On May 3, we had the visit of Jaume Navarro (Ikerbasque Research Professor, University of the Basque Country) in the classrooms of the Institute of Philosophy, where he delivered the seminar «Science, Religion, and Nationalism: A Historiographic Proposal.»
Here’s a brief summary of his presentation: In his historiography on the origin and development of the modern nation-state, the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm coined the term «invented traditions» to refer to the myths, legends, traditions, and customs that modern nations constructed to shape their identity, legitimize their existence, and provide social coherence to their citizens. Based on the work of science historians such as John H. Brooke, Ronald Numbers, or Peter Harrison, the project presented here explores the interaction between science, religion, and nationalism, with special attention to the various roles that some religious institutions, confessional traditions, or a loosely defined notion of «religion» have played in shaping the identity of «science» in different national contexts. In this project, which I co-coordinate with Kostas Tampakis (Hellenic Science Foundation, Athens), we argue that the conflicts or alliances between «science» and «religion» have played a significant role in the constitution of modern nation-states, while defining the identity of «science» and «religion.» Among the interactions we analyze are: the use of anti-clerical rhetoric as a scapegoat for the scientific backwardness (real or supposed) of some countries; the creation of «invented traditions» related to «science» and «religion» to legitimize new national identities or institutions; the struggles between different confessions to appropriate the prestige of modern sciences; or the definition of «science» as a territory analogous to that of a nation-state. In addition, the case studies we analyze can help understand the processes by which religious myths and their institutions were largely replaced by stories of the progress of science and technology, often imbued with nationalist rhetoric.
Jaume Navarro is an Ikerbasque researcher at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). Trained in physics, philosophy, and the history of science, he is the author, among others, of «A History of the Electron: J.J. and G.P. Thomson» (Cambridge, 2012) and editor of collective volumes such as «Science and Faith within Reason» (Ashgate, 2011), «Research and Pedagogy: A History of Quantum Physics through its Textbooks» (with Massimiliano Badino, Edition Open Access, 2013), and «Ether and Modernity» (Oxford, 2018). He has recently coordinated a thematic section in Zygon (2019), titled «Science and Religion in nineteenth-century Europe: non Anglo-American perspectives,» with Kostas Tampakis.