Talk:European science in the Middle Ages

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Talk:Science in the Middle Ages)
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject History of Science (Rated B-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is part of the History of Science WikiProject, an attempt to improve and organize the history of science content on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, you can edit the article attached to this page, or visit the project page, where you can join the project and/or contribute to the discussion. You can also help with the History of Science Collaboration of the Month.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Middle Ages (Rated B-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Middle Ages, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of the Middle Ages on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
B-Class article B  This article has been rated as B-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.


The making of humanity Robert Briffault Publisher G. Allen & Unwin ltd., 1919 Original from the University of California Digitized Oct 18, 2007

It must be admitted that, in recoil from the general conspiracy of silence of our histories, several writers who have sought to vindicate the claims of Arab culture have somewhat exaggerated the achievements of Arabian science. Against such loose panegyrics it has been objected, that Arab science produced no surpassing genius and no transcending discovery ; that it was derived from extraneous sources. That is substantially true, but entirely irrelevant. Arab astronomy did not forestall Copernicus or Newton, though without it there would have been no Copernicus and no Newton. Although the complexity of the Ptolemaic system was repeatedly criticized by Moorish astronomers, although Al-Zarkyal declared the planetary orbits to be ellipses and not circles, although the orbit of Mercury is in Al-Farani's tables actually represented as elliptical, although Muhammad Ibn Musa glimpsed in his works on Astral Motion and The Force of Attraction the law of universal gravitation, those adumbrations of the truth were not fruitful of any great reform. The only important facts brought to light by Arabian astronomy, the discovery of the movements of the sun's apogee by Al-Batani, and of the secondary variations of the moon's motion by Abu '1-Wafa, exercised no perceptible influence upon the course of research, and had to be rediscovered by Tycho. Ibn Sina is said to have employed an air thermometer, and1 Ibn Yunis certainly did use the pendulum for the measurement of time ; but neither of those devices, which were independently re- introduced by Galileo, can be counted as a contribution to the growth of science.

That, however, is entirely beside the point. The debt of our science to that of the Arabs does not consist in startling discoveries or revolutionary theories; science owes a great deal more to Arab culture, it owes its existence. The ancient world was, as we saw, pre-scientific. The astronomy and mathematics of the Greeks were a foreign importation never thoroughly acclimatized in Greek culture. The Greeks systematized, generalized and theorized, but the patient ways of investigation, the accumulation of positive knowledge, the minute methods of science, detailed and prolonged observation, experimental inquiry, were altogether alien to the Greek temperament. Only in Hellenistic Alexandria was any, approach to scientific work conducted in the ancient classical world. What we call science arose in Europe as a result of a new spirit of inquiry, of new methods of investigation, of the method of experiment, observation, measurement, of the development of mathematics in a form unknown to the Greeks. That spirit and those methods were introduced into the European world by the Arabs.

Is Briffault's writing wp:npov? Not when cut and pasted, only when taken in context. The emphasis in this quote is mine, however wp:rs will show that systems and theories of science in the middle ages are those of Aristotle, Archimedes, Galen, Ptolemy, and Euclid. As for the spirit and methods we need a more neutral tone.

J8079s (talk) 02:06, 23 January 2010 (UTC)
I'd be a bit cautious in taking a 90-year-old secondary source as representing the views of modern historians. His book has not had any significant impact on the history of science; a check of the ISI citation indexes finds only three citations of this book, all of which are by writers on Arabic and Persian science. As a personal aside, I never heard of Briffault when I studied history of science.
That being said, despite the greater understanding of the nature of Arabic astronomy, his criticism of reduction of their "discoveries" to adumbrations of truth seems on target. The biggest shortcomings of this passage are its dated positivist historiography, which sees science as purely experimental and thereby dismisses the theoretical framework provided by Greek natural philosophy as " pre-scientific", and its ignorance of the recent extensive study of Latin scientific culture in the Early Middle Ages, as this culture provided the context for the assimilation of Greco-Arabic learning in Twelfth Century Europe.
I'd be unwilling to accept such a dated historical source as reliable. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 13:59, 23 January 2010 (UTC)
Seeing no further defense of Briffault, I've deleted the citation as part of WP:Jagged 85 cleanup. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 03:27, 13 August 2010 (UTC)

Unreliable source - material[edit]

Content from / FSTC is an unreliable source, as discussed on Wikipedia:Reliable_sources/Noticeboard/Archive_18#History_of_Science. None of its publications are peer-reviewed, and its authors often exhibit a strong bias and incomplete or flawed citation practices. The site has been used as a source in numerous science and history of science articles to make extraordinary claims about Islamic invention and discovery. I am working to remove these extraordinary claims where they stem directly and solely from a reference. Many of these claims were added by a user who has a history of using flawed sources for extraordinary claims, as discussed on Wikipedia:Requests_for_comment/Jagged_85. That page details numerous examples where claims from these sources contradict more reliable sources, on a scale which casts the entirety of the material originating from the site into doubt. If you would like to discuss this or any related removal with me, please leave a note on my talk page.

This article in particular appears to have a number of additional questionable sources beyond those which I have already removed. Dialectric (talk) 12:16, 26 April 2010 (UTC)

Move Great Names to a separate article?[edit]

The header says it all. The section Great names of science in medieval Europe has been around since 2006, and has grown far beyond that original short section. It disturbs the flow of the article and I suggest moving it to something like "Great names in medieval science;" it seems to have too much detail to be a "List of medieval scientists".

Any comments? --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 22:13, 13 August 2010 (UTC)

Be Bold J8079s (talk) 00:12, 14 August 2010 (UTC)
Moved a slightly enlarged version to Medieval European scientists. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 21:14, 14 August 2010 (UTC)

Good move, keep up the good work Steve.Thony C. (talk) 19:19, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

What to do with "Science in Medieval Western Europe"[edit]

A long while back I had proposed making this an umbrella article and putting most of the details in this article in various sub-articles. To this end I had created Science in Medieval Western Europe. Unfortunately I never really got any traction on building a consensus. Clearly though something needs to change.

  • At the moment the Science in Medieval Western Europe article and this one have a high degree of redundancy so if we are not going to split then we should get rid of Science in Medieval Western Europe.
  • Obviously there is an outstanding complaint that this article is too long which I believe is correct. Either some of the detail of the article just needs to be tossed out (which would be unfortunate) or it should be split up as I had originally proposed.

So is there any chance of a consensus at this point?

--Mcorazao (talk) 01:45, 19 January 2009 (UTC)

I have moved this discussion from the archives back to the talk page since I'd like to reopen it.
The Science in Medieval Western Europe article has been largely ignored since it was established, while most editing activity has gone on in Science in the Middle Ages. In response to the concern about this article being too long, I have recently moved the list of medieval scientists to a new article Medieval European scientists. I suggest either moving the list of medieval scientific achievements in a similar fashion or simply deleting it, leaving this article as a narrative account of medieval science.
I agree with Mcorazao's proposal to get rid of Science in Medieval Western Europe.
Is there a chance of obtaining his desired consensus? --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 19:01, 16 August 2010 (UTC)
Comment - I have not been involved in these articles for a while. I am unclear, though, as to what the proposed direction here really is. To be clear I only suggested removing Science in Medieval Western Europe if an appropriate alternative article organization were proposed. Science in the Middle Ages as it stands is still rather long (it exceeds WP's guidelines by a considerable amount). It is also a bit unbalanced giving too little attention to some regions compared to others. It seems that to balance it properly either content has to be removed or the article has to be made longer. Because of the length issue it seems content needs to be removed. It does not appear that each of the sub-categories is adequately covered in other articles so it would be a shame to lose the content. So what is really the proposal here to deal with all that? --Mcorazao (talk) 16:57, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
Thanks for your insights. You mention the article gives "too little attention to some regions." Could you spell out those regions you think need more coverage (and those that need less)?
I'm used to some rather long historical articles, so I'm not personally upset by its length.
The one thing that could easily be moved or deleted is the list of medieval scientific achievements.
Many of the regional sections are also topical lists of scientific discoveries and lack coherent historical narratives. In that regard, I think the Western Europe section is appropriately organized, although its content still needs work.
--SteveMcCluskey (talk) 17:27, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
I don't disagree that the article is poorly organized at this point. But that is a separate issue. In terms of balance, to begin with during most of the Middle Ages Christian Western Europe was not particularly a center of scientific achievement. And yet that discussion takes up a lot of the article. This is not to say that the content on the Europeans is not valuable but if the article is going to be balanced the discussion of Latin Europe should be a relatively small fraction of the article. The balance between China and other areas strikes me as a bit off as well but that's a little more debatable.
Regarding length, see WP:Article size. Typically around 30-50K is considered a good size. If the topic justifies it (i.e. has a lot to it but can be discussed coherently as disjoint subtopics) maybe going up above 60K is reasonable. But you'll notice that GA and FA articles are generally nowhere near 100K regardless of the topic (perhaps there are exceptions out there but you'll find most of the experienced GA/FA editors will ding articles that get to that size).
--Mcorazao (talk) 21:50, 17 August 2010 (UTC)

All articles in the medieval series as covered by this template should remain reserved to the medieval world in its original sense and most common sense, that is medieval (Western) Europe. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 19:41, 17 August 2010 (UTC)

