Stetson University

College of Arts and Sciences

Book Review of Books on American Science and Religion

Paul Jerome Croce

Beyond the Warfare of Science and Religion in American Culture--and Back Again Religious Studies Review 26/1 (January 2000):29-35.

THE BIBLE, PROTESTANTISM, AND THE RISE OF NATURAL SCIENCE

By Peter Harrison

New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998; Pp. x + 273. $64.95

THE BOOK OF NATURE: NATURAL HISTORY IN THE UNITED STATES, 1825-1875

By Margaret Welch

Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998; Pp. xiv + 289. $50.00.

DARWINISM AND THE LINGUISTIC IMAGE: LANGUAGE, RACE, AND NATURAL THEOLOGY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

By Stephen G. Alter

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999; Pp. xiii + 193. $39.00.

DARWINISM COMES TO AMERICA

By Ronald L. Numbers

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998; Pp. 216. Paper, $18.95.

SUMMER FOR THE GODS: THE SCOPES TRIAL AND AMERICA'S CONTINUING DEBATE OVER SCIENCE AND RELIGION

By Edward J. Larson

Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1997; Pp. x + 318. Paper, $14.95.

REDEEMING CULTURE: AMERICAN RELIGION IN AN AGE OF SCIENCE

By James Gilbert

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998; Pp. viii + 407. Paper, $19.00.

THE SACRED DEPTHS OF NATURE

By Ursula Goodenough

New York: Oxford University Press, 1999; Pp. xx1 + 197. $24.00.

WHEN ALL THE GODS TREMBLED: DARWINISM, SCOPES AND AMERICAN INTELLECTUALS

By Paul K. Conkin

Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998; Pp. xi + 185. $24.95.

SCIENCE, JEWS, AND SECULAR CULTURE: STUDIES IN MID-TWENTIETH-CENTURY AMERICAN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY

By David A. Hollinger

Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996; Pp. xi + 178. Cloth, $29.95 ; paper $14.95.

SKEPTICS AND TRUE BELIEVERS: THE EXHILARATING CONNECTION BETWEEN SCIENCE AND RELIGION

By Chet Raymo

New York: Walker and Company, 1998; Pp. 288. Cloth, $22.00.

____________________________

Reviewer: Paul Jerome Croce

Stetson University

DeLand, FL 32720

pcroce@stetson.edu

Everyone "knows" that science and religion are in irreconcilable conflict. This primal distinction makes good copy for the simplified polarized imagery of a media age; it is part of the sea of assumptions most students carry with them to class; it is the basis for numerous assessments derived from the spectrum of human traits, including reason vs. faith, fact vs. value, rationality vs. emotion, empirical verification vs. intuitive impressions,... What is less well known is that these assumptions have not always seemed so natural. Their specific historical roots reach most directly to the late nineteenth century when professional inquiries in the Western world became established on scientific models. The ongoing popular perspectives on the relation of science and religion grew from these professional claims.

Professionals seeking legitimacy for disciplinary inquiry free of confessional religious expectation or public conformity seized on an imagery of warfare between science and religion because it justified the growing authority of science. The warfare motif, expressed most forcefully in the American context in the works of John William Draper and Andrew Dickson White, legitimated the work of scientific professionals and even suggested their heroic status. Some variation of this narrative of scientific triumph over religion has stood behind the sophisticated specialized research of many natural and social scientists during the century of great scientific progress since their brave pronouncements.

This narrative of scientific triumph over religion became established in the popular imagination as part of the folk wisdom of American culture--and in Europe and Europeanized parts of the world. But intellectuals during the early to middle twentieth century adopted more nuanced versions of this general orientation, which often took the form of secularization theory (for example, Martin). The historian Bruce Mazlish even directly endorsed White's argument, stating in 1965 that his thesis stood "beyond reasonable doubt" (Mazlish, 13).

