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Territories of Science and Religion

by Peter Harrison University of Chicago Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 300 pages
AU$56.99 NZ$60.86
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The conflict between science and religion seems indelible, even eternal. Surely two such divergent views of the universe have always been in fierce opposition? Actually, that’s not the case, says Peter Harrison: our very concepts of science and religion are relatively recent, emerging only in the past three hundred years, and it is those very categories, rather than their underlying concepts, that constrain our understanding of how the formal study of nature relates to the religious life.


In The Territories of Science and Religion, Harrison dismantles what we think we know about the two categories, then puts it all back together again in a provocative, productive new way. By tracing the history of these concepts for the first time in parallel, he illuminates alternative boundaries and little-known relations between them—thereby making it possible for us to learn from their true history, and see other possible ways that scientific study and the religious life might relate to, influence, and mutually enrich each other.

A tour de force by a distinguished scholar working at the height of his powers, The Territories of Science and Religion promises to forever alter the way we think about these fundamental pillars of human life and experience.


A Note on the Graphs

1. The Territories of Science and Religion

2. The Cosmos and the Religious Quest

3. Signs and Causes

4. Science and the Origins of "Religion"

5. Utility and Progress

6. Professing Science







"Harrison's work is an admirable contribution to the history of science and religion. Though it's aimed mainly at an academic audience, general readers will also be interested in this analysis and its challenges to assumptions about both disciplines."

- Publishers Weekly


"Harrison wisely notes that those who want there to be ‘conflict between science and religion’ are unlikely to yield to the historian’s pen. A sophisticated analysis of the kind he has provided nonetheless prompts many searching questions, not least about the residual place, if any, of moral sensibilities in scientific research. . . . Extremely rewarding."

- Times Literary Supplement


"Harrison’s The Territories of Science and Religion is a subfield-defining book. It decisively demonstrates that presuming either conflict or collaboration between science and religion is premature: a preliminary to any exploration of those connections must begin with a recognition that we do not know what those terms mean, and that the jumble of meanings that we have inherited have been clumped together in starkly different ways throughout the history of western thought."

- Marginalia
Peter Harrison is professor of the history of science and director of the Centre for the History of European Discourses at the University of Queensland. He is the author or coeditor of numerous books, including Wrestling with Nature: From Omens to Science, also published by the University of Chicago Press.