is science western in origin? – pamphlet by c.k. raju
In his densely argued essay, Raju makes mincemeat of the received view of the Greek origins of science. The story of the Greek origins of science, Raju argues, can nowhere be found ‘from the beginning of the Christian Dark Age to the beginning of the Crusades’. The Greeks had a primitive system of numeration; similarly, since much has been made of the great library of Alexandria, it is imperative to recognize that people other than Greeks produced its books. He surprises us with the observation that the sum total of any credible knowledge about someone called ‘Euclid’ is zero. This is the same ‘Euclid’ who had become such a globalized and universal figure that even someone like Mohandas Gandhi could effortlessly allude to him in his own quest for truth and precision: as he was to explain to the passengers on board a ship on 25 December 1931, ‘It is a self evident axiom, like the axioms of Euclid, that one cannot have peace unless there is in one an intense longing for peace all round.’
Speaking of zero, however, it is well known that the idea of zero (sunya) came to the West from India, mediated by the Arabs; but astronomy and trigonometryalso traveled in that direction, even if the West has long persisted in the fiction that these sciences were transmitted to India from the West.
Having established that the story of the transmission of astronomy and geometry from the Greeks to, in effect, the rest of the world during the Crusades cannot be given any credence, Raju argues that, in the period of the Inquisition, a concerted attempt was made to suggest that Europeans independently rediscovered the scientific knowledge. Raju sees in the much-celebrated account of the supposed Copernican revolution, which takes us from a geocentric view of the universe to a heliocentric view, evidence only of a sustained and pernicious hellenocentrism. Though Copernicus used Islamic sources to reach his conclusions, he failed to acknowledge them. In the final phase of the Western appropriation of scientific knowledge, which continues down to the present day, the entire apparatus of imperialist power was marshaled to press forth the case that accurate scientific knowledge had always been the monopoly of the Europe.