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November/December 2005 · Historically Speaking 11 by non-historians, such as Morris and Johnson themselves who blame all manner of modern "evil" from communism to total war on Darwinism, but their followers include trained historians, such as California State University history professor Richard Weikart, whose 2002 book, From Darwin to Hitler, roots Nazi barbarism in scientific naturalism and Hitler's repudiation oftraditional Christian values. On the other side, even such a mainstream history of science text as Science and Technology in World History by James McClellan and Harold Dorn (which I use in some ofmy introductory courses) perpetuates the warfare thesis , beginning with the comment that Thaïes, the first Greek natural philosopher, "sets the natural world off somehow separate from the divine," and continuing through vivid depictions of the Galileo Affair and modern Christian opposition to Darwinism. For McClellan and Dorn, the conflict is between science and any authority that would "inhibit scientific development," with Christianity singled out for opposing theories of a moving earth and evolving species.4 Given the shrill tone of the ongoing American controversy over creation and evolution , and the rising influence ofboth secular scientism and biblical religion in modern America, I can not wholly dismiss the warfare metaphor as an antiquated relic. To partisans on both sides of this and other controversies, conflict remains an inevitable way to interpret the relationship between science and religion. EdwardJ. Larson is the Talmadge Chair ofLaw andRussell Professor of American History at the University of Georgia. His Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion (Harvard University Press, 1997) won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History. His most recent book is Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory (Modern Library, 2004). 1 Thomas H. Huxley, Science and Christian Tradition: Essays (Appleton, 1893), 5, 14. 2 World's Most Famous Court Trial (Bryan College, 1990], 115, 183, 197 [published version ofthe Scopes trial transcript]. 3 Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (Longman, 1986), 241. 4 James E. McClellan III and Harold Dorn, Science and Technology in World History: An Introduction (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 61, 234, 329. Comments on William Shea Ronald L. Numbers Perhaps surprisingly, given William R. Shea's area of expertise (early modern Europe) and his religious orientation (Roman Catholic), I find myself (a religiously agnostic historian of modern America), in almost total agreement. I especially appreciate what he and several other historians of science and religion have done to correct the notorious Galileo story. Thanks to them, we no longer see the Galileo Affair as a paradigm of the inevitable conflict between science and theology but as a complex human interaction between the abrasive, egocentric, and fallible Galileo (who for years practiced and taught astrology) and some equally flawed (but no less intelligent) churchmen. Galileo no doubt suffered psychologically from his encounter with church authorities, but, contrary to nearly universal belief, he was neither tortured nor imprisoned.1 In fact, no natural philosopher or natural historian, to my knowledge, ever lost his life because ofhis scientific views, though the Italian Inquisition did incinerate the 16thcentury Copernican Giordano Bruno for his heretical theological notions. In the 19th century John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White administered a severe historical beating to the Vatican, whose antipathy toward science had, in the words of Draper, left its hands "steeped in blood." The Roman church did not always support interrogating nature, but its record was far from the dismal indictment of Draper and White. In a recent history of solar observatories in cathedrals , the distinguished Berkeley historian John Heilbron concludes that "the Roman Catholic church gave more financial and social support to the study of astronomy for over six centuries, from the recovery of ancient learning during the late Middle Ages into the Enlightenment, than any other, and, probably, all other, institutions."2 Heilbron's assertion, though counterintuitive to many readers, rests on sound historical evidence. It provides no support, however, for the generalization , favored by some Christian apologists, that science could have developed only in a Christian culture. Such a claim misrepresents the scientific achievements of ancient Greeks and medieval Muslims and exhibits a thorough misunderstanding of the history...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6438
Print ISSN
1941-4188
Pages
pp. 11-14
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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