What is the history of science and religion?

Humans have always been both scientific and religious. While several high-profile conflicts between scientists and religious communities have occurred (hello, Darwin and Galileo!), the VAST majority of interactions have been mutually supportive!

The AAAS DoSER program stands proudly with scientists around the world who have worked to overcome countless obstacles in their continued work for scientific advancement for the betterment of humanity. DoSER is proud to have been a part of many conversations between scientists, historians, and members of faith communities to better understand the past and look forward, with optimism, to the future!

The first thing to understand about this interesting history is that the common trope of “conflict” between science and religion is largely a manufactured one, started intentionally by two men named John Draper and Andrew White in the late 1800s. Draper and White spoke of the constant warfare between science and religion by focusing on Galileo and Darwin, while failing to mention things like the (1) the thousands of discoveries made by Christian monks throughout history, (2) the first teaching hospital and university created by the Muslim Abbasid Empire of the Middle Ages, (3) and the centuries of support of Jewish communities and science.

In the resource center, you will find a large number of videos, syllabi, and articles on the history of science and religion, including several videos in our “Science: The Wide Angle” film series, including one on this very discussion: “Science and Religion: The Draper-White Conflict Thesis.”

Science and religion...in conflict?

Science and Religion: The Draper-White Conflict Thesis
  • Video
  • 4:59

Science and Religion: The Draper-White Conflict Thesis

In this short film, historians of science Dr. Lawrence Principe and Dr. Edward Davis examine the roots and social context…

Some of our resources on evolution are specific to faith traditions, such as the many course syllabi that include resource for understanding the history of Christianity and science available through the Science for Seminaries Project. These include courses from Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox schools, such as “Introduction to Church History: 1500 to the Present” and “The History of Science.” DoSER also hosted a compelling conversation about the history of genetic diversity called “The Tapestry of Health: Genetic Diversity, History, and Cultural Identity.”

Apart from everything on this site, two other compelling online resources are, first, The Secret History of Science and Religion, a compelling 3-episode podcast from BBC4 from DoSER’s partner group in the UK, ECLAS. And second, the podcast Speaking of Race which investigates the overlap between racism, religion, and the history of science over the past few centuries.


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