Book ID: CBB001422028

Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon: From Theistic Science to Naturalistic Science (2014)


Stanley, Matthew (Author)

University of Chicago Press

Publication Date: 2014
Physical Details: 364 pp.; ill.; bibl.; index
Language: English

During the Victorian period, the practice of science shifted from a religious context to a naturalistic one. It is generally assumed that this shift occurred because naturalistic science was distinct from and superior to theistic science. Yet as Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon reveals, most of the methodological values underlying scientific practice were virtually identical for the theists and the naturalists: each agreed on the importance of the uniformity of natural laws, the use of hypothesis and theory, the moral value of science, and intellectual freedom. But if scientific naturalism did not rise to dominance because of its methodological superiority, then how did it triumph? Matthew Stanley explores the overlap and shift between theistic and naturalistic science through a parallel study of two major scientific figures: James Clerk Maxwell, a devout Christian physicist, and Thomas Henry Huxley, the iconoclast biologist who coined the word agnostic. Both were deeply engaged in the methodological, institutional, and political issues that were crucial to the theistic-naturalistic transformation. What Stanley's analysis of these figures reveals is that the scientific naturalists executed a number of strategies over a generation to gain control of the institutions of scientific education and to reimagine the history of their discipline. Rather than a sudden revolution, the similarity between theistic and naturalistic science allowed for a relatively smooth transition in practice from the old guard to the new.

Reviewed By

Essay Review Henry M. Cowles (2017) History Naturalized. Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences (pp. 107-116). unapi

Review Hunt, Bruce J. (2015) Review of "Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon: From Theistic Science to Naturalistic Science". Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science (p. 81). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Lightman, Bernard V.
Dawson, Gowan
Johnston, Sky Michael
Ceccarelli, David
White, Paul
Stanley, Matthew
British Journal for the History of Science
Past and Present
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
University of California, San Diego
University of Chicago Press
Oxford University Press
Science and religion
Naturalism (philosophy)
Atheism; agnosticism; irreligion
Natural laws
Huxley, Thomas Henry
Tyndall, John
Darwin, Charles Robert
Martineau, James
Wallace, Alfred Russel
Ussher, James
Time Periods
19th century
17th century
18th century
20th century, early
16th century
20th century
Great Britain
United States
Royal School of Mines

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