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Science and Religion in the Anglo-American Periodical Press, 1860–1900: A Failed Reconciliation

  • James C. Ungureanu

Abstract

Historians of science and religion usually trace the origins of the “conflict thesis,” the notion that science and religion have been in perennial “conflict” or “warfare,” to the historical narratives of John William Draper (1811–1882) and Andrew Dickson White (1832–1918). While Draper and White have been designated cofounders of the conflict thesis, there has been little research on how contemporaries responded to their narratives. This paper examines the early reception of these narratives by considering the extensive commentary they received in British and American periodicals from 1856 to 1900. Sampling a selection of this material suggests that while many rejected Draper and White's interpretation of the past, many others agreed with them in affirming that theological dogmatism came into conflict with the advance of human knowledge. This essay also suggests that Draper and White may have had a more nuanced position about the history of science and religion than has been contended by modern scholars. Whatever their intentions, however, their historical narratives had the unintended consequence of creating in the minds of their contemporaries and later generations the belief that science and religion have been and are at war.

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Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Peter Harrison, Ian Hesketh, Ron Numbers, Bernie Lightman, and Ted Davis for their comments on earlier drafts of this essay. I would also like to express my thanks to the anonymous referee for Church History, who provided encouraging and helpful comments.

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1 See, for example, early claims in Russell, Colin A., Hooykaas, R., and Goodman, David C., The ‘Conflict Thesis’ and Cosmology (Milton Keynes: The Open University Press, 1974); Chadwick, Owen, The Secularization of the European Mind in the 19th Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1975); Moore, James R., The Post-Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant Struggle to come to terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870–1900 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979); and Lindberg, David C. and Numbers, Ronald L., eds. God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter between Christianity and Science (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), which greatly influenced subsequent scholarship.

2 Lindberg, David C. and Numbers, Ronald L., “Beyond War and Peace: A Reappraisal of the Encounter between Christianity and Science,” Church History 55, no. 3 (1986): 338–54, 340.

3 The literature is extensive—accessible overviews may be found in  Numbers, Ronald L. (ed.), Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009); and Numbers, Ronald L. and Kampourakis, Kostas, eds., Newton's Apple and Other Myths about Science (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2015).

4 Livingstone, David N., “Science, Religion, and the Cartographies of Complexity,” in Recent Themes in the History of Science and Religion, ed. Yerxa, Donald A. (Columbia: University of South Carolina, 2009), 5155.

5 Woodhead, Linda, ed., Reinventing Christianity: Nineteenth-century Context (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001), see especially 1–21.

6 Ibid., 7.

7 See, for example, Person, Stow, Free Religion: An American Faith (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1947); Reardon, Bernard M. G., Liberal Protestantism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1968); Hutchison, William R., The Modernist Impulse in American Protestantism (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992); Dorrien, Gary, The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion, 1805–1900 (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001); and Schmidt, Leigh Eric, Restless Souls: The Making of American Spirituality (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).

8 Draper, John William, A History of the Intellectual Development of Europe (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1863), 198, 382402; Draper, John William, History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1874), vxvi.

9 White, Andrew D., The Warfare of Science (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1876), 710; White, Andrew Dickson, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 2 vols. (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1896), 1.v–xii, 410. See also Ungureanu, James C., Science, Religion, and the Protestant Tradition: Retracing the Origins of Conflict (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019), which provides a renewed analysis of the origins, development, and popularization of the so-called “conflict thesis.”

