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Negotiating the Boundaries of Science and Religion: The Case of Henry Margenau

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The life of Henry Margenau (1901–1997) offers a case study in the complexity of the science-religion relation. As a physicist-philosopher at Yale University, he pursued a public program of “amalgamating religion with science.” He drew upon his authority as a physicist and a tradition of philosophical idealism to advocate a “reciprocity” between the two spheres. He argued that a “new modesty” and “metaphysical attitude” among scientists created new opportunities for collaboration. At the same time, his view of faith and his sense of the religiousness of science created troubling ambiguities. In the end, Margenau embodied the ambivalent relation between science and religion while revealing the limits of renegotiating the boundaries.

Keywords: authority; boundaries; faith; humility; idealism; integration; metaphysical attitude; physicist-philosopher; probability; reciprocity; sage; seeker; social role

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Washington Theological Union

Publication date: March 1, 1999


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