Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon

From Theistic Science to Naturalistic Science

Matthew Stanley

Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon
Bookmark and Share

Matthew Stanley

336 pages | 2 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2014
Cloth $45.00 ISBN: 9780226164878 Will Publish November 2014
E-book $36.00 ISBN: 9780226164908 Will Publish November 2014
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.
Geoffrey Cantor, University of Leeds
“Concentrating on two towering intellectual figures, James Clerk Maxwell and Thomas Henry Huxley, Stanley offers an innovative perspective on late nineteenth-century British science in which he deploys an original argument to challenge the controversial view that science and religion were—and still are—in conflict. Instead, through a careful reading of Maxwell, Huxley, and several of their contemporaries, Stanley shows that there were major areas of agreement between those who adopted a theistic approach to science and the rising band of naturalists, who viewed the natural world as governed by nothing other than a collection of laws. By emphasizing points of agreement—for example, over the uniformity of nature—Stanley also throws the differences between these two approaches into clearer relief. Moreover, he provides a nuanced, sensitive, and firmly grounded understanding of both Huxley and Maxwell, and one that not only undermines the conflict thesis but also provides the reader with a deeper understanding of the interrelations between science and religion. An impressive achievement!”
Bernard Lightman, editor of Victorian Science in Context
“In his penetrating study of the methodological values of Victorian scientists, Stanley has carefully traced the process whereby religious ideas and values were pushed out of scientific practice. He argues that science became naturalistic with relatively little bloodshed despite the heated controversies over evolutionary theory. Naturalistic scientists like Thomas Henry Huxley shrewdly adapted the methodological values of theistic science, which included such principles as the uniformity of nature, the limits of scientific knowledge, the moral value of science, and intellectual freedom. Then, through the use of institutional strategies, they gained control of science and thoroughly naturalized how research was conducted. They succeeded so well that today it is difficult to conceive of science as anything other than naturalistic. Stanley’s provocative book offers a fresh perspective on the complex relationship between naturalism and theism both now and in the nineteenth century.”
Ronald L. Numbers, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Nothing characterizes modern science more than its rejection of appeals to God in explaining the workings of nature. Nevertheless, historians have written relatively little about the development of this methodological practice. Stanley’s Huxley’s Church and Maxwell’s Demon vividly describes how nineteenth-century British naturalists won the victory over their theistic rivals. It stands as a major contribution to the literature on the history of science and religion.”
Jon H. Roberts, Boston University
“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.”
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
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
Google preview here

Chicago Manual of Style |

Keep Informed

JOURNALs