10 See, for example, The Review: Human Physiology,” National Era, vol. 10 (Oct 23, 1856): 170; Draper's Physiology,” North American Review 83, no. 173 (Oct 1856): 561; Draper, Human Physiology,” American Journal of Medical Sciences 65 no. 1 (Jan 1857): 7692; Human Physiology, Statical and Dynamical,” Athenaeum 1524 (January 10, 1857): 51; Draper's Physiology,” Methodist Quarterly Review 9, no. 23 (July 1857): 419–28; Science,” Westminster Review 63, no. 134 (Oct 1857): 558568; Reviews: Todd, Bowman, Dunglison, and Draper on Physiology,” British and Foreign Medico-Chirurgical Review 21 no. 41 (Jan 1858): 1921; and Human Physiology,” Spectator 32, no. 1626 (Aug 27, 1859): 886888; “New Publications,” New York Times (Sept 14, 1878): 3; Science: Draper's Memoirs,” The Academy 338 (Oct 26, 1878): 407409; Draper's Scientific Memoirs,” Nature 19, no. 472 (Nov 14, 1878): 2628; and Dr. Draper's Scientific Memoirs,” Spectator 52, no. 2652 (April 26, 1879): 536537.

11 All in the Draper Family Papers, Library of Congress, Washington D.C. (hereafter “Draper Family Papers”): Robert Chambers to John W. Draper, 23 June 1864, container 2; John Tyndall to John W. Draper, July 15, 1863, container 7; and George Bancroft to John W. Draper, 1 October 1865, container 1.

12 See Fisk, Ethel F., ed., The Letters of John Fiske (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1940), 117, 118. Fiske published his review in The Laws of History,” North American Review 109, no. 224 (July 1869): 197230.

13 Literary Notices,” Harper's New Monthly Magazine 27, no. 157 (June 1863): 128129; Critical Notices: Draper's Intellectual Development of Europe,” North American Review 97, no. 1 (July 1, 1863): 291; Review of Current Literature,” Christian Examiner 75, no. 238 (1863): 137139.

14 Literature: History of the Intellectual Development of Europe,” Athenaeum 1914 (July 2, 1864): 910; The Literature of the United States in 1870,” Athenaeum 2254 (Jan 7, 1871): 1215; Wilson, H. B., “Theology and Philosophy,” Westminster Review 26, no. 2 (Oct 1864): 470495; Amos, Sheldon, “The Intellectual Development of Europe,” Westminster Review 27, no. 1 (Jan 1865): 94142.

15 George Bancroft to John W. Draper, Dec. 4, 1874, container 1, Draper Family Papers.

16 John Tyndall to John W. Draper, Sept. 29, 1874, container 29, Draper Family Papers; Tyndall, John, Fragments of Science: A Series of Detached Essays, Addresses, and Reviews, 2 vols. (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1898), 2.221. See also Ungureanu, James C., “Tyndall and Draper,” Notes and Queries, vol. 64, no. 1 (2017): 125128.

17 Literary,” Appleton's Journal 12, no. 301 (Dec 26, 1874): 827828; Our Book Table,” New Orleans Bulletin 1, no. 256 (Sunday, Jan 17, 1875): 5; Gardiner, A. S., “Religion and Science,” New York Evangelist 48 (1877): 2.

18 Williams, William H., “The Church and Science,” New Orleans Monthly Review 2, no. 2 (Mar 1875): 132145; Contemporary Literature,” Universalist Quarterly and General Review 12 (Apr 1875): 251253 ; Hill, Thomas, “The Struggles of Science,” Unitarian Review and Religious Magazine 3, no. 4 (April 1875): 339356; Amos, Sheldon, Dilke, Emilia Frances, “Science,” Westminster Review 47, no. 2 (Apr 1875): 522541.

19 Dr. Hill on the Struggle of Science,” Index 6, no. 280 (May 6, 1875): 208209. See also Youmans, E. L., “Draper and his Critics,” Index 6 no. 285 (June 10, 1875): 269; and Eaton, Amasa M., “Communications: The Conflict between Religion and Science,” Index 6, no. 301 (Sept 30, 1875): 464465.

20 History of Scientific Progress,” Christian Union 11, no. 7 (Feb 17, 1875): 135136; Lewie, Tayler, “An Impersonal God,” Christian Union 11, no. 7 (Feb 17, 1875): 146; Brace, Charles L., “The Great Conflict,” Christian Union 11, no. 12 (Mar 24, 1875): 238239; and Stwin, Adam, “Dr. Draper's ‘Conflict.’Christian Union 11, no. 15 (Apr 14, 1875): 301302.

