Huxley's Church And Maxwell's Demon: From Theistic Science To Naturalistic Science

Paperback | November 3, 2016

byMatthew Stanley

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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.

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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 s...

Matthew Stanley is associate professor at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. He is the author of Practical Mystic: Religion, Science, and A. S. Eddington and lives in New York City.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.1 inPublished:November 3, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022642233X

ISBN - 13:9780226422336

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Chapter 1        Religious Lives

Chapter 2        The Uniformity of Natural Laws

Chapter 3        The Limits of Science

Chapter 4        The Goals of Science Education: The Working Men’s College

Chapter 5        Intellectual Freedom

Chapter 6        Free Will and Natural Laws

Chapter 7        How the Naturalists “Won”

Conclusion
 
Acknowledgments

Notes

Bibliography

Index

Editorial Reviews

“Matthew Stanley has written an absorbing, meticulously researched book that usefully complicates our understanding of the exclusion of God as an explanatory agent from the sciences.  Using James Clerk Maxwell and Thomas H. Huxley as representative figures, he shows that for much of the nineteenth century proponents of theistic science and scientific naturalism in Great Britain worked side by side and shared similar views of the uniformity of nature, the limits of scientific investigation, and the values and goals of science education.  Stanley rejects the notion that the triumph of “methodological naturalism” in science was the result of a victory of enlightenment over obscurantism; it was rather the result of shrewd strategic decisions on the part of scientific naturalists.  A stimulating and persuasive account of Victorian scientific theory and practice.”