Books & Culture calls a new book, The Word and the World: Biblical Exegesis and Early Modern Science, “a splendid collection of essays,” and approaches “the religion-science debate in a fresh, even startling way.”
Rather than considering how religion in general may have nurtured or hampered the rise of science, this book examines the role of biblical exegesis in the formation of the early scientific method. Featuring twelve essays by a variety of American, English, German, and Swedish thinkers—two teach at Catholic universities, the other ten at secular institutions—The Word and the World is organized around the provocative thesis that the new science and biblical interpretation, “far from being implacable enemies . . . seem to have been inextricably intertwined.” The opening essay is by Peter Harrison, whose seminal 1999 book The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science argued that “the Protestant call for a return to literal interpretation provided the intellectual conditions and the hermeneutic mode conducive to the development of science.” By eschewing the elaborate, often abstract modes of allegory common in Roman Catholic discourse, Protestantism fostered a kind of scientific consciousness, one given to reading God’s other book, nature, as attentively as it did the Bible.
Full review here.