Monday, February 23, 2015

Science and Religion in Medieval Islamic Societies: A lecture by Dr. Nahyan Fancy on Feb 26th

Our next Science & Religion lecture at Hampshire College is this coming Thursday, February 26th. Our speaker is Dr. Nahyan Fancy and he will be talking about science in medieval Islamic societies. Back in 2013, I had highlighted his fascinating book on Ibn-Nafis' work on pulmonary transit of blood. We are excited to have him here and if you are in the area, join us for the talk.

Here are the details:

Hampshire College Lecture Series on Science & Religion Presents

Re-examining the Science-Religion Dichotomy in Medieval Islamic Societies
Dr. Nahyan Fancy

Thursday, February 26, 2015
5:30p.m., Franklin Patterson Hall, Main Lecture Hall
Hampshire College

Living in a post-Enlightenment age, historians have struggled to understand the meaningful ways in which science and religion interacted in pre-modern, particularly theistic societies. In the case of Islamic societies, historians have veered from claiming that religion suppressed and stamped out science, to claiming that religion subsumed science under religious dogma. In both cases, religion is seen as blunting the sword of reason leading to an inevitable "decline" of science. Historians have bought into the Enlightenment idealization of science as a secular, rational pursuit of knowledge that is free from external pressures, particularly those from religion. However, as I will show, such dichotomous understandings of science and religion prevent us from accessing the rich and complex ways in which pre-modern Islamic scholars engaged with rational and revealed knowledge. Using the example of Ibn al-Nafīs (d. 1288), we shall see how a commitment to the sanctity of revelation and specific religious dogmas could still lead one to develop novel scientific theories that themselves forced the scholar to assess and modify certain religious claims.

Dr. Nahyan Fancy is an Associate Professor of Middle East/Comparative History at DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana, USA. His research interests are in pre-1500 science, medicine, and
intellectual history. His book, Science and Religion in Mamluk Egypt, examines the intersections of philosophy, theology and medical physiology in the works of Ibn al-Nafis, a 13th century physician-jurist who first posited the pulmonary transit of blood. The significance of this result is that it forms the basis of William Harvey's (d.  1657) theory of blood circulation, three centuries later. His new project examines the evolution of medical commentaries in post-1250 Islamicate societies, with an eye towards learning more about the specific trajectory of theoretical medicine in Islamicate societies, and the networks of exchange that gave rise to the appropriation of Islamicate trajectories by Latin Europe during the Renaissance.

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