Saturday, December 1, 2007

Biology in the Antiquities

Biology, the study of life, did not stem solely from the antiquities of Greece.

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In a day and an age where multicultural education is becoming more of a reality and less of a simple ideal; western scholarship still voids the merit deserved by the antiquities of other civilizations outside of the ancient Greece. As such the subject of Biology, that which is termed to encompass the study of life: still focuses on the achievements of a few. Herein does not lay a thesis to demerit the achievements of ancient Greece; however it does focus on the achievements of ancient civilizations whilst debarring institutionalized racism. For instance a sounder multicultural curriculum would mention the scientific contributions from at the least of the four river valley civilizations: Nile valley of Egypt; Yellow Valley of China; Euphrates Valley of Babylonia; and the Indus Valley of the Saraswati civilization. As such we review a few basic scientific treatises found both within Imhotep’s papyrus scrolls of the Nile Valley and the Rig Veda of the Indus Valley and further discuss the influences of these valley civilizations on the Greeks. All this whilst giving the reader an opportunity to learn more of his own personal history; not stakes to raise nostalgic primordial in an effort to support further nationalism: but solely to allow all to know equity in heritage.

To undermine the primary reasons why American textbooks have both systematically left out medicinal history encompassing global contributions and have downgraded the value of well known facts: would only allow this thesis to be an “antibiotic” rather than be a holistic healer. The reasons are laid in the taboo subject of racism. Racism is not a natural occurrence which has been prevalent since the antiquities as most scholars claim; rather it was an institution which was developed to marginalize the risk factors of wide spread oppressive methods of capitalism. There is much authorship on this subject, and one may be referred to those as such as C.L.R. James; Eric Williams and even Frederick Douglas. This racism, which was created to better facilitate the institution of African slavery, did not find its demise with the Emancipation Proclamation: for it had founded deep roots into both the governance and into the social mindset of the American. More importantly racism was still bred as a capitalistic tool and later as an asset to reach consensus for imperialistic endeavors. Thus the nurturing of supremacy into a student’s mindset becomes absolutely essential to capitalistic institutions. As the socialist writer Alex Taylor claims in his The Roots of Racism, “Similar to the slave societies of antiquity and of the early U.S., under capitalism today, a small, wealthy minority exploits and oppresses the immense majority of people. Racism is the main division among workers today, and it provides a convenient scapegoat for problems created by the system.” Hence the reason why too many scientific text books fail not only to elaborate on the achievements of the global antiquities but also fail even to mention them!

The failed mention of our African heritage from the Nile Valley essentially subtracts an opportunity to learn about what once existed before the aggressive accession of the Greeks; Romans; and other European imperializers (i.e. Dutch; French; and the British Empire.) The student is once again falsely reminded that he was nothing more than a mere savage until he was opportune with “civilization” after being freed from slavery. He is not taught of his own history; which consists of Imhotep’s advancements or the great wisdoms taught within classical texts as such as The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Even the pyramids are taught to be of a mystery and more of a discovery than actual historical artifacts: which are underlined with many Egyptian scientific achievements. As such, names as such as Imhotep should be common place in all biological textbooks. For he has been even been called the God of medicine: “The design of this is attributed to Imhotep, the first figure of a physician to stand out clearly from the mists of antiquity. “In priestly wisdom, in magic, in the formulation of wise proverbs, in medicine and architecture, this remarkable figure of Zoser's reign left so notable a reputation that his name was never forgotten, and 2500 years after his death he had become a God of Medicine, in whom the Greeks, who called him Imouthes, recognized their own AEsculapius.”” Imhotep’s papyrus scrolls have not been named after he who composed them; but rather has been by he who bought them from vandals : Edwin Smith Papyrus. These scrolls containing forty eight medical cases, has been summarized as this by Dr. Robert H. Wilkins :

1. The seventeen columns on the recto comprise part of a surgical treatise, the first thus far discovered in the ancient Orient, whether in Egypt or Asia. It is therefore the oldest known surgical treatise.

2. This surgical treatise consists exclusively of cases, not recipes. The treatise is systematically organized in an arrangement of cases, which begin with injuries of the head and proceed downward through the body, like a modern treatise on anatomy.

3. The treatment of these injuries is rational and chiefly surgical; there is resort to magic in only one case out of the forty-eight cases preserved.

