The opposition of science and religion is a recent phenomenon; in the middle ages, and indeed until the middle of the nineteenth century, there was almost no conflict. In the Middle Ages the objective study of nature - the activity we now call science - was largely the province of religious men. This book looks at the origins of western science and the central role played by the Dominican and Franciscan friars. It explains why these two groups devoted so much intellectual effort to the study of physical and biological phenomena, and distinguishes 'Natural Philosophy' from 'science' as presently understood. Though the friars were recognisably 'scientific' in their approach their motives were religious - they wished to understand the mind of God and the beauty of God's nature. Even so, as this study makes clear, the roots of western science lie in the monasteries and refuges of the medieval friars - the direct forebears of the anti-scientific Popes of the age of Copernicus and Galileo.
'the central ideas in this book are worked out in scholarly detail, and there is much here that is of a stimulating nature.' EHR 'an important book which will stimulate considerable rethinking of issues that many historians and philosophers of science have been taking for granted for a long time…will cause historians and philosophers of science to re-evaluate some of their most deeply held assumptions.' Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science, Vol.29, No. 2 'there is much to be gained from French and Cunningham’s study. It offers a vivid reminder that neither investigations of nature nor deliberations about doctrine can be divorced from their context.'
Introduction; Philosophy and true philosophy; Town air; Sapienta and scientia: the cloister and the school; Nature and the twelfth century; Heresy and Dominic; The evil and good world; Conquest and re-education; Dominican re-education; Fiat lux! Let there be light!; Et facta est lux! And there was light; Epilogue.