Questioning the claim that Islam contributed much to Western culture

I hear this all time, that we in the West owe much of our scientific and literary development to Islam. How much “progress” is attributable to Arabic origins, and how much, if any, to specifically Muslim influence?

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@walkert Hi!

I was just curious, how do you feel this question relates to Christianity specifically?

As far as I know The Kalam Cosmological Argument, which is used by Christian apologists, has “its historic roots in medieval Islamic theology.”

Here is an excerpt from the article below by William Lane Craig about the Kalam Cosmological Argument:

Because of its historic roots in medieval Islamic theology, I christened the argument “the kalam cosmological argument” (“ kalam ” is the Arabic word for medieval theology). Today this argument, largely forgotten since the time of Kant, is once again back at center stage. The Cambridge Companion to Atheism (2007) reports, “A count of the articles in the philosophy journals shows that more articles have been published about . . . the Kalam argument than have been published about any other . . . contemporary formulation of an argument for God’s existence. . . . theists and atheists alike ‘cannot leave [the] Kalam argument alone’” (p. 183).

What is the argument which has stirred such interest? Let’s allow one of the greatest medieval protagonists in this debate to speak for himself. Al-Ghazali was a twelfth century Muslim theologian from Persia, or modern day Iran. He was concerned that Muslim philosophers of his day were being influenced by ancient Greek philosophy to deny God’s creation of the universe. After thoroughly studying the teachings of these philosophers, Ghazali wrote a withering critique of their views entitled The Incoherence of the Philosophers. In this fascinating book, he argues that the idea of a beginningless universe is absurd. The universe must have a beginning, and since nothing begins to exist without a cause, there must be a transcendent Creator of the universe.

William Lane Craig The Kalam Cosmological Argument


If you have 90 mins I think you will find this video informative. The basic premise is that Christianity took the world into the dark age and Islam saved the day,

Thank you for your thoughtful response! My question indirectly relates to Christianity because the positioning of Islam as one of many legitimate paths that leads to heaven seems to use the assertion of Muslim innovations and advances as a given. Either that or it is used to say, in effect.that the Christian West was not such hot stuff! The assertion also, I think, has elements that attribute to Muslim influence and thought that which properly and fairly belongs to Christian thinkers and scientists whose pursuit of the truth wherever it led was based on their knowledge of, trust in, and love of, the God of the Bible.

Thanks gain for your response, it was quite helpful.

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@walkert Ok, I think I understand what you mean. Well, instead of answering that type of objection directly, perhaps it would be more helpful to refute the underlying logic of this type of argumentation.

I might ask, Do contributions by a person or group in the area of science, literature, or any other discipline, necessarily mean their underlying religious beliefs are true?

In a survey cited on How Many Nobel Prize Winners Believed In God?, “Just under 11% of the winners had no belief in God (e.g. atheists and agnostics)”, and “just under 1% were Muslim”.

Does it follow, that because more people who had no belief in God, won more Nobel Prizes than those who identified as Muslims mean that atheism/agnosticism is therefore true? Of course not, the contributions of any group or individual is irrelevant to whether or not their underlying religious beliefs are true. Whether or not a religion is true, depends solely on whether or not the claims of that religion can be reasonably shown to be True.

From there, maybe that could be a good way of starting a conversation about the evidence for Christianity.