With chapters on: Rachel Carson, Charles A. Coulson, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Arthur S. Eddington, Albert Einstein, Ronald A. Fisher, Julian Huxley, Pascual Jordan, Robert A. Millikan, Ivan P. Pavlov, Michael I. Pupin, Abdus Salam, Edward O. Wilson
Edited By Nicolaas A. Rupke
RONALD L. NUMBERS Epilogue: Science, Secularization, and Privatization 349
Epilogue: Science, Secularization, and Privatization RONALD L. NUMBERS Social scientists and historians have long pointed to modern science as one of the most secularizing influences in Western society. As the sociologist Rodney Stark has noted, in virtually all versions of the secula- rization thesis "it is science that has the most deadly implications for religion" (Stark 1998, 5; see also Stark 1999). Typical of past claims is the overstated generalization of the distinguished British historian Keith Thomas (b. 1933). As the mechanical philosophy pushed God further and further into the distance, he wrote in 1971, it "killed the concept of miracles, weakened the belief in the physical efficacy of prayer, and diminished faith in the possibility of direct divine inspiration" (Thomas 1971, 643). At about the same time, the American anthropologist Anthony F. C. Wallace (b. 1923) brashly predicted the "extinction" of religion at the hands of scientists. lt might take "several hundred years," he granted, but "belief in supernatural powers is doomed to die out, all over the world, as a result of the increasing adequacy and diffusion of scientific knowledge and of the realization by secular faiths that supernatural belief is not necessary to the effective use of ritual." Before long, supernaturalism would be nothing more than "an interesting historical memory" (Wallace 1966, 264-265). Contrary to such wishful prophecies, supernaturalism not only persist- ed but flourished. Instead of becoming more rational and liberal, world religions in the Tate twentieth century became more fideistic and militant. "Fundamentalism" — whether Christian,...
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