Books  General Natural History  History of Science 

The Territories of Science and Religion

By: Peter Harrison(Author)

320 pages, 14 b/w photos

University of Chicago Press

Hardback | Apr 2015 | #221528 | ISBN-13: 9780226184487
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NHBS Price: £20.99 $27/€23 approx

About this book

The conflict between science and religion seems indelible, even eternal. Surely two such opposing 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.

"Classical thinkers understood scientia and religio as qualities or virtues; beginning around the 16th century, however, the meanings gradually shifted such that both were understood as entities conceived in terms of doctrines and practices. This shift, Harrison contends, was the precondition for modern conflicts between science and religion. Considering important turning points in a long swath of Western history from the classical world to the present, Harrison analyzes past activities connected to our present understanding of these terms, including natural philosophy, theology, belief, and doctrine. Arguing cogently and persuasively on a vital topic, The Territories of Science and Religion is a much-needed scholarly work."
– Ann Taves, University of California, Santa Barbara

"This is one of the most sophisticated accounts of the supposed battle between science and religion that I have read. The strategy taken is historical: Harrison argues that science and religion as we now understand them are both recent concepts, and that in the past, they were more complementary than opposed. In this way the author hopes to undermine the idea that there is an eternal and fundamental tension between the two. Superbly documented and incisively argued, this book brings a welcome new perspective on a difficult debate."
– Daniel Garber, Princeton University

"Simply put, Peter Harrison's The Territories of Science and Religion is the most significant contribution to the history of science and religion since the appearance of John Hedley Brooke's landmark study, Science and Religion: Some Historical Perspectives, nearly a quarter-century ago. Drawing on his wealth of historical, philosophical, and linguistic knowledge, Harrison provides a fresh, authoritative introduction to this still all-too-often misunderstood topic."
– Ronald L. Numbers, University of Wisconsin–Madison

"Learned, lucid, and illuminating, Peter Harrison's analysis of scientia and religio from antiquity to the present shows how their non-linear transformation from interior virtues to exteriorized bodies of knowledge made possible the creation of the later nineteenth-century myth about an allegedly timeless 'conflict between science and religion.' One hopes that not only historians of science and religion but also contemporary perpetuators of the myth read and learn from this book."
– Brad S. Gregory, author of The Unintended Reformation: How a Religious Revolution Secularized Society


A Note on the Graphs

1. The Territories of Science and Religion
2. The Cosmos and the Religious Quest
3. Signs and Causes
4. Science and the Origins of "Religion"
5. Utility and Progress
6. Professing Science


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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 editor, with Ronald L. Numbers and Michael H. Shank, of Wrestling with Nature: From Omens to Science, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

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