The mythical conflict of science and Scripture (1)

[this is a sample of text from the book “Living on the edge” by Jonathan Burke]

The mythical conflict of science & Scripture (1)

Although it is commonly believed that Christianity has traditionally been at war with science, the reality is very different.[1] [2] [3] [4] This view, known as the ‘Conflict Thesis’ or ‘Conflict Model’, originated in the 19th century as a result of anti-religious sentiment.

Two 19th century works in particular were responsible for creating and popularizing this view; John William Draper’s ‘History of the Conflict between Religion and Science’ (1874), and Andrew Dickson White’s ‘History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom’ (1896).

The conflict thesis dominated historical discussion during the 19th and 20th centuries, though it was increasingly modified from 1950 onward.[5] Works by Frank Turner (1974), and James More (1979), contributed significantly to its decline in influence,[6] and the conflict thesis has been comprehensively rejected by modern historians of science.[7] [8] [9] [10] [11]


[1] ‘Despite a developing consensus among scholars that Christianity and science had not been at war, the notion of conflict refused to die.’, Lindberg & Numbers (eds.), ‘God and Nature: Historical essays on the encounter between Christianity and Science’, p. 6 (1986).

[2] ‘The result is the growing recognition among historians of science that the relationship of religion and science has been much more positive than is sometimes thought. Although popular images of controversy continue to exemplify the supposed hostility of Christianity to new scientific theories, studies have shown that Christianity has often nurtured and encouraged scientific endeavour, while at other times the two have co-existed without either tension or attempts at harmonization. If Galileo and the Scopes trial come to mind as examples of conflict, they were the exceptions rather than the rule.’, Ferngren (ed.), ‘Science and Religion: A historical introduction’, p. ix (2002).

[3]  ‘As a historical tool, the conflict thesis is so blunt that it is more damaging than serviceable. One only has to consider the “two books” of Francis Bacon (1561-1626) – nature and Scripture – each of which had a role complementary to that of the other. They were not held to be at odds with each other because they dealt with different subjects. Again, for many scientific figures in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Christianity played a central role in fostering and even shaping their scientific endeavours: The instances of Kepler, Robert Boyle (1627-91), Isaac Newton (1642-1727), and Rene Descartes (1596-1650) are the most conspicuous.’, Russell, ‘The Conflict of Science and Religion’, in Ferngren (ed.), ‘Science and Religion: A historical introduction’, p. 8 (2002).

[4] ‘Historians of science, however, rejected this stereotype long ago.’, Westman, ‘The Copernicans and the Churches’, Blackwell Essential Readings in History, p. 44 (2003).

[5] ‘Despite the growing number of scholarly modifications and rejections of the conflict model from the 1950’s, the Draper-White thesis proved to be tenacious, thought it is probably true that it had been more successfully dispelled for the seventeenth century than for the nineteenth. At any rate, in the 1970s leading historians of the nineteenth century still felt required to attack it. In the second volume of his Victorian Church (1970), Owen Chadwick viewed the conflict thesis as a misconception that many Victorians had about themselves.’, Wilson, ‘The Historiography of Science and Religion’, in Ferngren (ed.),  ‘Science & Religion: A Historical Introduction’, p. 21 (2002).

[6] ‘Whatever the reasons for the continued survival of the conflict thesis, two other books on the nineteenth century that were published in the 1970s hastened its final demise among historians of science. In 1974, Frank Turner carved out new conceptual territory in Between Science and Religion. He studied six later Victorians (including Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-inventor of the theory of evolution by natural selection) who rejected both Christianity and the agnostic “scientific naturalism” of the time. In their various ways, they used different methods, including the empiricism of science (but not the Bible), to support two traditionally religious ideas; the existence of a God and the reality of human immortality. Even more decisive was the penetrating critique “Historians and Historiography” that James Moore placed at the beginning of his Post-Darwinian Controversies (1979).’, ibid., p. 23.

[7] ‘The claim that the advance of science necessarily brings it into conflict with established religious beliefs was advanced most energetically in the late nineteenth century by those who believed that science was the vehicle by which a new, secular view of the human situation would be established.’, Bowler, ‘Reconciling Religion and Science: The Debate in Early Twentieth-Century Britain’, p., 10 (2010).

[8] ‘In the late Victorian period it was common to write about the “warfare between science and religion” and to presume that these two bodies of culture must always have been in conflict. However, it is a very long time since these attitudes have been held by historians of science.’, Shapin, ‘The Scientific Revolution’, p. 195 (1996).

[9] ‘In its traditional forms, the thesis has been largely discredited.’, Brooke, ‘Science and Religion: Some historical perspectives’, p. 42 (1991).

[10] ‘The conflict thesis, at least in its simple form, is now widely perceived as a wholly inadequate intellectual framework within which to construct a sensitive and realistic historiography of Western science.’, Russell, ‘The Conflict of Science and Religion’, in Ferngren (ed.), ‘Science and Religion: A historical introduction’, p. 10 (2002).

