Dublin at the turn of the twentieth century was both the second city of the British Empire and the soon-to-be capital of an emerging nation, presenting a unique space in which to examine the past relationship between science and the city. Drawing on both geography and biography, Geographies of City Science underscores the crucial role urban spaces played in the production of scientific knowledge. Each chapter explores the lives of two practitioners from one of the main religious and political traditions in Dublin (either Protestant and Unionist or Catholic and Nationalist). As Tanya O’Sullivan argues, any variation in their engagement with science had far less to do with their affiliations than with their “life spaces”—domains where human agency and social structures collide. Focusing on nineteenth-century debates on the origins of the universe as well as the origins of form, humans, and language, O’Sullivan explores the numerous ways in which scientific meaning relating to origin theories was established and mobilized in the city. By foregrounding Dublin, her book complements more recent attempts to enrich the historiography of metropolitan science by examining its provenance in less well-known urban centers.
George Eliot's Religious Imagination addresses the much-discussed question of Eliot’s relation to Christianity in the wake of the sociocultural revolution triggered by the spread of theories of evolution. The standard view is that the author of Middlemarch and Silas Marner “lost her faith” at this time of religious crisis. Orr argues for a more nuanced understanding of the continuity of Eliot’s work, as one not shattered by science, but shaped by its influence.
Orr’s wide-ranging and fascinating analysis situates George Eliot in the fertile intellectual landscape of the nineteenth century, among thinkers as diverse as Ludwig Feuerbach, David Strauss, and Søren Kierkegaard. She also argues for a connection between George Eliot and the twentieth-century evolutionary Christian thinker Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Her analysis draws on the work of contemporary philosopher Richard Kearney as well as writers on mysticism, particularly Karl Rahner.
The book takes an original look at questions many believe settled, encouraging readers to revisit George Eliot’s work. Orr illuminates the creative tension that still exists between science and religion, a tension made fruitful through the exercise of the imagination. Through close readings of Eliot's writings, Orr demonstrates how deeply the novelist's religious imagination continued to operate in her fiction and poetry.
Philosopher Daniel Milo offers a vigorous critique of the quasi-monopoly that Darwin’s natural selection has on our idea of the natural world. In popular thought, Darwinism has even acquired the trappings of an ethical system, focused on optimization, competition, and innovation. Yet in nature, imperfect creatures often have the evolutionary edge.