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The Entangled Histories of Science & Religion

Published by Oneworld Publications
Distributed by Simon & Schuster

About The Book

Most things you ‘know’ about science and religion are myths or half-truths that grew up in the last years of the nineteenth century and remain widespread today.

The true history of science and religion is a human one. It’s about the role of religion in inspiring, and strangling, science before the scientific revolution. It’s about the sincere but eccentric faith and the quiet, creeping doubts of the most brilliant scientists in history – Galileo, Newton, Faraday, Darwin, Maxwell, Einstein. Above all it’s about the question of what it means to be human and who gets to say – a question that is more urgent in the twenty-first century than ever before.

From eighth-century Baghdad to the frontiers of AI today, via medieval Europe, nineteenth-century India and Soviet Russia, Magisteria sheds new light on this complex historical landscape. Rejecting the thesis that science and religion are inevitably at war, Nicholas Spencer illuminates a compelling and troubled relationship that has definitively shaped human history.

About The Author

Nicholas Spencer is Senior Fellow at Theos, a Fellow of International Society for Science and Religion and a Visiting Research Fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of a number of books including Darwin and God, The Evolution of the West and Atheists. He has presented a BBC Radio 4 series on The Secret History of Science and Religion, and has written for the Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, New Statesman, Prospect and more. He lives in London.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (March 2, 2023)
  • Length: 528 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780861544622

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Raves and Reviews

'Magisterial and brilliant.'

– Professor John Milbank

‘With patience, balance and deep learning, Spencer… dismantles the myths that have accumulated around Galileo Galilei, Charles Darwin and other scientific figures… Filled with wit and wisdom.’

– Philip Ball, TLS

‘This book, though, is surely [Spencer's] magnum opus. It is astonishingly wide-ranging… and richly informed… So much complex history, theology and science could be heavy. What lightens the book is its clarity and the effervescent writing.'

– Sunday Times

‘Fascinating… prepare to read something genuinely fresh in what can be an extremely hackneyed debate.’

– New Scientist

‘Easily the best exploration of the complex relation between science and religion I have ever read. As exemplary in his even-handedness as in his patient research… I suspect it will become the classic work on its subject.’

– Iain McGilchrist, author of The Master and his Emissary and The Matter with Things

'Spencer’s historical portrait is erudite and wide-ranging…[a] necessary [book].’

– Literary Review

'This page-turner of a book compellingly tracks the relation between science and religion, eternally bickering siblings, across two millennia. The ironies of the collaborations and oppositions between the two are brilliantly set out. You don’t have to have religious belief to recognise that science doesn’t always have the right answers. The real question: who has the authority to make statements about the natural world? Nicholas Spencer well shows that this authority – formerly in the hands of religious authorities, now usually scientific ones – has been effortfully constructed and disagreed over across time.'

– Chris Wickham, author of The Inheritance of Rome

'This sweeping and comprehensive look at the "war" between religion and science lays it bare as a nineteenth-century myth. Studying God’s Works – what we call "science" – was historically as important to Christianity as studying his Word. The battles we’ve mythologised – from the ancient mathematician Hypatia’s murder by a Christian mob, to Galileo kneeling before the Inquisition, to the 1925 Scopes “monkey” trial – were not about ideology, but authority. A compelling act of myth-busting.'

– Nancy Marie Brown, author of The Abacus and the Cross

'Nicholas Spencer is always worth reading. In this new book he brilliantly synthesises a mass of scholarly research to provide an authoritative, lucid and, at times, surprising account of the historical relations between Western science and religion. This is easily the most comprehensive and accessible history of these two "magisteria" presently available.'

– Peter Harrison, author of The Territories of Science and Religion

'Tremendous… [Spencer's] survey of more than two millennia to the present day is consistently well-informed, witty and merciless to those wanting easy headlines. Every journalist would benefit from reading this substantial but very useful text, but all its readers will emerge better informed—and perhaps even saner.’

– Diarmaid Macculloch, Prospect

'A really nicely balanced mix of scholarship and readability, full of quirky facts to make you think. The case that these arguments are not about facts, but about power and philosophy, has never been put more clearly and convincingly.'

– Andrew Brown, author of The Darwin Wars

'Ambitious... Provocative... Spencer presents a nuanced account.'

– Publishers Weekly

‘Spencer takes his reader on a breathtakingly inclusive intercontinental journey, from the dawn of time in Mediterranean antiquity, to present-day Silicon Valley… [with] wit, scholarship and attitude… an impressive and deeply humane text that is more than worthy of all due care and attention.’ *****

– Premier Christianity

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