Islamic contribution to history and philosophy of science
CONTRIBUTION TO HISTORY AND PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE BY RONNIE Z. VALENCIANO JR.
ISLAMIC CONTRIBUTION TO SCIENCE MATHEMATICS After the decline of Greece and Rome,mathematics flourished for hundreds of yearsin India and the Islamic world. Mathematics in Indiawas largely a tool for astronomy, yet Indianmathematicians discovered a number of importantconcepts. Their mathematical masterpieces andthose of the Greeks were translated into Arabic incenters of Islamic learning, where mathematicaldiscoveries continued during the period known inthe West as the Middle Ages. Our presentnumeration system, for example, is known as theHindu-Arabic system.
In the 5th century Hindu mathematician andastronomer Aryabhata studied many of thesame problems as Diophantus but wentbeyond the Greek mathematician in his use offractions as opposed to whole numbers tosolve indeterminate equations (equations thathave no unique solutions). Aryabhata alsofigured the value of pi accurately to eightplaces, thus coming closer to its value thanany other mathematician of ancient times. Inastronomy, he proposed that Earth orbited thesun and correctly explained eclipses of theSun and Moon.
The earliest known use of negative numbers inmathematics was by Hindu mathematicianBrahmagupta about AD 630. He presented rulesfor them in terms of fortunes (positive numbers)and debts (negative numbers). Brahmagupta‟sunderstanding of numbers exceeded that ofother mathematicians of the time, and he madefull use of the place system in his method ofmultiplication. Brahmagupta headed the leadingastronomical observatory in India and wrote twoworks on mathematics and astronomy. Theworks dealt with topics such as eclipses, risingsand settings, and conjunctions of the planets witheach other and with fixed stars.
Writing in the 9th century, Jain mathematicianMahavira stated rules for operations with zero,although he thought that division by zero left anumber unchanged. The best-known Indianmathematician of the early period was Bhaskara,who lived in the 12th century. Bhaskara suppliedthe correct answer for division by zero as well asrules for operating with irrational numbers.Bhaskara wrote six books on mathematics,including Lilavati (The Beautiful), whichsummarized mathematical knowledge in India upto his time, and Karanakutuhala, translated as“Calculation of Astronomical Wonders.”
USE IN RELIGIONMathematics in the Islamic world proveduseful for religion. For example, it helped individing inheritances according to Islamic lawand in determining the direction of the holycity of Mecca for the orientation of mosquesand daily prayers. Muslims deliver prayersfacing in the direction of Mecca, and a prayerniche on one wall of a mosque indicates thedirection of Mecca.
Indian mathematics reached Baghdād, a major early center of Islam, about AD 800. Supported by the ruling caliphs and wealthy individuals, translators in Baghdād produced Arabic versions of Greek and Indian mathematical works. The need for translations was stimulated by mathematical research in the Islamic world. Islamic mathematics also served religion in that it proved useful in dividing inheritances according to Islamic law; in predicting the time of the new moon, when the next month began; and in determining the direction to Mecca for the orientation of mosques and of daily prayers, which were delivered facing Mecca.
In the 9th century Arab mathematician al- Khwārizmī wrote a systematic introduction to algebra, Kitab al-jabr w’al Muqabalah (Book of Restoring and Balancing). The English word algebra comes from al-jabr in the treatise‟s title. Al-Khwārizmī‟s algebra was founded on Brahmagupta‟s work, which he duly credited, and showed the influence of Babylonian and Greek mathematics as well. A 12th-century Latin translation of al-Khwārizmī‟s treatise was crucial for the later development of algebra in Europe. Al-Khwārizmī‟s name is the source of the word algorithm.
By the year 900 the acquisition of past mathematics was complete, and Muslim scholars began to build on what they had acquired. Alhazen, an outstanding Arab scientist of the late 900s and early 1000s, produced algebraic solutions of quadratic and cubic equations. Al-Karaji in the 10th and early 11th century completed the algebra of polynomials (mathematical expressions that are the sum of a number of terms) of al-Khwārizmī. He included polynomials with an infinite number of terms.
Many of the ancient Greek works on mathematics were preserved during the Middle Ages through Arabic translations and commentaries. Europe acquired much of this learning during the 12th century, when Greek and Arabic works were translated into Latin, then the written language of educated Europeans. These Arabic works, together with the Greek classics, were responsible for the growth of mathematics in the West during the late Middle Ages.
ASTRONOMY In astronomy, Arab observers charted the heavens, giving many of the brightest stars the names we use today, such as Aldebaran, Altair, and Deneb. Moslem astronomers measured the length of a terrestrial degree and determined the Earth‟s circumference. The following are the Arabian astronomers: Albumayar- studied the relation of tides to the moon. Al-Khwarizmi- perfected the astrolabe- an astronomical instrument for charting the heaven and calculating the position at sea. Below is an illustration of astrolabe.
