As a theme, science and religion is everywhere. While obviously a hyperbole, the preceding assertion is nevertheless surprisingly close to the truth, if one looks in English-speaking public discourse. We have only to consider how often relevant topics reach public awareness, to pause and appreciate science and religion’s omnipresent reach. A very short and inconclusive list would include creationism, the metaphor of the God particle, the alleged Dark Ages of religious darkness, climate change denialism or even Family Guy episodes. This vigorous cultural production is, wonder of wonders, mirrored inside the hallowed halls of the academia. Indeed, if ever there was a time where the analysis of the historical, social, cultural, intellectual and philosophical relations between the natural sciences and religion have bloomed, then surely it is now.
Claudius Ptolemy, the great Alexandrian astronomer of the 2nd c. A.D., begins his book Mathematical syntax of astronomy, known as Almagest, as follows: “Those who have been true philosophers, Syrus, seem to me to have very wisely separated the theoretical part of philosophy from the practical. For even if it happens the practical turns out to be theoretical prior to its being practical, nevertheless a great difference would be found in them; not only because some of the moral virtues can belong to the everyday ignorant man and it is impossible to come by the theory of whole sciences without learning, but also because in practical matters the greatest advantage is to be had from a continued and repeated operation upon the things themselves, while in theoretical knowledge it is to be had by a progress onward. We accordingly thought it up to us so to train our actions even in the application of the imagination as not to forget in whatever things we happen upon the consideration of their beautiful and well ordered disposition, and to indulge in meditation mostly for the exposition of many beautiful theorems and especially of those specifically called mathematical”.