Tag: Middle East

Was “The Scientific Revolution” actually the, scientific or revolutionary?

The first lecture of the Continuing Revolutions seminar was about “The Scientific Revolution”, by Dan Cohen. The main idea of the lecture was actually proof-checking whether that event that we so proudly call the scientific revolution was that special after all. In order to answer this question we primarily have to actually be sure we know what do we mean by the term revolution. Revolution represents a sudden radical change in absolutely new direction that affects an enormous number of people who are not interconnected. Now, what Cohen successfully explains in his lecture is that we should not take things we hear for granted, but question them, not for the sake of the argument or just to spite the others, but in order to check if a certain statement is true or not. Even John Stuart Mill has come to this conclusion in his book “On Liberty”. He states that if something that is taken as a truth is not questioned or is protected from questioning, it becomes a dead dogma where the truth actually loses its strength because the ones who believe in it, believe in it without actually understanding why they think that is truth. It is important to notice that here we do not talk about the revolutions that might exist on the personal level and whether they can actually be called revolutions, as that is a completely different discussion.

So, was “The scientific revolution” the, scientific or revolutionary?

As it was shown during the lecture, many scientific parts of this revolution were not exactly that scientific. The scientists of that time had many bigot perspectives and have actually not made any experiments (something essential to any scientific process), but just tried to support the hypothesis they had in any possible way. They actually even ridiculed the scientist who, as we can see now, were right the whole time. That was the time when it was more important who you were and who supports than what you were saying. Continuing further, we can see that there were many different events in our history that can be seen as more important for the scientific community than the one we call “The one”. The difference does exist between them: Only The revolution took place in the western world, while when the major mathematic discoveries were created together with incredible advances in medicine much before this revolution in Arabic world, for example, nobody even thought of calling that “The one”. Following this argument, one can say that The scientific revolution was not even that revolutionary, as some of the things were only rediscovered by the western scientists – in other parts of the world knowledgable people knew about those things long time before that.

Nevertheless, The scientific revolution was definitely an important time in the history of mankind, but was not necessarily the only time when changes of that kind were made, or when the changes of that size were made. The truth is, however, that the history is written by the winners and we all know who colonized the rest of the world – white male christian western European. Thus, what these people have considered to be the most important remained written in the history books that we read now as the most important, even though it did not have to be. Hopefully, we learned from that and are ready now to appreciate revolutions wherever they are, just for the sake of their utility and impact.

Tambora – The eruption that changed the world

Following the first lecture, where, in my opinion, one of the most important takeaways was the fact that we should question even worldwide accepted “facts”, such as “The scientific revolution”, where it was shown that mankind tends to have prejudice and follow the lead of the most powerful, western voice.

This weak, Gillen D’Arcy Wood, in his book, “Tambora: The eruption that changed the world”, once again demonstrates us that we should broaden the framework we look the world through and not only think that where the voice is the strongest, the truth is the biggest. Tambora talks about the year of 1815, and most of the people, even historians, would primarily connect this year to Napoleon Bonaparte and France in that time. Yet, that was also the year when Tambora, volcanic mountain on the small island in the Dutch West Indies, has erupted creating what was one of the greatest natural disasters in history, where its impact on the whole world could be observed in several years following the eruption as well. Even though there are not many written documents about this event created and preserved by people in that part of the world, Wood still finds enough resources to portrait just how important this natural event was, by also using literary sources like Mary Shelley’s journals and personal letters.

Yet, modern world remained pretty much blind to the whole thing happening. Tambora is rarely even considered to be the greatest eruption, and it is definitely not the most famous one, especially when compared to Vesuvius even though its impact has been exponentially stronger. Sadly, the prejudice of people can be seen throughout the history and also in the modern world. Yes, one can argue that if a similar event would occur now the world would react differently due to the globalization. However, I personally believe that this is true only to an extent as I think people would be informed about it, but would not necessarily care about what happened as long as it does not influence them directly.

In order to support my argument, I will use an example of Ebola and Syria. Ebola reached the world news only when there were infected people in the US or western Europe. Before that, yes there were some news on that topic, but it was not a major event and rarely who was talking about Ebola vaccines or other possible cure. Yet, when first US citizen was infected, he immediately received the treatment none of the people in western Africa have gotten. This means that the possible, still not completely approved, cure was available, but not used. Same things follows the revolution and ciil war in Syria. It reached the news and earned its importance for the world, only when ISIS terroristic attacks have occurred in Paris, or when the refugees as an immediate consequence of the war started emigrating to the countries of the western world. This is why many journalists and activist have said that media-wise 1 US and western European life equals 10 Eastern european and lives of the more developed countries in Africa, Asia and South America, which equals 100 lives of less developed countries in Asia, South America and Middle Eastern countries, which finally, equals 1000 lives in undeveloped countries in Africa. As sad as this sounds, this is truth, because being able to be informed does not mean being informed and not being ignorant.

