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The Uniformity of Natural Laws

The Uniformity of Natural Laws

Chapter:
(p.34) Chapter Two The Uniformity of Natural Laws
Source:
Huxley's Church and Maxwell's Demon
Author(s):
Matthew Stanley
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226164908.003.0003

One of the most basic elements of Victorian (and, indeed, modern) scientific practice was the expectation that nature functioned according to fixed laws, which never varied in time or place. This uniformity of natural laws provided both a goal for scientific practice and a methodological guide. Both theistic and naturalistic scientists made the case that uniformity could only be expected and justified in their worldview, and used the concept as grounds for attacking their opponents. Maxwell and Huxley each spent significant energy describing, justifying, and searching for a uniform world, and in their work we can see the close binding of uniformity to their religious outlooks. The use and conceptualization of natural laws in scientific practice was very similar across the theistic/naturalistic border. Uniformity also touched closely on the problem of reconciling miracles and science, and this chapter examines Victorian theological approaches to that issue.

Keywords:   James Clerk Maxwell, Thomas Henry Huxley, uniformity of nature, natural laws, scientific naturalism, design argument, evangelical science, history of physics, age of the earth, miracles

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