Historical Roots of the American Evangelical Encounter with Natural History
American evangelicals began seriously to engage natural history in the early nineteenth century, when Benjamin Silliman became the first professor of natural history at Yale. He and his pupil, Amherst geologist Edward Hitchcock, embraced “deep time” in geology and defended its consistency with Genesis. Hitchcock went further, exploring in depth the implications of this popular new science for theodicy and natural theology. Regardless of whether subsequent authors knowingly accepted or rejected their conclusions, these two Antebellum natural historians have substantially influenced evangelicals down to our own time. This paper presents some of their most important attitudes and ideas, with an eye on the modern evangelical conversation about origins.
||Edward B. Davis (PhD Indiana University) is Professor of History of Science at Messiah College. He is the author of numerous articles and essays, and his work has appeared in Science and Christian Belief, Zygon, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, and American Scientist. Along with Michael Hunter, he edited the 14-volume The Works of Robert Boyle (Pickering & Chatto, 1999–2000).