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Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives (Cambridge Studies in the History of Science) Paperback – 31 May 1991

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Paperback, 31 May 1991
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Product details

  • Paperback: 436 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (31 May 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521283744
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521283748
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 717,746 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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"An excellent introduction to [the important] question--what is the historical relation between science and religion...This well-crafted book also contains an extensive and useful bibliography essay." New Scientist

"In his impressive and thoughtful book, John Hedley Brooke, a historian of science, stands back from the contention and shows how history can illuminate the relationship of science and religion." Geoffrey Canto, Times Literary Supplement

"...a book which I read with great profit and can recommend to teachers and students of the relation between science and religion. It is in many respects the best study of the history of the interplay of Christian theology and modern science that I have come across." Peter Byrne, ????

"...brilliant, intellectually exciting....a `must' for anyone interested in science, in religion, and in our Western intellectual tradition." Spirituality Today

"This is an astonishing book about one of the most important problems facing our culture. Down the ages, the relationship of science to philosophy and religion has changed in countless ways. The main theme of this book is the almost unbelievable subtlety, complexity and diversity of this relationship. One cannot help but admire the author's vast reading, his penetrating critical power, his grasp of detail and his ability to summarize." H.N.V. Temperley, Nature

"...well written and will repay the attention that it demands by providing a fine background in the history of science as it has been affected by the historical progress of religious thought in the West." Gordon Stein, The American Rationalist

"...I have no hesitation in saying flatly that every scholar in our discipline, and many others as well, should benefit from reading this work." Edward B. Davis, Isis

"He has given us a brilliant, perceptive, subtle, nuanced analysis, which will permanently alter the way scholars and the informed lay public view the relations of science and religion. It is up to the rest of us to build on the foundation that Brooke has provided." David Lindberg, Metascience

"John Hedley Brooke's latest book is arguably the most important historical analysis of science and religion since Andrew Dickson White's History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom appeared nearly a century ago....the starting place for all future discussions of the subject." Ronald L. Numbers, Metascience

" admirable historical survey...Brooke admirably criticizes historiographical methods that describe the relations of science and religion in an undimensional fashion...Historians of the modern era have in this volume one of the best surveys of science and religion available in English. One pedagogical advantage is that it forces the reader to evaluate differing interpretations of the history of interactions between science and religion. The text is supplemented by an excellent bibliographic essay and an index. " Kenneth J. Howell, Journal of Modern History

Book Description

In this 1991 volume, John Hedley Brooke offers an introduction and critical guide to one of the most fascinating and enduring issues in the development of the modern world: the relationship between scientific thought and religious belief. A special feature of the book is that Brooke stands back from general theses affirming 'conflict' or harmony'.

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During their history, the natural sciences have been invested with religious meaning, with antireligious implications and, in many contexts, with no religious significance at all. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Format: Paperback
This book is a modern classic and will be of interest to anyone with an interest in modern historical approaches to the past interactions of science and religion. Brooke criticises both the conflict thesis (that science and religion have inevitably come into conflict in the past) and the harmony thesis (that 'properly understood' science and religion have always worked together). In their place he firmly defends the 'complexity thesis' and advocates an appreciation of the many diverse ways in which science and religion have engaged in different historical contexts.

The main focus of the book spans from the late 16th to the 20th century and covers a truly phenomenal range of subjects: just about everything which can be described as science, from biology and physics to the German historical criticism of the 18th and 19th centuries gets some coverage and the concluding bibliographic essay is a great starting point for further research. Whether you're an academic looking for for a textbook to base a course around on an independent reader wanting to give structure to their study this book is excellent.

Given the recent proliferation of books on science and religion it should be noted that this is a history book and Brooke doesn't involve himself in philosophical disputes as to how science and religion should interact. If this is your main area of interest then you're likely to be disappointed by this book, although it will give you a valuable historical perspective on the debate.

