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Durham e-Theses
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Popular Theology from Popular Scientists:
Assessing the Legacy of Eddington and Jeans as Apologists

REYNOLDS, JONATHAN,OWEN (2017) Popular Theology from Popular Scientists:
Assessing the Legacy of Eddington and Jeans as Apologists.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This thesis asserts and demonstrates that the current historical evaluation of the significance of Arthur Eddington and James Jeans is inadequate. Not only has their importance in the years between the two World Wars been forgotten, but their transitional role in the science and religion debate post-Darwin is now largely unrecognised. Both had a major influence on subsequent popular apologists and Eddington in particular influenced post war academic theologians as diverse as Thomas Torrance and Eric Mascall.

It is generally accepted that the apologetic writings of Eddington and Jeans were widely read and were adept at conveying their message. They have, however, been increasingly ignored by historians and theologians. This thesis argues that their work post-Darwin on the new physics of the early twentieth century was significant in steering the science and religion dialogue in the United Kingdom away from the more conflict-based approaches such as the beginnings of creationism in the United States. Further their deployment of metaphor, ability to engage in dialogue with the public through the press and the new technology of the wireless were innovative and left a legacy for apologetics and the science and religion dialogue.

By an examination of three key texts, a new account is given of the authors’ importance and of the reactions of contemporary theologians, philosophers and scientists. Their work brought the latest science to bear on important areas of traditional theological debate in an accessible way and to a good apologetic end. The role of intuition and ‘seeking’ in relation to Eddington’s writing shows a fresh Quaker-influenced approach to apologetics and the science and religion debate.

The widely-accepted role of Susan Stebbing in the post-war decline of Eddington and Jeans is examined and dismissed as simplistic. A new analysis of the reasons for their decline and neglect is made. Jeans and Eddington remind us that the importance of general cultural trends and contemporary events in the science and religion debate is often overlooked. The history of the reception of their apologetic work and the pattern of their continuing significance illustrate the connectedness of theology with current events.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Science and Religion, astronomy, Arthur Eddington, James Jeans, creation, eschatology, idealism, realism, Quaker, Anglican
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:22 Nov 2017 10:26

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