Letter: Modern science relies on facts to bridge racial barriers

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The Independent Online
Sir: In his attempt to elaborate on 'non-Western' science, Ziauddin Sardar misses the point. In 1537 Niccolo Tartaglia wrote his Nuova Scienza - the title became a catch- phrase to identify the work of a whole host of near contemporaries: Bacon, Harvey, Kepler, Descartes, Huyghens, Boyle, Newton, Leibniz . . . the list is almost endless in this unique, historical epoch, the key feature of which is that it was 'new'.

To miss this basic fact is to distort everything. Whether Newton appreciated the value of pre-Columbian potatoes or the work of al Haytham is insignificant in comparison to the new faith in the order of nature, which could be traced by reasoned observation to every detailed occurrence. Though we may now have serious reservations about the value of this 'faith', its most distinctive feature has been its universality, neither arbitrary nor European, deeming phrases such as 'Islamic' science or 'Indian' metaphysics to be meaningless.

Unfortunately, Mr Sardar's own 'ethnocentricity' prevents him from recognising what A. N. Whitehead discerned to be the 'one source of origin' for science, namely the Christian 'medieval insistence on the rationality of God'.

Yours sincerely,


Science Department

St Leonard's Mayfield School

Mayfield, East Sussex

22 March