Science and the Muslim Civilization

Sponsors & Collaborators: 

Engro Chemicals Pakistan and individual sponsorships.

Open to all.
04 November 2007
3 pm
Aiwan-e-Iqbal Complex, off Egerton Road, Lahore

Islam and the Transformation of Greek Science
(Dr. George A. Saliba)

This illustrated talk examines the often repeated characterization of the role of Islamic science as preserving the Greek scientific legacy. It will demonstrate with concrete examples the extent to which Greek science had to be transformed in order to respond to ritual and cultural requirements of Islam, thus critiquing that science and eventually replacing it with a science that was more scientifically consistent. It was this transformed Islamic science that inspired later on the Renaissance scientists.

Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance
(Dr. George A. Saliba)

This illustrated talk will examine the scientific ideas that were first developed in the Islamic world, especially those dealing with planetary theories, and later used in the Latin sources that were produced during the European Renaissance, and in particular in the works of Copernicus. All the evidence for these ideas comes from pages of original Arabic and Latin manuscripts.

Double Incoherence and Double Jeopardy:
Retelling the Story of Attitudes to Science in Islamic Societies

(Dr. Syed Nomanul Haq) 

Living as we do in the twilight of the Enlightenment, a simple ready-made myth about the career of science in Islamic societies still lurks about. This myth has two pseudo-historical elements that fit nicely into a comforting ideological framework. These two elements can be described as reductionism and double-marginalism. The first has it that any achievement made by scientists in the classical Islamic world is reducible to a linear growth of Greek science; the second that those who engaged in genuine science in the Islamic culture were marginal to their society’s mainstream, and that science itself is marginal to Islam. It is an inevitable expression of this alien nature of science in relation to the Arabo-Islamic milieu, so the pseudo-history announces, that Ghazali wrote his Incoherence of the Philophers, an attack that was refuted by Ibn Rushd’s Incoherence of the Incoherence: but Ibn Rushd was fighting a losing battle, and science came to a grinding halt after Ghazali in the early 12th century. My lecture promises to revisit this story and to demonstrate (1) that it is historically absurd and that (2) it stands on the ideological ground that science—that rational, naturalistic study of nature which is doing wonders for us—is essentially a Western phenomenon.

With Friends Like These Who Needs Enemies:
The Irrationality of Supporting Science by Attacking Religion

(Dr. Basit B. Koshul)

A number of recently published books claiming to support and defend science in the face of mounting threats from the dark forces of religion have made it to different best-selling lists. Almost invariably their support and defense of science is premised on (or requires) an attack on religion. The line of reasoning adopted in these books is based on the claim that science equals rationality and religion equals irrationality. Looking at this argument from the perspective of Max Weber's study of the historical development of rationality it is clear that this argument is held together by an insidious sleight of hand—changing the definition of "rationality" in the middle of the argument and then changing it again just before the conclusion. Weber's thoroughly researched findings at the beginning of the 20th century shed light on the current discussion in two ways: a) his research lays bare the intellectual chicanery of those whose support of science necessitates an attack on religion, b) his insights demonstrate that this irrational and unethical attack on religion is actually a frontal assault on the integrity of science. In short, Weber's work helps us to see that science has very little to fear from (some of) its enemies in comparison to threat that it faces from (many of) its friends.

Resource People: 
Keynote speaker
Professor Dr. George Saliba
Professor of Arabic and Islamic Science, Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures Columbia University, New York, United States.
Professor Dr. Noman-ul-Haque
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS, Lahore.
Professor Dr. Basit Bilal Koshul
School of Humanities and Social Sciences, LUMS, Lahore.
Session Chair
Dr. Khalid Hameed Sheikh
WWF, Pakistan
Suheyl Umer
Director, Iqbal Academy Pakistan
Dr. Sabieh Anwar
Joint Secretary, Khwarizmi Science Society
Hafiz Ahmad Hashmi
Quran Academy