21 Smith, Henry B., “Draper's Intellectual Development of Europe,” American Presbyterian and Theological Review, New Series 1, no. 4 (Oct 1863): 615631; and Short Notices,” Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review 38, no. 1 (Jan 1866): 144150. See also similar reviews in Quarterly Book-Table,” Methodist Quarterly Review 16, no. 1 (Jan 1864): 164167; and Positivism,” American Quarterly Church Review, and Ecclesiastical Register 16, no. 1 (Apr 1864): 3556.

22 Undated newspaper and journal clippings, container 14, Draper Family Papers; Quarterly Book-Table,” Methodist Quarterly Review 27, no. 1 (Jan 1875): 159163; Culture and Progress: The Conflict between Religion and Science,” Scribner's Monthly 9, no. 5 (Mar 1875): 635637; Draper's Religion and Science,” Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review, New Series 14, no. 13 (1875): 158165.

23 Professor Draper's Books,” Catholic World 7, no. 38 (May 1868): 155174.

24 Ibid., 169. I discuss these elements of nineteenth-century liberal Protestants in greater detail in “The ‘New Reformation’ of Scientific Naturalism: A Case of Protestantism-minus-Christianity,” Science & Christian Belief (forthcoming).

25 The Conflict of Science and Religion,” Brownson's Quarterly Review Last Series 3, no. 2 (Apr 1875): 153173.

26 Draper's Conflict between Religion and Science,” Catholic World 21, no. 122 (May 1875): 178200.

27 Joseph Treat to John W. Draper, Jan 5, 1875; Joseph Treat to John W. Draper, Jan 30, 1875, in container 7, Draper Family Papers.

28 See, for example, Royle, Edward, Radicals, Secularists, and Republicans: Popular Freethought in Britain, 1866–1915 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1980), 7880.

29 T. D. Hall, “Can Christianity be made to Harmonize with Science,” An Essay Read before the Liberal League, at Minneapolis, Sunday, March 7th, 1875; container 14, Draper Family Papers.

30 See, for example, Royle, Edward, “Freethought: The Religion of Irreligion,” in Paz, D. G., ed. Nineteenth-Century English Religious Traditions: Retrospect and Prospect (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1995), 171196.

31 Gould, F. J., The Pioneers of Johnson's Court: A History of the Rationalist Press Association from 1899 Onwards (London: Watts & Co., 1929); Whyte, A. G., The Story of the R.P.A., 1899–1949 (London: Watts & Co., 1949); and more recently Cooke, Bill, The Gathering of Infidels: a hundred years of the Rationalist Press Association (Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2004).

32 See Gould, The Pioneers of Johnson's Court, 8–12; Whyte, The Story of the R.P.A., 24.

33 Robertson, J. M., The Dynamics of Religion: An Essay in English Culture History (London: Watts & Co, 1897), 249.

34 Robertson, J. M., A Short History of Freethought: Ancient and Modern, 2 vols. (London: Watts & Co., 1906), 1.13; 2.380, 407.

35 Robertson, J. M., A History of Freethought in the Nineteenth Century, 2 vols. (London: Watts & Co., 1929), 1.261–262.

36 Wheeler, J. M., Frauds and Follies of the Fathers (London: Freethought Publishing Co., 1882); A Biographical Dictionary of Freethinkers of All Ages and Nations (London: Progressive Publishing Co., 1889), 112, 332; Putnam, Samuel P., Religion a Curse, Religion a Disease, Religion a Lie (New York: The Truth Seeker Company, 1893); 400 Years of Freethought (New York: The Truth Seeker Company, 1894); MacDonald, George F., Fifty Years of Freethought, Being the Story of the Truth Seeker, 2 vols. (New York: Truth Seeker Company, 1929), 168.

