Religion, Science, and A. S. Eddington
Eddington was a world-class scientist who not only maintained his religious belief throughout his scientific career but also defended the interrelation of science and religion while drawing inspiration from both for his practices. For instance, at a time when a strict adherence to deductive principles of physics had proved fruitless for understanding the nature of stars, insights from Quaker mysticism led Eddington to argue that an outlook less concerned with certainty and more concerned with further exploration was necessary to overcome the obstacles of incomplete and uncertain knowledge.
By examining this intersection between liberal religion and astrophysics, Practical Mystic questions many common assumptions about the relationship between science and spirituality. Matthew Stanley’s analysis of Eddington’s personal convictions also reveals much about the practice, production, and dissemination of scientific knowledge at the beginning of the twentieth century.
"In this extraordinary book about the life of the distinguished English astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington, Matthew Stanley examines the entangled roles of science and religion in his work. . . . Practical Mystic is not a biography but a biographical study—a fascinating one."
"In this fascinating study of Eddington and his worldviews, author Stanley offers glimpses of the conflicts between science and the religious spirit more than six decades ago. He also gives the reader insights into Eddington's astrophysics and the gist of some of his more popular books. This very interesting and well-researched work is enormously relevant in the context of current confrontations. Though very little seems to have changed in the debates, in actuality, there are no scientists of Eddington's stature today who dare to speak about their religious convictions as openly as Eddington did without risking their professional reputation."
History of Science Society: Pfizer Award