Galileo. Newton. Darwin. These giants are remembered for their great contributions to science. Often forgotten, however, is the profound influence that Christianity had on their lives and work. This study explores the many ways in which religion-its ideas, attitudes, practices, and institutions-interacted with science from the beginnings of the Scientific Revolution to the end of the nineteenth century. Both scientists and persons of faith sometimes characterize the relationship between science and religion as confrontational. Historian Richard G. Olson finds instead that the interactions between science and religion in Western Christendom have been complex, often mutually supportive, even transformative. This book explores those interactions by focusing on a sequence of major religious and intellectual movements-from Christian Humanist efforts to turn science from a primarily contemplative exercise to an activity aimed at improving the quality of human life, to the widely varied Christian responses to Darwinian ideas in both Europe and North America during the second half of the nineteenth century.
Richard G. Olson is a professor of history at Harvey Mudd College. He is the author of The Emergence of the Social Sciences, 1642-1792 (Twayne Press, 1993) and Science Deified and Science Defied (University of California Press, 1990).