A few weeks ago, ORBITER contributing editor Drew Rick-Miller wrote a piece titled “Scientists Don’t Hate Religious People,” chronicling social scientist Elaine Howard Ecklund’s research into the alleged ongoing “wars” between science and religion. Turns out those wars have been long overstated, that there’s much more common ground between science and religion than previously thought.
And that common ground is nothing new. In “The Clergy Behind Science as We Know It,” author Jennifer Powell McNutt writes that “the prevailing narrative that Christianity is inherently anti-science” didn’t gain acceptance till late in the 19th century with Andrew Dickson White’s A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology and Christendom.
Before that, science and religion actually were allies, writes McNutt, associate professor of theology and history of Christianity at Wheaton College. Her article notes that when Copernicus published De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestiua in 1543, hypothesizing that Earth was not at the center of the universe, religion did not declare war on science. On the contrary, Copernicus’s piece was actually published by Andreas Osiander, a Lutheran minister and theologian!
“That,” writes McNutt, “should be our first clue that the story of enmity between Christianity and science has often been distorted and overstated, leading us to forget some of history’s most influential science advocates and fueling a false dichotomy that unnecessarily polarizes scientific debates today.”
McNutt’s story won first place in the Christianity Today Science Writing Contest.
Meanwhile, for more background on the history of this so-called “war,” check out this video from Science for Seminaries.