We, as the whole world society, especially the countries with more power and media influence, should question are own current decisions and learn at least something from the mistakes of mankind in past, in order to ensure that we actually truly are prosperous society which goal is to develop not only in crude oil using industries, but even more in the are of knowledge, human rights and consciousness.

Change at the Palm of our Hands

What’s more fearful than a man with no political allegiances and access to millions of your citizens? To corrupt governments other than nuclear arms, nothing. Khalid Albaih encapsulates the way of the future for many activist around the world. Where once newspapers and television were the mediums to sensor and control through money, social media is a platform that is difficult to manage without overt censorship and as such is the meeting place for views that governments constantly try to stifle. Particularly in the Arab Spring, platforms like Facebook and Twitter were firestorms for the likes of the Egyptian government because events and posts would pop up without warning and be views by millions before the government could have it removed. Unlike a piece of paper of television broadcasting, the power of the internet is that without a direct blocking of global signals or global websites it’s almost next to impossible to stop people from posting what they like. Khalid knew this and other activist knew this and they all used their knowledge to their advantage.

In Khalid’s experiences he understood that the success of using social media derived from the fact that this platform was the only true and honest source of information left in the public sphere. There was a sense of immediacy and pressure that arose with this use as if it was the only way. In that he articulated the difference in the United States is that we still have faith in other platforms. That is half of us wants to believe in the information we receive from the government, cnn, the new york times, and our representatives. Khalid asserted that this is a privilege, and for him, everyone, and their mother knew that no public source of information was credible in Sudan or in North Africa because they were all controlled by the government and money. However, in this problem of legitimacy also was this problem of saturation and quality. With the use of social media in places where their is no legitimacy elsewhere, places like Facebook have become awash with tid bits of information that are supposed to educate, excite, and produce action, but how are revolutionaries supposed to acquire and hold that attention. While social media is the last free outlet to produce information, how do you assert yourself in a sea of frankly bullshit. With over 500 million people joining Facebook in the last four years, Khalid and other activist of the Arab Spring are trying to continue their fire but amidst a large and less active crowd.

Overall, Khalid conveyed how the difference in social justice movements here versus movements back in the Sudan, North African, and the Middle East is that theirs are done in a last ditch effort. That is they are done as if there is nothing left because doing that action can be life or death. For Khalid, social media wasn’t just an evolution in spreading news to inform people, but it was a revolution in enacting change.

 

Revolution or Evolution: Questions about the Cosmos that have changed the direction of history

Professor Cohen’s lecture began with an interesting definition about exploration of ideas explaining humanity’s relation to our planet. Basically he states that science is about exploring the cosmos in order unfold the essence of us. He believes that all people desire to know more about our purpose on earth through understanding more about our earth and how our existence affects our earth. Now I thought this was an interesting way to begin a talk on the scientific revolution because usually professors who discuss this period talk about the production of knowledge and how these developments are the crux of advancing knowledge. While important, I believe this idea of exploring the cosmos in order to unfold the essence of humans really allows us to understand whether the Scientific Revolution of 16th century is truly a revolution or merely evolution. What I will argue is this period does not mark a period of revolution in our view of the cosmos, and that I believe it merely an evolution in the depth that we explore the cosmos.

The main reason I believe the Scientific Revolution to be merely an evolution of ways that we explore the cosmos is that much of the empiricism that was supposedly revolutionary developed out of Greek, Indian, and Islamic discoveries. Specifically, thinkers like Ibn al-Haytham developed a system of empiricism that many European scientist and mathematicians were noted as being the pioneers of, such as the development of hypotheses. This is important because this empiricism has been articulated as being the fundamental reason for Europe’s superior advancement at this period. But as you can see that assertion actually a historical misconception that does not give credibility to the legacy it developed from. Further, many of the hypotheses that developed and were seen as changing our view of the cosmos were often later disproved and or merely developed in Europe at the time and were believed in other parts of the world earlier. Views, such as heliocentrism that were supposedly discovered by the European intellect Corpernicus, who developed a system of astronomy that we note as giving us our view toward Earth’s rotation, seasons, and the understanding that we revolve around the sun. However, this view does not give proper due to previous thinkers hundreds of years before such as al-Buruni who discovered the notion of heliocentrism in Iran. This is important because this apparent new understanding about our relation to the cosmos is seen as a large reason for this period being revolutionary but it merely discredits non-European thinkers and doesn’t articulate the discovery for what it is, an evolution on inherited theories.

Overall, it is apparent that although the period of the Scientific Revolution marks a deeper understanding and development of empirical study about the cosmos in the European tradition it does not mark a revolution in how the whole world explored the and understood cosmos. Merely, this period marked an evolution in the understanding that European intellectuals had about our earth and the world around us.