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Science and Religion, 1450–1900

, 312 pages

20 halftones, 3 line drawings

April 2006



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Science and Religion, 1450–1900

From Copernicus to Darwin

Galileo. Newton. Darwin. These giants are remembered for their great contributions to science. Often forgotten, however, is the profound influence that Christianity had on their lives and work. This study explores the many ways in which religion—its ideas, attitudes, practices, and institutions—interacted with science from the beginnings of the Scientific Revolution to the end of the nineteenth century.

Both scientists and persons of faith sometimes characterize the relationship between science and religion as confrontational. Historian Richard G. Olson finds instead that the interactions between science and religion in Western Christendom have been complex, often mutually supportive, even transformative. This book explores those interactions by focusing on a sequence of major religious and intellectual movements—from Christian Humanist efforts to turn science from a primarily contemplative exercise to an activity aimed at improving the quality of human life, to the widely varied Christian responses to Darwinian ideas in both Europe and North America during the second half of the nineteenth century.

Richard G. Olson is a professor of history at Harvey Mudd College. He is the author of The Emergence of the Social Sciences, 1642–1792 (Twayne Press, 1993) and Science Deified and Science Defied (University of California Press, 1990).

"Highly recommended. Readers with an interest in science, at the lower-undergraduate level and above."

"Provide[s] a rich historical background to the interaction between science and religion."

"Should appeal to aficionados of science and religion interested in the interaction of culture with the development of science."

"An interesting, insightful, and clearly argued overview."

"Olson's meticulous treatment of the rich variety of interconnections between science and religion was a refreshing revelation. The book does an excellent job of documenting the complex tangle of interconnections between religious thought and scientific work during this time period."

"The book can be warmly recommended to anyone interested in the various ways in which religion interacted with science from the beginning of the Scientific Revolution to the end of the 19th century."