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68 of 76 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a very lucid discussion on science and religion, September 30, 1997
This review is from: Religion and Science (Galaxy Books) (Paperback)
Some people say that you must not read what is contrary to your religious beliefs. I advise those people not to read this book, as they will see their beliefs carefully explained, discussed and torn down by Russell. He does not mock the opposite points of view, but he explains them in a very clear fashion and then shows sound arguments to prove they are wrong. Even if you do not agree with his position, you will find the discussion enlightening. Recommended!
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 2, 2013 12:43:53 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 7, 2013 7:57:12 PM PDT
I have read this book and there are quite a few historical inaccuracies because he reads history thorought the eyes of Andrew White and William Draper's outdated conflict thesis. The White-Draper conflict thesis was discredited in the last century thanks to availability of primary sources and records. For a good review on the myths and inaccuracies found in books like Russell's and other like him, along with clarifications of the situations by many historians of science, please read : Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion. Check out When Science and Christianity Meet which has has numerous historians of science debunking myths found in books like this.

Fortunately, some more up to date academic resources which show the complex relationship between science and religion from diverse perspectives that are more balanced and empirical. Some can be found here :

Science and Religion, 400 B.C. to A.D. 1550: From Aristotle to Copernicus

The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450

Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction (many good entries by multiple researchers)

The Popes and Science, the History of the Papal Relations to Science During the Middle Ages, and Down to Our Own Time (Classic Reprint) (shows how the catholic church and especially Popes supported science and sponsored it more than any other institution in the past)

The Rise of Early Modern Science: Islam, China and the West

Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians (a thorough refutation of the Flat Earth Mythology)

Science and Technology in Medieval European Life (The Greenwood Press Daily Life Through History Series: Science and Technology in Everyday Life)

Cathedral, Forge and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages

1001 Inventions: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Civilization

Primary sources:

A Sourcebook in Medieval Science (Source Books in the History of the Sciences) (very important anthology since medieval scientists own writings can be found here and many of the "conflict thesis" myths are easily debunked)

It is because of the advances in science in the medieval period that gave rise to modern science of course. It did not emerge in a vaccum.

Also since you mentioned having your beliefs torn, I'll add one more reference for others who want to look into atheism in the history of science. Summary of when modern atheism spawned (17th century, not before), and the relationship it had with science up to this century one can see Oxford and Cambridge's review from the "Investigating Atheism" project under the "Atheism & Science" section online for free. Of course, Big Bang denialism, Mendelian genetics denialism, and other conflicts that atheists have had with science are just a samples from the history of atheism and science (Soviets and the Chinese had quite a few anti-scientific campaigns because some scientific ideas contradicted their worldviews.) Conflicts and peace with science cut both ways.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 9, 2014 11:44:13 AM PDT
The point here is that the scientific way of thinking cannot be reconciled with dogmatism. Scientists require evidence for their beliefs. Assertions about the physical world which are not supported by evidence but are made on faith or private revelation will more often than not conflict with science. Science is our best tool for ascertaining matters of fact. Faith and private revelation are not consistently reliable ways of ascertaining matters of fact. As an example, religious assertions that evolution is not a fact or that the earth is less than 10,000 years old are in direct conflict with science.

As for atheism, it is a lack of belief in supernatural deities such as Thor and Jehovah. The soviets and Chinese communists had a political ideology that included atheism as a tenet. Their governments had some profoundly anti-scientific ideas, but this was not the result of their lack of belief in gods. Should not believing in Thor make a man particularly non-scientific? No, there is no logical connection.

Atheism is the corollary of a rational outlook, but rational thinking does not necessarily follow from atheism. If a man's atheism is due to dogmatic adherence to a political ideology rather than as the natural result of rational thinking, there is no reason to suppose that he will be particularly scientific in his approach to the world.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 21, 2015 12:11:46 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 21, 2015 12:12:56 AM PDT
Hi G. Wallace Wyatt,

Excellent post. I agree with some of what you say. Though I agree that "rational thinking does not necessarily follow from atheism" it is crystal clear that not having a religion still leads to direct conflict with science. This is why the religion vs science argument is absurd. It ignores the failures of the nonreligous with science as if only religious people are the only ones that cause discord. The Perversion Of Knowledge: The True Story Of Soviet Science is written by a member of the Russian Academies of Science and he documents the abuses under regimes that explicitly talked about religion as being backwards - only to prove themselves to be even more backwards than the religious with widespread persecutions and killing of scientists - something religious people have never done. Only minor individual cases like Galileo or even Darwin are the only cases people can think of when it comes to religion and science. The very fact that scientific method was built by a bunch of theologians and no nonreligous folk (Scientific Method in Practice), means that science surely is not a problem for religion.

My view is that both religious and nonreligous people can have conflict and harmony with science because science is universal - not a religious or nonreligious thing - and certainly vulnerable to cultural and political circumstances. Some people often times equate science with atheism and even nonreligion as if it is a one-way street. However, the very fact that 20 years of global studies show something different should mean something:

"What we can do is to rule out the Weberian argument, discussed in Chapter 1, that belief in science and technology has undermined faith in the magical and metaphysical. If the adoption of a rational worldview had played this role, then we might expect that those societies with the most positive attitudes toward science would also prove the most skeptical when it came to religious beliefs. Instead, as clearly shown in Figure 3.3, societies with greater faith in science also often have stronger religious beliefs. Far from a negative relationship, as we might expect from Weberian theory, in fact there is a positive one. The publics in many Muslim societies apparently see no apparent contradictions between believing that scientific advances hold great promise for human progress and that they have faith in common tenets of spiritual beliefs, such as the existence of heaven and hell. Indeed, the more secular postindustrial societies, exemplified by the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark, prove most skeptical toward the impact of science and technology, and this is in accordance with the countries where the strongest public disquiet has been expressed about certain contemporary scientific developments such as the use of genetically modified food, biotechnological cloning, and nuclear power. Interestingly, again the United States displays distinctive attitudes compared with similar European nations, showing greater faith in both God and scientific progress." (p. 67) - Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide (Cambridge Studies in Social Theory, Religion and Politics) - Norris and Inglehart.

In countries like Sweden, which has higher levels of atheism and nonreligion, paranormal beliefs are very prevalent due to a loss of faith in both the Church and Science (Sjodin, Ulf (2002). "The Swedes and the Paranormal". Journal of Contemporary Religion 17 (1)).

Reality is much more complex.
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