In the last generation, however, historians have come to doubt the warfare motif. Contextualized evaluations of the science and religion surrounding the advent of Darwinism have suggested that the conventional storyline simplifies the history. James Moore's study of British and American responses to Darwinism was an important work of revision because he criticized "the military metaphor" (Moore, 21) for being based more on polemics than actual historical trends; many Darwinists were actually avid religious believers. Jon Roberts pointed out that, in response to The Origin of Species, almost a generation passed before American theologians began to split into camps for or against evolution. Walter Wilkins placed the anti-religious scientific perspective on a spectrum of responses to Darwinism, which included many forms of accommodation to the theory--in the tradition of previous patterns of widespread harmony between religious belief and scientific theory (see, for example, Walter Conser's study of pre-Darwinians). In contextualizing the warfare motif, the revisionist impulse identified it as a polemical tool and turned historical attention to ways in which American science and religion intersected, reinforced each other, or otherwise coexisted in relative harmony (see Numbers, 1985).

In the last few years, there has been an expanded interest in science and religion, within many parts of the academy. The framework for recent histories and historically minded works has been set by revisionist questions rather than exclusively by their answers. This essay's sampling of recent works, mostly on the American scene, shows considerable support for harmonies of science and religion and critiques of claims to scientific triumph; but there is a redoubtable contingent of counter-revisionism dedicated to the importance of the tension between science and religion. Of the books under review here, Harrison, Welch, and Alter offer the least direct comments on this theme but their work greatly enriches the debate. The material in Numbers, Larson, Gilbert, and Goodenough lends itself explicitly to revisionist arguments. Conkin, Hollinger, and Raymo, however, defy the trend in their endorsement of significant splits between science and religion.

Although Harrison's book does not explicitly fit in with an essay focused on the American scene, it does provide an important deep context for understanding the others. He evaluates the changing interpretations of nature in Western Europe from the third to the seventeenth centuries, with particular attention to the shift from Catholic to Protestant perspectives. The general consensus in late antiquity, that the world was a "school for souls," established a religious orientation with little fertile ground for the emergence of science in its modern form. Nature had no purpose in itself, but instead it was full of symbols pointing beyond the physical toward spiritual realities; its truths were figurative rather than empirical--things to be read in an allegorical way {rather than as} but not as natural facts.

Harrison points to a change in the eleventh to thirteenth centuries, based on improved material conditions, toward renewed attention to the natural world. Figures ranging from Hildegard of Bingen to Thomas Aquinas emphasized the importance of nature for spiritual life. This was the context for the emergence of transubstantiation, which became official Catholic church doctrine only in this period. Although material things still signified transcendent reality, the shifting emphasis offered some motivation to seek knowledge of nature in itself, not just as a theater of symbols. Still, and for the next few hundred years, nature was understood primarily in terms of the authority of books.

The Reformation brought a renewed drive to connect with authentic, original Christianity, with Scripture as the reed of connection to true religion, uncluttered by years of churchly history and ritual. The Protestant tool for this turn--the way to discover the precise meaning of the scriptures--was biblical literalism, which was at its advent, a bold move away from medieval figurative hermeneutics. In a parallel reformation challenging the authority of book knowledge of nature, scholars turned to the authority of the empirical world as the way to understand nature, rather than {as} "textual accounts of living things" (77). The shunning of symbolism in the new literalism--in the study of both nature and the Bible--brought a separation of written texts from the study of nature, which laid the basis for the modern division between the humanities and the sciences, between words and things.

The removal of figurative readings of nature made "orphans of all natural objects," which, with the removal of those personal connections, became the material of natural scientific inquiry (107). There was, of course, no straight run to the sciences of our time; there were repeated attempts to confirm biblical words through study of nature, including Isaac Newton's attempt to improve on scriptural prophesy and various searches for a literal Eden, which often motivated colonial exploration. Harrison's main focus is on the contribution of changing hermeneutics to the development of scientific thinking. In general outline, Harrison's account supports a sharp distinction between science and religion, in their modern forms. There are various paths across this division, however. For example, understanding the origins of science's emergence explains the contemporary "deep misgivings about science" because of the "acute sense of loss" of the "old symbolic world order" (270-71). In addition, the historicizing of biblical literalism that he provides shows that ironically, this centerpiece of conservative Christianity, began its career in support of the rise of modern science. Creation science, for example, is in this sense good, cutting-edge science--of four-hundred years ago.

