Listen to this show HERE.
First hour: Bradley Steffens, biographer of the first experimental scientist, Ibn al-Haytham, recently published a novel based on Ibn al-Haytham’s amazing life: The Prisoner of al-Hakim. It’s a great read and raises issues involving the interplay of science and religion. Specifically, it is Ibn al-Haytham’s religiosity—including his conviction that human beings are flawed and only God is perfect — that fuels his skepticism about the opinions of human authorities, and motivates his development of the experimental scientific method.
The novel is set in the Middle East of 1000 years ago where tensions between rationalist and “fundamentalist” Islam, between Shia and Sunni Islam, and between the two great Islamic polities of the region (the Abbasids in Baghdad and the Fatimids in Cairo) resonate with todays’ events. This is the Muslim East, the spiritual and intellectual center of human civilization, on the eve of the Crusades…which were triggered when the possibly insane Fatimid caliph al-Hakim, in an act wildly uncharacteristic of the normally tolerant Muslim rulers of the Holy Land, ordered the destruction of Christian churches including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
In our era of Zionist and imperialist neo-crusades, we need books like this that help us understand both the humanity and splendor of classical Islamic civilization and its heroes including Ibn al-Haytham, who comes to life in these pages in his human vulnerability as well as his genius.
Second hour: Rolf Lindgren, political activist and student of James Madison and the founding fathers of the USA, discusses Galileo, whose career paralleled that of Ibn al-Haytham in several respects. Rolf also spends much of the hour vociferously defending Donald Trump. Is Rolf’s penchant for admiring great men, notably Galileo and James Madison, sadly misdirected in this instance? Listen and make up your own mind.