Thematic Approaches to the Study of Science Drift 25, Rm. 204 Contributed Papers
25 Jul 2019 09:00 AM - 11:45 AM(Europe/Amsterdam)
20190725T0900 20190725T1145 Europe/Amsterdam Science and Religion Drift 25, Rm. 204 History of Science Society 2019 meeting@hssonline.org
Enlightenment's Apocalypse: Providence, Prophecy, and Science in the Work of Joseph PriestleyView Abstract
Contributed Paper 09:00 AM - 09:30 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 07:00:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 07:30:00 UTC
Joseph Priestley had a particular story to tell about his own and others' scientific work, or rather a larger story, religious in nature, which historically placed and specified the fundamental meanings of historically recent and contemporary natural science. This paper will reconstruct these meanings firstly by analysis of his preoccupations with the nature and forms of divine providence, and his concern to detect God's 'different footsteps', the traces of divine action in human history. This analysis produces a concept of Priestley's 'providential epistemics' as the basis of his perception and grasp of historical meaning, and aspects of the natural sciences are among his most significant exemplars. The paper then focuses upon his his hermeneutics of Biblical prophecy, emphasizing its intensely apocalyptic tenor, its presentist interpretation of prophecy, its latter interest in the restoration of the Jews to the land of Canaan and their conversion, and its stress upon the recent course of science as herald of apocalyptic imminence. Priestley's understanding of the historical meanings of the progress of natural science recall that of the Puritan millenarians of the mid- seventeenth century English Revolution. For historians of the eighteenth century, particularly historians of Enlightenment, to which historiography Priestley and his radical Dissenting colleagues are often assimilated, unavoidable problems occur once the apocalyptic disposition of Priestley and his colleagues is taken as a characteristic and forceful feature of their work. The paper thus concludes with consideration of the issues raised for Enlightenment historiography by recognition of Priestley's apocalyptic discourse.
Presenters John Christie
John Christie, University Of Oxford
"Science is the Antichrist": Popular Science, Radicalism, and Irreligion in Early Nineteenth-Century BritainView Abstract
Contributed Paper 09:30 AM - 10:00 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 07:30:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 08:00:00 UTC
In 1820 the radical journalist Richard Carlile declared in the pages of his 'Republican' that science had for centuries been "continually at war" with religion. While historians have tended to locate the conflict thesis as the product of debates much later in the nineteenth century, in this paper I show how a militant, scientifically-inflected irreligion was a recurrent feature of radical agitation in Britain as early as the 1820s and '30s. What marked Carlilean radicalism out as novel was his recruitment of science as the key vehicle for his proposed programme for the popular overthrow of Old Corruption. As well as science providing the intellectual ground for his materialist doctrines, scientific education would also, through new organisations like the Mechanics' Institutes, act as the means of liberation of the working-class mind. Carlile was joined in his struggle by his 'moral wife' Eliza Sharples (whose short-lived 'Isis' made her the first woman to edit a radical paper in Britain), as well as a cadre of itinerant lecturers, including the 'infidel astronomy' of his friend the Reverend Robert Taylor. Meanwhile, new Zetetic Societies emerged as a freethinking rival to elite provincial literary and philosophical societies. In other words, Carlilean science offered an active intellectual programme to the disaffected artisans of Britain. As well as deserving attention in its own right, greater awareness of this radical counterprogramme is essential in assessing the knowledge politics of other, more familar modes of popular science in this period.
Presenters Eoin Carter
University Of Cambridge
Science, Falsely So-Called? Pseudoscience, Anti-Darwinism, and the Science-Religion Debate at the Victoria InstituteView Abstract
Contributed Paper 10:15 AM - 10:45 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 08:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 08:45:00 UTC
By the mid-nineteenth century, works by scientists such as Charles Lyell, Alfred Russel Wallace, and Charles Darwin had threatened traditional conceptions of the natural world, drawn heavily from scripture and from the natural theology of William Paley. Much attention has been paid to debates with the scientific community about evolution, human origins, and the age of the earth. Yet much of this has concentrated on the rapidly professionalising area of the natural sciences in academia. Debates within other fields, particularly those of well-educated amateurs, have received rather less attention. This paper attempts to remedy that situation, by examining the nineteenth century’s leading anti-evolutionary organisation. Established in 1865, the Victoria Institute had as its prime objective the defence of ‘the great truths revealed in Holy Scripture’ from ‘the opposition of science, falsely so called.’ Bringing together professional scientists, clergymen, and gentlemen amateurs, the Victoria Institute aimed to investigate the latest developments in science from a religious perspective. Initially, this resulted in attempts to buttress religious belief against scientific discoveries; later, it developed into an opportunity for scientists of faith to discuss their beliefs with a sympathetic audience. Drawing on lectures delivered at the Victoria Institute, correspondence, and proceedings, this paper charts the relationship between religious belief, anti-Darwinism, and pseudoscience in Victorian Britain and Ireland and offers a perspective on scientific developments from an underexplored viewpoint.
