Milky Way and the Big Bang


Guest blogger, Dick Lanham, offers his insights on evolution, Islam’s contribution to science and racism. We are pleased to offer Mr. Lanham’s blog in this Special to The Bold Pursuit…

The Image above was taken by the Planck Telescope of the European Space Agency published in Nature, July 8, 2010. The complete Milky Way is the white plate seen on edge. The background radiation of the Big Bang is shown in the bluish surround. At the request of a good friend of mine, I posted it on his blog (The Brotherhood) of a site ( that we belong to. The posting drew a lot of comments about how the Big Bang and Evolution (which I did not mention) contradicted creation stories in the Bible. My comments here are partly a reply to some of these criticisms and partly to another friend’s observations on President Obama’s directive to NASA to assure the Muslim community that it had contributed greatly to science and technology.
Assuming there was a Big Bang this has nothing to do with God. God being God can do anything He likes except create a contradiction. If He wanted to start us all off with a Bang, that is His business. Many scientists do not believe in God, some do. Darwin to his dying day was a believer and church-goer. The difficulty some religious people contemporaneous with him had was that the Theory of Evolution made impossible a literal belief of the creation verses in the Bible. No good scientist I ever heard of did his science to prove that God does not exist, an impossibility at any event. That would be like devoting oneself to growing sugar cane to show that Ford 150s are the best selling vehicle in America. Science has nothing to do with religion This whole matter was debated and resolved in the Late Medieval Ages during the beginning years of universities, mostly at the University of Paris. There followers of Aristotle clashed with theologians who, too, like some commentators on the blog, believed in the literal truth of the Bible. These clashes in the 12th and 13th Centuries were eventually resolved in the Aristotelians’ favor, as by the 14th Century the Parisian professors had to swear to teach Aristotle and an Islamic commentator on Aristotle, Averroes. [‘Averroes’ is the name used in the west for Ibn Rushed, 1126–1198. He is one of the two Muslim natural philosophers–the title given to scientists then–popularly remembered today, the other being Avicenna, Ibn Sīnā, 980–1037.] At that time (the 14th Century) there was an agreement–still in force–that scientists stuck to the observable (broadly defined) and that theologians were responsible for metaphysics and religion. So the swirl of comment in the 19th Century about Darwin’s science has a history. As to my good Friend M’s comment [about President Obama’s NASA directive], Islam did have a 500 year period of scientific eminence, which was to mostly to preserve Aristotle and Plato and other classic authors for later use in the Renaissances (there were a couple of them). That 500 year period ended in the 15th century. President Obama are you listening? The period of distinction of Islamic science ended in the 15th century. There are 2 major reasons for this: First there is a strong tradition in Islam against abstract learning. Knowledge to be pursued had to be in the practical interest of Islam, and since Islam knows no distinction between religious and civic law, all learning had to contribute in a way that would be epistmologically incompatible to scientific and other endeavors in the west. (What practical effect does acquiring estimations of the size of the proton or of facts about Mozart’s 21st Piano Concerto have?). The second reason for the decline was that the Muslims never established the kind of universities and other types of schools started in the 12th Century (in Bologna), added to in the 13th and following Centuries, and still going on today in non-Muslim societies in which knowledge could be acquired, systematized, preserved, and protected against the depredations of anti-intellectuals. Madrases were and are only theological institutions. For NASA now to devote itself to assuring Muslims that they are just as good at science and technology as are we (which as a society they clearly are not) is as condescending, as is the racism and sexism of affirmative action. What affirmative action does is re-institute Jim Crow and the degradation of women. It intimates that blacks and women are not good enough to compete in a white, manly world. They need a helping hand. (A new version of the white man’s burden.) Grades low? Does not matter, in you go anyway to, say, the Harvard Law School. Not publishing any law review articles once you get there, Barry? Not to worry. We shall make you Editor of the Law Review so you will not feel badly about yourself. Blacks and women not good enough? Oh, yeah? First of all the brightest person I ever knew was a black girlfriend of mine in our freshman year of college. (We were crazy about each other but her family would not let us get together because I was white.) Second, you had better not have let any such talk of the little woman needing some aid from us men around my Mother or her sisters. Any of them would have knocked your block off. The women of AWS [the website in which these comments were initially posted] do not need me to speak for them, but my guess is that, if any of them had heard such talk, she would have elbowed my Mother aside to throw the first punch.
Dick Lanham
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One thought on “Milky Way and the Big Bang

  1. The 15th century? That was the end of Islam eminence scientific contribution and the current Islamic culture eschews scientific endeavors. Fascinating blog, Dick. Thank you.

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