Science and Religion - HIST6069

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


Science and religion are often presented as in antithesis; worldviews that will inevitably clash. Popular accounts of science often present religion and religious institutions as a restraining force on the advance of science, and find it difficult to deal with the many scientific figures whose work was either underpinned or unaffected by their faith. This module will look critically at these narratives, re-examining famous episodes such as Galileo's clash with the Catholic Church, and debates over Darwin’s theory of evolution, from the Huxley-Wilberforce debate of 1860 to the Scopes Trial in Tennessee in 1925. We will explore the late 19th-century roots of the "clash narrative" and the developing idea of inevitable “Warfare” between science and religion, noting the other ways in which the relationship has been understood. This includes the long-lasting natural theological framing of scientific knowledge, which saw evidence of God’s existence and attributes in the natural world, and historians’ accounts of the role of religion in motivating individuals and groups to undertake scientific work.


Contact hours

Weekly one-hour lectures and two-hour seminars.

Method of assessment

This module will be assessed by 100% coursework

• Source commentaries (2000 words – 25%)
• Group presentation (c. 15 minutes in pairs/threes 15%)
• Two essays (2x 3000 words – 60%)

Indicative reading

BROOK, J. H. and CANTOR, G.N. (1998) Reconstructing Nature: The Engagement of Science and Religion. London: T&T Clark.
BROOKE, J. H. (2009) Darwin and Victorian Christianity. In HODGE, J. and RADICK, G. (eds.) (2009) The Cambridge Companion to Darwin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
COHEN, I.B., DUFFIN K. E., and STRICKLAND, S. (eds) (1990) Puritanism and the Rise of Modern Science: The Merton Thesis. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
DIXON, T. (2008) Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
FINOCCHIARO, M. A. (2007) Retrying Galileo, 1633–1992. Berkeley: University of California Press.
JACOB, J. R. and JACOB, M. C. (1980) The Anglican Origins of Modern Science: The Metaphysical Foundations of the Whig Constitution. Isis (71). p. 251-267.
LINDBERG, D. C. and NUMBERS, R. L. (2003) When Science and Christianity Meet. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
SHAPIRO, A. R. (2013) Trying Biology: The Scopes Trial, Textbooks, and the Antievolution Movement in American Schools. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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