John Bachman
Symposium
20-23 April 2006
"Nature, God & Social Reform in the Old South"
The Life & Work of the
Rev. John Bachman
An International Symposium
in Honor of the

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DR. RONALD L. NUMBERS

Professor of History of Science & Medicine
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison WI


BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
for Ronald L. Numbers

RONALD L. NUMBERS is Hilldale Professor of the History of Science and Medicine and a member of the department of medical history and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he has taught for three decades.  He has written or edited more than two dozen books, including, most recently, Darwinism Comes to America (Harvard University Press, 1998), Disseminating Darwinism:  The Role of Place, Race, Religion, and Gender (Cambridge University Press, 1999), coedited with John Stenhouse, and When Science and Christianity Meet (University of Chicago Press, 2003), coedited with David Lindberg.  For five years (1989-1993) he edited Isis, the flagship journal of the history of science. 

He is writing a history of science in America (for Basic Books), editing a series of monographs on the history of medicine, science, and religion for the Johns Hopkins University Press, and coediting, with David Lindberg, the eight-volume Cambridge History of Science.  He is a past president of both the History of Science Society and the American Society of Church History.  A former Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the International Academy of the History of Science. In Beijing in July 2005, Dr. Numbers was elected President of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science/Division of History of Science and Technology (2005-2009).


ABSTRACT OF KEYNOTE ADDRESS
by Ronald L. Numbers

SCIENCE AND RELIGION IN THE AGE OF JOHN BACHMAN

John Bachman’s career spanned one of the most wrenching transitions in the history of science and religion, a subject that, strictly speaking, did not even exist until about the 1830s.  During the first half of the nineteenth century the word science took on a fundamentally new meaning, evolving from a synonym for knowledge generally to a term specifically indicating knowledge about nature.  As the Princeton theologian Charles Hodge wistfully observed, science was becoming “more and more restricted to . . . the facts of nature or of the external world.”  For men such as Hodge, this had the unwelcome effect of making theology unscientific.  At the same time practitioners of science, often believing Christians, were dedicating themselves to explaining the workings of nature without recourse to the supernatural.  “Our advancement in natural science is not dependent upon our faith,” declared the pious Benjamin Silliman of Yale.  “All the problems of physical science are worked out by laborious examination, and strict induction.”  Nevertheless, throughout the middle decades of the nineteenth century many American men of science continued the practice of harmonizing what they called God's two books—the Bible and nature—by interpreting Scripture in light of scientific discoveries.  This proved relatively easy for the disciplines of geology and astronomy but notorious difficult, as Bachman discovered, for anthropology, at least that segment of it captured by a group of American ethnologists who boisterously rejected the biblical story of Adam and Eve. 

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