Mixing politics with religion distorts history, as happened during saffronization.
However, church and state also came together in the West 17 centuries ago:
how did that affect Western history-telling? The stock history tells us that
science is universal but it originated only in the West: where it began with
the Greeks and then developed in Europe with the Copernican and
This story has been challenged in a new book which explains how the Crusades and
Inquisition influenced the history (and philosophy) of science.
Is Science Western in Origin?
by C. K. Raju (Multiversity and Citizens International,
Penang) is No. 8 in the Dissenting Knowledges Pamphlet Series edited by Prof. Vinay
Lal of the University of California, Los Angeles.
क्या विज्ञान पश्चिम में शुरू हुआ? (Daanish Books, New Delhi) is the Hindi version.
The books would be released by Shri Prabhash Joshi and Dr Ashis Nandy on 11 Sep
09 at Hindi Bhawan, New Delhi, 6 p.m. followed by a discussion.
During the Crusades, Arabic books captured at Toledo, were mass translated into
Latin. At this time of intense religious fervour against Islam in Europe, learning
from Islamic sources had to be justified. This was done by the fantastic claim that
all worthwhile knowledge in those books had a theologically-correct “pure” Greek
origin and the Arabs only passively transmitted it. On this story, Euclid started
geometry and Claudius Ptolemy astronomy. But there is no serious evidence even for
the existence of “Euclid” and “Claudius Ptolemy”. Moreover, Raju's book shows that
there is solid evidence to the contrary: contemporary Greeks and Romans lacked even
the numerical skills needed for astronomy, and their calendars presented a shabby
contrast to the astronomical knowledge imputed to “Ptolemy”. Those texts are actually
from a far later date than is usually assigned to them.
Similarly, during the Inquisition, Europeans feared to acknowledged non-Christian
sources, to avoid being tortured and killed for heresy. In actual fact, Copernicus
copied verbatim from Arab authors, while Newton depended heavily on the calculus
imported from India. However, historians now claim that those ideas were “independently
rediscovered” in Europe, and not transmitted from others.
The grand narrative of the Western origin of science now lies shattered:* it was
based on false claims of transmission (from Greeks) and non-transmission (from others),
using double standards of evidence.
The knowledge imported into Europe was also “reinterpreted” to match post-Crusade
Christian theology. This led to the systematic intrusion of religion into science.
For example, the word “laws” in “Newton's laws” relates to the post-Crusade theological
belief that God rules the world with divine laws which Newton wrongly thought God
had revealed to him. Building on this, later-day colonial and racist historians
faulted all non-Western knowledge saying that it did not mimic the West and so could
not be science. This trick was used to pass off theologically-tainted European ethnomathematics
as “universal”. This propaganda colonized minds—who came to believe they were inferior,
since they lacked science, and that the remedy was to ape the West. Hence, even
after independence, religiously-tinted mathematics and science continues to be taught
to school children as secular knowledge.
Raju has raised the opposite demand of swaraj in science. For
this, mathematics and science must be reoriented towards practical goals, and away
from Western theology, and the yardstick of Western social approval. Most people
being scientifically illiterate, they cannot themselves judge what is good science,
but trust in stories they hear from others. Hence, a necessary first step towards
“swaraj in science” is to expose the falsehoods of Western history of science as
this book does.
*P.S. The falsehoods of Western history
aimed to colonize minds, and people believed them without checking any facts, say
about Euclid. So it is remarkable that some people will still defend the story regardless
of the facts! The philosophy of science tells us that any theory/story can
always be defended against any facts. For this, charlatans and priests
use some common tricks, such as the following.
1. Pile on the hypotheses. Every
contrary fact can be explained away by a new hypothesis. E.g. if Euclid did not
exist then maybe it was a group of translators who wrote the book. This is like
telling a thousand lies to defend one lie. (The correct way is simplicity of hypotheses
also called Occam's razor. If Euclid did not exist, the date of the Elements
would also need to be changed. Obviously, “Euclid” is not an isolated falsehood
in the Western history of science, so the whole bunch of falsehoods would have to
2. Keep all facts out. It is easy
to cast aspersions on the motives of the person questioning the old story. This
distracts attention away from the facts. (The correct way is to cross-check the
facts; but that requires effort.)
3. Keep the PRIMARY facts out. Simply
repeat the earlier story (or a big part of it) from an “authoritative” SECONDARY
source as if it were a fact, though secondary sources always mix facts and story.
Sources such as Wikipedia ensure this mixing by enforcing reliance on secondary
sources. (The correct way is to cross-check the PRIMARY facts.)
4. Go by versions. Give two versions.
Surely, there is no such thing as truth, so there are always two sides! One side
on which the earth is round, and the other on which it is flat!
5. Misrepresent. Add some nonsense
to the new claim, or quote something out of context, to make it seem fantastic.
Etc. (This is not an invitation to
use these tricks!)
Release of books:
Is Science Western in Origin?
क्या विज्ञान पश्चिम में शुरू हुआ?
Author: C. K. Raju
The books will be released by Shri Prabhash Joshi and Dr Ashis Nandy.
11 Sep 2009, 6 p.m.
Hindi Bhawan (3rd floor Conference Room)
11 Vishnu Digambar Marg
(Near Gandhi Peace Foundation, ITO, click on image to enlarge
Ample parking space is available after 5.45 p.m.
Coming from Ring Road turn into
Indraprastha Marg, cross Bahadur Shah Zafar Rd, and take first right.
2. From Sikandra Road or India Gate, after crossing Tilak Bridge, turn left, and then first right.
3. Metro: From Mandi House take a bus to ITO, walk back towards
the intersection, turn right into DD Upadhyay Marg and then take the second right,
before Gandhi Peace Foundation (150 m).
C. K. Raju's website
and Daanish Books
Dhruv Narayan 09868543637.
A free preview
of the book; or contact for review copies.
What is the story?
The new book shatters the myth that science is of Western origin. That myth was
concocted during the fanaticism of the Crusades and Inquisition. In fact, there is no evidence that "Euclid" and
"Claudius Ptolemy" even existed. New evidence shows that Copernicus borrowed verbatim from Arabs, and Newton took the calculus from India.
Why is it important?
1. The false history was used to glorify the West and to colonize minds by making them feel inferior. That effect continues to this day.
2. At a subtler level, this distorted history has injected theological
biases into present-day mathematics and science, which religious prejudices are inculcated in
children as "secular" and "universal" knowledge. These prejudices shape their
values and allow manipulation of their behaviour (on the lines
of Huntington's doctrine of "soft power").
Hence, the demand for "swaraj in science":
only be established by experiment and critical thought, not blind trust in Western social
Additional downloadable content
“Teaching racist history”,
Indian Journal of Secularism 11
(4) (2008) 25–28.
Good Bye Euclid!, (Indian Social
Science Congress, Mumbai, Dec 2007) Bhartiya Samajik Chintan VII
(4) (New Series) Jan-March 2009, pp. 255–264.
“The Religious Roots of Mathematics”,
Theory, Culture & Society 23 (2006), ed. Mike Featherstone, et
al., pp. 95–97.
Benedict's Maledicts ZNet, 2006.
Indian Journal of Secularism, 10 (2006) 79–90.
Newton, and Buddhism”, Workshop on Modern Astronomy, CUTS, Sarnath, Feb 2009.
“Computers, Mathematics Education, and the Alternative
Epistemology of the Calculus in the YuktiBhâsâ”, Philosophy East and West,
51:3 (2001) pp. 325–362.