The Fabricated War Between Religion and Science

We’re constantly told that science and religion are like Kanye West and Taylor Swift — arch enemies incapable of coexistence, two Venn diagram circles that don’t overlap at any point.

Well, dear reader, I know smart, cosmopolitan people like you and me don’t believe that. But how did that misconception become part of conventional wisdom? Who Hatfield-and-McCoy-ified science and religion? Justin Taylor gives us the lowdown:

No one deserves more blame for this stubborn myth than these two men:

  • Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the founding president of Cornell University, and
  • John William Draper (1811-1882), professor of chemistry at the University of New York.

In December of 1869, Andrew White—the young and beleaguered Cornell president—delivered a lecture at Cooper Union in New York City entitled ”The Battle-Fields of Science.” He melodramatically painted a picture of a longstanding warfare between religion and science…

In 1874, Professor Draper published his History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1874).

So why exactly did men like Dickson and Draper—along with English biologist T. H. Huxley, who championed Darwinism and coined the term “agnostic”—manufacture these historical myths and this overall legend of perpetual conflict?

In the mid-nineteenth century there was no separate profession of science. Manufacturing a “war” between science and religion was part of their professionalization campaign.

Check out the whole post to get all the good quotes.