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A major impetus for Arabic science was the patronage of the Abbasidcaliphate (758–1258), centered in Baghdad. Early Abbasid rulers,such as Harun al-Rashid (ruled 786–809) and his successorAbū Jaʿfar Abdullāh al-Ma’mūn (ruled813–833), were significant patrons of Arabic science. The formerfounded the Bayt al-Hikma (House of Wisdom), whichcommissioned translations of major works by Aristotle, Galen, and manyPersian and Indian scholars into Arabic. It was cosmopolitan in itsoutlook, employing astronomers, mathematicians, and physicians fromabroad, including Indian mathematicians and Nestorian (Christian)astronomers. Throughout the Arabic world, public libraries attached tomosques provided access to a vast compendium of knowledge, whichspread Islam, Greek philosophy, and Arabic science. The use of acommon language (Arabic), as well as common religious and politicalinstitutions and flourishing trade relations encouraged the spread ofscientific ideas throughout the empire. Some of this transmission wasinformal, e.g., correspondence between like-minded people (see Dhanani2002), some formal, e.g., in hospitals where students learned aboutmedicine in a practical, master-apprentice setting, and inastronomical observatories and academies. The decline and fall of theAbbasid caliphate dealt a blow to Arabic science, but it remainsunclear why it ultimately stagnated, and why it did not experiencesomething analogous to the scientific revolution in WesternEurope.

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The issue, however, may not be as straightforward as this. The genetics of population differences are such that the claim that Africans are innately less intelligent than Europeans is scientifically meaningless. Suppose, though, that there really were group differences in an attribute such as intelligence, differences that could be linked directly to genetic variation. Would that be reason to ban such research? I do not believe it would. For here again the issue at stake is not the scientific research but the political consequences of such research.


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A good analogy is with the debate about Darwinism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many turned their backs on Darwin's theory of evolution because of their worries about the implications of social Darwinism. 'By paralysing the hope of reform', wrote the Creationist William Jennings Bryan, who led the prosecution of the teacher John Scopes in the famous 'monkey trial' in Tennessee in 1925, Darwinism 'discourages those who labor for the improvement of man's conditions'. Its 'only program for man is scientific breeding, a system under which a few supposedly superior intellects, self-appointed, would direct the mating and movements of the mass of mankind'. Far from undermining the claims of social Darwinism, embracing Creationism would only have helped further entrench the climate of unreason in which reactionary ideas flourish. Social Darwinism had eventually to be challenged politically, not by denying the truth of evolutionary science. The same is true today of any social arguments drawn from scientific studies of group differences.


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Categories such as 'African American', 'people of Asian descent' and 'Ashkenazi Jew' can be important in medical research not because they are natural races but because they are social representations of certain aspects of genetic variation. This is why race is a 'poor man's clue' in medicine: races may not be natural divisions of humankind but socially defined populations provide, nevertheless, a rough and ready means of dividing humans into groups that show different degrees of biological relatedness. The irony is that in order to study human genetic diversity, scientists need socially defined categories of difference. The danger is that by using socially defined groups in research, biologists will endow differences between such groups with greater importance than is warranted.

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The
reason that John Harvard left his library to the college in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, that Jane and Leland Stanford founded Stanford University, and
that states established land-grant colleges was to educate cultured and
useful citizens. The humanities provide an insightful understanding into
moral, ethical, political, and ideological forces. A successful society
depends upon altruism, charity, civility, compassion, and generosity,
and the humanities evaluate and emphasize the importance of these
characteristics. The liberal arts introduce aesthetic values to the
student. While it may not be obvious how these characteristics are essential to
finding a research position in academia or industry, they are key to a
full and meaningful life.

2. Studying the humanities allows you to become familiar with and use the creative ideas from great minds outside of science.

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For example, a classic case that
demonstrates the influence of humanities on science can be seen in
Charles Darwin’s development of the theory of evolution by natural
selection. In his , his autobiography,
and other writings, Darwin revealed that the principal insight that led
to his theory of evolution was his knowledge of Malthus’ population
theory. This states that populations increase geometrically while
food supplies grow arithmetically. Robert Young, who carefully traced
this link in his 1969 publication, ,
points out that assumptions in the humanities about human nature and
society contribute fundamentally to approaches taken in the scientific
study of nature.