I. Beliefs about knowledge and education
The society values knowledge from any source and makes it widely available
In productive societies, useful knowledge that comes from people of any national, religious, or ethnic group is held to be valuable and is widely disseminated through a society. For example, in Northern Europe during the Industrial Revolution, knowledge about new machinery and sources of power (such as the steam engine) spread rapidly from one nation to another. But the Roman Catholic countries of Southern Europe distrusted many of the discoveries coming from the “Protestant” countries, and so, during the Inquisition, they prohibited the importation of books that were not first approved by Roman Catholic Church authorities. Similarly, Muslim countries fell far behind other countries in technological and scientific development because they would not accept or even allow into their countries the new discoveries that were made by the “Christian” nations or by Jewish experts in various fields.
The Bible places a high value on acquiring knowledge: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). A little later in Proverbs, we read that Wisdom says, “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold” (8:10).
Jesus teaches that the Devil disregards the truth: he “has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him” (John 8:44).
In an ideal economically productive society, knowledge will be important. The society will know how “to operate, manage, and build the instruments of production,” and also how “to create, adapt, and master new techniques on the technological frontier.” In addition, the society will be “able to impart this knowledge and know-how to the young.” (We discussed the value of compulsory universal education of children in chapter 7, 253-56.)
By contrast, sadly, Middle Eastern Islamic societies have a cultural attitude toward knowledge and education that continues to hinder economic development. The culture “continues to mistrust or reject new techniques and ideas that come from the enemy West (Christendom).”