4. Each case is classified by one of three different verdicts: (1) favorable, (2) uncertain, or (3) unfavorable. The third verdict, expressed in the words, 'an ailment not to be treated,' is found in no other Egyptian medical treatise.

5. This unfavorable verdict occurring fourteen times in the Edwin Smith Papyrus marks a group of cases (besides one more case) which the surgeon cannot cure and which he is led to discuss by his scientific interest in the phenomena disclosed by his examination."

To further elaborate the case for ancient Egyptian achievements lays in their influence over the ancient Greek mind. The Greeks are accredited as to have set the basis for science and such scholarly quotes are commonplace: “It is true that many civilizations had very impressive technologies but that is quite different from science. No one fails to recognize the contributions of the Egyptians, the Babylonians and the Chinese but it was the Greeks who crystallized science. It was in Ionia - where opportunity to learn about the wisdom of the Near East was close at hand - where inquiring Greeks first began to speculate what the real nature of the world was and what its destiny might be. This analysis was called philosophia, or 'love of wisdom', and included what we today distinguish as philosophy and science.” The absurdity of such a quote is distinctly ready to an educated eye, whereas the average biology student is “MisEducated”. For the Greeks studied in Alexandria (Egypt) and mysteriously began coming to profound understandings? As Williams quotes from the classic epic The Odyssey, “a country producing an infinite number of drugs . . . where each physician possesses knowledge above all other men." He additionally paraphrases from the same, “Herodotus tells that Darius had at his court certain Egyptians, whom he reckoned the best skilled physicians in all the world, and he makes the interesting statement that: "Medicine is practiced among them on a plan of separation; each physician treats a single disorder, and no more: thus the country swarms with medical practitioners, some under taking to cure diseases of the eye, others of the head, others again of the teeth, others of the intestines, and some those which are not local.”” Yet the Egyptians are accused of lacking medical philosophy, in sorts saying that these Egyptian medical practitioners were of absent mind and were not practicing a version of scientific method. The case as presented simply describes a difference in philosophy, and further amplifies PLAGERISM on part of the Greeks: those who did not attribute anything outside of original thought to those who had innovated those original ideas. As such, this is perhaps why Ptolemy dedicated a temple to Imhotep on the island of Philae; more than two millennia after his death.

To further redress western scholars on their belief that the ancient Greeks were the first to make attempts at “distinguished” philosophy and science, one must examine Dr. Radhakrishan’s statement in reference to the antiquities of India, “The Europeans are apt to imagine that before the great Greek thinkers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, there was a crude confusion of thought, a sort of chaos without form and void. Such a view becomes almost a provincialism when we realize that systems of thought which influenced countless millions of human beings had been elaborated by people who never heard the names of the Greek thinkers." As such allow us to examine the conversation between Alexander “the Great” and King Porus in the Punjab (326 b.c.) as recorded by Greek historians in K.R. Malkhani’s Alexander’s Waterloo in Sindh: “Porus put him on the spot when he told him: ``To what purpose should we make war upon one another. If the design of your coming to these parts be not to rob us of our water or our necessary food, which are the only things that wise men are indispensably obliged to fight for? As for other riches and possessions, as they are accounted in the eyes of the world, if I am better provided of them than you, I am ready to let you share with me; but if fortune has been more liberal to you than to me, I have no objection to be obliged to you.'' Alexander had no reply to the questions posed by Porus. Instead, with the obstinacy of a bully, he said: ``I shall contend and do battle with you so far that, howsoever obliging you are, you shall not have the better of me.”” From this conversation one can clearly hear both philosophy and wisdom from the Punjabi king and lacking in the infamous Greek. Aside from western scholarship lying about who won that war, it is quite evident that they are certainly mistaken whilst speaking of the antiquities of Greece as the only region with both philosophical and scientific foundation. Finally allow us to review Arthur Schopenhauer’s statement: “Older than Plato or Confucius, the Upanishads are the most ancient philosophical works and contain the mature wisdom of India's intellectual and spiritual attainment. They have inspired not only the orthodox system of Indian thought but also the so-called heterodox schools such as Buddhism. In profundity of thought and beauty of style, they have rarely been surpassed not only in Indian thought but in the Western and Chinese philosophical traditions as well.”