I agree that consistency is important across Wikipedia and you make a good point that we are not being consistent. I do have a concern about using a term that explicitly describes a period but does not explicitly designate a geography and using it to limit the geography. Though a majority of authors use "Middle Ages" to refer only to W. Europe, not all do. But regardless that is a discussion that is wider in scope than this article. Has this discussion occurred somewhere else that somebody knows of? --Mcorazao (talk) 21:37, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
There are some scattered remarks on the various talk pages, but as yet noone has bothered to raise the question to general awareness. But there is no doubt that this question is directly relevant to your inquiry, since it means that there would no need for a separate article on Science in Medieval Western Europe, since Science in the Middle Ages is the right place. Right now, the extensive sections on the Islamic world, India and China were more or less simply copied and pasted from their respective science-related articles, encroaching on the original subject, that of (Western) European science. We should keep the Byzantine part, but the rest needs to be removed in my view. Much of the Chinese section, for example, consists moreover of technological items, so this is double off-topic here. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:05, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
There's a nice and fairly authoritative discussion (a presidential address by the president of the Medieval Academy of America, Fred Robinson) which was published in Speculum 59 (1984): 745-756 and which deals with the terms Medieval and Middle Ages. In the course of his discussion, Robinson turns to the meaning of the terms:
"I turn now to the question of the meaning and status of the words medieval and Middle Ages. As for setting the precise dates at which the Middle Ages begin and end, you may expect only crafty evasions from me. Scholars have advocated many different termini for our period, and there seems to be little agreement and indeed little basis for reasoned argument on these points. The Middle Ages begin, we are told, with the death of Theodosius in 395, or with the settlement of Germanic tribes in the Roman Empire, or with the sack of Rome in 410, or with the fall of the Western Roman Empire (usually dated A.D. 476), or even as late as the Moslem occupation of the Mediterranean. It ends, according to Oscar Halecki, with the fall of Constantinople, or with the invention of printing, or with the discovery of America, or with the beginning of the Italian wars (1494), or with the Lutheran Reformation (1517), or with the election of Charles V (1519). Several reference works I have consulted simply assert that the Middle Ages ended in 1500, presumably on New Year's Eve. Yet another terminus often given for the Middle Ages is the so-called "Revival of Learning," that marvelous era when Humanist scholars 'discovered' classical texts and restored them to mankind after the long Gothic night....
"There is an added difficulty of periodization in that the Middle Ages last longer in some countries than others. Italy seems somehow well into the Renaissance at a time when much of the rest of Europe is still happily medieval. I have been shown medieval churches in Finland which date from the seventeenth century. And in Russia the Middle Ages seem to last almost as long as the winter. The dictionary of the Russian language published by the Academy of Sciences of the U.S.S.R. defines the limits of the Middle Ages as follows: 'Embracing the period from the collapse of the Roman slave-holding empire (end of the fifth century) to the beginning of capitalism (end of the seventeenth century).'"
Robinson does not define the geographic limits of the term, but the examples he gives are all from Europe and the Mediterranean world, and he mentions Byzantine studies as an element of medieval studies. The Middle Ages are not a simple chronological period, but an actively interacting community for which Charlemagne's communications with Irene and Nikephoros in Constantinople and with Harun al-Rashd in Baghdad provide useful markers. That community is centered on the Latin speaking West, but encompasses the Greek speaking Eastern Roman Empire and the Arabic speaking Islamic world; it does not extend to India and China. I suggest those limits for an article on Science in the Middle Ages.
Applying those general parameters to this article, since there are already articles on science in China and India, I would have no objections to GPM's suggestion that we delete those sections. The existing sections will still need to be refined, but it is a more manageable task. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 22:36, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
On Muslim science we already have a separate article, Science in medieval Islam. True, there is also a separate one on Byzantine science, but here I would argue that Eastern Roman science was still essential European. To cover the interaction in the triangle medieval Europe - Byzantine realm - (Western) Muslim world we could introduce subsections like Byzantine science#Byzantine and Islamic science, but the current overgrow needs to be massively cut back. The article, as it currently stands, has lost its thrust and meaning. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:54, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
PS: I had a chuckle on "presumably on New Year's Eve" and "still happily medieval". Good refreshing address, this one! Gun Powder Ma (talk) 23:16, 17 August 2010 (UTC)
This discussion drove me to pull some surveys of the history of medieval science from my bookshelves. The oldest one, Augustine to Galileo (1959) by A. C. Crombie, is probably about 78% Western Europe, 20% Islam, and 2% Byzantium. David Lindberg's The Beginnings of Western Science (1992) displays similar proportions, although some reviews of the book took him to task for reducing the role of Islam to that of transmitting Greek science to the West. Near the end of Ed Grant's The Foundations of Modern Science in the Middle Ages (1996), he discusses this interesting question:
"Why during the last 800 years of the Byzantine Empire did scholars add little of significance to their enormous legacy of ancient Greek science and natural philosophy? Why did the civilizations of Islam and Western Europe outperform Byzantium by wide margins, despite a total reliance on translations, and with fewer ancient works available?" (p. 188).
This is not the time to answer Grant's question, but these sources suggest something like an appropriate balance for an article on Science in the Middle Ages. Such a balance would make a separate article on "Science in Medieval Western Europe" unnecessary. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 03:05, 18 August 2010 (UTC)
2% only for Byzantium...perhaps we just post a pic of a Greek beauty and then move on to Europe and Islam. No, seriously, with Latin translations of the 12th century, Islamic contributions to Medieval Europe and Transmission of the Classics (as well as Spanish translation in the Golden Age) we have already three full articles covering the transmission process, but yet not one which concentrates on medieval Science. If this fails either, then I am for the pic only. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 03:19, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── OK, I propose to delete the sections on India and China in a day or so, which should come close to the alternative organization Mcorazao called for before deleting the article on Science in Medieval Western Europe. I still am not sure how to deal with the list of Major accomplishments; I would favor deleting it although, since some find such lists useful, I'm open to setting it up as a new article. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 14:01, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

The list appears to have been originally useful but is jaggedized beyond recognition and looks too tainted now for my taste, frankly. I wouldn't object to set it up, though, but not under my user name. :-P Gun Powder Ma (talk) 14:11, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

For what it's worth I agree with your propossed changes Steve. I favour deleting the list of major accomplishments.Thony C. (talk) 15:21, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

Hmm, seeing how someone has already transplanted most of the China info here to History of science and technology in China, I don't see the need to have (virtually) the same information in two articles. But what about India and the Middle East? Is this information salvageable? It seems articles like History of Indian science and technology are already fleshed out to a fair degree and don't necessarily need an influx of new material (taken from this article as it currently stands).--Pericles of AthensTalk 18:59, 18 August 2010 (UTC)
As you pointed out, the Chinese material has already been copied. The Indian material summarizes material that already exists in articles on various aspects of Indian science. That seems to make it unnecessary to retain them here where (as I've argued) they are historiographically inappropriate.
I would keep the Middle Eastern / Islamic material. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 20:10, 18 August 2010 (UTC)
I am for removing this material, too. It seems largely copied and pasted from the various linked overview articles and it is thoroughly tainted; even with a brief glance I noticed material I have shown in Jagged 85's RFC/U to be unsupported by the source cited such as this claim:
  • They set up the earliest dedicated hospitals in the modern sense of the word,[62] including the first psychiatric hospitals[63] and the first medical schools which issued diplomas to students qualified to become doctors of medicine
  • Much of the rest is in the same vein of the RFC/U:
  • Alkindus was the first to introduce experimentation into the Earth sciences
  • Biruni is considered a pioneer of geodesy for his important contributions to the field
  • His map of the world was considered the most accurate in the 16th century
  • The earliest known treatises dealing with environmentalism and environmental science, especially pollution, were Arabic treatises

And so on and so forth. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:02, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

To avoid wasted effort, let me inform everyone that I am currently editing a userfied version of this article at User:SteveMcCluskey/SMA. If there are no serious objections to the drastic cuts I've proposed, I will drop this version (currently 61K) into the present article shortly. It deals with some of the points that GPM has mentioned, and will provide a more manageable scope for further edits. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 21:32, 18 August 2010 (UTC)
I stand by my opinion that we need one article on Science in medieval Europe and one on Science in medieval Islam, not a half on the former topic and one and a half on the latter. Therefore, I'd oppose the inclusion of material on Islamic science here which goes beyond the immediate question of intercultural interaction between the two regions. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:46, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

Strictly speaking there is no such thing as 'Mediaeval Islam'. Any such article should be called 'Science in the Islamic Empire during the period of the European Middle Ages'. However as this is coincident with the so called Islamic Golden Age this should be used for the title of the article on Islamic Science. Otherwise go ahead Steve Thony C. (talk) 06:20, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

Consensus to Delete Science in Medieval Western Europe?[edit]

In view of the edits made thus far, do we have a consensus to delete Science in Medieval Western Europe as redundant? I fear that deleting this article instead would lead us back to a new Science in the Middle Ages article in a few years. (Alternatively, we could discourage that by changing this article to a disambiguation page pointing to the various regional articles). I have real world issues and want to wrap this up. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 14:20, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

Obviously, considering how the discussion has evolved, we have now a consensus. Still, I believe it first needs to be determined whether the European parts of this Science in the Middle Ages are really fully identical with Science in Medieval Western Europe, so that we do not lose any contents through deletion. Our best informant for this is User:Mcorazao, the creator of the spin-off, whom I have requested per email to reply here. Regards Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:24, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
Maybe I am alone in feeling this way but it seems to me that the way the thinking is heading here violates WP:WORLDVIEW. I agree that the term Middle Ages is most commonly used in a somewhat geographically-specific way (though not universally in this way), but it is still a term referring to a time period, not a place. Trying to use this term to imply a geography has the subtle implication that this geography is the only one that really matters, which is obviously biased.
I guess maybe the question that should be asked is whether "Science in the Middle Ages" is really a good title for any article in Wikipedia because of the issues that are being raised. To the extent that we want to have articles that are specific to geographies I believe that the titles need to be specific to the geographies, not just loosely imply them in a roundabout way. I would still argue that a general article that discusses scientific progress during this period in history has value as well, though it seems a different title is in order. In other words, I am not sure I see a reason for deleting either of these articles. It seems that perhaps the right thing is to retitle the articles and clarify their scope.
--Mcorazao (talk) 02:56, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

The term "Ming Dynasty" refers to a period of time in Chinese. The term "Vedic period" refers to a period of time in Indian culture. The term "Golden Age" refers to a period of time in Islamic culture. etc. etc. The term "Middle Ages" refers to a period of time in European culture and so the time aspect should not and can not be seperated from the geographical.Thony C. (talk) 06:35, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

