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In the 1800s the relationship between science and religion became an actual formal topic of discourse, while before this no one had pitted science against religion or vice versa, though occasional interactions were expressed in the past. 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. In 1896, White published A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, the culmination of over thirty years of research and publication on the subject, criticizing what he saw as restrictive, dogmatic forms of Christianity. Church and the Popes and the ecclesiastical authorities to science in any of its branches, is founded entirely on mistaken notions. Most of it is quite imaginary.
Much of it is due to the exaggeration of the significance of the Galileo incident. In his course on science and religion, historian Lawrence Principe summarizes Draper’s and White’s works by saying, «While we can look today with astonishment upon the shoddy character of Draper and White’s writings, their books have had enormous impact, and we can’t deny that. Much of this is due to their great success in their creating a myth for science as a religion. Their myth of science as a religion is replete reading thesis battles, and martyrdoms, and saints, and creeds.
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These men had specific political purposes in mind when arguing their case, and the historical foundations of their work are unreliable. How does he support his contention of conflict? Well, unfortunately, with some of the worst historical writing you are ever likely to come across. Historical facts are confected, causes and chronologies twisted to the author’s purpose. We find interpretations made merely by declaration.
We find quotations violently taken out of context. Principe’s summary comment on Draper’s work at the end of his coursebook reads: «The book that started the conflict myth. While some historians had always regarded the Draper-White thesis as oversimplifying and distorting a complex relationship, in the late twentieth century it underwent a more systematic reevaluation. The result is the growing recognition among historians of science that the relationship of religion and science has been much more positive than is sometimes thought. The Galileo affair is one of the few examples commonly used by advocates of the conflict thesis.
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