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Last Updated on April 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 185


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One central theme of The Ornament of the World is the capacity for people with disparate ideological backgrounds to share a desire to collaborate in the search for scientific truth. In the book, Muslims, Christians, and Jews socialize their ideas in a quickly globalizing world, accelerating the pace of scientific progress and helping to catalyze the Renaissance era.

Scientific Progress

The Ornament of the World demonstrates the idea of scientific progress necessarily being nonlinear in retrospect. At the end of the book, a return to some of the oppressive ideological patterns of the Dark Ages is heralded by the Christian takeover of Spain. Despite the efforts of scientists, no one was able to predict or control this larger political shift that would suppress later scientific inquiry.

Science and Religion

Menocal’s book explores the compatibility of spirituality, even organized religion, with science. Arguably, all of the book’s scientists have some spiritual motives behind their scientific research. What distinguishes them from religious fanatics is both their respect for the scientific method and their humble openness to evidence that contradicts their own research and assumptions.


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