At the Outer Limits of Knowledge

Reference work entry

We are defined by science. No matter if we are mystified by equations or never get to shake a test tube, we all function in a scientific framework that determines the way we think and act.

This is a recent phenomenon. For most of history the boundaries of Western inquiry and creativity have been set by religion. Without subscribing to the fable that science and religion are necessarily in conflict (many, if not most, of the great scientific discoveries have been set firmly in the Christian or, at least, the deistic tradition), it is nonetheless true that in matters of dispute, the clerics commanded the high ground.

The kick-start to a long process of change came with the Enlightenment when the brotherhood of sceptics—Voltaire, Hume, Kant among them—questioned the need for divine intercession of any kind, at any time. It was not long before the challenge was put to the test. The evolutionary theories that took hold of the nineteenth century imagination were deployed by Darwin’s...


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