Science Religion Conflict Thesis

It came as no surprise that with this a priori “religion” became an obstacle to scientific work.

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Towards the middle of the nineteenth century a number of professional scientists started a public campaign to promote the social prestige of science as an activity both prestigious and necessary for a modern state.

So far, academic natural philosophy was largely seen as an ally to theology.

istory of science from the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (1998).

He has been a researcher at the universities of Cambridge, Imperial College (London) and the Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte (Berlin).

Science and religion were seen to go together harmoniously instead of essentially subverting and thwarting each other.

Each meeting includes an introductory lecture (first hour) and a discussion based on selected readings and/or source material related to the question: what can we learn about the relationship between science and religion (second hour)?As a matter of fact, a generation of Christian polymaths, many of them clergymen of the Church of England, had developed a particular brand of natural theology in the early nineteenth century, one which saw in the findings of geology, biology and mechanics the material signs of a designer-god.The were just the tip of the iceberg of a marriage between natural science and theology that kept the former subservient to the latter, thus preventing the full and independent development of science among the intellectual elite. Huxley, John Tyndall, Herbert Spencer and a few other young scientists regularly met and collectively schemed in order to occupy relevant positions in academia and professional bodies and, thus, to change the face of science in Britain.This tradition was, thus, one of the targets by those who argued for an independent, professional and socially prestigious science. Part of the rhetoric they used was to show that the establishment, and with it the Church of England, was preventing the development of science and the welfare of the country.Members of the X-Club came predominantly from the academic fringes (educated, for instance, outside the traditional Oxford-Cambridge system) and also from the middle classes.This professionalization of science, which was partly a product of the post-Enlightenment, took place first in professional guilds, industrial facilities and in the new centralised-State bureaus.The old universities were the last strongholds to resist scientific specialisation.Peter Harrison, the former Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at the University of Oxford, argued rather convincingly that the conflict thesis was a by-product of the process of constructing the boundaries between modern science and other activities which took place in the nineteenth century In a nutshell, Harrison’s argument is the following: much current historiography of science agrees that one cannot speak about “science” proper before the nineteenth century.Prior to that, one can talk about natural philosophy, natural history, alchemy, etc., but these activities were not socially, institutionally, or personally distinct from philosophy, theology or politics.Science and religion are nowadays often seen as conflicting forces.Many scientists adamantly insist that religious belief has no place in a scientific worldview and attitude, while some religious believers vigorously dispute the truth claims of science. History can shed revealing light on this important issue.


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