That is the precise opposite of what I suggested and a deliberate straw man. --Mcorazao (talk) 14:16, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
I should point out that the article Golden Age does not cover the geography or period you are referring to. Ming Dynasty is not a time period, though it is often used to informally indicate a time period. Vedic period is a time period, but the term Vedic explicitly refers to a region. --Mcorazao (talk) 14:16, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

How can the correct definition of a historical term be a straw man? The term "Middle Ages" refers to a period of time in European culture and as such refers to a specific place and to use it so, that is correctly, in no way has "...has the subtle implication that this geography is the only one that really matters..." and is so not biased.Thony C. (talk) 14:54, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

Looks like we don't quite agree on anything here really. *lol* No two opinions are quite alike. Perhaps we should do it like they do it in these cases on physicist congresses and set up unceremoniously a ballot box and a vote. Would save us time at least. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 17:00, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

As it stands now, there is no mention of China at all. At least there should be links to science of the period in China and the major influences should be mentioned. David R. Ingham (talk) 17:13, 5 October 2010 (UTC)

Out of Scope and Duplication[edit]

Note: The Chinese and Indian material has been removed since by consensus. This leaves the question whether the Islamic world section should be kept or removed, too. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 09:37, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

I added the template to the Chinese, Indian and Islamic sections. The two questions most central to the discussion which need to be addressed are

  • A. Scope: What is the range of material that belongs in an article on medieval Science and what is out of WP:Scope here. More precisely, which traditions/world regions should be covered here, and which should be covered elsewhere.
  • B. Duplication: Closely related with A. If the inclusion of certain other non-European traditions is judged worth of being included here despite A., contents should still not be duplicated.

My view:

  • A. The scope of an article about the Science in the Middle Ages are the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages are, as the WP article explains, "a period of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century". This excludes completely the Chinese and Indian parts and also Islam as far as it is not directly interrelated with European developments. And this is also reflected in the template: The header of "The Middle Ages" template at the bottom of this article subsumes Science in the Middle Ages under a number of articles which exclusively deal with the "Middle Ages". And in fact all these articles, with a sole exception, deal only with Medieval European History. So why should we make an exception just for sciences?
Taken from another angle: History of science and technology in China deals and deals only with the history of Chinese science, History of Indian science and technology deals and deals only with the history of Indian science and Science in medieval Islam deals and deals only with the history of medieval Muslim science: each topic has an article of its own. So why should the history of the European medieval be alone in not having an article of its own where it is covered exclusively? Why introducing a double standard? I believe my point is straightforward enough.
  • B. Duplication: This leads me to the second point. The current Islamic section (and no less the Chinese and Indian material) are duplications from the articles cited above. Copied and pasted (and the Islamic part is in my view misrepresented beyond repair). Therefore, if we were to include the Islamic bits despite A., we would not only violate the scope of the Middle Ages as defined in Wikipedia, we would also do this by simply reproducing material one click away.

My vote: Remove the Chinese, Indian and Islamic sections (as well as "major accomplishments"). Keep Islamic material only in sofar as it directly relates to the European Middle Ages, that is it had a direct impact on medieval thinking. This is the way all articles in the template are organized. And, frankly, the way Wikipedia has defined the Middle Ages and organized the subject, anything else would amount to a 'special solution' tailor-made for the subject of science. One subject, one article. Voilà. Regards Gun Powder Ma (talk) 09:42, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

OK, I'll move in the version I've been working on in my userpage (which removes the Chinese and Indian sections and the major accomplishments) so we have a basis for editing. In Islam we should look carefully to see that we're deleting true overlaps. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 14:12, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

The influence of Islamic Science on the European science in the Middle Ages is very intensive an complex from the 12th till the 16th century so although I agree that the Islamic section here is desperately in need of revision it will and must still remain rather substantial.Thony C. (talk) 14:55, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

I agree, we have to be careful not to downplay Islamic influence in Medieval Western Europe; it is unmistakable in the history of early medieval astronomy. You first see Islamic influence with the transmission of astronomical instruments (the astrolabe), for which there is one ninth century exemplar, and Latin scholars who were influenced by ideas from the Islamic world from the tenth and eleventh centuries, e.g., John of Gorze, Walcher of Malvern and Gerbert of Aurillac. That being said, the Europeans who sought ought the knowledge of the Islamic world were historical actors, not just passive recipients, and the article needs to treat them as such. SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:23, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

I agree with what you say but it is not only in astronomy. The mediaeval reception of Aristotle is totally coloured by Arabic sources and commentators, the same goes for medicine; the influence of Islamic mathematic, in particular trigonometry and algebra, is enormous. However as you say we need to give emphasis to the translators and commentators who introduced the Greek/Arabic and Arabic science into Europe.Thony C. (talk) 15:36, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

Nice comment on the other sciences. It's not just the translators and commentators, however. The three examples I mentioned (and others I could have) are western scholars who sought out and used Arabic astronomy. In fact, the people who first used Arabic material preceded the wave of translations. If you want more detail, see chapter 9 on "The encounter of Arabic and Latin astronomies" in my Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:49, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

An often consulted volume on my bookshelf Thony C. (talk) 17:26, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

David Lindberg's The Beginnings of Western Science (1992) displays similar proportions, although some reviews of the book took him to task for reducing the role of Islam to that of transmitting Greek science to the West.

In the second revised edition from 2007 Lindberg writes in the preface: "The chapter on Islamic science has been entirely rewritten - altered in both substance and presentation, to reveal the magnitude and sophistication of the medieval Islamic scientific achievement."Thony C. (talk) 19:14, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

Although I am the one who contributed the Chinese section a while back, I do think GunPowderMa's point made here is entirely valid, i.e. Western Europe needs its own science article and moreover, the term Middle Ages should apply to Europe only. I support the removal and restructuring.--Pericles of AthensTalk 22:55, 19 August 2010 (UTC)
Middle Ages has no relevance in a Chinese context so I'm for the removal and restructuring. Philg88contact 20:09, December 27, 2014 UTC (purge)
Notified the two portals above so that we can get more input. Regards Gun Powder Ma (talk) 09:37, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Thanks SteveMcCluskey (talk) 13:07, 20 August 2010 (UTC)
Notified the two projects (where is the difference anyway?) since there seems to be much more activity. Also notified user who have shown an interest in the topic in the past at Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Jagged 85 save those here who merely discussed related technicalities, not at all contents. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 08:33, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

Islamic world[edit]

This section must stay. Over 100% of the content must be replaced but the section must stay. (Balance would call for "Christendom" to be the other section but I don't think its necessary.) Its not what they did with "Greek" science that's important its that they did anything at all with it. Bacon would write that to be a scientist you had to know Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Arabic (this comes to wikipedia as "you had to know Arabic"). I would like to get this section in shape and have the "Islamic science" page redirect here. We cannot balance all of Jagged edits by deletion but must replace some with responsible, balanced info. This would be a good place to start. J8079s (talk) 16:41, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

You failed to address my arguments. Both, in fact. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 08:17, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
GPM, I'm not quite clear on your two arguments, but here's a try at restating them and some comments:
  1. Islamic science is not part of medieval science and should be deleted. (Since most histories of medieval science do not take this approach, I will argue against it).
  2. The section on Islamic science is so severely flawed (Jaggedized) that it should be deleted. (I agree that it is severely flawed but that calls for improving rather than deleting the section).
If I've misunderstood your arguments, please restate them below--SteveMcCluskey (talk) 14:42, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
Briefly, but now in bold: The scope of an article about the Science in the Middle Ages are, obviously, the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages are, as the WP article explains, "a period of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century". This excludes Islam. And this is also reflected in the template: The header of "The Middle Ages" template at the bottom of this article subsumes Science in the Middle Ages under a number of articles which exclusively deal with the "Middle Ages", that is the Christian European Middle Ages. For Muslim science there is already the article Science in medieval Islam. Hence, there is no reason to deal with it here at length and to duplicate contents. Therefore: Keep Islamic material only as far as it is not directly interrelated with European developments. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 18:26, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

You can divide the Middle ages into two parts the early Middle Ages from about 500 CE to 1000 CE and the rest till about 1450 CE. With no offence to Steve, who is one of the experts for science in the Early Middle Ages, there was in the first period very little real science. In the second period the transmission, assimilation and development of Islamic science and the Islamic forms of Greek science constitute something between 50 and 80% of all the scientific activity. If you choose to eliminate Islamic science from this article you eliminate science from this article which for an article on the history of science would be fairly stupid.Thony C. (talk) 19:11, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

The Islamic section should be modified to reflex the role that Islamic science played in mediaeval European science but should without question remainThony C. (talk) 11:27, 20 August 2010 (UTC)

Hello everyone. In my opinion, there are three big problems here:
- Things the muslims never did (blatantly false statements) with sources that do not back them up( typical of Jagged)
- Partially true statements ( things the muslims did, but they were not the first at all, as the section says). It´s really hard to find something the muslims did that was not done (in one way or another) before by the greeks, hindus or chinese.
- True statements, but written in a pompous, unacceptable fashion for an ecyclopedia. Saying the muslims laid the fundations for agrucultural science is simply ridiculous.
Given the circumstances, I only agree with keeping the section if we get to rewrite as soon as possible( I know this may sound , eliminating the bad stuff (false statements, bad quality sources and Jagged´s presentism) and keeping the good ( no matter how small that may be). And of course, we should improve the level of the medieval of the western european and bizantine sections. 75% of the bizantine section is dedicated to islamic influences ( which indeed existed, but the islamic sections curiously forgets to mention bizantine influences). But I´ll make it clear that, if necessary, I don´t have any problem with deleting the whole section. Drastic Times Call For Drastic Measures.--Knight1993 (talk) 17:13, 21 August 2010 (UTC)
From the talk page, it seems that arguments about the scope of this page have been going on since 2007. Our other articles on the middle ages (e.g., those in {{Middle Ages_wide_2}}) generally focus almost exclusively on Europe, so I think that should be the subject of this article as well, as suggested by the Eurocentric Middle Ages. Of course, we have to discuss Arabic/Islamic science because of its immense influence, but I would prefer to do so in situ, in connection with its transmission to the West, rather than in a separate section. Overviews of Islamic science should I think be at Science in medieval Islam (that title is also Eurocentric—a more accurate but more unwieldy title would be Science in the pre-modern Islamic world.) A few sentences in the lead of this article explaining the Arabic/Islamic influence might also be useful.
I realize that Science in medieval Islam suffers extensively from this problem, but redirection here is not the solution because this topic is so important. Spacepotato (talk) 19:36, 21 August 2010 (UTC)

consensus Keep with heavy handed editing and integration into the mainstream. I'm going out of town for a bit this book might help you guys. Crombie, Alistair Cameron (1990). Science, optics, and music in medieval and early modern thought. Continuum International Publishing Group. ISBN 9780907628798. Retrieved 22 August 2010.  BE BOLD J8079s (talk) 02:16, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

