Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion
by Brenton Cook
In the second half of the nineteenth century, Andrew Dickson White and John William Draper wrongly proposed that science and religion exist in a perpetual state of conflict. (One is reminded of Stephen Gould’s famous demarcation between science and religion as two non-overlapping magisterium.) Historians and scientists who adopted the White-Draper thesis consequently misread several famous episodes in western history in their attempt to confirm the thesis. Although White and Draper’s credibility as researchers has long been discounted, their thesis has proved resilient, filtering down into the popular conception through constant textbook repetition and oft-cited historical “myths” proposing a clash between church and science.
Historian Ronald Numbers (author of The Creationists) has gathered an impressive list of scholars to set the record straight through their exploration of twenty-five “myths” concerning the relationship between science and religion. Interestingly, twelve of the twenty-five contributing authors are atheists or agnostics; one is a Jew, one a Muslim, one a Buddhist, and one a Spinozist. The book can hardly be dismissed as creationist propaganda…
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