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Three kinds of narratives have shaped the historiography concerning the relationships between science and the Christian religion. Stories about the “conflict between religion and science,” in the words of J. W. Draper, or the “warfare of science and theology,” in the words of A. D. White, captured the imagination of Western secular intellectual elites in the nineteenth century. As Draper put it in 1875, “The history of Science is not a mere record of isolated discoveries; it is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from traditional faith and human interests on the other.” In stories of this sort, the victory of science over religion lies at the heart of the admirable march of reason that began in Greek antiquity and culminated in the scientism of the nineteenth century. This historiographical tradition rests on a selective, and highly moralized, presentation of a few episodes of real clash between scientific ideas and religious authority, such as the Counter-Reformation Church’s condemnation of Galileo Galilei (1564–1642) or nineteenth-and twentieth-century Christian rejections of evolutionary theory, framed by an essentialized understanding of science and theology conceived in terms of the self and its enemies. Although this story remains surprisingly influential, especially in the popular historiography of science, more recent scholars have developed two alternative and contrasting narratives. A number of theologians, scientists, and some historians have argued that the more typical – and more commendable – relationship between religion and science has involved a separate and peaceful coexistence.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Science
Subtitle of host publicationEarly Modern Science
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9781139054010
ISBN (Print)0521572444, 9780521572446
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2006


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