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Keith S. Thomson


Keith S. Thomson delivered a series of four Terry lectures, "Jefferson and Darwin: Science and Religion in Troubled Times," in October and December 2012.

In the last 300 years, science and religion, however construed, have diverged so much as almost no longer to be recognizable to each other, according to Thomson, a biologist and an historian of science. In his first two lectures Thomson examined the interplay between science and religion in the 18th and 19th centuries, principally in the lives and thoughts of two familiar, but very different intellectual giants, Thomas Jefferson and Charles Darwin.

Jefferson, often condemned because he was a deist rather than a Christian, nonetheless was a firm adherent to the principles of Natural Theology and the literal truth of "Genesis," according to Thomson. Darwin, having been brought up within Natural Theology and having studied to become a cleric, ended up an agnostic.

After looking back at both the creativity and contradictions that this engendered, Thomson examined the conflicts between science and religion in contemporary culture.

A graduate of the University of Birmingham, England, (B.Sc. 1960) and Harvard (Ph.D. 1963), Thomson has held a number of positions at Yale, including Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Director of the Peabody Museum of Natural History. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Natural History at the University of Oxford and the Executive Officer of the American Philosophical Society.

Thomson is the author of more than 200 scientific papers and 12 books, including The Young Charles Darwin, which was published by Yale University Press in 2009 and Jefferson's Shadow: the Story of his Science (Yale 2012).

Other books include Morphogenesis and Evolution (Oxford 1988), Living Fossil (Norton 1991), The Common but Less Frequent Loon and Other Essays (Yale 1993), HMS Beagle, the Story of Darwin's Ship (Norton 1995 and Phoenix 2003), Before Darwin: Reconciling God and Nature (Yale 2005), The Legacy of the Mastodon: the Golden Age of Fossils in America (Yale 2008). Thomson also has a regular column, "Marginalia," in the magazine American Scientist.


Jefferson and Darwin:  Science and Religion in Troubled Times

October 9

Thomas Jefferson:
Ancient and Modern

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October 11

The Devil and Mr. Darwin: Creation and The Origin

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December 3

Apes and Academics, Debates and Sermons

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December 4

Science, Religion, and the Contest for Authority

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