Religion and Rise and Fall of Islamic Science

This paper documents a decline in scientific output in the medieval Islamic world and empirically links the decline to the political empowerment of religious leaders. A contraction in secular bureaucratic structures strengthened conservative religious elites who altered institutions to discourage the study of topics that undermined their societal control. The decline geographically tracks these institutional changes from east to west, providing additional evidence that rent-seeking religious leaders contributed to the decline of Islamic science.