Science and Religion in Elizabethan England

Science and Religion in Elizabethan England

Science and Religion in Elizabethan England

Science and Religion in Elizabethan England

Excerpt

Did science and religion conflict in Elizabethan England? This was the central question which I set out to answer when beginning research for this book. It soon became clear, however, that the question was too narrow. If on some points Elizabethan divines and scientists differed, on many others they entirely agreed, while on still others their ideas entwined with each other and with ideas from related fields in complex patterns. Evidently the real need was to discover in a larger and more generous way what were the areas of harmony as well as tension between them, and why. Also, how did these areas connect not only with one another but also with the surrounding life and thought of the times? The present study, therefore, is more than a chronicle of conflict. It looks for peace as well as for war, and for the broader meaning behind both. It seeks to analyze, as dispassionately as may be, how Elizabethan Christianity and science impinged upon each other, and in so doing affected other attitudes, in a number of key topics ranging widely from medicine to astrology, from Satan to the new world in the moon. Such an inquiry into the problems of the past has a sufficient value in and for itself, but I should be disappointed if it did not also help our understanding of certain modern problems largely descended from them.

There are several things which this book is not. It is not a history of Elizabethan science; it takes account only of those scientific practices and developments which bore in some way upon contemporary religion. Likewise it is not a history of Elizabethan theology or of ecclesiastical controversies, or indeed a history of anything in the sense of a sequential chronological approach. It is a study of the mutual interplay of two great human attitudes, scientific and religious, at a specific place and time. Its method is analytic. In the main I have tried to present this . . .

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