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Science and Relegion, 1450-1900.

SCIENCE AND RELIGION, 1450-1900 by Richard Olson. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006. 292 pages. Paperback; $19.95. ISBN: 0801884004.

Science and Religion is a historical survey of the rise of modern science. Richard Olson stresses the cultural influences occurring during the period 1450-1900, reflecting the author's interest in the interaction of culture with science. Olson is currently a professor of history at Harvey Mudd College and has published Science Deified and Science Defied (1990) and The Emergence of the Social Sciences (1993). His undergraduate degree is in physics and his Ph.D. is in the history of science.

Science and Religion, 1450-1900: From Copernicus to Darwin is a companion volume to Science and Religion, 400 BC to AD 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus by Edward Grant. Collectively these provide a historical survey from the fourth century BC to the twentieth century. The second volume is as thorough in addressing topics as the companion volume but written in a more academic tone and covering several less general topics.

The first chapter bridges the two books by using Galileo's interaction with the clerical authorities as a case study for the interaction of science and religion. The historical analysis then begins, showing the transition from natural magic to experimental science:
 With rare exceptions, medieval science was not
 intended to be applied--except to the understanding
 and appreciation of God's creation and as a background
 to medical training (p. 25).

The following two chapters address quite specific topics: "Science and Catholicism in the Scientific Revolution, 1550-1770" (chap. 3), and "Science and Religion in England, 1590-1740" (chap. 4), particularly Anglicanism. These chapters show the personal side of science but will probably appeal mainly to adherents of these Christian traditions. A chapter on Newton's influence in the seventeenth century (chap. 5) and Kant in the eighteenth century (chap. 6) is followed by a survey of geology and Lamarckian biology. The final chapter, "What to do about Darwin?" (chap. 8), concludes the historical survey with religious responses to Darwin from Anglo-American Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish perspectives.

The book should appeal to aficionados of science and religion interested in the interaction of culture with the development of science. The book is impressively researched with an extensive list of primary sources and annotated biography making this a valuable resource for experts and a potential library acquisition.

Reviewed by Fraser F. Fleming, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282.
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Author:Fleming, Fraser F.
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2007
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