I actually agree with Gun Powder Ma. The term "Middle Ages" strictly applies to Europe, and there already exists a separate Science in medieval Islam. Perhaps we could rename this article to "Science in medieval Europe"? Would that work? While I feel that a section on the influence of Islamic science on medieval European science is indeed necessary (perhaps at the beginning of the article?), that is quite different from having a fully developed Islamic section here. Not to mention that such a section is a content fork of Science in medieval Islam. So here's what I propose: Remove the current hopelessly Jaggedized version of the Islamic section, replace it with an "Islamic influence" section at the beginning of the article, and rename the article to "Science in Medieval Europe". Athenean (talk) 07:48, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

Replacement with a Islamic influence section is what is desirable but it should be placed between the early Middle Ages and the High Middle Ages which is where it belongs chronologically.That which distinguishes the High Middle Ages from the Early Middle Ages is the transmission of Islamic knowledge. As the Middle ages only took place in Europe I find your proposed title tautologous.Thony C. (talk) 08:09, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

To be clear as possible, this article should be renamed "Science in medieval Europe". Then we can remove (or move or whatever) those sections of science in Islam that aren't directly relevant to Europe.--Cúchullain t/c 14:10, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
An article named Science in Medieval Western Europe does exist; it was forked off from this article in April 2008 with the intention that it would handle the details and Science in the Middle Ages would be the generic summary article. The change never caught on and most of the editing remained in the more familiar Science in the Middle Ages. See the discussion above #What to do with "Science in Medieval Western Europe" which addresses this in greater detail. Comments there would be welcome.—Preceding unsigned comment added by SteveMcCluskey (talkcontribs) 17:56, 22 August 2010
So I see. Well, we certainly don't need two articles that cover the same thing, as they will if the Islam material is moved from this article, which seems to be the direction consensus is leaning. If we do that, simply adding "Europe" to the title will clear up any possible confusion over the scope.--Cúchullain t/c 20:32, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

The consensus is not leaning towards the removal of the Islamic material but towards rewriting it! In answer to Steve the Science in MWE article should simple be removed as it only contains duplicates of material contained here. J8079s the book you are planing on buying is a collection of Crombie's essays. Crombie is an excellent historian but you should be aware that he is pushing a personal agenda that is no longer accepted in mainstream history of science. Crombie is the strongest defender of the thesis that the Scientific Revolution took place in the High Middle Ages and not in the 17th century. Whilst his work helped to radically change the picture of science in the Middle Ages his central thesis is, as already said, not acceptedThony C. (talk) 21:00, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

Thorny, I don't see your point. If there was indeed "very little real science" in the early medieval period, then the article should say so, and do not try to 'remedy' this gap by lengthy digressions into foreign Islamic science. And when you argue that "50 and 80% of all the scientific activity" even of the later Middle Ages consisted of the reception of Arab science, then you seem to completely ignore that no less than 100% of early Islamic scientific activity originates in its Greek foundations. Still, I don't see Greek science dominating the article on Science in medieval Islam, do you?
If this is your only argument which addresses my two specific concerns, namely that 1. WP consensus is clearly that Middle Ages = European Christian Medieval World, and 2. there exists already a separate article for Science in medieval Islam which makes a duplication of contents here undesirable, I have to say, it is a rather weak counterargument, based on your personal reading of the history of medieval science. So could you address my two points again, please? Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:11, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
(after edit conflict)
A central issue in the discussions of medieval science (and particularly of early medieval science) is the extent to which a history of science should focus on scientific change, especially the revolutionary science described by Kuhn, and the extent to which it should focus on the other side of science, that "normal science" which he considered complementary to it. Once we turn away from a focus on scientific revolutions, we begin to see a hell of a lot of science going on in unexpected times and places. It's on that distinction that I'd disagree with claims that "very little real science" took place in the Middle Ages; understanding what continued to go on in the Early Middle Ages (as well as what was going on in the Later Middle Ages) is essential if we're going to have a valid history of Western Science.
Interestingly, it's because they buy into the commonly held assertion that nothing was going on in Western Europe in the Early Middle Ages that Jagged, et al. can make the claim that Islam was the sole source of Western European Science. See, for example, this piece at Muslim, especially Figs. 5a and 5b, where the author proposes to replace the non-existent (even negative) science of the "Dark Ages" with the positive achievements of Islam and (to a lesser extent, China and India). This very well matches an editorial agenda with which many of us are all too familiar.
Of course, I'm not saying that the Islamic contribution was non-existent, and any article on medieval science has to deal with that influence. But in the area with which I'm most familiar, the history of astronomy, in the eighth and early ninth centuries there was little difference between the level of Western European and Islamic astronomy. In the ninth century Islam took off, while Western Europe plodded along, only catching up in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. But the notion that nothing was going on in the West is the result of an equation of science with scientific change. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 21:51, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
@Thorny: That's what I meant; rewriting the material so that only stuff directly relevant to Europe is included. In any case, the agreement seems to be that the article should center on Europe; changing the title accordingly would make the scope clear.--Cúchullain t/c 21:56, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
@Steve: Well put. I think we're all too familiar with this kind of ideological turf war.--Cúchullain t/c 21:59, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
I decided to try to get some empirical data on whether Medieval studies excludes the Islamic world. The ideal place to go was the catalog of the 1500+ papers offered at the 2010 International Congress on Medieval Studies, known generally as the Kalamazoo meeting. At first glance, the papers are overwhelmingly European, extending from the medieval Rus to Iberia, from Ireland to the Crusader states. In two of those, we're at the borders of the Islamic world.
A search for relevant strings: Arab, Islam, Muslim turned up a small number of papers devoted to things like Session 178 consisting of four papers on "Medieval Muslim Women"; A paper on Persian manuscript painting in Session 55 on "Feminist Approaches to Medieval Art: Islam, Byzantium, and the West"; two papers on "New Perspectives on Medieval Islamic Studies, I & II" in session 516 on "The State of the Arts in Medieval Studies." I won't go into the papers on Western perceptions of and interactions with the Islamic world that also appear in the program.
The picture seems to be that professional medievalists do not pay a lot of attention to the Islamic world, but neither do they exclude it from consideration. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:09, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
Once you get to the crusading world, Islam is definitely part of the Middle Ages. You can peruse this year's Crusade Symposium papers; they are still largely European, but there is a bit more study of Muslim Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East as far east as Persia. Medievalists largely pay attention to whatever are they studied, of course...I don't know anything about the Norse or Irish world, but I bet most of the participants at Norsestock don't know much about the crusader states either. Adam Bishop (talk) 15:34, 23 August 2010 (UTC)

Article name[edit]

There have been suggestions, by Athenean and Cúchullain, to rename the article "Science in medieval Europe" to sufficiently distinguish its scope and contents from, inter alia, Science in medieval Islam. Why don't we just rename it to Medieval science? This is also the naming scheme for almost all the other articles in the Middle Ages series:

the only exception being Slavery in medieval Europe. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:35, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

The difference between this article and those, most of which aren't very good, is that in this case there is a debate over the scope of the article. If we're actually going to confine the scope to Europe, and deal with Islam only as it affects Europe, then adding "Europe" to the title makes the scope clear in a way that "Science in the Middle Ages" simply does not.--Cúchullain t/c 21:48, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
Another relevant point is that the History of Science sidebar divides science chronologically and, at present, has only one main article for medieval science. The sidebar currently lists no separate articles for Islamic, Chinese, and Indian science. I've submitted a proposal to change that, but it reflects a fairly standard perception in the History of Science community. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 21:58, 22 August 2010 (UTC)