Trained in American Studies and currently a librarian of visual resources, Margaret Welch is far removed academically from historian of philosophy Peter Harrison, and her book is not in dialogue with his. However, it is instructive to examine Welch's treatment of nineteenth-century American natural history imagery in the light of his account of the eclipse of symbolic thinking. (It would be delightful to read Harrison's paragraph assessing Welch in the "On the Scholar's Bookshelf..." section of Religious Studies News, where scholars report on what they are reading and what insights they are finding in new work.) In Harrison's language, Welch's book is a case study of the endurance of figurative treatments of nature in an era that increasingly privileged logical precision. Natural history monographs with lavish color pictures were one of the places where the symbol-hungry human imagination could turn as professional science directed its attention to data and analysis.

The illustrated books depicted in Welch's account were treated as "elegant and rational amusement[s]" (36) in the middle of the nineteenth century. The years 1825 to 1875 were a golden age for the genre, when production techniques allowed for wide printings, but before photography eclipsed the explicit need for hand painting. There is an arresting beauty in the frozen-from-nature postures of the animals and plants in these books, and Welch provides a generous sampling of illustrations, although they are only black-and-white copies of the colorful originals. The artists, most famously John James Audubon, often used multiple postures to represent a well rounded, close scrutiny of each creature's anatomical features. The American continent was a fallow field for this work, because so much of the land was being scientifically charted during this era. And the Americans offered innovations in using a true-to-nature esthetic, which reflected the dominant empiricism in the natural history of the nineteenth century. Serving as the National Geographics of their day, the monographs, paintings, and prints did not dwell on technical or theoretical issues in science; instead they offered popularized images of nature, which fed a sense of wonder spilling readily into religion. In the romantic spirit, these works presented images of Nature "laden with quasi-religious values" (231). Without engaging in theological subtleties, the texts endorsed a design-based natural theology argument, in honoring "God's craftsmanship" (79) through their work. Operating below the radar of professionalizing science, they wholly endorsed the harmony of science and religion in words and visual imagery.

It is also helpful, however, to look at Welch's book in light of the major scientific development of the nineteenth century. However, Darwinism does not even appear in the index. That shows a significant missed opportunity to contextualize the popularizations in relation to professional developments. Instead of such a full cultural study of natural history in mid-nineteenth-century America, Welch's book is more an appreciation of a by-gone genre. And yet, the potential for greater analytical depth is right below the surface. It is possible to create one's own index entry for Darwinistic thinking that emerged in the natural history that she depicts. There are many of references to the naturalists' recording slight variations within species, debating boundaries between species and varieties, and noting common ancestors. Although Welch recognizes that the books did not assume that readers would participate in disciplinary debates, her own study would have benefited from evaluation of the interaction of field naturalists and professional theorists during the era of Darwinism's development and initial impact.

Darwinism is, by contrast, central to Alter's richly analytical study of nineteenth-century linguistics. The germ of the book's argument is in the recognition of common genealogical thinking in philology (the new study of the development of languages) and Darwinism (the new science of biological species development). They relied on a common metaphor--the branching tree showing development and diversity from original, common forms. This "linguistic image" from comparative philology influenced the development of the theory of natural selection because it suggested "the idea of branching descent from a common ancestor" (2), and it contributed to the positive reception of the theory because of the analogy with a plausible, parallel scenario in the less religiously charged arena of language evolution.

Evaluating Darwinism in terms of its public presentation, Alter argues that "linguistic images ... link[ed] what was controversial and tentative to what was more familiar and convincing" (4). Showing a fluency in current methodological debates, Alter emphasizes the role of "conceptual transfers" (7) in Darwin's "great use of [the linguistic image] in illustration" (54) of his theory. This allowed "imaginative polemics" (91) to "reinforce ... the plausibility of biological transmutation" to a skeptical audience (109).

Natural theology has an equal place in the subtitle with language, but not in the book (and the same could be said of race). The parallels between language and species evolution are front and center, with the religious issues on the periphery. In linguistics and biology, Alter reports a shift from idealistic and religious evaluations of the origins of evolutionary changes to naturalistic explanations or nonteleological indifference to ultimate questions. Although Alter tacitly endorses the gradual separation of science and religion, his emphasis on borrowing across fields of study, especially the reliance of a biological theory on a linguistic metaphor, suggests paths across the divide between science and religion.

