The Epic History of Biology

By Anthony Serafini | Go to book overview

CHATTER 5
The Middle Ages

After the fall of Rome in 476 A.D., there was an immensely long period of relatively little progress. Of course the confusion had already begun in the third century A.D., when economic hardship and political confusion was growing. History teaches us that, in such circumstances, most people have little time for abstract speculation and scientific research. Instead, as is usually the case, the people of Europe turned toward religion, to the new cults of Christianity, to Serpis, and to Mithraism. To add to this confusion, there were at least three civilizations ready to fill in the power gap caused by Rome's fall: the Byzantine civilization, western Christianity, and the new religion of Islam.

There are again men of great genius in both science and philosophy, by the time of the high Middle Ages, from 1050 to 1300, including Avicenna, Averroes, and St. Thomas Aquinas. Here, historians have recently rethought the old dogmas. While western Christianity, Islam, and the Byzantine empire have traditionally been regarded as backward and unprogressive (especially western Christianity), historians have begun only recently to appreciate the full measure of this age's accomplishments, e.g., Islamic advances in science and philoso-

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