Steve, this may be a point indeed. A typical example where two organization principles, that of the medieval series and that of the history of science series, intersect and and come into conflict with one another.
Cúchullain, a bit too procedural for my taste: obviously, all arguments forwarded here for and against the identification of "medieval" also apply just as fully to the articles listed above. Still the "medieval" has not been found to be contentious by the community in any of these twelve articles. Therefore it is very hard to see why this should be the case all of a sudden with the science article alone. Either the naming scheme works for all articles or for none. Note that I do not feel very strongly about a name change, I am just trying to bring in more consistency in the naming scheme. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:27, 22 August 2010 (UTC)
Obviously it's something that would affect other articles, this is just the first article where disagreement of the scope has come up. And I'm willing to bet it will come up again, as Europe does not totally corner the market on the term "medieval" or even "Middle Ages". It is fairly common for sources to refer to "medieval Islam", and even to "medieval India" (especially in terms of the Islamic conquest of India).--Cúchullain t/c 15:19, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
My bad, it appears that the issue of the inclusion of non-European material has occurred at some of the other articles as well, including medieval philosophy and medieval art. --Cúchullain t/c 15:35, 23 August 2010 (UTC)
(undent) Comment: I'll just state this and withdraw from the conversation (I don't feel like getting into another battle). There is a larger issue here than just this article and I agree that this article should be consistent with other articles related to Medieval studes. But we need to bear in mind that the origin of using the term medieval to refer primarily to Europe is rooted in the old prejudicial notion that the only important things in human history occurred in Europe. We now know obviously that this is not true. Though medieval is primarily more often than not used to refer to Europe, this use is not universal today (some authors even go so far as to discuss China in the "Middle Ages"). I would advocate Wikipedia's trying to steer away from the controversial use of period terms to define geographies. That is to say, unless a period term explicitly indicates a geography (e.g. Vedic period or Ming dynasty as suggested above), or that period term is almost universally used to refer to a well-defined geography, we should not assume such terms refer to any specific geography. Either we should add the geography to the title along with that period term or we should use different terminology altogether. In the case of medieval and Middle Ages I think it is just as easy to say medieval Europe and Europe in the Middle Ages. --Mcorazao (talk) 15:15, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
If the term Middle Ages would apply just as fully to, say, India and China, the question immediately rises 'middle between what'? For Europe and the Med one say say 'middle in between antiquity and the modern age', but what does Middle Ages mean in a Chinese context? In between Tang and Ming dynasties? In an Indian context? Middle between Gupta and Moghul dynasties? The term rapidly loses its meaning if applied to these world regions. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 18:41, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
It is precisely to avoid this sort of argument over and over that I propose the article be renamed to "Science in Medieval Europe" or something like that. Unless the word "Europe" is included, we will continuously get complaints of the type "What about India and China", "The article is Eurocentric", "The article does not present a worldview" and so on and so forth ad infinitum. If the word Europe is included, we can all go about our business. Athenean (talk) 19:29, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
Quite so. The terms are well established at least in Islamic and Indian studies, whether or not it seems to make logical sense. The term isn't really all that sensible in the European sense either; there is no firm date when Antiquity ended and the Middle Ages began, or when the Middle Ages ended and the modern era began. "Medieval Islam" is generally used as in Europe. I have a book on my shelf, J. J. Saunders History of Medieval Islam, which covers roughly the era from the time of Muhammad to the fall of Baghdad in the 13th century. Gustave E. von Grunebaum's Medieval Islam discusses the period between the rise of Islam and the "close of the Middle Ages". What constitutes "Medieval India" is also much discussed.--Cúchullain t/c 19:43, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
I agree with the proposal to rename this article to "Science in Medieval Europe", which would address some of the arguments over scope discussed here. Dialectric (talk) 19:47, 25 August 2010 (UTC)
Sounds like a consensus is developing around Science in Medieval Europe. Is the implication that the fork, Science in Medieval Western Europe should be deleted? Since it's a less current version of the same article, I'd say delete it. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 23:51, 25 August 2010 (UTC)

I wont oppose a renaming although I find it superfluousThony C. (talk) 06:22, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

I think we should be wary of excluding Islamic influences (including those of science) from Europe at any time in history following the expansion of Islam, including the Middle ages. It is not appropriate to just quarantine part of the world especially along religious or ethnic lines when looking at either the history of science in Europe, or the history of science in the Middle ages. It must be considered that Islam had great influence over many parts of the European land mass during the Middle ages in Europe. Parts of Europe both in the south and the north were under very strong Islamic influence and control during the Middle ages. Science in Medieval Europe cannot exclude Islamic influence when large parts of Europe were at times part of a wider 'Islamic empire' during those times.
Possibly there exists a desire to view Islam as being non-european and seeing Europe as a place of Christianity. It must not be overlooked that in a European context both Christianity and Islam are imports from the Middle east. It must also be considered that 'science' does not just thrive solely in religious or ethnic compartments. Influences and knowledge can be transported or leak across religious, political, ethnic and national borders including those of a greater empire be it Christian, Muslim or and other. Indeed this debate itself underlines some of the contemporary issues that face majority Christian communities in Europe. There appears to be a reluctance to accept Islam as having a place in Europe, indeed to view it as foreign. This mindset can give rise to a paradigm where it is not considered appropriate by some to acknowledge the considerable Islamic influence in European history. It appears in reading some articles on WP that there is a conscious or maybe it is a sub-conscious effort by some editors to 'exclude' Islamic influences and history from European history other than to view them as 'the other' who invaded but were driven off. This may in part explain the considerable exuberance that some other WP editors apply to according Islam a place in European history. In the case of this article there is a clear need for the influences of the Islamic world to be considered when offering explanation of 'Science in the Middle ages' whether it be in a European or a Global context.
Surely if this is an article on "Science in the Middle Ages" then it should be about 'science' not religion. Scientific discovery, influences and development in the Middle ages needs to be properly attributed to those who contributed to it in spite of their religion not because of their religion. However if religious influences or movements gave rise to scientific discovery or the support of science as a discipline then that also needs to be defined and properly described along with defining the disciplines, the achievements and the scientific movements that arose from this. If we are to define the Middle ages as "European" it is still not appropriate to exclude Islam from this as Islam was an integral part of scientific discover and development in Medieval Europe (a period of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century).
If this article is heading in the direction of supporting old prejudicial notions that the only important things in human history occurred in Europe and that Europe was and is a Christian realm then that notion has no place in an encyclopaedic article other than one discussing that issue itself. It is apparent this matter was not entirely settled during the Crusades and some issues are lingering on with some people. It may be more appropriate for the motivations and lingering issues behind these views and issues to be expressed on one of the many blogs and internet forums that enthusiastically discuss such matters. Equally If scholars of Islam wish to appropriate science and write it up as an Islamic event then they also need to think harder.
The contributions of Islamic scholars and scientists are often ignored or sidelined in both the English speaking and the modern European world and this may explain the level of enthusiasm shown by some to reinstate the record of Islamic influences in the 'western' historical record. This article is very messy in it's current form. The article has lost it's way and certainly needs a massive re-stucture. The Islamic world section is overbearing in the article and the content needs to be refocussed on the topic of Science in the Middle Ages and more appropriately re-incorported into the body of the article. We do need to include Islamic civilization and empire in describing Science in the Middle Ages, regardless of any consideration of the Middle Ages being defined as European or otherwise.
  • For example if we present Astronomy and mathematics the section should discuss that subject and include the contributions of science from all quarters including Islamic scholars, links to Main articles: Islamic astronomy and Islamic mathematics, See also: Maragheh observatory would then be included in the text to properly elaborate on the contribution from these quarters. Renaming to Medieval science does not adequately refocus the article on scientific discovery in Christian Europe in the middle ages if that is the aim here, as Medieval science of Christain Europe is unquestionably influenced by Islamic civilisation and empire of the era.
Renaming the article will not fix the problem, the article needs to be re-formatted and re-structured and the content better applied using WP links to describe things in more detail when appropriate.
Maybe we just have to accept that Islam has a place in the historical record of Europe and get on with it.
As with Pizza, if you look into it sometimes what you are biting into has a history from other quarters of the world than that to which it is most commonly attributed (in that case very likely Persia and most certainly predates both Islam and Christianity in an era when Sun gods and Moon gods shared the stage with quite a few other alternatives).
  • Accordingly I do not support a re-name. Felix505 (talk) 07:27, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
I would fully agree with you, if we were going to actually discuss Islam fully in the article. However it appears we are only going to include Islamic material as it directly relates to Europe. If we're going to focus specifically on Europe, we need to say so in the title.--Cúchullain t/c 19:30, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Indeed if what is being sought in the article is a 'Eurpoean' focus then it does need to have that described in the name. Then indeed we are only going to need to include Islamic material as it directly relates to Europe, at that time ( the middle ages). That may then assist, certainly it is a bit messy in it's present form. Felix505 (talk) 20:52, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

Ballot box[edit]

I think it is apparent that we need a more transparent mechanism to bring the discussion to a conclusion, since there are not just one, but several things which need to be determined and they all are interrelated. So to untie the Gordian Knot I have set up this ballot box. Basis for your judgement should be this version. Please use only these five options which should cover all positions so far forwarded:

  • Keep
  • Keep as far it directly relates to Medieval/(Western) European/Catholic science
  • If kept, complete rewrite
  • Delete
  • Merge

I'd propose we keep the vote open for one week and then we see where the vote has taken us. I am going to notify all users who have participated in the discussion so far to give them the opportunity to explicate their position.