The work of revisionists who explore these paths between and around science and religion have opened up this interdisciplinary field of study to a breadth of cultural history issues, and graduated the once-rarified field from specialized scrutiny to mainstream significance. Ronald Numbers's collection of essays continues his career-long efforts to encourage dialogue between two fields of the historical profession that have usually had little intersection. The introduction frames the book in terms of the "surprising" endurance of creationist and other anti-professional-science thoughts in the late twentieth century, long after the secularization theory predicted their withering away. The rest of the book is dedicated to dispelling the "myths and misperceptions that still cling to narratives of Darwinism" (23), outlooks that largely grow from the warfare motif.

The most significant essay is the first, which is an evaluation of the actual specific religious beliefs of major American scientists in the age of Darwinism. He evaluated the scientific perspectives and religious beliefs of eighty members of the National Academy of Sciences, elected between its founding in 1863 and 1900 (a useful appendix provides a biographical outline of each NAS member). The scientists maintained church membership in a wide spectrum of Christian denominations, along with the thirteen who were agnostic or atheist, and most struggled to accommodate their religion to their science. Still, Numbers does admit that while the majority maintained their religion and often even adapted their evolutionism to account for spiritual forces, they exhibited a "nearly universal commitment to methodological naturalism" (48).

Other essays further qualify the conventional wisdom about a sharp antagonism between science and religion. Numbers contextualizes the word "creationism," depicting its evolution from its array of cosmological meanings in the nineteenth century to its present explicit anti-Darwinism. Another essay tackles the stereotype of the South as a backwater bastion of creationism by pointing out a broad range of anti-creationist activity in the region. Numbers also overturns the image of the Scopes Trial as a decisive defeat of Fundamentalism by showing how that very image only even started to emerge in the next decade after the 1925 trial itself. The final essays broaden our understanding of conservative Christianity by evaluating how creation science bloomed from the extreme minority fundamentalism of Seventh-Day Adventist young-earth creationism, and by pointing out that Holiness and Pentecostal Christians, while opposed to evolution, devote little attention to it because of their emphasis on feelings and spirituality. The main task of these essays is not to claim a thorough harmony of science and religion but to challenge an extreme version of their warfare.

Larson's narrative history is a long-overdue, careful, and wholly persuasive examination of the Scopes Trial, which has often been treated as the last hurrah of fundamentalism, especially after it received mythic stature with the dramatic historical fiction on film, Inherit the Wind (1960). Larson enlists his skills as both lawyer and historian, in scrutinizing the famous trial, "Before ... During ... and After," in the title words of the book's three parts. Instead of mythic warfare between science and religion, he finds a cultural setting in Dayton, TN, in which local authorities welcomed an important case to "put the town on the map," and a legal/political contest between civil libertarians advocating minority rights vs. populist democrats arguing for majority rule--a contest that was dramatized and popularized as a struggle between science and religion.

Larson's well-told story provides a thorough contextualization about a pivotal event which has been frequently referred to but rarely evaluated deeply. He does not so much openly defy the warfare motif as enrich the storyline with interesting details, leaving the polarized picture looking skimpy and implausible. Readers will meet in these pages excerpts from the textbook John Scopes himself taught, William Jennings Bryan's campaign to allow local school boards to shape local education against the "tyrannical oligarchy" (45) of scientific elites, the energetic efforts of Tennessee's religious modernists to resist the media's ridicule of their region, the long prayer "directed straight at the defense" (150) by a local fundamentalist minister who opened the court session, the array of souvenirs for the "monkey trial" that hucksters sold in the streets of Dayton, the transformation of Bryan into a folk martyr at the hands of aggressive cosmopolitan secularism after his untimely death a few days after the trial ended, and the impact of the Scopes legend on both the dismantling of antievolution statutes in the 1960s and the growth of "amens for creationism" (265) ever since. In Larson's hands, the famous trial is a touchstone for evaluating the complex relation of science and religion in twentieth-century American culture, and the warfare motif is a cultural artifact that has taken on a life of its own, extracted from the history and at work in the culture.

Gilbert's essays on early-to-middle-twentieth-century American culture survey the abundant "odd admixtures of religion and science in cultural artifacts at all levels of society" (3). The book is the most thoroughly grounded in cultural history of all those under review, and this gives its observations on science and religion the freshness of discovery in realms where such issues have come to be unexpected. In the American academy, science-and-religion issues have often been regarded as too theoretical for the interests of most mainstream historians. Add to this that the assumptions of secularization, which flowed readily from the warfare motif, tended to divert attention from ways that science and religion jostled into each other in the cultural life of the nation. Gilbert's innovation is in noticing the tensions and intersections of science and religion in a range of cultural manifestations ranging from intellectual debate to government policy decisions to popular culture. This thematic unity holds the book together despite the lack of a single narrative thread through all the chapter-length episodes. This structure makes the job of reviewing more difficult, but the reading more engaging, even for college students and the general public.