[11] ‘However, it is salutary to note that serious historical scholarship has revealed the conflict thesis as, at best, an oversimplification and, at worst, a deception.’, ibid., p. 10.


Find the Introduction: Where is the edge

&: Living on the Edge


Issues in Science and Religion

Issues in Science and Religion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Faith and Science (
    The relationship between religion and science has been a subject of study since Classical antiquity, addressed by philosophers, theologians, scientists, and others. Perspectives from different geographical regions, cultures and historical epochs are diverse, with some characterizing the relationship as one of conflict, others describing it as one of harmony, and others proposing little interaction. The extent to which science and religion may attempt to understand and describe similar phenomena is sometimes referred to as a part of the demarcation problem.Science and religion generally pursue knowledge of the universe using different methodologies. Science acknowledges reason, empiricism, and evidence, while religions include revelation, faith and sacredness.
  • Science Vs Religion (
    There is a huge discussion about whether religion is greater than science or if science if greater than religion. But I believe that science has stronger evidence against religion but due to my upbringing I agree with the religious side of everything and anything.
  • Open Parachute 2013-10-19 23:32:12 (
    Victor Stenger has a very useful series of books on the relationship between science and religion. He is a very clear writer, combining a knowledge of the philosophy and history of science with stories from his own research experience in particle physics. This is, I think, his second to last book – I have yet to put up my review of his latest – God and the Atom.
    Of course it’s good the theologically inclined take an interest in important fields outside their own. Even comment on them. But the inevitable ideological bias in such writings produces  many anti-science ideas and ideologically motivated interpretations of history and philosophy. The apathy of scientists towards these issues means such ideas are not often challenged and sometimes squirm their way into academic writings on science method, philosophy and history.
  • Science and Religion… (
    The fact of the matter is that science and faith complement each other, and there is no conflict between true science and true religion. Together they give the best foundation for wholesome faith and courage for daily living. When Galileo, the father of modern science, discovered that the earth revolved, instead of the sun moving around the earth, certain religious leaders were greatly disturbed, for they held another theory. But eventually they were reconciled.
  • Science and Religion (
    Religion, science both have their place and both often over step their bounds.
  • Text to Text | Einstein and ‘Where Science and Religion Coexist’ (
    In this Text to Text, we take on the question of the compatibility of science and religion, with an excerpt from a Times Opinion piece written by Albert Einstein in 1930; a 2013 report on a conference between scientists and Buddhist monks hosted by the Dalai Lama; and a video in which the theoretical physicist Richard Feynman talks about trying to find answers to life’s big questions while living with doubt.
    From the study of history, one is inclined to regard religion and science as irreconcilable antagonists, and this for a reason that is very easily seen. For anyone who is pervaded with the sense of causal law in all that happens, who accepts in real earnest the assumption of causality, the idea of a Being who interferes with the sequence of events in the world is absolutely impossible … A God who rewards and punishes is for him unthinkable, because man acts in accordance with an inner and outer necessity, and would, in the eyes of God, be as little responsible as an inanimate object is for movements which it makes.Science, in consequence, has been accused of undermining morals—but wrongly. The ethical behavior of man is better based on sympathy, education and social relationships, and requires no support from religion. Man’s plight would, indeed, be sad if he had to be kept in order through fear of punishment and hope of rewards after death.
  • No Faith in Science (
    Daniel Sarewitz, director of a science policy center at Arizona State University and an occasional Slate contributor, wrote this about the Higgs boson in the pages of Nature, one of the world’s most prestigious science journals: “For those who cannot follow the mathematics, belief in the Higgs is an act of faith, not of rationality.”

    Such statements imply that science and religion are not that different because both seek the truth and use faith to find it. Indeed, science is often described as a kind of religion.

  • Science and Religion (
    Now, if you think “reasonable faith” is an oxymoron, you get no extra points, that’s just way too obvious.Craig’s essay is one of the finest examples I have ever seen of how a very smart theist can support his delusion with clever use of his intelligence and education.
    most of Craig’s arguments have been debunked over and over, by numerous authors. His problem, of course, is that religion cannot be relevant to science since it is dependent on alleged revelation from a god, or gods, to man, while science depends on the testing of evidence. We can use science to test an alleged revelation, but it makes no sense to use an alleged revelation to test a scientific hypothesis, and the reason for this is that too many supposed revelations have already failed scientific testing. Thus, revelation often fails (if it exists at all), but science, though imperfect, continually homes in on the truth of how the world really works.
  • The idea of Religion and Science (
    There are something that Religion can not answer but Science can! So if they cant answer it why believe in the side that has no answer or evidence?
  • Star Trek, Science and Religion (
    Personally, when it comes to the paradigms of science, reason, religion and spirituality, I try to hold two views in my mind simultaneously.First, there is what I recognize as true on a functional level and use to operate within this thing we call “reality.” And second, there’s being respectful of other people’s beliefs and thoughts even if they differ from my own. For, although I believe that what I hold to be true is based on the best logic and empirical data available, I am far from perfect, and if I go through life thinking I know more than everyone else, I will not learn and will unquestionably suffer needlessly. 

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