John Pieret has a posting on possible examples of persecution of religious scientists in the nineteenth century [On the Ways of Change].
John quotes from a book by Neal C. Gillespie on Charles Darwin and the Problem of Creation. Gillespie is discussing the conflict between religion and science among academics in the mid-1800's. According to John, Gillespie says,
Antagonism against biblicism had reached such a point by the late 1850s that Agassiz suggested that fear of the wrath of the positivists was actually leading some naturalists with strong theological convictions to conform to the new science against their true judgment.The quote refers to Louis Agassiz, a biology Professor at Harvard1. and one of the last holdouts against evolution. John links to the upcoming Expelled movie and asks whether Agassiz is referring to persecution of religious scientists.
John posted a photograph of the statue of Louis Agassiz embedded upside down in the courtyard in front of the zoology building at Stanford University. The statue tumbled from its place above the entrance during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
According to legend, a passing scientist remarked that,
Louis Agassiz was better in the abstract than in the concrete.2.This is a clear reference to the fact that Agassiz's reputation had been severely damaged by his religious convictions and his rejection of biological evolution.
Is it true that atheist scientists discriminate against religious scientists? John has been concerned about this issue for a number of years. He thinks that atheist scientists fail to distinguish between real science and metaphysics. He thinks that much of our criticism of religious scientists is not because we're scientists but because we're atheists.
I'm posting a specific case for consideration in another message so it was quite appropriate, and fortuitous, that John Pieret brought it up today on Thoughts in a Haystack.
1. Stephen Jay Gould held the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology Chair at Harvard from 1982 until his death in 2002. Alexander Agassiz was Louis Agassiz's son. Alexander served as President of the National Academy of Sciences.
2. The story is apocryphal (a polite word for "false"). The quotation has been attributed to several men, including the President of Stanford, but all have denied it. Nevertheless, it's too good a story to abandon just because it happens to be untrue!
[Photo Credit: Wikipedia]