Literature: Historical – Yes, History – No

Dangers found in Interpreting Literature as Historical Documents

{Peer} wrote: “Far too often we find people who believe there is a divide between science and religion and that you can’t believe in God and evolution.”

For certain people, I believe that could be true. However, it is not necessarily “God” that needs proving – it is one’s religious doctrine and belief of what God entails that is questioned. Christian dogma was questioned because the young-earth creationists insist upon a 7,000 year old earth,[1] a huge contradiction with the scientific understanding of the earth being over 400 billion years old. With a bold claim as demonstrated by the biblical timetable, a reasonable scientific consideration cannot be assessed. The claim in particular is one of humankind’s and not a challenge issued by the individual ingredients that make up the ability to believe, nor is the claim attributed to any outside forces. James Ussher, archbishop of Armagh, traced Adam’s heritage through the Hebrew patriarchs in the seventeenth-century; Bowler and Morus said, “By taking the seven days of creation literally, it was then only a matter of adding on those seven days to arrive at the date of the creation of the earth and the universe itself.”[2] The religious mind consulted the Bible and religious doctrine like they were reading historical documents, believing the stories to be true. An issue science has with religion is that humanity is not the center of the universe, nor are human beings yet perfectly evolved. Science sees evolution as a process of perfecting the individual so as to better the species, whereas religion, namely Christianity, sees the human being a priori as God’s perfect creation. I see the conflict more in interpretative issues. Each individual attaches to a belief that works for them in efforts for that person to understand themselves as well as their place and meaning in life. Religious individuals see harmony in their preferred genre of faith, whereas scientifically minded individuals look for empirical truth and proof. Philosophical minds grant truth for subjective reasoning, and issue Truth for scientific method – but philosophers are able to utilize their understanding to incorporate additional factors for accepting personal truth and universal Truth.

{Peer} wrote: “All I am saying is that one should keep an open mind and to believe that you have all the answers, regardless of your beliefs, is to be a truly foolish.”

I really think it all boils down to what method works for the individual – if organized religion is not your bag, there are other spiritual methods absent of convention. Science is always available to address concrete fact, but, for the human condition, the messages relayed with feeling might resonate a “truer” personal meaning. With belief as wind in one sails, subjective truth can appear to conquer the authorities of the objective. I agree with Socrates in that a questioning mind realizes that they know nothing. The moment absolute “certainty” without evidence steps in it is almost like blinders are dropped over one’s vision. Personally, I am not certain of anything – other than that I have a lot to learn and consider.



Bowler, Peter J. and Iwan Rhys Morus. Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2005.

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[1] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 106.

[2] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 106.

Science as Purposeful

I agree; the minds of the Scientific Revolution took another look at the natural world. {Peer} wrote: “The fact that Cohen describes Newton and his contemporaries as “rediscoverers” is in line with Cohen’s statement that the word “revolution” was first used as a technical term in the sciences.”

It was a revolution of thought, a reordering of the understanding of the natural world as well as humankind’s place in that world. However, the Scientific Revolution is a term that would be coined after the original participants were long deceased. One thing that I think may be a factor is that the “new science” wanted to be useful instead of just for appearances. In “The Scientific Revolution in Seventeenth-Century New England,” Rose Lockwood addressed the concerns of agrarian farmers in the new world. Noting the calendar year and aspects of the heavens above, Lockwood said, “It is clear from the essays and poetry of the almanac compilers that the new science affected the ideas of New England puritans before the age of Jonathan Edwards.”[1] The New Englanders understood a need to consult science for direct application to their livelihood – crops. The Puritan mindset and Protestant ethic encouraged the people to tend the earth, and by turning to science humankind was able to up the produce of the earth.


Lockwood, Rose. “The Scientific Revolution in Seventeenth-Century New England.” 1980. The New England Quarterly, 53.1: 76-95.

[1] Rose Lockwood, “The Scientific Revolution in Seventeenth-Century New England,” p. 77.

Science & Religion

Science was filtered or directed by those who signed the check – this is not a new concept as history itself was victim to the designs of the victors. Yet, science seems to take personal offense to being limited by funds. I wonder if the attitude of the scientist is that the experimentation and research that they need funding for benefits the whole of society, and not just the scientist/field? Or is it capitalism in general that science disagrees with?

Seventeenth and eighteenth-century scientists wanted to demystify accepted thought; they abandoned traditional scholasticism for empirical experimentation – the scientific method. One way to humanize the New Science was to make it readable and available to the public; the process of discovering truth needed to be understood so that the outcome would be accepted.[1] Science did not want to hide behind smoke and mirrors – yet something changed because modern scientists do not appreciate other fields attempting to understand their procedures.

Religion and science, prior to the Scientific Revolution, did not necessarily oppose the other. Darwin’s discovery of natural selection, however, directly challenged the church’s theory of divine creation. In “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Natural Selection as an Algorithmic Process,” Daniel C. Dennett discussed the algorithmic process of evolution that has created Us; he said, “No matter how impressive the products of an algorithm, the underlying process always consists of nothing but a set of individually mindless steps succeeding each other without the help of any intelligent supervision; they are ‘automatic’ by definition: the workings of an automaton.”[2] Nature as automaton removed the need and purpose of God – the church was shaken. The more science revealed natural means to explain existence, the less authority the church could rightfully demand.


Bowler, Peter J. and Iwan Rhys Morus. Making Modern Science: A Historical Survey. 2005. Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press.

Dennett, Daniel C. “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Natural Selection as an Algorithmic Process (1995).” Darwin: A Norton Critical Edition. 2005. Ed. Philip Appleman. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, pp. 489-93.

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[1] Bowler and Morus, Making Modern Science, p. 45.

[2] Dennett, “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea,” p. 493.

My Introduction to the History of Science

Today began my last session of courses before my projected Capstone in the Humanities. J The light is on at the end of the tunnel, but much like the Las Vegas desert, the distance is still intimidating. I have been altered by my graduate experience, and my goals have similarly shifted along the way. What really shocked me, however, was that science was the authority that turned on the lights – and this alone prompted me to take this course. After I completed HUMN 551, Evolution of Life and Intelligence, I was able to see the influence of biology at work on nearly every platform. Never a supporter of religion, I was, oddly enough, further shocked to accept the lessons of the Enlightenment in which humankind was understood as part of the animal kingdom, exposing nature as able to alter the physical – though dependent on long periods of time.

All that’s fine and well…but who am I? I graduated from Fairmont State University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts in History, minors in English and Philosophy. I guess I am sort of a trifecta – I must find truth, expression, and be able to disprove it all {haha}. The more I advance in studies the more I listen closer to philosophy, or rather, the more I see avenues of altruistic possibilities as per philosophic notion. The thought patterns of human capabilities fascinate me<>…and I think that in the future, a connection will be seen between philosophy and science, in that the intrinsic patterns of thought in the brain are evolving in efforts to further lesson the struggle of life. Science plays a big part in that, and genetics, so I need to learn the history of science to properly grasp modern science. {that’s the historian in me, I always need to go back to the beginning to understand the present} I chose Humanities over History because I want to include literature and thought as human experience along with who won what war; interdisciplinary studies mirrors how I interpret education to benefit the individual – a diverse arena offers multiple lessons.

{Originally created for HIST 586 graduate studies}

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