant bodies of scientific discovery and thought. In particular, China had developed a body of scientific knowledge before the time of the Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century that placed it well ahead of Europe. The most famous, and probably the most important, scholar to research and disclose the pre-eminence of Chinese science before that time was the British biochemist and Sinologist Joseph Needham , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , who masterminded and contributed extensively to a multi-volume and multi-authored work entitled Science and Civilisation in China.
This can be formulated as follows: why, having been so far ahead of Europe in the Middle Ages, did China fail to produce the scientific revolution that occurred in Europe and in effect was crucial in creating the modern world. Needham and Wang : There can be no definitive answer to such a big question, as Needham himself acknowledged in the foreword he wrote for a book that came out five years after he died Zilsel Yet it remains an important question and the present chapter argues in favour of regarding scientific development as a major site of global history.
This author stands in awe of a scholar willing and able to probe Chinese science in such detail as a counterpart to that of the West. Elman gives a great deal of credit to the European missionaries and others for scientific development in China over those centuries, but also emphasises the maintenance of a specifically Chinese science.
There is already an extensive literature on Joseph Needham and his many works Sivin A major biochemist and Sinologist, his Science and Civilisation in China can claim to be the largest-scale English-language Sinological work since the Second World War that was basically the product of a single guiding mind.
He has been honoured as a scientist both by China and his own country, Britain. As a person, Needham was unconventional. He was a Christian socialist, a nudist and a folk dancer, as well as a scientist. Both women and Needham lived to advanced ages, and he did not marry Lu Gwei-djen until , that is, after his wife Dorothy had died.
All three were distinguished scientists in their own right and his first wife did not oppose his affair with Lu Gwei-djen. Needham was not only very pro-China, he was also very sympathetic to the Chinese Communist Party. He believed the evidence produced in favour of this accusation, which later turned out to be false. His reputation suffered seriously as a result. He was blacklisted by the US Department of State and even after this was revoked in the s, he found it difficult to obtain a US visa.
Despite his anti-Americanism, Needham obviously had a very firm foot not only in China but also in the West. Another major point about him is that he straddled both the disciplines of the natural sciences and the humanistic sciences. He was a major historian and Sinologist, as well as an extremely important scientist. It is not possible to direct any such criticism against Needham. Most of the earlier volumes were written in their entirety by Needham himself, but as time went by he gathered an international team of collaborators, to whom the completion of the project is now entrusted.
As the project has broadened, so has the range of questions under investigation. The question has opened out into an investigation of the ways in which scientific and technical activity have been linked with the development of Chinese society over the last four millennia. This gigantic project aimed to reveal the scope and originality of Chinese scientific thinking. Yet, the Chinese ability to think scientifically was a point that needed demonstration.
From the time of the Han dynasty BCE— CE onwards, Chinese were more concerned with looking after and influencing humankind than exploring the natural world. Philosophies like Daoism and Buddhism were more concerned with admiring and following nature than controlling or even influencing it. For Fung Yu-lan to say that there was no science in pre-modern China is not to condemn that civilization, but to praise it; it was not that Chinese were incapable of thinking scientifically, it was simply that they did not do so because China had no need for science.
The fact that Needham knew he had found no final answers did not prevent him from speculating and making some pretty definitive statements. In particular, he rejected any suggestion that historical accident was involved.
Moreover, he appealed more to economic, environmental, social and cultural factors than to scientific factors Mackerras : These include the material factors, such as the physical environment and economic matters, as well as the non-material or spiritual, such as the philosophical and the politico-cultural.
Because it is global history we are dealing with and because Needham himself had plenty to say not only about China but also about the West, we shall be exploring some factors that compare and contrast China and Europe.
By contrast China was a coherent agrarian land-mass, a unified empire since the third century B. Needham : So, the competition among the European states may actually have contributed to innovation and creativity based on curiosity. Some scholars, notably Karl August Wittfogel — , have attached very great importance to the physical environment as a driver of Chinese civilisation.
The link is that water control on a vast scale requires great organization, which can only be provided by a highly professionalized bureaucracy supervising enormous and subservient supplies of manpower.
Needham and Wang reviewed Oriental Despotism. He denied that China was despotic and criticized Wittfogel for ignoring good features of its civilization, such as the development of science and technology that put it generally ahead of Europe until the fifteenth century.
