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Not only between some science and some religion, but also between some science and some ethics, politics, or even among different sciences.
Similarly, “religion” is a category that, in its current meaning, can be traced back, first to the Wars of Religion in post-Reformation Christian Europe and, later, to the Imperial encounter and manipulation of political and spiritual realities in the colonies overseas.
Moreover, the notion of religion, in which Christianity would dissolve as one among many other realities (on equal terms with Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.), may also be understood as part of the secularising project of the Enlightenment.
As a matter of fact, a generation of Christian polymaths, many of them clergymen of the Church of England, had developed a particular brand of natural theology in the early nineteenth century, one which saw in the findings of geology, biology and mechanics the material signs of a designer-god.
The were just the tip of the iceberg of a marriage between natural science and theology that kept the former subservient to the latter, thus preventing the full and independent development of science among the intellectual elite. Huxley, John Tyndall, Herbert Spencer and a few other young scientists regularly met and collectively schemed in order to occupy relevant positions in academia and professional bodies and, thus, to change the face of science in Britain.
An example of the latter is the recurring studies of the Galileo affair.
Any interpretation of this episode of the early 17 century will fails to characterise the relations between science and religion since neither fully existed at the time, at least not in the way we understand them today.
Currently he is an Ikerbasque Research Professor and a member of the Praxis Group at the Faculty of Philosophy, UPV/some contemporary Creationist movements, the stage is set for a fight between modern reason and obscurantist superstition, or divinely revealed truth and pretentious scientism, depending on which side of the fence one chooses.
But, should one necessarily take sides in this Cowboys-and-Indians warfare? Most scientists and philosophers, religious and secular alike, remain apathetic about the so-called “conflict thesis” and passively or actively support the other three possible relations between science and religion according to the classical typology put forward by Ian Barbour: indifference, dialogue or integration What needs to be historicised is the statement that “science and religion are always in conflict”, and not so much to try and find historical examples where such conflict may have (anachronistically) happened or not.
Based on these two elucidations, Harrison’s point is that the kind “science-and-religion” can only be a product emerging at the time of the consolidation of the categories of both “science” and “religion”.
Was the conflict thesis a necessary consequence of this process? Then, how did it gain momentum and how is it that it still holds legitimacy in the public sphere?