Gilbert begins on familiar ground for science-and-religion watchers: while Bryan was famous for his critique of evolutionary science, he was also a paid member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Of course, this makes no sense according to the warfare motif, and Gilbert sets out to show what motivated Bryan the amateur scientist. Although professional inquiry in the sciences had turned toward the work of experts, using technical equipment with thinking dedicated to constant inquiry and often with materialistic assumptions, Bryan had a very different picture. He retained the inductive methodologies that dominated the Baconian science of the nineteenth century, including its suspicion of hypothesis formation. This, of course, was the basis for his rejection of Darwinism. The social and political implications of his position were that he expected science to be an extension of common sense, understandable (and therefore judgeable) by the average citizen. The science of "the Great Commoner" represented the views of many modern Americans who resented the elitism implicit in scientific expertise.

A number of essays deal with the opportunities and challenges for intellectuals who advocated the spread of scientific thinking throughout society. Despite the great social authority of scientists in the era after the second world war, the public was also deeply ambivalent based on fears of scientific power--most pointedly true in the case of nuclear weaponry. Science in itself did not have a sufficient narrative power to communicate beyond elites and often relied on quasi-religious language. During this same era, intellectuals themselves divided over the authority of science, with camps forming around pragmatic proposals for science as a universal method and realist doubts about the truth and morality of positivist science. In a similar vein, one essay assesses the contested reception of Immanuel Velikovsky's 1950 best-seller, which proposed scientific explanations for biblical miracles. Here the scientific culture itself split, with Harlow Shapley dismissing amateur speculation and pragmatist Horace Kallen defending the right of pluralistic inquiry against excessive scientism. Other intellectual history essays evaluate the rise of science-and-religion scholarship in the American Scientific Affiliation, the Religious Research Association, the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science, and the journal Zygon--and their various positions along the spectrum of reconciliation of the two fields. A pair of essays on the remarkable case of Air Force use of evangelical films to explain modern science and instill character development in new recruits served, in Gilbert's words, as the conceptual "genesis of this book" (2). This story also provides the stunning cover illustration, with electrical sparks (safely) flying from the fingertips of evangelist Irwin Moon as he dramatizes the power of science and God. The social success of Moody Institute of Science films, the "Sermons from Science," shows a kind of revolving door between government and churches. Culturally, they reveal that religion was a convenient vehicle for communicating increasingly complex science--and for "domesticating" it in acceptable ways to the public. The films, which did not shy away from creationist readings and avowedly anti-materialist design arguments, were developed for "both scientific and technological enlightenment and intensification of religious belief" (119).

Gilbert's inquiry into popular culture shows similar patterns. When Bell Telephone Laboratories contracted Frank Capra to produce popular science films designed "to interest young Americans in pursuing a scientific career" (199), the Hollywood director drew {heavily} on his Catholic religious background to depict the spiritual design in natural systems. And Gilbert explains the "cultural work" of flying saucers by pointing out that UFO sightings began when science introduced real-life awesome power and extraterrestrial possibilities. Although members of the scientific culture readily dismissed the talk of alien visits, many average citizens referred to them in quasi-religious terms. In this and all of Gilbert's essays, there is a tacit scrambling of sharp lines of division between science and religion.

While many historians have been finding ways to overturn the warfare motif, so too have scholars in science and religion. {Although} this is not the place to examine in depth the cultural trend among these contemporary theorists, a brief look at a scientist's religious reflections can give a taste for the rising tide of {conciliation} between scientific inquiry and religious belief. Goodenough's book is the work of a prominent scientist letting down her spiritual hair in the form of a religious "Daily Devotional booklet" (xix)--but in place of transcendental spiritual meditations, the short trade book is composed of twelve chapters on scientific topics, each of which contains the insightful distilled fruit of scientific research and ends with "Reflections" on the religious implications and spiritual analogues of scientific observations.

