Religion was a hindrance to the development of medicine in the Middle Ages
Religion in the Middle Ages was not entirely a hindrance to the development of medicine. In some ways it improved it but also held back the development. I shall discuss Christianity and Islam (as they were the leading religions) to support this. When the Roman Empire collapsed very few organisations were left. One of these was the Christian church. Christianity hindered the development of medicine because priests said that God caused sickness and faith, saints and prayer seemed effective cures. They also relied on charms and herbal remedies. They believed that “to buy drugs and consult with physicians doesn’t fit with religion”.
Because of this there was hardly any study of medicine or training of doctors in Christian Europe until 1200. The development of medicine was hindered because the Christian religion did not allow them to buy drugs and believed that religious ways were more effective cures. In 1200 Universities were built and controlled by the Church. This meant teachings were according to the Bible and other medical books such as Galens (Galen’s religious beliefs also restricted him as he could not dissect a human body. To find out more he dissected animals and believed in these findings.
However some were incorrect, as most animals are different to humans). Scholars there did not start new ideas but only taught old ones (which they tried to update) as the Christian Church was opposed the study of the human body, and, believed firmly that Galen was right. They would not allow people to question his ideas. They were also against people charging for medical treatment, as it was part of their duty as Christians. This hindered the development of medicine as there were no new ideas but only old ones were kept alive (and some of these theories were incorrect).
Christianity, which was a strong organisation, improved the development of medicine because their clergy could read Latin and kept medical ideas of Galen. This meant they were not forgotten and they could carry on using and teaching these (however, as I mentioned above, some of these theories were incorrect). They believed it was part of their religious duty to care for sick but this had no major affect on the development of medicine until 1200. There was more trade and better farms which meant there was the option of more herbs for medical treatments and possibly more exotic treatments.
Cathedrals and Universities were built and Scholars could travel and study. This improved the development of medicine as they became more aware of Galen’s theories and they also started training doctors again. They had many books to learn from and European thinkers found they fitted in very well with Christian ideas, which spread their knowledge of medical developments. Christianity did not completely stop the development of medicine as universities were built up etc but because the Christian church controlled these no new medical knowledge was founded.
Islam hindered the development of medicine because dissection of the human body was forbidden so could not make major criticisms of Galen’s theories (which were based on studies of animals). They did not accept new theories eg: Ibn An-Nafis had the theory that there was blood in the lungs but no one else took him up on this idea and the old and incorrect theory was taught for 300 years thus holding back the development of medicine. Islam improved the development of medicine because they made many improvements on old ideas. The Islam religion encouraged believers to care for the sick to build hospitals and study medicine.
This improved the development as medicine as it was part of their religion to study it. Arab scholars translated medical books so when studying, they gathered ideas from Indian and Greek medicine books (followed and improved Hippocrates theories). Their religion of one God fitted well with Galen’s theories and they believed Doctors were explaining the purposes of God Also, Baghdad was a good centre for collecting ideas. They made major improvements on drugs and medicine. They did this by trying to make gold and could purify chemicals eg: alcohol. All of this contributed to improving medicine.
Christians and Islams allowed them to study and follow foreign medical books and in some ways improve their ideas. This also meant the wrong ideas were passed on as they both were held back by not being able to dissect the human body and both refused new ideas. Christians were not allowed to use drugs where as Islams made major improvements on drugs and medicine. Doctors were important for both. More factors hindered the development of medicine than improved it, however, there were some factors that helped medicine eg: translating foreign medical books. Without some of these factors there would not have been any development.
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