An Obituary for the “Warfare” View of Science and Religion

Galileo Goes to JailDo you have Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion on your reading list (personal and/or group discussion)?  The book’s edited by one of the names in the study of science-religion in America, i.e., Ronald L. Numbers, University Wisconsin-Madison, Hilldale Professor of the History of Science and Medicine. 

As for the title of this entry, I’m referring to last week’s Science and Sacred post by Ted Davis, Messiah College, History of Science.  Here’s an excerpt.

The twenty-five authors in Numbers’ book – one for each of the short, pithy chapters – serve writ on the conflict thesis and its legacy. (To view the contents, go to here.) Many contributors, including Numbers and Lindberg, are major players in the history of science, and at least two will be known to many readers who rarely venture into the field: Edward Larson, whose book on the Scopes trial won the Pulitzer Prize in History, and Michael Ruse, a distinguished philosopher and historian who often writes for general audiences. (Full disclosure: I wrote the chapter on Isaac Newton, but I do not mean to imply that I am a major player and my enthusiasm for the book would be undiminished if I had not contributed to it.) Twelve contributors are agnostics or atheists (by their own statements) and eight are Christians, so charges of advancing a clear ideological agenda will not stick. All of us wrote with ordinary readers, not specialists, in mind, making this a truly rare book: where else can you find such authoritative scholarship delivered so accessibly and fairly on such an important subject?

In effect, this book delivers a public obituary for the warfare view, which has been dead among historians for decades – though many scientists, journalists, and others who know far less about the topic apparently missed the funeral. In fact, the real history of religion and science is too complex, with too many important subtleties and significant mutual interactions, to be captured by any simple metaphor – not conflict, not harmony, nor any other single word that comes to mind. The people who actually lived through the events – those we historians call the “actors” themselves – very often saw things quite differently from the ways in which we’ve usually been told they saw them, or must have seen them. — Ted Davis, An Obituary for the “Warfare” View of Science and Religion, Friday August 28, 2009

Any thoughts on to what degree the warfare view has gone to the grave in academic and/or popular circles?  You’ll hear more from me over the course of the next several months as I participate in the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science‘s discussion of Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, but I thought I’d stir the pot.

Two specific items, I’m interested in from you:

  1. Let me know if you’re picking up the book as an individual or as part of a campus book discussion.
  2. Whether or not you’re reading Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, if you have particular questions regarding the relationship of science-religion-faith which you’d like addressed on the blog, post them here.  As questions arise, I’ll see what insights Ted Davis, Messiah College, History of Science, might have to share with us.

Updated 3/10/2011. 9:15 AM EST.

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Tom Grosh IV

Enjoys daily conversations regarding living out the Biblical Story with his wife Theresa, four girls, around the block, at Elizabethtown Brethren in Christ Church (where he hosts the Christian Scholar Series), on campus as part of InterVarsity Graduate & Faculty Ministry (serving fellowships such as the Christian Medical Society/CMDA at Penn State College of Medicine), online as the Associate Director of the Emerging Scholars Network, in the culture at large, and in God's creation.

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