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on 6 April 2010
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. Thankfully a recent follow-up publication explicitly sets out to address this issue (Science and Religion: New Historical Perspectives).

Any student of Religion or the History of Science should own a copy of this book, but it assumes no real prior knowledge and should be accessible to anyone with an interest in the subject.
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