Goodenough's theme is similar to the positions of ecospirituality, with science providing an epic of evolution which we can see for its religious story if we move beyond the simplifications of scientific and religious rigidity implied by the supposed conflict of science and religion. Religious naturalism is her science-inspired spirituality. She proposes that, even more inspiring than supernatural miracles are the "tales of natural emergence that are, to my mind, far more magical" (30). {She acknowledges her debt to William James in her outlook on science and religion--in personal correspondence while the book was in manuscript, she even signed her name "1998 female version of WJ." In light of her affinity,} it is appropriate to point out {a limitation (of which James was aware) with} this approach: by referring beyond nature, supernatural religions offer more comfort than worldly natural religions, which can motivate moral activity, but often do not inspire. The naturalistic focus shows her scientific affiliations beneath the spiritual glow of her reflections. This is a worthy path for bringing diverse religions together and for developing a planetary ethic, but the challenge remains: how to persuade the average believer who derives great solace and meaning from supernaturalism.

While this book's reconciliations may come too readily or lean too scientific for some, its insights are compelling, especially because they come in the voice of an authoritative scientist putting forth "a fully modern, up-to-the-minute understanding of Nature" (xi). Moreover, it is written with grace and conviction--surely things that traditional believers can appreciate. In addition, for the historian, Goodenough's reflective volume serves as a primary source illustrating the contemporary revisionist trend.

The respect for science in Goodenough's revisionism emerges in even sharper form in a small group of recent books which treat the growing authority of science in the past century as a reason to reclaim parts of the traditional argument about the conflict of science and religion. Conkin's book participates in this counter-revisionism not from a great admiration for science, but from a conviction of its deep difference from traditional worldviews. As a consequence, this collection of essays with a focus on the years and issues surrounding the Scopes Trial{,} offers a crusty attack on the recent revisionism: he is disgusted with the assertion, delivered "ad nauseam ... that 'science' and 'religion' do not conflict" (ix). He coins the phrase "Semitic cosmology" (viii) to refer to the now-eroded, traditional, Western views of the world. Conkin's observation, that this change has left humans with "a world that exhibits no purpose" (xi), is a particularly tragic telling of Harrison's recognition of the West's privileging of the literal in place of the figurative. With unblinking honesty, Conkin points out that once the modern scientific outlook came to dominate, it became incontestible that the "Genesis stories of creation were wonderful fables but misordered or incorrect in almost every detail" (18).

The particular essays in Conkin's book are less combative than its framing ideas would suggest. The essay on Darwin's argument in the theory of natural selection notes that his generalizations were "unscientific and speculative," and that his "tentative explanation of how new species could develop in nature did not add much to the already existing challenges to Christianity" (29 and 37). There is a missed opportunity here to show how Darwinism contributed to the development of modern methods of science based on hypothesis formation and probabilistic thinking (See Hull 16 and Croce 101). Conkin's deepest purpose is to show that religious compromises with Darwinism or any other modern science involve, in effect, the development of "a new religion" (45) unlike the traditional cosmologies.

Conkin's Scopes essay offers an innovative angle on this newly well covered event. Religion did not lose to science at Dayton; but provincialism lost to cosmopolitanism. He presents a brief sketch of Tennessee House member John Washington Butler, who was a member of a Primitive Baptist church. It was his name and his anti-Darwinist convictions that became attached to the bill that Scopes violated; but the wording of the Butler Act was so vague that most politicians--including supporters such as Bryan--thought it unenforceable. Moreover, Bryan himself, despite his fame and skills, was poorly prepared for the trial and his speeches were often rambling. The legacy of the case, Conkin suggests, is that the defense team presented a modern, cosmopolitan religion, which proposed, in defiance of the traditional cosmology, that "God is spirit" (93) using the processes of nature as understood by science. Conkin revives the conflict-of-science-and-religion theme by treating the trial as the latest chapter in the "developing clash between intellectuals and the larger public" (98) since the advent of modern times. The remaining chapters evaluate the religious and ideological camps of modern American culture, by offering helpful definitions and explanations of evangelical, fundamentalist, liberal, and modernist forms of religion. Although modernists seek to compromise traditional religion with modern science, Conkin argues that they have simply moved "beyond theism" (141). The words of the title, and their variation in the conclusion, "The Gods Still Tremble," refer to his assertion that reconciliation is not really possible. Conkin is uncomfortable with any middle ground: a scientific cosmology means the banishment of the traditional and the stark recognition that the world is only material.