Presenters Stuart Mathieson
Queen’s University Belfast
Physics for the Believers: The Translation and Reception of Pascual Jordan's Forschung Macht Geschichte in Finland in the 1950sView Abstract
Contributed Paper 10:45 AM - 11:15 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 08:45:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 09:15:00 UTC
The German physicist Pascual Jordan (1902-1980) is renown not only for his contributions to the development of quantum mechanics but also for trying to reconcile religious and scientific world views. Science, he thought, had repealed materialism. Aiming at a wider audience, Jordan lectured at Radio Bremen. These lectures were reworked in 1954 into a book Forschung macht Geschichte (Science and the course of history). The book was translated in 1956 into Finnish (Tutkimus luo historiaa) by Dr. Reino Tuokko, who had a PhD in nuclear physics and was the most prominent Finnish popularizer of physics during the early Cold War period. In his book, Jordan argued for a greater role for science in society and culture. He also both defended science from religious criticism, and Christian faith from materialist criticism. In other words, Jordan argued physics for the believers; he attempted to convince a conservative Christian audience of the importance of science and its compatibility with religious faith. His translator Dr. Tuokko subtly commented on Jordan's ideas in his own original works. Jordan's ideas also resonated with the wider intellectual climate in Finland. I present the case of Jordan's Forschung macht Geschichte and its transnational influence from the cross-section of intellectual history, cultural history of science and history of popularization. I also consider theoretical aspects on how people employ knowledge for cultural and ideological purposes.
Presenters Ahto Apajalahti
University Of Helsinki
Paradigms Old and New: Twentieth Century Intersections between Kuhnian Revolutions and the Dutch Catholic FaithView Abstract
Contributed Paper 11:15 AM - 11:45 AM (Europe/Amsterdam) 2019/07/25 09:15:00 UTC - 2019/07/25 09:45:00 UTC
The question of how Thomas Kuhn’s work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, has been received by the Catholic church is a topic that has garnered small bursts of attention over the last fifty years. Theologians such as Hans Küng and David Tracy have explored the possibility of analogizing paradigm shifts with dogmatic changes in the history of Christianity, while other scholars such as Paul Ricoeur and Matthew Lamb have taken a hermeneutic approach to scriptural paradigm analysis. However, one perspective that has not received scholarly attention belongs to the twentieth century Dutch Catholic theologian Edward Schillebeeckx, who used Kuhnian epistemological theories as the basis for his 1974 statement that Jesus is the “paradigm of humanity.” My paper proposes that Schillebeeckx incorporated scientific models and Kuhnian paradigms into his influential three-volume Christological work as a response to the mid-twentieth-century European cultural milieu. To support this claim, I examine the way Schillebeeckx countered a debate with his colleague at the University of Nijmegen, Ansfried Hulsbosch, who argued for a scientific evolutionary account of the person of Christ. Further, I discuss how Schillebeeckx prepares his readers with a thorough understanding of the ancient Greek concept of paideia and a Platonic understanding of the divine paradeigma prior to introducing Kuhn’s work. I argue that Kuhn’s paradigm becomes integrated into Schillebeeckx’s work through his historical-critical research. In conclusion, by examining Kuhn’s influence on Schillebeeckx’s theological work, I demonstrate the unrecognized way in which Kuhn’s work has influenced the Dutch Catholic church.
Presenters Michelle Marvin
University Of Notre Dame
John Christie, University of Oxford
University of Cambridge
Queen’s University Belfast
University of Helsinki
University of Notre Dame
Southern Adventist University
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