The Territories of Science and Religion

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9780226478982: The Territories of Science and Religion
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The conflict between science and religion seems indelible, even eternal. Surely two such divergent views of the universe have always been in fierce opposition? Actually, that’s not the case, says Peter Harrison: our very concepts of science and religion are relatively recent, emerging only in the past three hundred years, and it is those very categories, rather than their underlying concepts, that constrain our understanding of how the formal study of nature relates to the religious life.

In The Territories of Science and Religion, Harrison dismantles what we think we know about the two categories, then puts it all back together again in a provocative, productive new way. By tracing the history of these concepts for the first time in parallel, he illuminates alternative boundaries and little-known relations between them—thereby making it possible for us to learn from their true history, and see other possible ways that scientific study and the religious life might relate to, influence, and mutually enrich each other.
A tour de force by a distinguished scholar working at the height of his powers, The Territories of Science and Religion promises to forever alter the way we think about these fundamental pillars of human life and experience.

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About the Author:

Peter Harrison is professor of the history of science and an Australian Laureate Fellow at the University of Queensland. He is the author of numerous books, including The Fall of Man and Foundations of Science, and is the coeditor, with Ronald L. Numbers and Michael H. Shank, of Wrestling with Nature: From Omens to Science, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Review:

"Harrison's work is an admirable contribution to the history of science and religion. Though it's aimed mainly at an academic audience, general readers will also be interested in this analysis and its challenges to assumptions about both disciplines." (Publishers Weekly)

"[Harrison's] is a careful and nuanced scholarship, which is precisely why it doesn’t get much play in a public discourse invested in the clickbait of the conflict metaphor. In Territories, first presented at the 2011 Gifford Lectures in Edinburgh, Harrison builds on his previous work to take on the new atheist 'conflict' party more directly. The bulk of the book is a patient, fine-grained archaeology of the terms 'science' and 'religion.' Indeed, in some ways, Harrison has written a biography of these concepts." (Los Angeles Review of Books)

"Harrison wisely notes that those who want there to be ‘conflict between science and religion’ are unlikely to yield to the historian’s pen. A sophisticated analysis of the kind he has provided nonetheless prompts many searching questions, not least about the residual place, if any, of moral sensibilities in scientific research. . . . Extremely rewarding." (Times Literary Supplement)

"Harrison’s The Territories of Science and Religion is a subfield-defining book. It decisively demonstrates that presuming either conflict or collaboration between science and religion is premature: a preliminary to any exploration of those connections must begin with a recognition that we do not know what those terms mean, and that the jumble of meanings that we have inherited have been clumped together in starkly different ways throughout the history of western thought." (Marginalia)

"The complexities of ancient attitudes toward our cherished practices, which we assume had to be valued by all reasonable ages, can be found admirably laid out in Peter Harrison’s invaluable new tome, The Territories of Science and Religion. Harrison’s book deserves a place right next to all your most important critiques of modernity and genealogies of secularization." (Patheos)

"Harrison’s purpose in this brilliant survey is not to pretend that there is or can be no conflict between 'religion' and 'science.' Rather it is point to the fact that those categories are not self-evident, still less timeless, and that any conflict--or indeed any independence, dialogue or integration--between them will depend largely on how each of the territories is defined. His study ends towards the end of the 19th century but it is a lesson we still need to hear today."Harrison’s purpose in this brilliant survey is clearly, therefore, not to pretend that there is or can be no conflict between ‘religion’ and ‘science’. Rather it is point to the fact that those categories are not self-evident, still less timeless, and that any conflict – or indeed any independence, dialogue or integration – between them will depend largely on how each of the territories is defined." (Theos)

"Contemporary debates would lead you to believe that science and religion are eternally at odds with each other. In The Territories of Science and Religion, Harrison interrogates the modern assumptions behind this viewpoint and delineates the story of the categories science and religion. He shows that understanding these concepts divided as distinct realms of inquiry is a relatively recent history, politically shaped, and often accidental in its construction. In reality, what we conceptualize as these two separate spheres of life were intimately bound up with one another, often in concert in social life. Harrison also warns us about the consequences of projecting our contemporary conceptual spheres back through the past. In our conversation we discuss ancient Greek philosophy, early Christian thought, natural theology and natural philosophers, conceptions of progress, forms of charity, the professionalization of science, and the creation of scientists." (New Books Network)

"It is always a pleasure to observe Harrison deploying his skill in argument, repertoire of apt quotations, and power of analogy. One argument joins so neatly to the next that it seems willfull to withhold assent from the conclusion." (Metascience)

"The Territories of Science and Religion is relevant as a study of semantic change, and to the field of conceptual history. Obviously, it is also relevant in the history of science, the history of religion, and the history of the various intersections of these categories....An impressive and welcome work. The straightforward narrative of the book also makes it a great read." (Contributions to the History of Concepts)

"This book is excellent. In less than 200 pages, Harrison transports his reader from Thales’ Miletus six centuries before Christ across the Middle Ages to Victorian Britain, following the footprints of 'science,' 'religion,' 'philosophy,' 'belief,' and a host of other related Latin and English words. The traditional chronological framework of the history of science endures; its content, though, is new." (Zygon)

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