Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 175

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.

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Another theme is that of scientific progress necessarily being nonlinear in retrospect. At the end of the novel, a return to some of the oppressive ideological patterns of the Dark Ages is heralded by the Puritan takeover of Spain. Despite the effort of scientists, no one was able to predict or control this larger political shift that would suppress later scientific inquiry.

Finally, a key theme is 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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