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Magisteria review – Science Between the Sacred and the Profane

Magisteria review – Science Between the Sacred and the Profane

Historian and librarian Edward Weech reviews Nick Spencer’s book Magisteria for Law & Liberty. 02/06/2023

It’s a familiar trope of popular history: the heroic rise of science and Enlightenment, emerging sometime around the eighteenth century from a miasma of religious obscurantism, in the teeth of clerical opposition. While it contains a kernel of truth, Nicholas Spencer demonstrates this narrative relies upon numerous historical myths, regularly recycled to traduce traditional Christianity and the imagined credulity of religious people in general.

Through a series of case studies, Spencer searches for a pattern in the tension between science and religion, proposing two main sources. One is authority, which has always been a “lightning rod” for disagreement: “Who has the right to pronounce on nature, the cosmos, and reality?” The second source is “the nature and status of the human.” Humans are both material and spiritual beings, meaning scientists and theologians each claim us as their “turf.” There is probably no getting away from this, Spencer concluding that “Science and religion are partially overlapping magisteria, and they overlap within us.”

Read the full article here.

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 Image by Law & Liberty

Nick Spencer

Nick Spencer

Nick is Senior Fellow at Theos. He is the author of a number of books and reports, including Magisteria: the entangled histories of science and religion (Oneworld, 2023), The Political Samaritan: how power hijacked a parable (Bloomsbury, 2017), The Evolution of the West (SPCK, 2016) and Atheists: The Origin of the Species (Bloomsbury, 2014). He is host of the podcast Reading Our Times.

Watch, listen to or read more from Nick Spencer

Posted 2 June 2023


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