‘‘Not Out of Greece’’

C K Raju

[This has reference to Samar Bagchi’s response [Frontier, April 26–May 2, 2015] to the article ‘‘Not Out of Greece’’ [Frontier, Vol. 47, No. 25]

The church used false history to glorify "Christians and friends (early Greeks)". This glorification was used to claim that Christians were ''superior". This believed superiority led to imitation, i.e., conversion. This church con trick of using glorification to induce imitation was picked up by later colonial historians like Macaulay who just changed "Christians and friends" to "West", and said the "West is immeasurably superior in science". This induced Indians to imitate Western/church education which recursively encourages mimesis of the West. And the undeniable fact is that all our post-colonial institutions from our calendar to universities and the constitution indiscriminately imitate the West. This astonishing mass mimesis was induced by a false history, contrary to commonsense, which no Indian independently cross-checked in two centuries.

Church indoctrination techniques cynically play on child psychology: figures glorified in childhood turn "sacred", so it is not easy to debunk them later. When I demand evidence for that bunkum history of science, Mr Bagchi is "astounded", and calls me "blinkered" but does not offer any evidence for claims of Greek achievements in science. Nor is he able to counter a single one of my arguments. Calling the critic names, and avoiding engagement with any evidence or arguments is a typical church technique used to preserve superstitions. Further, Mr Bagchi plays on words, changing "Greek" to "Mediterranean", which obfuscates without bringing in any fresh evidence. Nor does he openly accept that in the absence of evidence that bunkum history of Greek achievements in science must be abandoned, especially in view of the serious damage the resulting superstitions have caused.

Let us please focus on evidence and specifics. Why not start by claiming my Euclid prize? Or else let us be honest and openly abandon "Euclid". That also means critically re-examining our present-day teaching of mathematics based on the bunkum story about Euclid and his purported philosophy, which singularly agrees with the dogmas of the Crusading church, though not with any historical facts. Critically re-examining math teaching alone would be a big achievement. Following that we can dissect every single claim of purported Greek science, as I do in my classroom lectures.

Details :
1.    Mr Bagchi asks how the early Greeks could be friends of Christians. Eusebius, the first church historian, said so. The simple reason is that Christians never coexisted with EARLY (pre-Christian) Greeks so there was no possibility of conflict! Church historians used the "friendship" of the early Greeks to glorify Christians by making the fantastic claim that all scientific knowledge in Muslim libraries actually originated with Greeks, and was hence a Christian inheritance. Later colonial historians (Macaulay) or the Christian triumphalist historian Toynbee advance the same claim when they speak of "West", thereby asserting a continuity between early Greeks and later-day Christian Europe.

2    I agree that late Greeks like Porphyry, Hypatia, and Proclus, were non-Christians hence regarded by the church as its enemies. This is elaborated in my book Euclid and Jesus. Mr Bagchi has missed the way the church distinguishes between early Greeks (friends of the church) and late Greeks (enemies of the church) who lived centuries apart.

3.   Mr Bagchi asks how "Mediterranean knowledge" was preserved? He assumes (a) there WAS some "Mediterranean" or Greek knowledge, (b) which was preserved. From exactly what primary sources do we know either (a) or (b)? Just some stories? Speculations based on late and unreliable texts? (My concern is only with science.) Further, there is the counter evidence based on robust non-textual sources such as numerals, or the calendar. Greek and Roman numerals were primitive, adapted to the abacus a very inefficient way to do arithmetic compared to algorithms. They could not work with fractions, and hence could not maintain the calendar they copied from Egypt. The persistent errors in the Greek/Roman/Christian calendar are a historical fact. Lacking proficiency in math, the Greeks and Romans could hardly have done any science.

4.   Needham did indeed lead a team of historians who wrote on China. But how is that relevant to my point about Greece? Incidentally, Needham too picks up the concocted Euclid, and the false story that the Greeks did axiomatic geometry, to ask why the Chinese mathematicians could not be more like the mythical "Euclid"! So, his triumphalism is only of a more subtle sort.

5.   I agree with all that Mr Bagchi actually says about Bayt al Hikma etc. I would include many other things, such as al Khwarizmi's Hisab al Hind (or elementary arithmetic), which are also based on Indian sources, as is his restatement of Aryabhata'a value of pi, or Brahmagupta's algebra. Also Muslim scholars extensively used Persian sources too; for example, the Pancatantra was translated from Persian to Arabic.

However, there is no serious proof that they used any early Greek sources. (Mere speculations do not constitute proof, and should not be passed off as such.) Muslims were careless about ascriptions: for example, many Neoplatonic works traditionally attributed to Aristotle ("theology of Aristotle"), which interested Islamic scholars, are today ascribed to late Greeks like Plotinus and Proclus (though they very likely originated in Egypt). Likewise, given that Greeks were superstitious and vehemently anti-science, and condemned Socrates to death on the charge of doing astronomy, like Anaxagoras, how could Aristotle have authored the Physics? Scientific texts are frequently updated hence naturally assertive, and the 12th c manuscript of Physics accretes via Baghdad translations from the Vaisesika doctrine of contact (samyoga), and akasa (=sky=ether) just as the "Aristotelian" syllogism accretes from the naya syllogism, and is nowhere to be found in early Greece or Rome like the astronomy of the Almagest. During the Islamic "Golden Age", the natural direction for the flow of knowledge  was TOWARDS Greek texts, and numerous texts were translated TO Greek in this period, including the Pancatantra translated to Greek from Arabic via Persian. Hence, late (Byzantine) Greek texts, which derive from Arabic texts, should not be confounded with early Greek sources.

6.  The first Western universities were set up not in times of peace but during the Crusades. The social conditions of peace are quite different from those of a protracted and bloody religious war which united Europe under a religious banner. These universities were set up for cultural war, to digest the knowledge in captured Muslim libraries, and to prepare an army of missionaries to try to convert Muslims with a view to grab their wealth. Telling false stories to glorify Christians was the primary job of this army of missionaries, which job they did for centuries. No sensible person should believe a word of what they said, without cross-checking it thoroughly. However, they succeeded very well with gullible Indians who believed everything and never independently cross-checked a word of it, and resist any scrutiny even today.

7.   My late friend Martin Bernal did not adequately engage with "Greek" mathematics and science, as he was the first to admit. However, he did appreciate my efforts to do so. Specifically, he liked my books Cultural Foundations of Mathematics, Is Science Western in Origin? and Euclid and Jesus. No one earlier commented on the non-existence of Euclid or the similarity between the religious delusions of the church and "Euclid's" purported philosophy of math. Much more needs to be done in the direction in which Bernal started.

I am pointing out that the falsehoods of racist history and racist claims of White superiority built directly upon the falsehoods of church history and church claims of Christian superiority (Bernal agreed with that and said he would pass on my works to Jack Goody.) So, it is not sufficient to have read Bernal, one must address the further issues such as that of church involvement in constructing a false history of science, and its continued use for indoctrination in the present. Undoing that false history (and changing the related philosophy of math) is an ongoing struggle, not a closed chapter. Indeed the title of my article was an allusion to a chauvinistic response to Bernal titled "Not out of Africa".

Vol. 48, No. 6, Aug 16 - 22, 2015