CHEMISTRYArab scientists also explored chemistry,developing methods to manufacture metallicalloys and test the quality and purity of metals.As in mathematics and astronomy, Arab chemistsleft their mark in some of the names they used—alkali and alchemy, for example, are both wordsof Arabic origin. Arab scientists also played a partin developing physics. One of the most famousEgyptian physicists, Alhazen, published a bookthat dealt with the principles of lenses, mirrors,and other devices used in optics. In this work, herejected the then-popular idea that eyes give outlight rays. Instead, he correctly deduced thateyes work when light rays enter the eye fromoutside.
PHYSICSArab scientists also played a part in developingphysics. One of the most famous Egyptian physicists,Alhazen, published a book that dealt with theprinciples of lenses, mirrors, and other devices usedin optics. In this work, he rejected the then-popularidea that eyes give out light rays. Instead, “hecorrectly deduced that eyes work when light raysenter the eye from outside”. He disproved theAlexandrian theory that vision is accomplished by theeye emitting rays.Al- Kindi- studied and wrote on meteorology andmechanics as well as optics.
MEDICINEAn academy of medicine that followed theteachings of Galen was existed in Persia.Baghdad had become the medical center,specializing in diseases of the eye. The followingare known medical practitioner:Persian Rhazes (865-925)- greatest Moslemphysician who included a 20 volumecompendium of medical knowledge.Abul- Kasim- caliphs‟ court physician who wrotea manual of surgery on 10Th century.Ibnal-al-Baytar- made the reference works onmedicinal drugs and remedies.
STEPS OF THE SCIENTIFICThe steps of the scientific method are a structure that hasbeen developed over the millennia, since the time of the METHODancient Greek and Persian philosophers.GENERAL QUESTIONThe starting point of most new research is to formulate ageneral question about an area of research and begin theprocess of defining it.This initial question can be very broad, as the laterresearch, observation and narrowing down will hone it intoa testable hypothesis.DESIGNING THE EXPERIMENTThis stage of the scientific method involves designing thesteps that will test and evaluate the hypothesis,manipulating one or more variables to generateanalyzable data.The experiment should be designed with later statisticaltests in mind, by making sure that the experiment hascontrols and a large enough sample group to providestatistically valid results.
OBSERVATIONThis is the midpoint of the steps of the scientificmethod and involves observing and recording theresults of the research, gathering the findings intoraw data.The observation stage involves looking at what effectthe manipulated variables have upon the subject,and recording the results.ANALYSISThe scope of the research begins to broaden again,as statistical analyses are performed on the data,and it is organized into an understandable form.The answers given by this step allow the furtherwidening of the research, revealing some trends andanswers to the initial questions.
CONCLUSIONS AND PUBLISHINGThis stage is where, technically, the hypothesis is statedas proved or disproved.However, the bulk of research is never as clear-cut asthat, and so it is necessary to filter the results and statewhat happened and why. This stage is where interestingresults can be earmarked for further research andadaptation of the initial hypothesis.Even if the hypothesis was incorrect, maybe theexperiment had a flaw in its design or implementation.There may be trends that, whilst not statistically significant, lead to further research and refinement of the process.The results are usually published and shared with thescientific community, allowing verification of the findingsand allowing others to continue research into other areas.
INDUCTIVE REASONINGInductive reasoning is the process where a smallobservation is used to infer a larger theory, withoutnecessarily proving it.Most scientists use this method to generate theoriesabout how the universe works and discover the lawsgoverning our very existence.Many ancient philosophers used induction for makingobservations and constructing theories.For example, the Ancient Greek philosophersbelieved that theories could be proved by logic aloneand did not need experiments. They thought thatmathematically strict laws, deduced from smallerobservations, governed the universe.
DEDUCTIVE REASONINGDeductive reasoning is the opposite process toinductive reasoning. In general, terms, inductivereasoning takes a specific example, or examples,and induces that they can be applied to a muchlarger group.Deductive reasoning, by contrast, starts with ageneral principle and deduces that it applies to aspecific case. Inductive reasoning is used to tryto discover a new piece of information; deductivereasoning is used to try to prove it.
TRUTH AND THEORYThe relationship between truth and theory is at the very heart ofscience, determining when, and if, a theory becomes acceptedas reality.Whilst most scientists and philosophers accept that absolutetruth is unobtainable, there has been intense debate aboutexactly what constitutes proof.This argument is closely related to the realism and antirealismdebate, which questions the nature of reality.Scientists gradually approach the truth, by refining and adaptingtheories, whilst understanding that they will never find perfectproof.The scientific theory involves making observations, andintegrating them into previous research.After a period of peer driven acceptance, the theory will become„scientifically proven‟. To reach this level, a scientific fact mustbe reproduced, independently, by many scientists.When enough scientists become convinced about the validity ofthe results, they are assumed to be true.