Beyond Barbour: A Theology of Science from Ancient and Modern Thinkers

  • Tom C. B. McLeish
Part of the Contemporary Trends and Issues in Science Education book series (CTISE, volume 48)


In this chapter, I will challenge a common background relational assumption behind all of Barbour’s categories as intrinsically unfaithful to the universal nature of both science and religion, arguing instead that it is more fruitful to ask what a ‘theology of science’ might look like. ‘What does science do, and what is it for, within a theological worldview?’ This approach works very well in a teaching context when developed in two ways: (1) historically and (2) using Biblical studies in wisdom, especially in the book of Job. Students of this approach start to think in new ways and ask new questions, suggesting an approach to science or in its more ancient form natural philosophy – the ‘love of wisdom of natural things’ – that can draw on theological and cultural roots. I suggest that deriving a human narrative for science in this way can transform the way political discussions of ‘troubled technologies’ (genetic medicine, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), fracking, etc.) are framed and the way we approach science in education and the media.


  1. Arendt, H. (1958). The human condition (p. 314). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bacon, Francis (1887). In Spedding, J., Ellis, R. L., & Heath, D. D. (Eds.), Works. Volume III.Google Scholar
  3. Begbie, J. (2000). Theology, music and time. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown, W. H. (2010). The seven pillars of creation. Oxford: OUP.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clines, David (2014). World bible commentaries: Job. Thomas Nelson pubs., Nelson, Vol. 3.Google Scholar
  6. Cunningham, J., & Hocknull, M. (Eds.). (2016). Grosseteste and the pursuit of religious and scientific learning in the middle ages. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  7. Davies, S., Macnaghten, P., & Kearnes, M. (Eds.). (2009). Chapter 12: Reconfiguring responsibility: Deepening debate on nanotechnology. Durham: University.Google Scholar
  8. Dupuy, J.-P. (2010). The Narratology of lay ethics. NanoEthics, 4, 153–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Harrison, P. (2015). The territories of science and religion. University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  10. Latour, B. (2004) Politics of nature: How to bring the sciences into democracy (Catherine Porter, Trans.) Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Latour, Bruno (2008) “It’s development, stupid !” or: How to modernize modernization. In Jim Procter (Ed.), Postenvironmentalism. MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. McLeish, T. (2014). Faith and wisdom in science. Oxford: OUP.Google Scholar
  13. McLeish, T. C. B. (2015). The search for affirming narratives for the future governance of technology: reflections from a science-theology perspective on GMFuturos. In P. Macnaghten & S. Carro-Ripalda (Eds.), Governing agricultural sustainability. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Southern, R. W. (1992). Robert Grosseteste; the growth of an English mind in medieval Europe. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  15. Steiner, G. (1989). Real presences. London: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar
  16. Wolterstorff, N. (1997). Art in action; Toward a Christian aesthetic. Grand Rapids: Wm, B. Eerdmans.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tom C. B. McLeish
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysicsUniversity of YorkYorkUK

Personalised recommendations