Too bad he really is wrong about Muslims “doing great things in the Middle Ages” though.
Scholarship has advanced since Mr. Dawkins was in sixth form…
The problem with turning this list of intellectual achievements into a convincing “Islamic” golden age is that whatever flourished, did so not by reason of Islam but in spite of Islam. Moslems overran societies (Persian, Greek, Egyptian, Byzantine, Syrian, Jewish) that possessed intellectual sophistication in their own right and failed to completely destroy their cultures. To give it the credit for what the remnants of these cultures achieved is like crediting the Red Army for the survival of Chopin in Warsaw in 1970! Islam per se never encouraged science, in the sense of disinterested enquiry, because the only knowledge it accepts is religious knowledge.
As Bernard Lewis explains in his book What Went Wrong? the Moslem Empire inherited “the knowledge and skills of the ancient Middle east, of Greece and of Persia, it added to them new and important innovations from outside, such as the manufacture of paper from China and decimal positional numbering from India.” The decimal numbers were thus transmitted to the West, where they are still mistakenly known as “Arabic” numbers, honoring not their inventors but their transmitters.
Furthermore, the intellectual achievements of Islam’s “golden age” were of limited value. There was a lot of speculation and very little application, be it in technology or politics.
UPDATE — Roger Simon weighs in:
He may have impulse-control issues — Twitter is one of the epicenters of that — but he’s no more a bigot than most of us. We all think that way, even many of his critics. We just shut up about it.
Is this a good or a bad thing? Well, it’s not simple, but our public dishonesty complicates matters. It also amounts to infantilizing Muslims — basically a racist policy.