Science and Religion

  • Peter Broks


There is a very curious feature about the portrayal of scientists in these magazines. The most fulsome praise is to be found in the more religious publications. What then of any supposed conflict between science and religion? In Good Words Kelvin was, as we have seen, noble, pure and reverent, Aitkin courageous and indefatigable, but elsewhere we can also read of the labours of Lister, the philanthropy of Perkin, the fearlessness and resource of Ramsay, the perseverance and determination of Edison, and the love of truth and patience of Newton.1 Even Darwin, of all people, is admired for having ‘sound judgement, unwearied industry, absence of prejudice, a passionate love of truth, and withal abounding charity, all different aspects of real religion’.2 Courage, patience, modesty, selflessness, the moral efficacy of scientific practice made scientists ideal material for that genre of moralistic literature that had been so common earlier in the nineteenth century.


Germinal Gall Microbe Fishing Nism 


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  1. 5.
    Mona Caird, ‘Scientific popery’, Clarion, 29 December 1894, p. 6. Caird was calling for scepticism over the claims for a new anti-toxin treatment for diphtheria. The rejection of a new scientific priesthood and the abandonment of the Christian faith left many like Sidgwick, Myers and Butler ‘between science and religion’. See Frank M. Turner, Between Science and Religion: The reaction to scientific naturalism in late Victorian England (London, 1974).Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    Richard D. French, Anti-vivisection and Medical Science in Victorian Society (London, 1975), p. 230.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    Owen Chadwick, The Victorian Church (London, 1966), pt II, p. 35.Google Scholar
  4. 13.
    Frank M. Turner, ‘Public science in Britain, 1880–1919’, Isis, 71 (1980), pp. 589–608. On the ‘conflict’ of science and religion, see alsoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Frank M. Turner, Between Science and Religion: The reaction to scientific naturalism in late Victorian England (London, 1974), and ‘The Victorian conflict between science and religion: a professional dimension’, Isis, 69 (1978), pp. 356–76.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Susan Budd, ‘The loss of faith: reasons for unbelief among members of the secular movement in England, 1850–1950’, Past and Present, 36 (1967), p. 125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. See also Susan Budd, Varieties of Unbelief: Atheists and agnostics in English society, 1850–1960 (London, 1977).Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    F. le Gros Clark, Paley’s Natural Theology: Revised to harmonize with modern science (London, 1885).Google Scholar
  9. 20.
    John Hedley Brooke, ‘The natural theology of the geologists: some theological strata’, in L.J. Jordanova and Roy Porter (eds), Images of the Earth: Essays in the history of the environmental sciences (Chalfont St Giles, 1979), pp. 39–64.Google Scholar
  10. 35.
    Henry Drummond, Natural Law in the Spiritual World (London, 1883).Google Scholar
  11. 44.
    A.M. Thompson, preface to Robert Blatchford, My Eighty Years (London, 1931), p. ix.Google Scholar
  12. 51.
    John Kent, From Darwin to Blatchford: The role of Darwinism in Christian apologetics, 1875–1910 (London, 1966).Google Scholar
  13. 52.
    Blatchford’s position has much in common with German evolutionary socialism. See Alfred Kelly, The Descent of Darwin: The popularisation of Darwinism in Germany, 1860–1914 (Carolina, 1981), andGoogle Scholar
  14. Hugh MacLeod, ‘Religion in the British and German labour movements, c. 1890–1914’, Bulletin of the Society for the Study of Labour History, vol. 51 (1986), pt 1, pp. 25–35.Google Scholar
  15. 53.
    John Laurent, ‘Science, society and politics in late-nineteenth-century England: a further look at mechanics’ institutes’, Social Studies of Science, vol. 14 (1984), p. 598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 62.
    See Logie Barrow, Independent Spirits: Spiritualism and English plebeian culture, 1850–1910 (London, 1986), and ‘The socialism of Robert Blatchford and the “Clarion”’ (Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of London, 1975).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Peter Broks 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter Broks
    • 1
  1. 1.University of the West of EnglandBristolUK

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