Why History Matters: Debunking the “Warfare” View of Science and Religion
Friday, Sept. 18th 2015
Public Lecture: 4:15-5:45pm
University Club (Dining Hall), McMaster University
Many people believe that science and religion are engaged in an ongoing, inevitable conflict. This view is often supported by offering famous historical examples, which are alleged to show that conflict between science and religion has always been the normal state of affairs. However, a more accurate understanding of the history of science shows that the “warfare” view of science and religion fails entirely to capture the complexity of the actual historical situation. Dr. Davis examines the sources of the “warfare” view, showing how two nineteenth-century American scholars – chemist John William Draper of NYU and historian Andrew Dickson White, the first president of Cornell University – effectively created the historical myth of an ongoing, inevitable “warfare” of science and religion. He also explains why modern scholars have found the “warfare” view all but useless as a guide for writing the history of science and religion.
Edward B. (“Ted”) Davis (http://home.messiah.edu/~tdavis/) is Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College (Mechanicsburg, PA). Best known for studies of Robert Boyle, Dr. Davis edited (with Michael Hunter) The Works of Robert Boyle, 14 vols. (Pickering & Chatto, 1999-2000), and a separate edition of Boyle’s treatise on God and the mechanical philosophy, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature (Cambridge University Press, 1996). Author of dozens of articles about the history of science and religion, his study of modern Jonah stories (http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/1991/PSCF12-91Davis.html) was featured on two BBC radio programs. His current project, supported by the National Science Foundation and the John Templeton Foundation, examines the religious activities and beliefs of prominent American scientists from the period between the two world wars. He also writes bi-weekly columns about science and religion for The BioLogos Forum (http://biologos.org/blog/author/davis-ted).