Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon: From Theistic Science to Naturalistic Science

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University of Chicago Press, 2015 - History - 364 pages
During the Victorian period science shifted from being practiced in a theistic context (integrating religious considerations and ideas) to a naturalistic context (explicitly forbidding religious matters). This book examines the foundations of that change. While it is generally thought that the transformation was due to the methodological superiority of naturalistic science, Matthew Stanley shows that most of the methodological values underlying scientific practice were virtually identical between the theists and the naturalists. Each agreed on the importance of the uniformity of natural laws, the use of hypothesis and theory, the moral value of science, and intellectual freedom. This was despite the claims by both groups that those fundamentals were intrinsic to their worldview, and completely incompatible with that of their opponents. Stanley goes on to argue that the victory of the scientific naturalists came from deliberate strategies executed over a generation to gain control of the institutions of scientific education and to re-imagine the history of their discipline. Rather than a sudden revolution, the similarity between theistic and naturalistic science allowed for a relatively smooth transition in practice from the old guard to the new. Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon explores this shift through a parallel study of two major scientific figures: James Clerk Maxwell, a devout Christian physicist, and Thomas Henry Huxley, the iconoclast biologist who coined the word agnostic. Both were deeply engaged in the methodological, institutional, and political issues that were crucial to the theistic-naturalistic transformation. The author’s astute examination of the ascendance of scientific naturalism sheds new light on the controversies over science and religion in modern America.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Chapter 1 Religious Lives
10
Chapter 2 The Uniformity of Natural Laws
34
Chapter 3 The Limits of Science
80
The Working Mens College
119
Chapter 5 Intellectual Freedom
153
Chapter 6 Free Will and Natural Laws
194
Chapter 7 How the Naturalists Won
242
Conclusion
264
Acknowledgments
271
Notes
273
Bibliography
331
Index
361
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About the author (2015)

Matthew Stanley is associate professor at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. He is the author of Practical Mystic: Religion, Science, and A. S. Eddington and lives in New York City.

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