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  • Print publication year: 1985
  • Online publication date: January 2010

1 - RELIGION AND SCIENCE

Summary

Introduction

The relationship between religious thought and science changed steadily in the second half of the nineteenth century. By about i860 the accumulation of fresh information in such fields as archaeology, geology and biology was breaking down the widespread earlier nineteenth-century assumption that science and Christian orthodoxy confirmed one another on such matters as the age of the earth, the fixity of species and the special creation of man. The publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species (1859) crystallised this situation, but perhaps his later book, The Descent of Man (1871), mattered as much, because there Darwin showed in his usual impressive detail that one could give at least a plausible biological, strictly non-supernaturalistic account of man's moral as well as physical development. As time went on, theologians grappled with these problems, and writers as distant from one another as the American Presbyterian, Charles Hodge of Princeton (1797–1878), the Anglican bishop, Frederick Temple (1821–1902), and the Roman Catholic lay scientist, St George Mivart (1827–1900), all maintained that the historical growth of man as rational, moral and religious required supernatural intervention, however natural might have been the formation of his body. This was perhaps the last stand of one kind of orthodoxy, for at this stage the argument for special creation still depended on the acceptance of the Christian claim to the possession of a unique, final, divine self-revelation in the Bible.