I have the impression that most people, if asked about the relationship between science and Christianity, would be inclined to speak of a conflict. The idea has become widespread that these are two separate realms and they are more or less constantly at war. Television has probably done much to sustain this image. Dramatized versions of the trial of Galileo or the Inherit the Wind version of the Scopes Trial make for good viewing. But the idea of strife was not born with television drama; it can be dated to at least the last century, when books with titles like History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science and History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom did a good deal to convey the noise of battle.

There undoubtedly have been, and continue to be, disagreements between scientists and Christian believers over many things. But the idea that Christianity and science have constantly been at loggerheads is a gross distortion of the historical record. As we approach 2000, this would seem to be a good moment to pause and reflect on some of the ways in which Christianity has contributed to scientific achievement. And there is no better way to begin than to reflect on the very origins of modern science in the seventeenth century.

Science, as we think of it today, emerged about three hundred years ago. To be sure, there were many notable achievements in the late Middle Ages that led to important developments in natural philosophy, and the contributions made by medieval Islam should not be ignored. But here I want to say something about the significance of the Reformation for the cultivation of the new scientific outlook. Even John William Draper, author of History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.