A Short History of Science and Religion - Reason
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Article Index
A Short History of Science and Religion
The Ancient World
The Greek Contribution
Rise of Christtianity
Dark and Middle Ages
Rise of Science and Philosophy
Galileo, Newton, Kant
Modern Times
Personal Theology
All Pages

The Rise of Science - The Ages of Reason and Enlightenment

HuxleyImmanuel Kant (1724-1804) – Born in East Prussia and a giant of philosophical thinking, Immanuel Kant defined "enlightenment" toward the end of the 18th century, the late period of the Age of Enlightenment. He also ushered in the 19th century and its rich period of new ideas and discoveries. He wrote that one could not know if there was a God, but one could also not know there was not a God. He tried to reconcile faith and science basically by separating the two. Kant felt the focus should be on human relationships and not on the natural world, which he considered inscrutable.

DarwinThe 19th Century - The Ferment of Ideas - Charles Darwin 1809-1882 No one in history more than Charles Darwin influenced the rift between religion and science. The 5th of 6 children, he was born into a  family of means. He was sent to Cambridge to study for the ministry after being a failure at studying for medicine. Charles' professor had been offered a globe-circling trip on the 100 foot boat, the Beagle, but was unable to accept. He offered the trip to Charles. At first his family forbade him to go, but his uncle persuaded the family to support Charles in the voyage. He was seasick the entire five years of the trip. Charles’s mother was a Wedgwood (of the famous pottery-making family), and Charles eventually married Emma Wedgwood, his 1st cousin. Origin of the Species was his blockbuster book, but Descent of Man was his exposition on anthropology and the evolution of the human species. Darwin believed in God, and did not see a conflict between religion and his work, although he clearly understood the dissension between the Church and his work that followed.

The Philosophers and Theologians - Only a small sample of the ground-breaking and original thinking of the 19th century will be presented here. David Strauss (1808-1874) dared to suggest that the stories surrounding Jesus's life and work did not derive from actual events but had resulted from an Old Testament mythological tradition. Theology in the 19th century became diverse and sometimes contentious. For example, Charles Hodge (1797-1878), Professor of Theology at Princeton, wrote simply that Darwinism was atheism.

 Thomas HuxleyThomas Huxley (1825-1895) wrote treatises supporting the theory of evolution, even though he had doubts about Darwin's ideas of natural selection and gradualism. He enlarged evolutionary thinking to include ideas about human evolution and distinction between human races and genders. Huxley considered himself an agnostic. Almost totally self-schooled, Huxley made contributions not only in areas of thinking about evolution, he made large contributions to biology.