Bob Shell: Science Versus Religion

Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2021

Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2021


Science Versus Religion


In the eighth century, science in Europe was pretty much at a standstill. The iron hand of the Catholic Church dictated all truth, and challenging the Church on its version of truth was a very perilous proposition. The Earth was the center of all creation, the Church decreed, the Sun and stars revolved around it, and Man was the center of creation. 

But while Europe stagnated, other areas moved forward, notably the Arabs and Chinese, and quite possibly the Mayans and other indigenous cultures in the Americas. I know very little of Chinese science in those days, and not much more about Mayan, so I will limit my discussion to Arab science, only mentioning that the Mayans appear to have been very advanced in mathematics and astronomy. 

Arab science wasn’t held back by religion, and Arab scientists and mathematicians made great discoveries. It is no accident that about two thirds of the stars visible in the clear night sky of their arid lands bear Arabic names. Aldebaran, Algebar, Acrab, Betelgeuse, Deneb, Kitalpha, and Rigel are but a few examples. Arab astronomers knew the Earth was round, knew it orbited the Sun, and even knew its approximate diameter. Some of this they inherited from ancient Greece, but most they discovered on their own. 

The center of Arab science was probably the ancient city of Baghdad, where discovery flourished. 

The Arab mathematicians invented the base-ten number system we use today, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 …. 9, 10, etc. This system made complex calculations easy, unlike the awkward numerals of the Romans. 

And, of course, Arabs invented the Zero, 0, without which our computers could not function. 

Arab mathematicians invented Algebra, al-Gebra, meaning ‘the numbers.’ They invented Algorithms, Azimuth, and other mathematical and geometric ideas. 

In Alchemy, derived from ‘al,’ Arabic for ‘the,’ and Khem, the Arabic name for Egypt, came Alchemy, the precursor of chemistry. Alchemy looked for the Alkahest, the ‘Universal Solvent’ that would dissolve anything. They named Alcohol, Alkaline, and Elixer, another goal of Alchemy and Magick. 

By the end of the Eleventh Century, the greatest flowering of knowledge in human history had sprung from Arab science and mathematics. 

Then it all died. 

What happened? In a word, Islam. 

Hamid-al-Ghazali, a brilliant Islamic scholar, wrote a series of books challenging science and philosophy, attacking Aristotle, Plato, and other ancient scholars. He declared that mathematics was anti-Islamic, calling it ‘the science of the devil.’ His writings were very influential, he’s been called the most influential Muslim in history, and under his influence and those who followed, Arab science collapsed. Doctrine replaced experiment, plunging the Islamic world back into ignorance from which they are only now beginning to recover. Fundamentalist groups like al-Quaida and the Taliban would stamp out all such progress, returning the world to a pre-scientific age, eschewing all technology except guns and explosives. 

Why is this important to us today? 

Today we have a new ‘religion’ challenging Western Science. It’s called ‘wokeness,’ ‘critical race theory,’ and a few other silly names. Make no mistake, though, it is a religion, with its own inflexible dogma. Just like Hamid-al-Ghazali’s perversion of Islam, it is attacking western science and philosophy, with its doctrine that there are no ‘right’ answers to important questions, that demanding that students actually learn is ‘racist,’ ‘the science of the white devil.’ Under this barrage by zealots we could lose our science and technology and go back to making flint arrowheads as the peak of our technology. 

I fervently hope this new religion dies on the vine, just as I’m sure Arab scientists and philosophers hoped when faced by the rabid hoards of Hamid-al-Ghazali’s followers, but, unless academia comes to its senses and stops indoctrinating our impressionable youth with this garbage, I don’t see much of a future for western culture.


About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here:

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Here’s the link: 

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