Science and belief in Scotland, 1805-1868 : the Scottish Evangelicals
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This study concentrates on the scientific writings of Thomas Chalmers, David Brewster, John Fleming and Hugh Miller. All belonged to the Evangelical party in the Church of Scotland and all joined the Free Church of Scotland at the Disruption in 1843. The thesis begins with a brief history of natural theology between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. It also reviews previous work on science and belief in the first half of the nineteenth century, pointing out that much of the emphasis in studies of Christian natural theology has been on the Anglican Broad Church. Chapter two describes the divisions in the Church of Scotland and the events which led to the formation of the Free Church of Scotland. It also indicates the particularly favourable circumstances for Evangelical intellectuals at the start of the nineteenth century by charting the rise and decline of the Moderate party during the second half of the eighteenth. Chapter three documents interactions amongst the four Evangelical scientists and describes their roles in the Disruption and in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland. Chapters four and five trace common threads in their natural theologies and in their views about the reconciliation of science and Scripture. Comparisons are made with opinions expressed within the Evangelical party as a whole. Chapter six describes Evangelical reactions to the dissemination of materialism and deism, concentrating especially on the activities of George Combe and his circle. Combe's natural theology is shown to have been specially threatening to Evangelicals in the Established Church because of the potency of the Book of Nature metaphor in challenges to the clerical supervision of education. Chapter seven examines similarities and differences in the geological work of Miller and Fleming and examines the role of rival natural theologies in the development of theories about the Earth's origin, history and development. Particular attention is given to the astronomical nebular hypothesis and to the transmutation theory put forward in Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation. Chapter eight summarises the various functions of natural theology for the Evangelicals and for the Combeists.