Friday, January 06, 2006

Regarding the War Between Historiography and Agitprop in Popular Science

The current debates over science, ethics, and religion produce a great deal of unfortunate cant. The emphasis on irresoluble conflict between scientific and religious positions, an emphasis which unfortunately pervades the work of journalists and publicity-seeking scientists, generally has its root in the lazily-thought out nineteenth-century thesis of Andrew Dickson White's A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom.

Fortunately, White's book has its contemporary dissectors.

Bede's Library takes on the gaping errors in White's book in the short essay The Mythical Conflict between Science and Religion

Another longer essay reflects on certain tendentious interpretations of historiography that have nearly become foundational myths: Beyond War and Peace: A Reappraisal of the Encounter between Christianity and Science" Its precis:

During the last third of the nineteenth century Andrew Dickson White and others used military metaphors to describe the historical relationship between science and Christianity. Recent scholarship, however, has shown the "war- fare" thesis to be a gross distortion-as this paper attempts to reveal, employing illustrations from the patristic and medieval periods and from the Copernican and Darwinian debates. The authors argue that the interaction between science and Christianity was far too rich and varied to be covered by any simple formula.

Finally, the always-good-for-a-laugh Wikipedia once begat an argument between two professional historians and an acolyte of White. See MichaelTinkler and JHK rip apart White on Galileo Talk Archive #1 and Galileo Talk Archive #2

Now if only White's unknowing epigones could get wind of this, opinion piece authors will be forced to rely on filler more meaty than Science=Progress, Religion=Oppression.

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