in Victorian England, the mathematical physicists being ar moresympathetic than the scientic naturalists. The confict thesis ails torecognize such variety.
Upon close consideration o the historical record, there is ample reason toquestion the assumption or assertion o necessary and wholesale religion-scienceconfict, even within a Christian context. Moreover, it becomes airly clear thatthe natural sciences as we now know them may well have never emerged withoutcertain ideas that grew out o the Christian intellectual tradition. Alred North Whitehead,
or example, observed that the distinctive charactero Christian theism in Europe played a critical role in the emergence o an equally distinctive ocus on the systematic discovery o rational principles underlyingnature. It was, he suggested, the concept o a personied, rational, and
God (particularly by the time o the Middle Ages) that laid the oundation orthe “scientic” conviction that behind the welter o seemingly disparate naturalevents lay uniying principles that were universal and discoverable through reasonand empirical method. This did not happen, or example, in China, despitemuch earlier emergence o technological achievements ar in advance o Europe,as amply documented by Joseph Needham.
As Shigeru Nakayama notes:The Platonic conviction that eternal patterns underlie the fux o natureis so central to the Western tradition that it might seem that no scienceis possible without it….[A]lthough Chinese science assumed thatregularities were there or the nding they believed that the ultimatetexture o reality was too subtle to be ully measured or comprehendedby empirical investigation. The Japanese paid even less attention to thegeneral while showing an even keener curiosity about the particularand the evanescent.
A sharply drawn distinction between “natural” and “supernatural” orces,processes, or phenomena was a consequential development in human thought,particularly as developed in the West. There is no similar distinction observablein preliterate cultural worldviews, nor is it any more likely to have been made by prehistoric humans. Rather, extrapolating rom what we do know o preliteratecultures, there was an indistinguishable interplay o what we now view as“natural” and “supernatural,” or “empirical” and “magical,” in early attempts topredict, control, and come to grips with the nature o physical reality. A gradual teasing apart o natural and magical or supernatural conceptionshas been a transormative development in human history. James Thrower
documents the roots o an “alternative [naturalistic] tradition” in surviving