By Arri Eisen;Gary Laderman
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Additional info for Science, Religion, And Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, And Controversy (2 vol. set)
Some of these tables had hundreds of thousands of entries. Today, standard tables for the times of prayer are produced and sold in every corner of the Muslim world. Despite all these technical advances, Middle Eastern scholars were not able to bring about the revolution in astronomy that is associated with the names of Copernicus and Galileo. More remarkable still is the fact that the Damascene astronomer and muwaqqit Ibn al-Shatir (1305–1375) developed astronomical models that were in most respects identical to those of Copernicus, except for their geocentric orientation maintained by the Ptolemaic system.
This activity affords a means of integrating science and religion in a complementary relationship. Contemporary natural theology differs from its predecessors, associated with such names as Aquinas, Ray, and Paley, in important ways. First, in no way does it seek to rival science within the latter’s domain. Scientific questions (such as the origin of the eye) are expected to receive scientific answers (such as an evolutionary account). The so-called “God of the gaps,” religion’s ill-judged attempt to fill in temporary patches of scientific ignorance by appeal to direct divine action, was a bad theological mistake.
At the same time that they explored the deep assumptions and metaphysical implications of Hellenic thought (especially the two strands represented by Plato and Aristotle), they assumed that they were pursuing a universal mode of knowing the world, one that transcended its Greek, Indian, or later Arabic and Islamic idioms. In other words, they were not of the opinion that “Islamic science” was independent of the Aristotelian methodological and epistemological moorings, but that these were universal assumptions shared by all those who sought to advance the naturalistic understanding of the cosmos.