City Desk

National Geographic Exhibit on Muslim Inventions Under Fire

Washington: Not even the museums are safe from controversies. The paranoiacs who work in the euphemistic "anti-jihad" field are all in a tizzy over an exhibit about Muslim scientists that's currently up at the National Geographic Museum.

The chief detractor of the exhibit, which is called "1,001 Inventions," is J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department attorney who parlayed "whistleblowing" about the department's decision not to prosecute two Black Panthers into a career as a low-level conservosphere pundit. Adams isn't a fan of the exhibit's accompanying video, which features Sexy Beast's Ben Kingsley transformed into a scientist named Al-Jazari after some kids talk trash to him about Muslim scientific accomplishments:

Al-Jazari informs the three children that a grand civilization “that stretched from Spain to China” was responsible “for some of the most important discoveries” in the world.  These include, according to Kingsley’s transformed Al-Jazari, devices such as the camera.

And herein lies the most fascinating characteristic of the entire exhibit – the slipperiness of its language.  Indeed, language throughout the exhibit, as we shall see, becomes a way to trick attendees.  Cleverly chosen words nudge readers toward unsupported conclusions.  Myth mingles with science.  Rumor becomes history.

Adams is mad because a Muslim scientist will be described in the exhibit as, say, inventing the camera, when he only actually discovered the concept of camera obscura. This is about the same level of "slipperiness" that goes on when Leonardo da Vinci is described as the inventor of the helicopter, but that didn't stop top rage-blogger Pamela Geller from saying the exhibit had destroyed National Geographic's credibility.

Kathryn Keane, National Geographic's vice president of exhibitions, said she didn't have any opinion about Adams' article, although a spokeswoman for a museum pointed out that the exhibit was peer-reviewed. "Different visitors are going to have different reactions and interpretations of that content," Keane says. "And that's kind of the point."

Photo by Jllm06 under a Creative Commons license

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  • Nabobolink

    Adams and Geller need to get lives.

  • wikipedian

    I suggest you do some deeper fact checking of your own. The camera obscura was known to ancient scholars prior to 1AD, as the cited facts in the wikipedia article on the subject show. The New York Times article on the same show when it was exhibited in Queens found several inaccuracies which went beyond 'slippery'.

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