The Improving State of the World: Why We're Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet

The Improving State of the World: Why We're Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet

The Improving State of the World: Why We're Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet

The Improving State of the World: Why We're Living Longer, Healthier, More Comfortable Lives on a Cleaner Planet

Synopsis

In the seventeenth century new scientific discoveries called into question established Christian theology. In the past it has been claimed that contemporary thinkers contributed to this conflict model by using the discoveries of the natural world to prove the existence of God. Calloway challenges this generalized view through close examination of five key texts from the period. She shows that there was considerable difference amongst natural theologians, not just in their aims and arguments but also in their style of rhetoric. This has important lessons for contemporary scientific and theological debates and will be of interest to scholars of religious history, philosophy and literary studies.

Excerpt

A long suburb of red brick houses—some with patches of garden-ground, where coal-dust and factory smoke darkened the shrinking leaves, and coarse rank flowers, and where the struggling vegetation sickened and sank under the hot breath of kiln and furnace, making them by its presence seem yet more blighting and unwholesome than in the town itself,… they came by slow degrees upon a cheerless region, where not a blade of grass was seen to grow; where not a bud put forth its promise in the spring; where nothing green could live but on the surface of the stagnant pools, which here and there lay idly sweltering by the black road-side.

On every side, and as far as the eye could see into the heavy distance, tall chimneys, crowding on each other and presenting that endless repetitionof the same dull, ugly form, which is the horror of oppressive dreams, poured out their plague of smoke, obscured the light, and made foul the melancholy air.… Then came more of the wrathful monsters . . . and still, before, behind, and to the right and left, was the same interminable perspective of brick towers, never ceasing in their black vomit, blasting all things living or inanimate, shutting out the face of day, and closing in on all these horrors with a dense dark cloud.

But night-time in this dreadful spot!—night, when the smoke was changed to fire; when every chimney spirted up its red flame; and places that had been dark vaults all day, now shone red-hot, with figures moving to and fro within their blazing jaws… night, when carts came rumbling by, filled with rude coffins (for contagious disease and death had been busy…)… night, when some called for bread, and some for drink to drown their cares… night, which unlike the night that Heaven sends on earth, brought with it not peace, nor quiet, nor signs of blessed sleep.…

— Charles Dickens (1840–41), The Old Curiosity Shop, pp. 346–48

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