Religion in the Age of Enlightenment


Religion, Age of Enlightenment, astronomy


Astronomers of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries found themselves for a while at the center of an alignment of scientific, cultural, and religious curiosity. Theirs was an endeavor embraced by significant segments of the established churches of England and Ireland who supported the founding of scientific societies in both countries and who drew on their network of contacts with continental Protestants to keep abreast of current developments abroad. In England, for example, works such as the Reverend William Derham's Astro-theology drew on mounting evidence that the universe might well be far larger than could be imagined to raise the possibility that life, for so long thought only to be on the level of the observable, in fact was infinite in scope. At the opposite end of the scale, Anton Van Leeuwenhoek in the Dutch city of Delft was making startling discoveries with the microscope that reinforced the pioneering work Robert Hooke had detailed in studies such as Micrographia. Van Leeuwenhoek's observations,