Islamization of Knowledge

Reflections into the Spirit of the Islamic Corpus of Knowledge and the Rise of the New Science

There is no question that contemporary western civilization has been dominant in the field of science since the Renaissance. Western scientific superiority is not limited to specific scientific disciplines, but is rather an overall scientific domination covering both the so-called exact and the human-social sciences. Western science is the primary reference for specialists in such areas as physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, economics, psychology, and sociology. It is in this sense that Third World underdevelopment is not only economic, social, and industrial; it also suffers from scientific-cultural underdevelopment, or what we call "The Other Underdevelopment" (Dhaouadi 1988).

The impressive progress of western science since Newton and Descartes does not mean, however, that it has everything tight or perfect. In fact, its flaws are becoming more visible. In the last few decades, western science has begun to experience a shift from what is called classical science to new science. Classical science was associated with the celestial mechanics of Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, the new physics of Galileo, and the philosophy of Descartes. Descartes introduced a radical division between mind and matter, while Newton and his fellows presented a new science that looked at the world as a kind of giant clock. The laws of this world were time-reversible, for it was held that there was no difference between past and future. As the laws were deterministic, both the past and the future could be predicted once the present was known.

The vision of the emerging new science tends to heal the division between matter and spirit and to do away with the mechanical dimension of the world as represented by classical science. There are four scientists who have contributed to the emergence of this new worldview in science: Niels Bohr (theoretical physicist), James Lovelock (chemist and inventor), Rupert Sheldrake (plant physiologist), and Ilya Prigogine (physical chemist and Nobel laureate). The manifesto of the emerging new worldview arrived at by them could be summarized as follows: the science of physics has to accommodate biological phenomena and to make room for anticipation and intentionality, both of which were banned completely and forever from science by the Newtonian revolution. Today nature abounds with meaning and purpose, a situation that eliminates the division between human and nonhuman nature that was so much a part of classical science. Nature is no longer an alien world of blind mechanical forces; it is alive, as we are, and operates according to the same principles that we do.

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