On the other hand, Needham acknowledged Confucian bureaucracy as an obstacle to scientific development. Clearly, Needham saw a role for the physical environment in explaining the lack of a scientific breakthrough such as the one that occurred in Europe. Instead, he was appreciative and admiring of Chinese tradition and achievements. In considering the other main material factor inhibiting Chinese scientific development—the economic—we might also suggest a major comparison with how things happened in Europe.
An early but still interesting theory concerning the development of modern science is that of the Austrian pioneer of the sociology of science Edgar Zilsel — He posited cooperation between university scholars and superior artisans, which was possible only from about the beginning of the seventeenth century. Sharing a Marxist approach with Zilsel, Needham was attracted to his theory, in particular the notion that the breakdown of the gap between the merchant class and intellectuals may have contributed to the rise of modern science.
The hierarchy dictated by Confucianism actually put merchants quite low in the social hierarchy and thus prevented the kind of cooperation between the merchant and intellectual classes that occurred in Europe. This would certainly be a factor inhibiting the rise of modern science in China Cohen : 23— One of the great divides in Chinese tradition is that between Confucianism and Daoism.
The former came to be dominant and was the philosophy that lay beneath the bureaucracy and controlled the state. It was an ideology that talked not about abstract thinking so much as society, not about nature but about human affairs and governance.
It was heavily rationalist, text-oriented and rigidly conservative. It persisted throughout Chinese history and probably inhibited the spirit of enquiry necessary for a scientific revolution.
One can hardly claim that it saw no innovations, because the Song dynasty — spawned a new approach to Confucianism, including new ideas, that is known to history as Neo-Confucianism. However, socially Neo-Confucianism also moved Chinese society towards more rigidity in the form of greater oppression of women and stereotypical family relationships.
Moreover, the Mongol conquest of the thirteenth century destroyed much of what the Song dynasty created that was new, such as the growth of cities and commercial development.
Confucianism has little connection with the history of science. A religion without theologians, it had no one to object to the intrusion of a scientific view on its preserves, but in accordance with the ideas of its founding fathers, it turned its face away from Nature and the investigation of Nature, to concentrate on a millennial interest in human society, and human society alone. Ronan : On the other hand, philosophical Daoism was notable for its love of nature and respect for the natural world.
It was much more receptive to science and technology than Confucianism, much more open to new ideas and less hidebound and conservative. Daoism remained an influential force throughout Chinese history, but it was always subordinate to Confucianism. Men who had entered the bureaucracy and failed to achieve their career goals or stirred up trouble by disagreeing with powerful people often retreated into Daoist creativity.
Needham was very attracted to Daoism and its positive attitude towards nature. Daoism raises other questions. A crucial one is whether humankind ought to try and conquer nature or cooperate with it, and wuwei might imply the latter. Modern science puts the emphasis on using the natural world by recognizing the law of nature; it relies on practical experiment, evidence and the natural law.
On the other hand, science also wants to conquer nature in the interests of humankind. Traditional Daoist thinking in China would imply opposition to the extent of interference with nature that the modern world has produced.
They point out that Buddhism and even Neo-Confucianism have elements that absorb observation of the natural world, with ideas on nature that approached contributing to science. To be fair, Needham himself was clearly impressed with Chinese cosmology, which draws not only on Daoism but also on other philosophical strains.
Earlier we noted the importance of Confucian bureaucracy in Chinese history, as well as the connection with the physical environment and Confucian philosophy. The state was extremely powerful in dynastic China, with the emperor and his mandarins holding considerably more power than was the case in Europe.
Perhaps the Confucian bureaucratic state was just a bit too powerful, to the exclusion of other sources of influence that might have made for a wider variety of creative initiatives. A social connection can also be found in the main way in which men were chosen for entry into the bureaucracy that ran this authoritarian state. This was a complex system of examinations, which was based on the Chinese classics and involved much more emphasis on rote-learning than on analysis.
Two of these deserve emphasis. One is that the examinations exercised a stultifying impact on the educated elite. This meant that the most intelligent and educated people within society failed to be innovative because the spirit of creation contributed nothing to their chances of doing well in society. It is not that they were unable to analyse, but that they were never given the chance to do so.
Second, the sons of the merchant classes tried to raise themselves in society not by increasing their wealth, but by attempting to enter the bureaucracy through passing the examinations. The very power that proved so crucial to the development of science in Europe was stifled in China.