Current material on science in medieval Western/Latin Europe Byzantine science Islamic science Indian science Chinese science Science in Medieval Western Europe Name proposal Sign
Keep Keep as far it directly relates to Medieval/(Western) European/Catholic science; Keep; If kept, complete rewrite Keep as far it directly relates to Medieval/(Western) European/Catholic science; If kept, complete rewrite Delete Delete Merge Medieval science Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:24, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Keep Keep; If kept, complete rewrite Keep as far it directly relates to Medieval/(Western) European/Catholic science; If kept, complete rewrite Delete Delete Merge Science in medieval Europe Athenean (talk) 20:29, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Keep Keep Keep If kept, complete rewrite Delete Delete Merge Mediaeval Science Thony C. (talk) 20:50, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Keep, with rename to Science in Medieval Europe Keep, with rename. There is no justification for excluding Byzantine science in an article titled "science in the Middle Ages" or "science in Medieval Europe". Improvement is obviously to be encouraged. I'm okay with excluding this, but only with a rename to clarify the scope. Exclude with rename. Exclude. Merge Science in Medieval Europe or Medieval European science Cúchullain t/c 20:58, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Keep Keep; If kept, complete rewrite Keep as far it directly relates to Medieval/(Western) European/Catholic science Delete Delete Merge Science in medieval Europe Knight1993 (talk) 21:29, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Rename to Science in Medieval Europe Keep with rewrite Merge with Science in m(M)edieval Islam Merge with another existing or new article Merge with history of Science and Technology in China Merge Science in Medieval Europe Philg88contact 20:09, December 27, 2014 UTC (purge)
Keep as Science in the Middle Ages Keep with rewrite Keep with extensive rewrite Delete Delete Delete / Merge any remaining material not in SMA Science in the Middle Ages (per HoS Style) or Medieval Science (per Medieval style) SteveMcCluskey (talk) 23:21, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Science in the Middle Ages #Medieval European science
/(Western) European/Catholic science
Science in the Middle Ages #Byzantine science
Keep with rewrite
Science in the Middle Ages #Islamic science
Keep with rewrite
Science in the Middle Ages #Indian science
Keep/re-instate with rewrite
Science in the Middle Ages #Chinese science
Keep/re-instate with rewrite
Science in Mediaeval Western Europe
Merge with #Medieval European science
Science in the Middle Ages Felix505 (talk) 12:04, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
Keep as an article about worldwide science (revert the removal of science in eastern Asia); perhaps rename to "History of Science (500 CE - 1500 CE)" or some similar timeframe. Keep Keep Keep Keep Keep Existing name ok but may be preferable to rename to something like "History of Science (500 CE - 1500 CE)" or some similar timeframe. Mcorazao (talk) 14:48, 1 September 2010 (UTC)
Keep: 9 (Gun Powder Ma, Athenean, Thony C., Cúchullain t/c, Knight1993, Philg88, SteveMcCluskey, Felix505, Mcorazao) Keep: 9 (Gun Powder Ma, Athenean, Thony C., Cúchullain t/c, Knight1993, Philg88, SteveMcCluskey, Felix505, Mcorazao), with (complete) rewrite: 7 (Gun Powder Ma, Athenean, Cúchullain t/c, Knight1993, Philg88, SteveMcCluskey, Felix505) Keep: 4 (Thony C., SteveMcCluskey, Felix505, Mcorazao);
Keep as far it directly relates to medieval European science: 3 (Gun Powder Ma, Athenean, Knight1993);
Delete: 2 (Cúchullain t/c [on condition of article rename], Philg88);
If kept, (complete) rewrite: 5 (Gun Powder Ma, Athenean, Thony C., SteveMcCluskey, Felix505)
Delete: 7 (Gun Powder Ma, Athenean, Thony C., Cúchullain t/c, Knight1993, Philg88, SteveMcCluskey);
Keep: 2 (Felix505, Mcorazao), with rewrite (Felix505)
Delete: 7 (Gun Powder Ma, Athenean, Thony C., Cúchullain t/c, Knight1993, Philg88 [material already in Chinese science), SteveMcCluskey);
Keep: 2 (Felix505, Mcorazao), with rewrite (Felix505)
Merge: 7 (Gun Powder Ma, Athenean, Thony C., Cúchullain t/c, Knight1993, Philg88, SteveMcCluskey);
Keep: 2 (Felix505, Mcorazao)
Science in medieval Europe: 4 (Athenean, Cúchullain t/c [2nd proposal semantically identical], Knight1993, Philg88);
Medieval/Mediaeval science: 2,5 (Gun Powder Ma, Thony C., SteveMcCluskey [0,5]);
Science in the Middle Ages: 2,5 (SteveMcCluskey [0,5], Felix505, Mcorazao)
Gun Powder Ma (talk) 23:06, 2 September 2010 (UTC)
Keep Keep; If kept, complete rewrite Keep Delete Delete Merge Medieval Science --Anneyh (talk) 20:04, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

Brief rationale[edit]

Gun Powder Ma: Medieval Europe deserves a science article of its own and Science in the Middle Ages is the right place to be for it: The main Wikipedia article defines the Middle Ages as "a period of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century". This scope is also fully reflected in the series of medieval articles, which this article belongs to, and which exclusively deal with (Western) European history. As it stands, Chinese science, Indian science and Islamic science all have long an article of their own. So medieval European science also needs and must have one of its own which it does not need to share with other scientific traditions. The influence of Byzantine and Islamic learning needs to be included, but it should not overgrow genuine medieval contents, since we already have three separate articles dealing with the cross-exchange and transmission between these regions: here, here and here. Time to give medieval European science a place of its own on Wikipedia. If kept, the Islamic section would require a complete rewrite due to being tainted beyond repair. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:24, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

First, brilliant idea about the ballot box. Only two disagreements. The Byzantine Empire is generally considered "European", and the characterization of "medieval" clearly applies, as it occupies a place between antiquity and the Renaissance. I also insist on including "Europe" in the title, if only so as to avoid endless complaints of the type "what about India and China", "the article is too Eurocentric", etc, of which I can guarantee we will get an endless stream of if it is not made clear in the title that the article pertains to Europe. Athenean (talk) 20:34, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Agreed. However, I would still insist on a rewrite, since the article currently reduces the Byzantine role to a mere transmitter of ideas between East and West; but modern scholarship has long moved beyond this point and is today much more willing to treat Byzantine science on its own terms. The article should try to reflect this. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 20:42, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Sounds good, I look forward to contributing a few things. Athenean (talk) 20:47, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
Observation: Though I applaud trying gather opinions I believe that the way this question is structured is a straw man. The title of Science in the Middle Ages has been renamed in the table in such a way as to explicitly declare that there is overlap (rather like phrasing a question on civil rights legislation "Do you think bad ethnic groups should be kept away from good ethnic groups?"). This article currently covers science worldwide from roughly the mid 1st millenium to roughly the mid 2nd millenium (emphasis on roughly). I realize that there has been some stripping of content lately but that's a separate matter. The point here is whether a worldwide article is appropriate or not. That should be reflected in the table.
--Mcorazao (talk) 20:49, 26 August 2010 (UTC)
It is - indirectly: Vote keep for all regions, give your name proposal and decline the merge, and this article factually becomes a global article. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 21:33, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

I have taken part in your vote but I must loudly and clearly protest that your inclusion of the expression "Catholic science" is totally and utterly ridiculous as there is and never was any such thingThony C. (talk) 20:55, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

Cuchullain: From what I can tell of the above discussion, the consensus seems to be that medieval Europe deserves its own science article. I am okay with that, but it should not have the title "Science in the Middle Ages". As I have argued, the terms "medieval" and "Middle Ages" are well established at least in the fields of Islamic and Indian studies. In Islamic studies it is very well established; see for example J. J. Saunders' History of Medieval Islam and Gustave Grunebaum's Medieval Islam In Indian studies, a quick search revealed this book published by Oxford, Brajadulal Chattopadhyaya's The Making of Early Medieval India, and many others. Simply adding "Europe" to the title clarifies the intended scope of the article and keeps us from usurping a widespread term for a particular region. As another note, there is no justification for excluding Byzantine science from any discussion of "medieval" or "medieval European" science". If it were to be excluded the article would need a different name.--Cúchullain t/c 21:00, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

Knight1993: I welcome the idea of giving medieval Europe an articleof its own, because the current article gives the readers the impression that both western european and bizantine science were a simple extension of the islamic science. As for the name "catholic science", I think it´s as ridiculous as "islamic science", but wikipedia should not have double standards. If we have an "islamic science" article, we could technically have any religion-science article. But returning to the main topic, I also believe that the influence of islamic and be restricted, and not given half of the article.--Knight1993 (talk) 21:45, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

SteveMcCluskey: Medieval science is clearly defined as an achievement of three cultures: the Latin West, The Greek and Byzantine East, and the Arabic / Islamic Mediterranean realm (including Spain, Sicily, North Africa, and the Near East). (In passing, this endorses Thony's comment; it's the Latin, not Catholic West). Because it is a broad cultural and geographical process, I oppose the title of Medieval European science. Such a fork will lead to the writing of two poor articles instead of one good one.--SteveMcCluskey (talk) 23:24, 26 August 2010 (UTC)

