[Blueboard] Rizal's Science: A Struggle for Faith, Reason and Knowledge

jchua at ateneo.edu jchua at ateneo.edu
Fri Nov 25 10:10:19 PHT 2011

As the fifth offering in the Loyola Schools'
The School of Science and Engineering and
The Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health


Rizal's Science: A Struggle for Faith, Reason and Knowledge

Speaker: Dr. Michael L. Tan

Dr. Alfredo R. A. Bengzon
Mr. Harvy Joy Liwanag
Mr. John Xavier Valdes

Venue: Faber Hall
Date, Time: November 25, 2011 (Friday), 4:30 - 6:00 pm

Abstract of Dr. Tan's presentation:

Biographies of Rizal are always accompanied by long lists of his
accomplishments in the arts and sciences, one biographer listing 26
fields where he excelled, including medicine, engineering, languages,
education.  These accomplishments are, in turn, ascribed to an innate
genius, sometimes even essentialized as in the label ?pride of the
Malay race?.

What we forget is that Rizal was a scientist in the sense of someone
aspiring for scientia, knowledge.  For Rizal, science was a struggle,
not surprising given the turbulent times he lived in.  The Philippines
was at the crossroads, Rizal a child of 11 at the time of the Gomburza
martyrdom and a redefining of ?Filipino? (from Spaniards born in the
Philippines to the indio).  His search for the Filipino meant that he
had to use philology (a study of languages, especially origins),
archaeology, anthropology and history, all of which were sciences
dominated by Europeans.  Yet Rizal was able to boldly engage them with
his own ideas, the quintessential indio bravo, the bold indio speaking
up and raising questions.

His study and practice of western medicine occurred at a time of
struggle between the ?germ theorists? and those who believed in
?miasmas? or vapors.
He corresponded with Rudolf Virchow, the father of cellular pathology
and a social reformer, who once described public health as a struggle
against those who wanted medicine to remain ?palliative?.

Rizal wanted modernity (his school in Dapitan was supposed to be a
Modern School), yet saw this modernity to include a respect for the
local.  He was a firm believer in the Enlightenment (thus the
self-ascription ilustrado, or the illuminated) and what we would call
cosmopolitanism today, yet there is evidence that he was attracted to
the ideas of the post-Enlightenment philosopher Johann Gottfried
Herder with an emphasis on building
ethnicity and nationhood.

Most striking, and not discussed enough, Rizal wanted to keep a
religious faith that included so much of what he had learned in the
Ateneo, but wanted this faith to include an engagement of the world,
as a scientist and a humanist.  His correspondence with the Jesuit
Pastels while in exile in Dapitan shows this struggle, but to
understand Rizal?s attempts to reconcile faith and reason, one has to
look too at his other interactions with religious and religious
thinkers, and how all this shaped his view of science and medicine.

Rizal?s struggles for faith, reason and knowledge resonate today for
Filipinos, and in particular, Filipino scientists.


About the speaker:
         Dr. Michael L. Tan is a medical anthropologist, obtaining his
PhD social and political science from the University of Amsterdam. He
is currently the Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Philosophy
(CSSP) at UP Diliman and is also on the faculty of ASMPH. He has
authored numerous books and writes a twice-weekly column for the
Philippine Daily Inquirer. Dr. Tan actually started out as a
veterinarian, earning his doctorate in veterinary medicine from UP. He
continues to practice veterinary medicine.

About the discussants:
         Dr. Alfredo R. A. Bengzon is the Vice-President for the Ateneo
Professional Schools and also CEO of Medical City. He served as
Secretary of Health during the presidency of Mrs. Corazon Aquino
         Mr. Harvy Joy Liwanag is a 5th year medical student at the
Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health.
         Mr. John Xavier Valdes is a 3rd year BS Health Sciences major.

RIZAL AND THE DISCIPLINES is part of the Ateneo de Manila University's
"A Legacy of Service: Rizal for the 21st Century," a series of
historical exhibits, academic lectures and cultural presentations to
commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Dr. Jose P. Rizal.

The lecture is open to the public. However, given the limited seating,
it is requested that those who wish to attend the lecture inform the
Office of the Dean, School of Science and Engineering
at 426-6001 loc. 5601.

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