David Hollinger's collection of essays is populated with intellectuals from the same early-to-middle twentieth century who stared into that wholly secular prospect and did not blink. In fact, his ethnographic point is that they welcomed it because many of them were Jews anxious to escape the stifling social effect of Christian orthodoxy. It is an unfortunate comment on the limits of the era's tolerance that many of these figures sacrificed their cultural identity in exchange for status on the American scene. The point of view of the time, however, was not so tragic: they had a strong sense of the value of "the culture of science" (3) as an arena of tolerance, inquiry, social service, and the liberal spirit in general. The scientists and scholars of this book are the twentieth-century keepers of the Enlightenment project. Hollinger quotes J. Robert Oppenheimer as a representative figure: the "program" of universalist science should not be the preserve of any one group, but "a Philosophy of Mankind" (15). Hollinger focuses on the prime social setting for the successful assault of the scientific culture on prevailing religious norms: religions became disestablished from most American higher education, especially at elite institutions. The intellectual analogue to that social change was that religion-free thinking--which grew from and supported the warfare motif--became normative. He prefers the term "de-Christianization" rather than secularization because he is referring to the shift from the early twentieth-century dominance of the "Protestant Establishment" whose outlooks were "taken for granted" in nearly all positions of institutional leadership, to the late century "pluralism in which Christianity is acknowledged to be but one of several legitimate religious persuasions" (20).

The leaders of this drive to transform academia and other American institutions were an alliance of liberal Protestants and "free-thinking Jews" (19). A prominent representative case of this coalition is in the circle around Oliver Wendell Holmes, Junior, whose friendships included Felix Frankfurter, Harold Laski, Louis Brandeis, and other important Jewish intellectuals. In mentoring them, he fostered their attraction to his pragmatism and to the "scientific way of looking at the world" (42) that he represented. In addition, the younger Jewish cohort helped to shape Holmes's public reputation in their own secular image, by diminishing "his pessimism, his fatalism, his respect for brute force, and indeed most of the traits that have given rise to the doubt that he was 'liberal'" (52). Jewish-Americans had good reason to seek out a cosmopolitan ideology, with the intense restrictions on their enrollment in universities and employment in many institutions often until the 1940s.

While creationism and evangelicalism were the bastions of tradition that cosmopolitans faced in the cultural sphere, among intellectuals the cosmopolitans' adversary was the Catholic-inspired search for "'values' in a secular society" (158) as advocated by Jacques Maritain and Mortimer Adler. By contrast, the cosmopolitans, modeling their thought on science, and framing questions in terms of facts rather than values, wanted to solve problems through "resolution by rational assessment of cause-and-effect relationships in the real world" (164). The alternative to "behav[ing] scientifically in social environments" (162-63), they proposed, was the kind of authoritarianism that had sprung up in the 1920s to 1940s.

Hollinger composed his essays to honor the cosmopolitan intellectuals of the mid-twentieth century. He defends them against the New Left's charge that their claim to universality is just one more--and particularly arrogant--voice in the cacophony of voices in a diverse culture. If we are ever to get beyond "the curse of Babel," the way shall be through "the language of intersubjective reason, the language of science" (172). In his role as historian-turned-cultural-commentator, Hollinger believes that the universalist, scientific outlooks that emerged from the science-and-religion culture wars of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries can be an answer to the divisiveness of contemporary culture wars which pit traditionalism against multiculturalism. That scientific thinking, which had great public authority in the decades before 1965 in the United States, was part of "the continuum of Enlightenment purpose stretching back to the seventeenth century" (155). In his eagerness to endorse the cosmopolitans, Hollinger does not pay much attention to the challenges that reinstalling their cultural program would entail. Since 1965, for reasons that span the ideological spectrum, the public trust in science has been severely depleted.

