There is a popular conception that the historical relationship between science and religion has always been one of conflict or even all-out warfare. Lawrence Principe and Dr. Edward Davis examine the roots and social context of the conflict thesis. They explain that the conflict thesis can be traced primarily to the popular works of two 19th century Americans: John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White.
Science and Religion: The Draper-White Conflict Thesis
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The conflict thesis is a historiographical approach in the history of science that originated in the 19th century which maintains that there is an intrinsic intellectual conflict between religion and science and that it inevitably leads to hostility. Historians of science have long ago rejected the thesis     and have instead widely accepted a complexity thesis. In the s, the relationship between religion and science became an actual formal topic of discourse, while before this no one had pitted science against religion or vice versa, though occasional interactions had occurred in the past. Draper had been the speaker in the British Association meeting of which led to the famous confrontation between Bishop Samuel Wilberforce and Thomas Henry Huxley over Darwinism , and in America "the religious controversy over biological evolution reached its most critical stages in the late s". The history of Science is not a mere record of isolated discoveries; it is a narrative of the conflict of two contending powers, the expansive force of the human intellect on one side, and the compression arising from traditionary faith and human interests on the other. In all modern history, interference with science in the supposed interest of religion, no matter how conscientious such interference may have been, has resulted in the direst evils both to religion and to science—and invariably. And, on the other hand, all untrammeled scientific investigation, no matter how dangerous to religion some of its stages may have seemed, for the time, to be, has invariably resulted in the highest good of religion and of science.
Weigh the influence of fate and coincidence in the novel. Does one or the other emerge as the driving force of history? Is the resulting message optimistic or pessimistic?
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