Books have played a central role in the ongoing dialogue between science and religion since the beginning of written communication in the West. Scientific authors of the Classical past were relatively successful at gaining official approval of their writings, and their authority was accepted implicitly by medieval Christian scholars. However, conflicts arose both as Renaissance scientists developed new methods of empirical testing and as the printing press allowed the rapid circulation of new ideas without Church endorsement. Revolutionary theories about the nature of the universe and humanity’s place within it set many leading scientists in opposition to the conservative positions of the Church. While many scientific works were placed on the Index of Prohibited Books, science was not necessarily anti-religious. During the Enlightenment, many important works of science were inspired by a desire to reconcile the tenets of the Christian religion and the new scientific explanations of earthly and heavenly phenomena.
The books in this exhibition fall into four categories: works that show the cooperative sharing of scientific texts between religious groups; scientific treatises by leading medieval church officials; writings in which scientists and the clergy came into direct conflict; and publications intended to reconcile biblical teaching and scientific method.