A voice of sanityThony C. (talk) 06:24, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
As a note, I would actually prefer this measure. My above vote is based on what I presumed to be a developing consensus to focus the article on Europe.--Cúchullain t/c 15:40, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Question. With this scheme, what happens to the article Science in medieval Islam? Spacepotato (talk) 20:47, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
My suggestion is that the relevant material from here is merged with the renamed Science in Medieval Islam. Philg88contact {time}}
My question was directed towards SteveMcCluskey's scheme, in which the scope of this article is taken to include the Islamic world. Spacepotato (talk) 21:44, 27 August 2010 (UTC)
Sorry, I misunderstood the question but I would point out that the Islamic world (mostly) wasn't and still isn't in Europe. Philg88contact 20:09, December 27, 2014 UTC (purge)
Good question. As I conceived it, the articles on Science in medieval Islam and Byzantine science would continue to exist under their existing titles, although after the editing that is generally agreed upon, those aspects of those subjects that contributed to the more general development of Western science would be included in Science in the Middle Ages. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 00:02, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
This is also my take on the subject Thony C. (talk) 06:07, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
Science.The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.
Religion. The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.
Possibly part of the problem here is that some are seeking to ascribe or credit science to one of the religions. Indeed some may say that science is an outcome of the challenge to religious principals and dogma, hence arises a contradiction. We need only look at contentious issues such as creationism to find any easy point of conflict. Science essentially challenges religion and some might argue that science is a 'religion' of sorts in itself, at least in so much that it becomes a belief system for many. The rationality of science however is somewhat unforgiving of spiritualism and notions of superhuman controlling powers. Some would argue that science creates it's own replacements for the dogmas of religion in order to satisfy the needs of its followers and partitioners. Science has certainly managed to both execute and nourish many paradigms and dogmas. Possibly this places science well within the realm and scope of being a religion for some practitioners.
Science can effect a religious movement, as for example the uncomfortable acceptance by many Christians that the existence of fossils challenges the biblical notions of creation. Science may effect religions and challenge religious and spiritualistic interpretations of the world. The notion that Science can be attributed to a religious period, a religious movement or indeed to make assertions that medieval science is Catholic or Islamic stretches this concept very thin. It is inappropriate to try and partition science on nationalistic, geographic, religious borders. Proximity, the religious beliefs and nationality of individuals and groups clearly effect the emergence of thinking and scholarship but I think we are on thin ice if we try to execute a compartmentation of the history of science in this way. The borders of science are porous and as humans and their ideas move around they carry and project their knowledge and beliefs making science an amalgam of many influences and cultures. Are antibiotics Catholic? No, but the Pope is.
I note that sometimes people make assertions that many of the achievements made in the Islamic world not being made by persons of Muslim faith or observances, The inference is that the discoveries are therfore not attributable to an Islamic society as they were not performed by Muslims. These critics somehow miss the point that as these were non-Muslims whose scientific endeavour apparently flourished and so it illustrates that the surrounding Muslim society was supportive of enquiry, enlightenment and discovery. Strangely this is put forward to diminish the achievements of the Islamic world rather than to underline it's successes. In a contemporary context that is like saying a Muslim goes to a western country and in their life achieve great things, then that is an achievement of the western world. Yet if a westerner goes to the Muslim dominated east and does great things that also is seen a western achievement. Something is out of whack here and we must strive as editors to resist this sort cultural tunnel vision and cultural bias.
It seems religion often resists science but when it is time to describe the achievements of science there is a rush to claim those achievements upon religious. nationalistic and ethnic grounds. Science in medieval Europe did not exist in a vacuum, was influenced from outside Europe and its in turn influenced those outside Europe. People get too caught up trying to quantify this, it is far too elusive and subjective a concept to quantify, maybe it is just best to document the influences so that the article remains an objective vehicle. If Islamic, Byzantine, Latin or other influences are ignored it just becomes an exercise of myopia. If some seek to exclude the influences from the Islamic world it must not be forgotten that the 'empire' of Islam extended well into Europe at times. Islam is very much part of the European historical experience. Europe was not contained in a jar. Science in the Middle Ages offers the opportunity to discuss Science itself rather than the culture that a particular movement or ideas arose from. In having an article with a wider scope we hopefully have the opportunity to present the Science of this time. The Islamic world, the Catholic world, the wider Christian world and the Land of Nod all made contributions to science. As to trying to compartment Europe and exclude Indian Chinese, Greek, Byzantine, Islamic influences it will make for an contentious and flawed article. As to the rise of Europe I somehow think that things would have had a different outcome had the compass and gunpowder not found its way to Europe from China. It is like providing a date that China was "discovered", I would think that the people living there had already established a claim on "discovery". This notion of 'discovery' is similar to our problem here, difficulties arise when it is attempted to claim 'ownership' of something. So I vote that the article should be re-structured and re-written in an objective, neutral and unbiased manner to describe Science in the middle ages. Felix505 (talk) 11:38, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
Felix505, I agree with you in many aspects. However, I must remind you that nobody is trying to take credit away from other civilisations here, we are just put things in its right place. We should give each culture the credit it deserves, no more, no less. Thanks to efforts of some editor, the present situation gives Islam much more credit than it deserves. We are just trying to fix that. As you say, Europe was not isolated from the rest of the world, and islamic influences were undoubtedly the most important foreign influences in Europe (because of the geographical proximity to asia and north africa, and the presence of islam in some european territories). But the opposite is just as true, and this article doesn´t mention that. We have entire articles dedicated to islamic contributions to europe in the middle ages, but we don´t have an article concerning european contributions to medieval islam, nor to the modern western contributions to the islamic world, which are countless and, I would dare to say, the most important. And the important influences of greek science in islamic science just receive a brief mention. This is not my idea of fairness.--Knight1993 (talk) 18:35, 28 August 2010 (UTC)
Knight1993. I think you summed that up quite well. There is a lot of work to be done if reasonable balance and true impartiality is to be introduced. Makes my head spinFelix505 (talk) 04:02, 29 August 2010 (UTC)
Felix505, your current position, if I understand it correctly, is that while Islamic science, Chinese science and Indian science will all continue to have an article of its own, medieval European science should be alone in giving up its own (by being merged with Science in the Middle Ages). Everybody is entitled to his opinion, but I'd find such a move thorougly inconsistent. Regards Gun Powder Ma (talk) 10:40, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
For once I agree with GPM. I have a very strong feeling that Felix had read neither the debate here nor the relevant Wikipedia articles before launching his diatribe!Thony C. (talk) 13:41, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
[GPM & Thony C.] I assure you I did read the debate above and the articles concerned but I did not delve into the histories as I got the general drift of what had been going on by seeing the outcomes in the current Science in the Middle Ages article. I do not recall suggesting that [Medieval European science] should be done away with. If you look carefully at my response section of the table above you will note I use the 'hash' or 'pound' to define those as sections of the Science in the Middle Ages article. I have suggested that each of these has a section to itself to describe what contribution and role it had under the umbrella of Science of the Middle Ages. I am suggesting a merge of the content to make up a robust section of the rebuilt Science in the Middle Ages article, hence there being ready available content to do this with. Having done that there should be sufficient scope for a stand alone article on Medieval European Science. That article would then focus on Medieval European Science alone and the influence from other regions, peoples, societies or religious persuasions should really only have a look in where clear cross over influences of other regions direct contributions or shared relationships existed. This would hopefully assist in alleviating the current course which seems to be a little imbalanced to say the least.
  • If the question was asked, do I ALSO support an article specifically on Medieval European Science? Then yes, I would whole heatedly support it's existence as long as there is still sufficient content for it..
My apologies I thought this particular discussion was about the Science in the Middle Ages article. If a seperate enquiry is to be raised on this discussion page about the merits of a Medieval European Science article it is probably going to get a bit confusing, however if that is what is happening now then I am happy to state that I would support it whole heartedly. Medieval Europe had plenty of significant contributions to the time and even if it did not that itself would be good cause for an article anyway. So GPM I guess you did not understand my position correctly. I think thatt --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 00:02, 28 August-- probably summed it up reasonably well, as did --Knight1993 (talk) 21:45, 26 August--. I hope that clears up any misunderstandings Felix505 (talk) 23:34, 30 August 2010 (UTC)

Anneyh: I don't like too much the wording Medieval Europe. The contact between islam and christanity is not only a crusade question, for Spain it was just a (moving) reality during the period! The communication with the Indian and Chinese worlds mostly happened after 1500, so it makes sense to exclude those to me. --Anneyh (talk) 20:04, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

Sorry, but vote is closed (see explicit hidden comment). Gun Powder Ma (talk) 22:06, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

On vote[edit]

It is clear there are three sets of vote:

  1. Those who voted keep for medieval European and Byzantine science, keep Islamic science as far as it directly to medieval European science (or remove it altogether) and delete the rest (5: Gun Powder Ma, Athenean, Knight1993, Cúchullain t/c, Philg88)
  2. Those who voted keep for medieval European and Byzantine science, keep Islamic science and delete the rest (2: Thony C., SteveMcCluskey)
  3. Keep all, effectively advocating an article on worldwide science in the MA (2: Felix505, Mcorazao)

The question now appears to me: do we interpret the vote by column or by vote block? Regards Gun Powder Ma (talk) 23:15, 2 September 2010 (UTC)

I find your précis as far as it relates to the views of Steve McCluskey and myself somewhat inaccurate. Both of us emphasized that the section on Islamic science must be completely rewritten and if you read the discussion that preceded the vote that we both laid emphasis on the fact that this section should reflect the influence of Islamic science on the development of European science. Having said that as far as I can see the vote is totally conclusive and produces the same result whether you interpret it by column or blockThony C. (talk) 15:48, 6 September 2010 (UTC)

I have been away from Wikipedia, but decided to do some edits during my vacation. Although I came back too late for voting, I quite like the results. BTW, for what it's worth, I favor "medieval science" as the name of the article. --Leinad-Z (talk) 05:18, 17 December 2010 (UTC)
To be frank, I am a bit disappointed about the way the vote turned to nothing. This was one of the fairest and most elaborate votes I've seen on Wiki and yet there was disagreement on how the result has to interpreted. Now the Islamic section has been kept, even though only 4 out of 9 voted for keep and this group (2. and 3.) could not even agree otherwise about the general scope of the article. I am going to notify all voters then for another attempt to solve this. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 01:28, 6 March 2011 (UTC)
Hi everyone. In my opinion, the islamic material is to be completely rewritten with a neutral point of view. The voting is clear to me. The article about medieval european science should be called " science in the middle ages", and this should include the byzantines.
The article about medieval "islamic science" should be cleaned, written to reflect actual achievments of "islamic science", and not trying to prove "muslims did it before Europe/christians" claims. This is not the mission of Wikipedia.
Also, articles likeIslamic contributions to Medieval Europe ( which has some scientific material) should be eliminated, or (less likely) rewritten and balanced with articles like Medieval european contributions to the Islamic world and Greek and Roman contributions to the Islamic world.--Knight1993 (talk) 17:15, 9 March 2011 (UTC)
I'm withdrawn from involvement in this article but I'll just offer a general observation which applies to a lot of what goes on in WP:
A lot of what's gone on in the various iterations of this article seems to have less than honorable motivations. I used to spend a lot of time hoping to do my part in helping to make Wikipedia better in this regard. But it is disturbing to watch progress be reversed so easily. The development of science and mathematics in the Middle Ages is a good example of a topic which is grossly misunderstood by many of us in the "West" and represents an opportunity for Wikipedia to educate. Alas, it seems that won't happen ...
--Mcorazao (talk) 21:26, 18 March 2011 (UTC)

Science and Islam[edit]