If Greek’s are accredited with founding science in its modernity; as a tool to observe reality: hence those they learnt from should be additionally accredited as well. Why give credit to a student for an idea that he learned from his teacher? It is ludicrous and yet historians have not attempted to correct American textbooks as of yet. There is no mention of Vedas either, which is an extensive set of volumes containing not only the history of the Indus valley but also contains both mathematical and scientific treatise. Although western scholars have speculated the date the Vedas to approximately 1500 B.C., it has been scientifically proven false. Since science has proven the Saraswati River to have dried up around 1900 b.c. and its constant mention as a flowing river (plus additional variables) place the Vedas to at the least 3000 b.c. One must note that Vedas were of oral tradition and were not written in Sanskrit until a much later date; according to the Vedas themselves they were composed approximately 10,000 b.c. The profoundness of the Vedas are self evident, for instance we find in Yajur-Veda 6.21 "Through astronomy, geography, and geology, go thou to all the different countries of the world under the sun. Mayest thou attain through good preaching to statesmanship and artisanship, through medical science obtain knowledge of all medicinal plants, through hydrostatics learn the different uses of water, through electricity understand the working of ever lustrous lightening. Carry out my instructions willingly." Further we can find in Atharva-veda 20.4.1-3 "The atomic energy fissions the ninety-nine elements, covering its path by the bombardments of neutrons without let or hindrance. Desirous of stalking the head, ie. The chief part of the swift power, hidden in the mass of molecular adjustments of the elements, this atomic energy approaches it in the very act of fissioning it by the above-noted bombardment. Herein, verily the scientists know the similar hidden striking force of the rays of the sun working in the orbit of the moon." In Dick Teresi’s Lost Discoveries, he outlines both: “Two thousand years before Pythagoras, philosophers in northern India had understood that gravitation held the solar system together, and that therefore the sun, the most massive object, had to be at its center " and "Twenty-four centuries before Isaac Newton, the Hindu Rig-Veda asserted that gravitation held the universe together. The Sanskrit speaking Aryans subscribed to the idea of a spherical earth in an era when the Greeks believed in a flat one. The Indians of the fifth century A.D. calculated the age of the earth as 4.3 billion years; scientists in 19th century England were convinced it was 100 million years." As such, the point is thus reiterated that the profoundness of the Vedas are self-evident and it is absurdly denied its place in textbooks. It is further absurd to claim Greek roots in the Indus Valley and to say at the least that the Greeks were the sole philosophers and scientists.

The roots of racism have yet to be rooted and this powerful political tool will not find its demise until people understand its dynamics. As such institutional racism is nurtured within our academia to insure its survival; whilst denying its students facts about their dynamic past. To teach solely of Greek achievements only handicaps the student; for he is not introduced to the additional resources to reference his life’s decisions from. Further it must be stated that the field of biology has had great success; especially since both the scientific and industrial revolutions: but perhaps can find even greater success by re-examining what the antiquities outside of Greece have offered. Moreover, just as western scholarship demerit technological advances of the “Orient” in support of Greek philosophy and scientific reasoning – perhaps it is we who need to realize this in our own modernity and world of technology. A multicultural education in its entirety would help us realize that vision.

Primary Sources:
1. Sir Hunter, William. History of Nations: India and Persia. Collier and Son. New York, 1916.
Secondary Sources:
2. Muthu, Chowry. The Antiquity of Hindu Medicine and Civilization. Milford
House. Boston, 1972.
EBook Primary Sources:
3. Griffith, Ralph [translator]: The Rig Veda. Motilal. 1896.
EBook Secondary Sources:
4. Osler, William. The Evolution of Modern Medicine: A Series Of Lectures Delivered At
Yale University On The Silliman Foundation in April, 1913. Ebook #1566
5. Malkani, K.R. The Sindh Story. Allied Publishers. New Delhi? 1984
Online Tertiary Sources:
7. Dr. Wilkins, Robert. Neurosurgical Classic-XVII: Edwin Smith Surgical Papyrus. Reprinted
on Cyber Museum of Neurology with the permission of Journal of Neurosurgery,
March, 1964.
8. Taylor, Alex. The Roots of Racism. The Socialist Worker Online. November 2002.
9. The Mystery of Science.
10. Scientific Verification of Vedic Knowledge. Devavision Productions. This video may be watched at:


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