If I had to identify one fault with this book it's that its demolition of simplistic 'conflict' and 'harmony' narratives can at times appear to leave the historian as little more than a stamp collector, recording facts with no overarching structure to arrange them in.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
The best book I know on the topic 14 Aug. 2000
By Timothy Chow - Published on
Format: Paperback
Brooke challenges many comfortable myths about the history of science and religion in the West. Fans of Andrew White's "warfare" metaphor---that science and theology have always been in conflict with each other---will find that this simplistic metaphor fails to capture the complexity of actual historical data. On the flip side, Christian apologists who maintain that Christianity deserves the lion's share of the credit for the rise of natural science in the West will also find that reality is much more complicated than this neat story would have it. The book is a must for anyone who is serious about understanding the relationship between these two powerful forces that shape so much of Western culture today.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Fair Overview (of Predominantly Anglo-Protestant Science), But Somewhat Boring 30 Jun. 2013
By C# - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
- Why I Read This Book

I purchased this book for a seminar on Darwin and Religion that I had planned to audit. Although I was not able to audit the course, I decided to keep the book and read it due to my interest in the history of philosophy and science, and my conversion to traditional Catholicism.

- Positives

I appreciated the introductory chapters, which argue that the relation between science and religion is not always clear-cut, with them in obvious conflict or harmony. And I enjoyed the chapter "Science and Religion in the Enlightenment", which was one of the few chapters to really engage me, due to my background in Enlightenment philosophy.

Most interesting to me was the final chapter, "Evolutionary Theory and Religious Belief", and I might recommend people borrow the book at least to read this part. It was astounding to me that the doctrine of evolution, from the very beginning, was used not merely to argue for a non-literal interpretation of Genesis, but to abolish belief in God whatsoever and specifically the Catholic Church. Interestingly, Darwin himself vacillated between belief in God and atheism, and his own wife, an Anglican, was horrified by some of his claims. Eugenicists such as T.H. Huxley (Aldous Huxley's uncle) immediately seized on Darwinism to promote their twisted racism. Some atheists, such as Haeckel, went so far as to argue that Darwinism should give rise to neo-Pagan temples, where nature and science are worshipped.

It is further remarkable that Darwin found his views compatible with the philosophical doctrine of positivism, which averred that knowledge is simply the description of sensory experience - so much for the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. And even more remarkably, Darwinism had a direct influence on William James to establish pragmatism, which is essentially codified relativism.

- Negatives

While not a negative per se, this book is perhaps best suited for the specialist who needs to consult a chapter or so for his research. Although I have interests in the topic, I personally found this book somewhat boring and - with some exceptions - non-engaging: in fact, it took me a whole year to finish this book!

A serious drawback is that it is primarily focused on the musings of English-speaking Protestant theologians and scientists. It is not a comprehensive guide to the relation between the different world religions and the development of science. (In all fairness, it does not claim to be.) Nor does it even adequately cover European science, since it gives only cursory treatment to medieval scientific development (and none that I can recall to Greek). From a Catholic point of view, this book spends an inordinate amount of time cataloging the debates between various kinds of heretics, all lacking grounding in the Faith.

- Final Thoughts

This is not a bad book and may fit someone's needs or interests. However, I would much more strongly recommend Stanley Jaki's Science and Creation (if you can find it), which while not an easy read, is more comprehensive and - to me at least - fascinating.
32 of 48 people found the following review helpful
Lots of potential, but fails to deliver for this reader. 6 Jun. 2005
By D. Collingridge - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Brooke is very knowledgeable on the history of science and religion. His knowledge is evident in this book "Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives." IMO, his presentation does not do justice to his understanding. Here are some of the concerns that I have.

First, the book repeatedly quotes authors without providing references in the form of end notes. Second, the book does some "name dropping." For example, you will be reading about Galileo, and then suddenly, in the same paragraph, another name will pop up without some context or background about who that person is or why he or she is important. A little bit of this is ok, but it can make reading difficult. Third, the book often refers to Bacon, but which one!? Roger or Francis? Fourth, sometimes I had re-read parts over again to ensure full understanding because some ideas seem to be squished together.

On the positive side, he emphasizes the importance of interpreting past events within the context of which those events occurred. There are a lot of gems in this book. If you are like me you just have to hunt for them.
3 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Very good introduction to the subject 2 May 2006
By N. Nevatia - Published on
Format: Paperback
I think John Hedley Brooke brings out some very interesting material in this book. Various theses, interpretations and topics are analysed. The text serves as a primer for students of history of science and theology...
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