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The Secular RevolutionPower, Interests, and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life$
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Christian Smith

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780520230002

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520230002.001.0001

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The Positivist Attack on Baconian Science and Religious Knowledge in the 1870s

The Positivist Attack on Baconian Science and Religious Knowledge in the 1870s

(p.197) 4 The Positivist Attack on Baconian Science and Religious Knowledge in the 1870s
The Secular Revolution
Eva Marie Garroutte
University of California Press

This chapter examines how a group of science activists advanced a religiously hostile positivist discourse to supersede the dominant Baconian scientific practice. The primary goal of Baconian science was to accumulate facts through refined observation. Baconian philosophy set up a permeable boundary between discourses. Science was an activity of worship, and religion the product of reasoning and verification. Users of religious symbols discussed nature, while scientific speakers were prevented from securing authority in those discussions. The chapter focuses on the discursive struggles recorded in the scientific journals most responsible for the advance of positivism. Furthermore, it reveals that the secularization of science was a strategic achievement of interested activists, not an automatic, natural process of differentiation or rationalization. Finally, the chapter examines the assumptions underpinning the Baconian model of science, and considers the discursive assaults upon it by positivist activists, which eventually led to its collapse.

Keywords:   Baconian science, religion, secularization, rationalization, positivists

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