Science and Religion in America, 1800-1860

Science and Religion in America, 1800-1860

Science and Religion in America, 1800-1860

Science and Religion in America, 1800-1860

Excerpt

During the first half of the nineteenth century, American Protestants became increasingly fascinated by the sciences. They developed a sophisticated natural theology built on the premise that nature contains clear, compelling evidence of God's existence and perfection. The Protestant believed that in order to do natural theology he had to be an "empiricist"; like Francis Bacon in the seventeenth century, he had to observe carefully the facts of nature, always avoiding useless speculation or "hypotheses." Secondly, the natural theologian had to be a scientist; he had to understand the natural phenomena he observed. Natural theology was a discipline in which Christian philosophy and empirical science merged.

To America's post-Enlightenment Protestants, science appeared to provide a special set of opportunities. Most of them believed that the science of the Enlightenment had not been particularly conducive to orthodox Christian belief. At the same time, however, most orthodox Protestants felt that Enlighten-

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