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Reconciling Science and Religion

The Debate in Early-Twentieth-Century Britain

Although much has been written about the vigorous debates over science and religion in the Victorian era, little attention has been paid to their continuing importance in early twentieth-century Britain. Reconciling Science and Religion provides a comprehensive survey of the interplay between British science and religion from the late nineteenth century to World War II.

Peter J. Bowler argues that unlike the United States, where a strong fundamentalist opposition to evolutionism developed in the 1920s (most famously expressed in the Scopes "monkey trial" of 1925), in Britain there was a concerted effort to reconcile science and religion. Intellectually conservative scientists championed the reconciliation and were supported by liberal theologians in the Free Churches and the Church of England, especially the Anglican "Modernists." Popular writers such as Julian Huxley and George Bernard Shaw sought to create a non-Christian religion similar in some respects to the Modernist position. Younger scientists and secularists—including Rationalists such as H. G. Wells and the Marxists—tended to oppose these efforts, as did conservative Christians, who saw the liberal position as a betrayal of the true spirit of their religion. With the increased social tensions of the 1930s, as the churches moved toward a neo-orthodoxy unfriendly to natural theology and biologists adopted the "Modern Synthesis" of genetics and evolutionary theory, the proposed reconciliation fell apart.

Because the tensions between science and religion—and efforts at reconciling the two—are still very much with us today, Bowler’s book will be important for everyone interested in these issues.

487 pages | 11 halftones, 5 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2001

Science and Its Conceptual Foundations series

History: British and Irish History

History of Science

Religion: Religion and Society

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Legacy of Conflict?
Confrontation, Cooperation, or Coexistence?
Victorian Background
Science and Religion in the New Century
Part One: The Sciences and Religion
1. The Religion of Scientists
Changing Patterns of Belief
Scientists and Christianity
Scientists and Theism
Method and Meaning
Science and Values
2. Scientists against Superstition
Science and Rationalism
Religion without Revelation
Marxists and Other Radicals
Science, Religion, and the History of Science
3. Physics and Cosmology
Ether and Spirit
The New Physics
The Earth and the Universe
4. Evolution and the New Natural Theology
Science and Creation
Evolution and Progress
The Role of Lamarckism
Darwinism Revived
5. Matter, Life, and Mind
The Origin of Life
Vitalism and Organicism
Mind and Body
Psychology and Religion
Part Two: The Churches and Science
6. The Churches in the New Century
The Challenge of the New
The Churches’ Response
7. The New Theology in the Free Churches
Precursors of the New Theology
Campbell and the New Theology
Modernism in the Free Churches
8. Anglican Modernism
Modernism and the New Natural Theology
Charles F. D’Arcy
E. W. Barnes
W. R. Inge
Charles Raven
9. The Reaction against Modernism
Evangelicals against Evolution
Liberal Catholicism
The Menace of the New Psychology
Science and Modern Life
Theology in the Thirties
Roman Catholicism
Part Three: The Wider Debate
10. Science and Secularism
Against Idealism
Popular Rationalism
The Social Reformers
11. Religion’s Defenders
From Idealism to Spiritualism
Creative and Emergent Evolution
Evolution and the Human Spirit
Progress through Struggle
The Christian Response
Biographical Appendix

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