I am a little reluctant to weigh in again but I feel I should give a bit of support to the assertions above. The Islamic section needs to be placed more into a context appropriate to the article concerned. If it is to be a account of Science in the Middle Ages then it should deliver a succinct record of the Islamic influences and contributions to the era as well as those of European and other derivation. If it is a study of European Science then it still requires not just an account of that arising solely from the Islamic presence in the European sphere but also a succinct account of that of the more distant Middle eastern domain. However it only needs to account for it, not fully describe it and as such the existing (Islamic world) section content is a little overbearing.
Much as it seems the scope of the article is still being hashed out possibly part of the problem is there has been a lot of content poured into the article that relates solely to the influences of the Islamic aspect of the Science of the Middle Ages. Due to the weight of that content it somewhat skews the article. For that reason the Islamic content needs a refocus so it is in context with a wider and more generalised theme if we are to pursue a goal of a more generic article describing Science in the Middle Ages. Maybe some of that (Islamic influence) content needs to move elsewhere. I see it is noted in the body of the article that the (Islamic) content repeats that available in other articles. Maybe we need to link more and describe less in regard to that Islamic content without diminishing the significance or content of the contribution of the Islamic world to the evolution of Science. The Science in the Middle Ages article can surely be provided with suitable article links to some of the bulk and detail of Islamic historical content elsewhere in articles more suitably focused on that aspect of things and where it is therefore more appropriate to give a fuller and more detailed account. Most certainly there are good reasons to include a body of detail on the significance of the Islamic sciences of the era in an account of Science in the Middle Ages but likewise I think we must be wary of allowing the article to lose it's way in delivering a well rounded account of all of the different contributions from a varied number of separate, interacting and overlapping quarters. When I first read the article what jumped out to me was that the article seemed disjointed. The section describing the Islamic world does not appear to be looking at the Science in the Middle Ages in a holistic or generic manner. Rather it lists off a large body of achievements arising from that quarter almost as though they were occurring in a vacuum and I do not think the historic evidence supports the 'vacuum' approach to things. Forgive my simplistic analysis but if I look for a mention of European interaction or influence upon the section below the heading "Islamic world" I find none. I think this is more a matter of the way that section is written than anything. Conversely if I look for record of Islamic influence upon the wider realm of the account of Science in the Middle Ages in the section of the article above the heading "Islamic world" I find plenty of references to Muslim scholars and scientists and the Islamic world. I question the appropriateness or value of describing the achievements of the Islamic world as though they occurred without a degree of both historic and contemporary influences from other quarters prevailing upon the thinking and developments of those Islamic scholars of the era. Frankly I think that sort of account does them a great injustice, surely their view at the time was not so myopic or so self referential. The content contained in the Islamic world section needs to be better integrated into a more generic historic appraisal of the era. It almost feels like it is a different article attached as an append to the main article. Further to this I feel that the Islamic section dwells too much upon religious attribution rather than scientific achievement. This is after all an article on science, not a study of religious influences. As I mentioned in an earlier comment here, the evolution of science is often in spite of the background and dominant social forces such as religious dogma. Creationism vs Evolution stands as an easy example of this. Islam has it's own creationism battles and other dogmatic beliefs that can counter scientific enquiry and discovery just as does Christianity. So why so much focus on the respective religion of the Islamic scholars and scientists, thankfully the article is not listing off a scorecard for Christian scientist of the era. Maybe we should refocus more on the science and the scientists and worry less about who they prayed to. Hence my comment that the article is disjointed. I quote from Thony C. "this section should reflect the influence of Islamic science on the development of European science", however I think all the contributing influences need a review in order to deliver an outcome that defines Science in the Middle Ages as that is something that did not arise from solely the European nor just the Islamic world alone, rather it should be a sum of all of the prevailing influences of the time toward the global evolution of the science of the era. Unless we do that the article has the wrong name. Felix505 (talk) 16:46, 7 October 2010 (UTC)
It is not helpful to bring in the Nineteenth-century stereotype of the warfare of science and religion. It is especially inappropriate in an article on science in the middle ages, for in the middle ages science was frequently conducted within, and supported by, religious institutions. This applies in both Western Europe and the Islamic world.
On the other hand, it is correct that making the article a catalog of achievements in order to give different cultures their gold and silver medals moves in the wrong direction.
Good history of science discusses the ways that science develops in specific historical contexts and the various cultural and institutional factors that contributed to that development. Thus, for example, the factors that contributed to the development of science in the Abbasid Dynasty differ from those that contributed to its contemporary development in the Carolingian Renaissance. --SteveMcCluskey (talk) 15:55, 8 October 2010 (UTC)
SteveMcCluskey (talk) your point is taken and I appreciate the referral to Conflict thesis as I was unaware of the article and enjoyed reading it. I did not mention the obvious issue of the patronage of religious institutions as I assumed it was a foregone conclusion. However you have said it yourself "frequently" and I must underline that frequently is not the same as always. Scientific breakthrough or development often challenges a paradigm and the most likely source of that locked up thought process is religious doctrine and 'existing' science. Just because it became popular to question it in the 19C does not mean it was not happening in the middle ages and indeed well prior to that. My personal view is that it is part an parcel of the human condition. That I give reference to what you appraise as a 19C argument possibly arising from my reference to creationism does not at any stretch of the imagination suggest that that I am trying to define the issue using a 19C context. If you wish wind the clock back further then we will find the dispute of sun god or moon god seems to be underpinning most of the stand out issues of contention in this article. Indeed that pretty basic animist precept is still being argued over in this article. Was it the people of the Moon god or the people of the Sun god that were the smartest people of the day. The same silly business is still grinding on and no doubt will continue for as long as humans remain on the planet to see both the sun and the moon rise over the horizon. I think your comment has made an important point or at least expressed it very succinctly, "the ways that science develops in specific historical contexts and the various cultural and institutional factors that contributed to that development". Indeed this is how religion should be dealt with in this article. The respective religious social and political contexts may have facilitated, obstructed, endorsed or denounced, but how, why, where and when is of far more interest than a scorecard of somewhat questionable value and difficult quantification.Felix505 (talk) 12:35, 9 October 2010 (UTC)

Eurocentric bias[edit]

"During the High Middle Ages, however, the West had begun to reorganize itself and was on its way to taking again the lead in scientific discovery."

I changed it to:

"During the High Middle Ages, however, the West had begun to reorganize itself and was on its way to become advanced again."

You can change it to something else, but don't revert this change back because:

1. Europe never had a "lead on scientific discovery" untill the 16th century. Although the Hellenistic period of the Mediterranean was impresive, it was not any more advanced then the Chinese and Hindu ciilizations of the years 200 b.c - 200 a.d

2. The Renaissance started small in the Late Middle Ages, but it's great discoveries and advances came first after year 1500.

Therefore the phrase is biased and should be edited out.

I Also apologize for my english. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:14, 4 January 2013 (UTC)


Here is a selection of quotes from academic work on post-Roman Europe. Beginning with the work of historians such as Peter Brown in the 1960s, the community has increasingly rejected the popular narrative of the “dark ages" as stagnant.

The quotes were not chosen to give the details of the reassessment. They were chosen to give evidence on the current understanding of professional historians of the middle ages.

  • From a compendium of recent papers on the postclassical world (Bowersock, Peter Brown, Grabar): “Scholars, students, and the educated public in general should treat the period between around 250 and 800 as a distinctive and quite decisive period of history that stands on its own. It is not, as it once was for Edward Gibbon, a subject of obsessive fascination only as the story of the unraveling of a once glorious and ‘higher’ state of civilization. It was not a period of irrevocable Decline and Fall; nor was it merely a violent and hurried prelude to better things.”
  • From a 2008 paper by Walter Goffart: "The period known as the early Middle Ages followed the later Roman Empire; but did it do so as night follows day or as morning follows dawn? … New stories have been told, especially in the last half-century. They have particularly affected the Roman landscape. In 1964, A. H. M. Jones published a decisive reevaluation of the late Roman world. Jones contradicted the Herder-like thesis of internal Roman decay. He argued forcefully that the later Empire was domestically sound; the internal problems of the Empire did not add up to decline. Other encouraging news soon came. As early as the 1940s, and even earlier for art history, scholars had arrived at positive assessments of the intellectual, artistic, and religious life of the late Roman world." See another of his papers and some interviews:,
  • Christopher Wickham, in his 2009 popular history of years 400-1000: “It is now possible to write a different sort of early medieval history. Until the 1970s its lack of evidence put researchers off; and a moralizing historiography dependent on the storyline of failure saw the centuries between 400/500 and 1000 as inferior. … It seemed obvious that it was a Bad Thing, and that European and Mediterranean societies took centuries to recover from it.”
  • From a review of Julia Smith’s “Europe After Rome” (not available online sadly): "The 500 years following the collapse of the Roman Empire are still popularly perceived as Europe's 'Dark Ages', dominated by barbarian invaders, superstition and the struggle for existence. Julia Smith sweeps away this view, and instead reveals a time of great vitality and cultural diversity. She introduces us to men and women of all levels of society from slave to emperor, and through a huge range of original sources, allows them to speak to us in their own words."
  • Or see any of the following: Matthew Innes’ Int. Early Med. West. Eur., Walter Ullmann, Jean-Pierre Devroey, Philippe Depreux, practically anyone who works in medieval history... Almost any history book on the middle ages begins with a caution about seeing them through the modernist teleology. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:23, 30 January 2014 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Admirable research, thank you. Although the above does seem to support my view that the word "intellectual" rather than "scientific" is relevant given the broad nature of the change, I'm not going to get involved in an edit war as it's not worth it for such a small point. I have restructured the sentence in question and the following one as they were a bit clunky but your modifications remain. Cheers, ► Philg88 ◄ Star.pngtalk 07:29, 31 January 2014 (UTC)

You're not willing to get in an edit war for such a small change? Wow, what a judgment call! Wow! Thanks for realizing that only after wasting my time! Maybe you could have figured that out before?

"Phil," if that is your real name, I wonder how many users you have chased away with your cavalier reverts, then avoiding accountability by escalating to the talk page, then saying "Gee, I didn't care anyway." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:03, 31 January 2014 (UTC) ────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────I have no idea why your attitude continues to be so confrontational. My revert wasn't cavalier - I explained it in the edit summary at the time and again above. I don't see what "accountability" I have I avoided in doing either.► Philg88 ◄ Star.pngtalk 14:16, 31 January 2014 (UTC)

The word intellectual was not the problem. "Stagnation" was. It is not the opinion of the profession that the middle ages were stagnant artistically, religiously or intellectually. Anyway the article should focus on science.

As for you: Let me spell it out. How to account for your behaviour?

  • Why are you reverting changes if you yourself say you do not think it is "worth it" to get involved? The answer seems to be that you acted cavalierly: acting in an offhand way; showing a lack of concern.
  • Why did you take me to the "talk" page if you don't think it is worth talking about? Because a good strategy to get rid of somebody is to burden them with the work of justifying an edit. The outcome is that superusers can avoid accountability by senselessly demanding scarce labor hours from outsiders.

The motto shouldn't be "the encyclopedia that anyone can edit." It should be "the encyclopedia that officious superusers who do not have other uses for their time (and who memorize reams of Wikimedia's deadening editorial policies) can edit." — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:59, 31 January 2014 (UTC)