“The most pestilential book ever vomited from the jaws of hell”

Radicalism and science at the publisher John Chapman

In the latter nineteenth century several British doctors, philosophers and naturalists embraced scientific principles as the ones upon which society should best form itself for the future. The theory of evolution, the atomic theory of matter and the theory of the conservation of energy were the core theories upon which this new group hoped to reshape society for the modern period. Historians now call this group of high profile Brits the “scientific naturalists”. Herbert Spencer, whose philosophical exposition of evolutionary principles for society became highly influential, John Tyndall whose essays on religion were widely read and debated, and Thomas Henry Huxley, who later acquired the name “Darwin’s bulldog”, were tireless advocates of this scientifically infused world-view. Continue reading “The most pestilential book ever vomited from the jaws of hell”

What’s the best way to think about creationists?

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo_S%C3%BCndenfall.jpg

What’s the best way for non-creationists to think about creationists?  Some view them, unhelpfully, as inescapably anti-modern, utterly unwilling to face facts.  This unwillingness is often supposed to be linked to religion itself, with religious belief understood as diametrically opposed to the scientific process.  Science, we are told, is about facing facts, being open to correction, being willing to be wrong.  Religion, we are sometimes told, is about none of those things. Continue reading What’s the best way to think about creationists?

Science and Secularisation

On Wednesday 18th November our new home, the Centre for Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society here at Newman University was launched with an inaugural seminar by the celebrated historian of science, Professor John Hedley-Brooke.

CSKBS LogoProfessor Hedley-Brooke, a former Director of the Ian Ramsey Centre at the University of Oxford, presented a skilful overview of the chequered history of science and religion, challenging the thesis Continue reading Science and Secularisation

Edward Burnett Tylor and the Evolution of Religion

Public Domain - published online by the British Library

Edward Burnett Tylor (1832-1917) may not be a household name today, but during the second half of the nineteenth century the Victorian anthropologist and scientific naturalist was a figurehead for anthropology throughout the British Empire. At his seventy-fifth birthday in 1907, his former student and friend Andrew Lang (1844-1912) argued that ‘he who would vary from Mr. Tylor’s ideas must do so in fear and trembling (as the present writer knows from experience)’ (Lang, 1907, p.1).  Continue reading Edward Burnett Tylor and the Evolution of Religion

Why I am not a Christian: Bertrand Russell on Science and Religion

The philosopher, logician and peace activist Bertrand Russell lived for almost a century, with his life spanning from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. He grew up in Britain at the height of its empire, and lived through much of the twentieth century’s major upheavals including two European world wars, the rise of communism, women’s emancipation, America’s rising imperialism and the cold war. By the age of 40 Russell was deeply involved in political movements. Russell’s achievements in philosophy and logic had given his opinions on broader political and contemporary issues deeper significance. Many of these opinions concerned both science and religion. Although Russell gave up his Christian faith in childhood, he continued to write about religion as well as moral, ethical, and scientific questions in books and essays such as Mysticism and Logic (1917), “Why I am not a Christian” (1927), The Scientific Outlook (1931) and Religion and Science (1935). The media, including many British newspapers and BBC radio and television programs, sought out Russell’s perspective on many topics including those on science and religion. Continue reading Why I am not a Christian: Bertrand Russell on Science and Religion