In Chet Raymo, Hollinger could find no more ardent believer in the Enlightenment project and the worth of cosmopolitan thinking in its application of scientific thinking for universal problem-solving. Yet Raymo {has} written a very different book from Hollinger's scholarly history. Raymo is a physics professor who writes "Science Musings" for the Boston Globe; his book is frankly popular with a very lively, accessible style and few footnotes; and it is a series of essays that expand on the clear and simple distinction in the title. Even the printing reinforces the stark binary opposition of his theme: each chapter includes bits of the scientific and religious worldviews, and the words have standard print and italics respectively. For example, "Miracles and Explanations" and "Work of the Eyes, Work of the Heart." Raymo directs his gaze toward popular manifestations of scientific and religious thinking. He lumps together traditional religion with astrology, UFO sightings, and other things transempirical as the commitments of "true believers;" by contrast the "organized skepticism" of science provides a demystifying guide to life: "If something can be explained simply, in a familiar way, then it is best to avoid more exotic explanations" (74). Here are religion and the religious as baroque growth on the scientifically real.

Raymo is the Goodenough {among} the counter-revisionist group of historians. He is a practicing scientist offering historians a primary source for the school of thought that still finds conflict between science and religion alive and well. There are other contemporary science popularizers who offer a more combative picture of science in inevitable conflict with religion (see Dawkins) or who are at pains to segregate religion from science because of their incompatibility (see Gould). Raymo draws on both impulses--and in fact his title offers a simple, student-friendly pair of phrases distilled, but benignly softened, from the warfare motif. And yet, he has a greater concern than either Dawkins or Gould for the place of religion in the contemporary age that he so readily defines as scientific. In fact, the subtitle would suggest placement of this book with the revisionists. He parallels Goodenough in his search for religious meaning within scientific facts, but he diverges from her with his aggressiveness in condemnation of true believers. He has her same sense of the wonder of natural processes, but he has no interest in looking for the similarities they may hold alongside the "true beliefs" of traditional religion. Despite his quasi-religious awe for science, Raymo earns his counter-revisionist credentials because he suggests that science and religion are an either-or choice{--and therefore their "connection" is on strictly scientific terms}.

That adamant choice, with its stark reminder of the differences between science and religion, serves as a check on the more general trend of the revisionists, with their proposals for the interrelations between science and religion. After a century of dominance by the conflict model, revisionists have built bridges across the supposed divide and enriched our understanding by pointing out the cultural ambiguities, the theoretical parallels, and the personal struggles embedded in the relation of science and religion. They capture the spirit of these times at the turn of the millennium in the dissatisfaction with any grand solution and the assumption that science and religion are each limited human quests to understand our place in the universe. When looked at in relation to the counter-revisionists, a few conclusions seem clear, including the parallel but significant difference between the naturalistic assumptions of modern science and traditional ways of thinking, and the myriad ways in which people assemble science and religion in their ideologies and behaviors. In academia, churches, and popular culture, Americans of the last century have experienced the division of science and religion--and also moved readily across the divide.

References

Conser, Walter H., Jr. (1993) God and the Natural World: Religion and Science in Antebellum America. University of South Carolina Press.

Croce, Paul Jerome (1995) Science and Religion in the Era of William James, Volume 1: Eclipse of Certainty, 1820-1880. University of North Carolina Press.

Dawkins, Richard (1998) Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion, and the Appetite for Wonder. Penguin.

Draper, John William (1874) History of the Conflict between Religion and Science. Appleton.

Gould, Stephen Jay (1999) Rock of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. Ballantine.

Hull, David L. (1973) Darwin and His Critics: The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community. University of Chicago Press.

Martin, David (1978) A General Theory of Secularization. Basi Blackwell.

Mazlish, Bruce (1965) "Preface," Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, abridged edition. Free Press.

Moore, James R. (1979) The Post-Darwinian Controversies: A Study of the Protestant Struggle to Come to Terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America, 1870-1900. Cambridge.

Numbers, Ronald (1985) "Science and Religion," in Osiris, second series, Sally Gregory Kohlstedt and Margaret W. Rossiter, eds., Vol. 1, 59-80.

Roberts, Jon (1988) Darwinism and the Divine in America: Protestant Intellectuals and Oganic Evolution, 1859-1900. University of Wisconsin Press.

White, Andrew Dickson (1896) A History of the Warfare of Science and Religion within Christendom, 2 vols. Appleton.

Wilkins, Walter J. (1987) Science and Religious Thought: A Darwinian Case Study. UMI Research Press.

Share Web Page