A new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is set to offer a unique history of religion and science via historical objects that each tell their own story of where we have been and how cultural views have shifted.

The exhibit, Discovery and Revelation: Religion, Science, and Making Sense of Things, also has a companion book of the same name published by the Smithsonian Institution offers a comprehensive history of religion and science and how Americans have historically viewed the relationship between these areas and technology

The book was written and compiled by historian Peter Manseau and religion scholar Andrew Ali Aghapour. Manseau is the curator of American Religious History at the Smithsonian Institution. The book highlights 40 significant and rarely seen artifacts from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History that highlight the interplay between religious and scientific ideas and how they have influenced each other and informed cultural change.

Those artifacts include:

  • Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rod: sparked debate about the relationship between weather and God. 
  • Charles Darwin’s “Tree of Life” sketch: represented his theory of evolution, which some objected to as being atheistic while others thought it reflected the intent of a Creator.
  • John Thomas Scopes portrait: photograph taken ahead of his time on trial for teaching evolution against Tennessee law forbidding denial of the Biblical account of man’s origin.
  • Apollo 8’s live television script: the crew caused controversy for reading from the Bible for their Christmas Eve broadcast.

The authors describe the book as “a testament to the fascinating and multifaceted nature of faith and knowledge and how they’ve shaped our nation.”

Susan Barreto
Susan Barreto

Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.

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