We might add another social phenomenon in passing. The examinations were open only to men and not to women. About half of society was never given the chance to contribute. One cannot put too much emphasis on this factor, because it applied everywhere in those days, not merely in China.
Why the Arabic World Turned Away from Science
The history of science is the study of the development of science , including both the natural and social sciences the history of the arts and humanities is termed history of scholarship. Science is a body of empirical , theoretical , and practical knowledge about the natural world , produced by scientists who emphasize the observation, explanation , and prediction of real-world phenomena. Historiography of science , in contrast, studies the methods employed by historians of science. The English word scientist is relatively recent, first coined by the English polymath William Whewell in the 19th century. While observations of the natural world have been described since classical antiquity for example, by Thales and Aristotle , and the scientific method has been employed since the Middle Ages for example, by Ibn al-Haytham and Roger Bacon , modern science began to develop in the early modern period , and in particular in the scientific revolution of 16th- and 17th-century Europe. From the 18th through the late 20th century, the history of science, especially of the physical and biological sciences, was often presented as a progressive accumulation of knowledge, in which true theories replaced false beliefs.
Access options available:. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Modern science, as we are frequently reminded, is a uniquely Western product, but to what extent is it a product ofWestern culture? To acknowledge that modern science did, as a matter of fact, come into being in Europe does not yet commit one to any kind of cultural relativism, for if it were simply a matter of contingent historical fact, modern science might equally have emerged in one of the Islamic states, in China, or in Japan. Moreover, even staunch opponents of cultural relativism will allow that there are social, political, economic, and intellectual conditions under which modern science cannot flourish. In other words, there are cultural conditions for the possibility of modern science. When intellectual innovation is forbidden and punishable by death or imprisonment, when there is no educational infrastructure, no financial or institutional support for the conduct of inquiries concerning the natural world, and where critical rationality and free inquiry are discouraged there will not be anything resembling modern science.
Forgot Password? Already Subscribed? Create a Login now. Hillel Ofek. Contemporary Islam is not known for its engagement in the modern scientific project. President Obama, for instance, in his June 4, speech in Cairo , praised Muslims for their historical scientific and intellectual contributions to civilization:.
The big shift
The chapter analyses reasons why the scientific revolution that has so profoundly affected the modern world developed in Europe, not in China, which before the sixteenth century boasted a far more highly developed level of scientific knowledge than was the case in Europe. It proceeds from the work of the great British scientist Joseph Needham — , who masterminded the multi-volume Science and Civilisation in China series. The reasons for the difference between Europe and China include material factors such as the physical environment. However, this chapter focuses more on the philosophical and cultural factors, including negative factors in China such as Confucian bureaucratism. It argues that comparative science is a topic of the utmost importance for global history.
Even as Dante was writing his great work, deep forces were threatening the unitary cosmos he celebrated. The pace of technological innovation began to quicken. Particularly in Italy, the political demands of the time gave new importance to technology, and a new profession emerged, that of civil and military engineer. These people faced practical problems that demanded practical solutions.
The World History: Ancient Civilizations book, which this audiobook is an adaption of. Teacher: Ok students, take your seats, we are going to listen to the McDougal Littel Audiobook and read the Saraswati Earthquake story in our textbook! Modern China is a vast country.
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Но она понимала, что надежды нет: электроника вряд ли уцелела после катастрофы. Двигаясь в дыму, она вдруг вспомнила слова Хейла: У этого лифта автономное электропитание, идущее из главного здания. Я видел схему. Она знала, что это. Как и то, что шахта лифта защищена усиленным бетоном. Сквозь клубящийся дым Сьюзан кое-как добралась до дверцы лифта, но тут же увидела, что индикатор вызова не горит.
Хейл… - прошептала Сьюзан. - Он и есть Северная Дакота. Снова последовало молчание: Стратмор размышлял о том, что она сказала. - Следопыт? - Он, похоже, был озадачен. - Следопыт вышел на Хейла. - Следопыт так и не вернулся.
Я хочу уничтожить все следы Цифровой крепости до того, как мы откроем двери. Сьюзан неохотно кивнула. План неплохой. Когда служба безопасности извлечет Хейла из подсобного помещения и обвинит в убийстве Чатрукьяна, он скорее всего попытается шантажировать их обнародованием информации о Цифровой крепости. Но все доказательства к этому моменту будут уничтожены, и Стратмор сможет сказать, что не знает, о чем речь. Бесконечная работа компьютера. Невзламываемый шифр.