Andrew Dixon White
At the time of Cornell's founding, White announced that it would be "an asylum for Science-where truth shall be sought for truth's sake, not stretched or cut exactly to fit Revealed Religion". Up to that time, America's private universities were exclusively religious institutions, and generally focused on the liberal arts and religious training (though they were not explicitly antagonistic to science).
In 1869 White gave a lecture on "The Battle-Fields of Science", arguing that history showed the negative outcomes resulting from any attempt on the part of religion to interfere with the progress of science. Over the next 30 years he refined his analysis, expanding his case studies to include nearly every field of science over the entire history of Christianity, but also narrowing his target from "religion" through "ecclesiasticism" to "dogmatic theology."
The final result was the two-volume "A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom" (1896), whose primary contention was the conflict thesis. Initially less popular than John William Draper's "History of the Conflict between Religion and Science" (1874), White's book became an extremely influential text on the relationship between religion and science. In this book, White argued that "the great majority of the early fathers of the Church, and especially Lactantius, had sought to crush it beneath the utterances attributed to Isaiah, David, and St. Paul." White's conflict thesis has been widely discredited among contemporary historians of science. The warfare depiction remains a popular view among critics of religion and the general public, and the debate between creationists and evolutionary scientists demonstrates its contemporary relevance.
History of the Warfare of Science and Theology
Alvin Plantinga, on pg 6 of his book "Where the Conflict Really Lies" has the following comment. "There is the famous Galileo affair, often portrayed as a contest pitting the Catholic hierarchy (representing the forces of repression and tradition, the voice of the Old World, the dead hand of the past, etc.) against the forces of progress and the dulcet voice of sweet reason and science. This way of looking at the matter dates back to Andrew Dixon White and his rancorous History of the Warfare of Science and Theology. White, in his characteristically restrained and judicious way, describes Galileo's ecclesiastical opponents as 'a seething, squabbling, screaming mass of priests, bishops, archbishops, and cardinals.' "
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