37 McCabe, Joseph, A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists (London: Watts & Co, 1920), 221222.

38 Haldeman-Julius, Emanuel, The First Hundred Million (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1928), especially 45–55. See also the studies by Johnson, Richard Colles and Tanselle, G. Thomas, “The Haldeman-Julius ‘Little Blue Books’ as a Bibliographical Problem,” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 64 (1970): 2978; Herder, Dale M., “American Values and Popular Culture in the Twenties: The Little Blue Books,” Historical Papers 6, no. 1 (1971): 289-99; Schocket, Eric, “Proletarian Paperbacks: The Little Blue Books and Working-Class Culture,” College Literature 29, no. 4 (2002): 6778; and Cooke, Bill, “Joseph McCabe: A Forgotten Early Populariser of Science and Defender of Evolution,” Science and Education, 19 (2010): 461464.

39 Joseph McCabe, The Conflict Between Science and Religion (Little Blue Book No. 1211, 1927).

40 Ibid., 15–25, 26–38.

41 Davis, Edward B., “Science and Religious Fundamentalism in the 1920s: Religious pamphlets by leading scientists of the Scopes era provide insight into public debates about science and religion,” American Scientist, no. 3 (2005): 253260.

42 The Warfare of Science,” Popular Science Review 15, no. 58 (Jan 1876): 414415; Literary Notices,” Dublin University Magazine  88, no. 525 (Sept 1876): 382384; and [Browne, J. H. B.], “The Warfare of Science,” Westminster Review 51, no. (Jan 1877): 1936.

43 The Book of the Wars of the Lord,” Outlook 53, no. 25 (June 20, 1896): 1153; and Literature: History of the Warfare of Science with Theology,” Independent 48, no. 2480 (Jun 11, 1896): 1617.

44 Jordan, David Starr, “The Stability of Truth I,” Popular Science Monthly, vol. 50 (March 1897): 642653; The Stability of Truth II,” Popular Science Monthly, vol. 50 (Apr 1897): 749757.

45 Jordan, David Starr, “The Conflict of Science,” in Addresses at the Thirtieth Meeting of the Unitarian Club of California, Held at San Francisco, Cal. April 26, 1897 (San Francisco: C. A. Murdock & Co, 1897): 1930.

46 Jordan, David Starr, “The Warfare of Science,” Dial 21, no. 246 (Sept 16, 1896): 146148.

47 T. T. Munger to Andrew D. White, June 27, 1895; Oct 13, 1895; Oct 21, 1895; Jan 3, 1896; Jan 15, 1896; Jan 23, 1896; Feb 27, 1896; Mar 13, 1896; Mar 25, 1896; Mar 30, 1896; Nov 10, 1896; Dec 8, 1896—all in Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, reels 63, 64, 65, and 68 (hereafter, “White Collection”).

48 Andrew Carnegie to Andrew D. White, May 6, 1896, White Collection, reel 66.

49 E. D. Jackson to Andrew D. White, Mar 9, 1894, White Collection, reel 61.

50 James Gorton to Andrew D. White, Mar 30, 1894; James Gorton to Andrew D. White, May 4, 1894, White Collection, reel 61

51 Adams, Charles Kendall, “Mr. White's ‘Warfare of Science with Theology,’Forum 22 (Sept 1896): 6578; Schurman, Jacob Gould, “Scientific Literature,” Science 4, no. 102 (Dec 11, 1896): 879881.

52 Hewitt, Augustine F., “The Warfare of Science I,” Catholic World 53, no. 315 (June 1891): 393399; The Warfare of Science II,” Catholic World, vol. 53, no. 316 (July 1891): 567576; The Warfare of Science III,” Catholic World 53, no. 317 (Aug 1891): 678687 The Warfare of Science IV: A Few More Words on Miracles,” Catholic World 54, no. 320 (Nov 1891): 194203.

