Maimonides and 1001 Lies?
Maimonides should be celebrated. But should this important Jewish philosopher be associated with the 1001 Inventions exhibit that is touring the nation? The exhibit purports to give the real story behind 1001 things allegedly invented by Muslims.
The problem is that the exhibit is not based on fact. It is revisionist history. As one example, algebra is not an Islamic invention:
Algebra may have been named after a book by al-Khwarizmi titled Al-Jabr wa-al-Muqabilah, but the origins of algebra itself can be traced to the ancient Babylonians who were able to do calculations in an algorithmic fashion. Having something named after what popularised or refined it by no means makes it the inventor, and by doing so you would have to discount the works of mathematician Diophantus of Alexandria (200 and 214 AD–284 and 298 AD) who authored a series of books called "Arithmetica" and is commonly referred to as "the father of algebra".
Paul Vallely begrudgingly admits that the system of numbering in use all round the world is 'probably' Indian in origin, yet the title of the supposed Islamic invention still remains "The system of numbering". The first known use of numbers dates back to around 30,000 BC, but it is universally accepted that the system of numbering we use today (the digits 0 to 9) was invented in India.The reason why they are referred to as "Arabic" numerals in the West is due to them being introduced to the Europeans through the Arabs, who in the same way had earlier received them from the Hindus. Likewise, the Arabs themselves commonly refer to them as "Hindu numerals".
The use of zero as a number is found in many ancient Indian texts. The concept of negative numbers was recognised between 100–50 BC by the Chinese. Greek and Indian mathematicians studied the theory of rational numbers. (The best known of these works is Euclid's Elements, dated 300 BC. Euclid is also often referred to as the "Father of Geometry".) The earliest use of irrational numbers is in the Indian Sulba Sutras (800–500 BC). The first results concerning transcendental numbers were made by Johann Heinrich Lambert in 1761. The earliest known conception of mathematical infinity appears in the Hindu text Yajur Veda (1,400 and 1,000 BC). The earliest reference to square roots of negative numbers were made by Greek mathematician and inventor Heron of Alexandria (10–70 AD). Prime numbers have been studied throughout recorded history. The mathematical branch of Trigonometry has been studied by the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, but it was the ancient Greeks who proved theorems that are equivalent to modern trigonometric formulae. And finally, the earliest known algorithms were developed by ancient Babylonians (1600 BC).
As for al-Kindi, while he is thought to be the earliest to describe frequency analysis, the technique itself may not have been discovered by al-Kindi as claimed. Nobody knows who actually discovered/invented/realized that the frequencies of letters could be used to break ciphers, and cryptology itself can be traced back to the time of Julius Caesar.
So why are the JCRC and the AJC partnering in allowing Moses Maimonides to be associated with such a mendacious exhibit? And shouldn't Maimonides be celebrated on his own? Let's learn actual history rather than using history as a tool to ameliorate the feelings of others who need their morale built up at the expense of others.
Is it really in the best interests of the Jewish community to put interfaith dialogue ahead of the truth? We don't think so. The only worthwhile dialogue is honest dialogue and of course, education is only worthwhile if it is based on truth.