53 “Books of the Week,” Manchester Guardian (June 23, 1896): 4; Science and Theology,” Speaker 14 (Aug. 8, 1896): 149150; The Rights and Limits of Theology,” Quarterly Review 203, no. 405 (Oct 1905): 461491.

54 Old Testament Miracles which are being attacked in the New Theology,” Chicago Tribune 56, no. 80 (Mar 21, 1897): 4546; Patterson, Alexander, “Holds by the Bible Lore,” Chicago Tribune 56, no. 87 (Mar 28, 1897): 16; Reed, Elizabeth A., “Flaws in White's Book: Facts upon which he based his deductions disputed,” Chicago Tribune 56, no. 187 (July 6, 1897): 6.

55 White: The Warfare of Science with Theology,” American Historical Review 2, no. 1 (Oct 1896): 107113; A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom,” Nation 62 (May 28, 1896): 421422; Stanton, Elizabeth Cady, “Reading the Bible in the Public Schools,” The Arena 17 (1897): 10331037.

56 Albert Britt to Andrew D. White, Jan 9, 1905, White Collection, reel 93; John Shackelford to Andrew D. White, May 23, 1909, White Collection, reel 105.

57 William Philips to Andrew D. White, Nov 6, 1895, White Collection, reel 64; Harry A. Miller to Andrew D. White, Jan 16, 1917, White Collection, reel 123.

58 Mary K. S. Eaton to Andrew D. White, Mar 6, 1894, White Collection, reel 61.

59 Mary K. S. Eaton to Andrew D. White, Apr 16, 1894, White Collection, reel 61.

60 Mary K. S. Eaton to Andrew D. White, Jan 21, 1896, White Collection, reel 65.

61 Andrew D. White to Mary K. S. Eaton, Jan 30, 1896, White Collection, reel 65.

62 Taber, Henry M., “Liberalized Christianity,” Free Thought Magazine, vol. 14, (Jan, 1896): 920; see also Book Review,” Free Thought Magazine 14, (Aug, 1896): 534535.

63 Benn, Alfred W., “A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom,” Academy, no. 1275 (Oct 10, 1896): 255256.

64 E. E. Evans to Andrew D. White, Feb 22, 1877, White Collection, reel 22.

65 E. P. Evans to Andrew D. White, Feb 22, 1877, White Collection, reel 22.

66 E. E. Evans to Andrew D. White, Jan 4, 1901, White Collection, reel 82.

67 Frederick White to Andrew D. White, Feb 2, 1889, White Collection, reel 51.

68 H. L. Green to Andrew D. White, Mar 28, 1897, White Collection, reel 70.

69 R. G. Ingersoll to Andrew D. White, Dec 27, 1888, White Collection, reel 50.

70 Charles A. Watts to Andrew D. White, Jul 1, 1896, White Collection, reel 67; Charles A. Watts to Andrew D. White, Mar 29, 1897, White Collection, reel 70.

71 White provided extensive reflections on his religious beliefs in his Autobiography, 2 vols. (New York: The Century Company, 1905), quotation from 2.495.

72 Andrew D. White to George Lincoln Burr, Aug 26, 1885, White Collection, reel 44.

73 Frederick White to Andrew D. White, Jan 5, 1886, White Collection, reel 45.

74 Frederick White to Andrew D. White, Apr 13, 1886, White Collection, reel 45.

75 Andrew D. White to Frederick White, Apr 29, 1886, White Collection, reel 45.

76 Frederick White to Andrew D. White, May 13, 1886, White Collection, reel 45.

77 See, for example, Davies, J. Llewelyn, “The Debts of Theology to Secular Movements,” Contemporary Review 16 (Dec 1870): 189206.

78 Fisher, George P., “The Alleged Conflict of Natural Science and Religion,” Princeton Review (1883).

Acknowledgements: I am grateful to Peter Harrison, Ian Hesketh, Ron Numbers, Bernie Lightman, and Ted Davis for their comments on earlier drafts of this essay. I would also like to express my thanks to the anonymous referee for Church History, who provided encouraging and helpful comments.

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