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Hydrotheology: towards a natural theology for water

Colin A. Russell
S & CB 19 (2)
October 2007


This paper is a historical preamble to a fully developed natural theology based on a single substance, water. It origins are traced to a book, Hydrotheologie, by a Hamburg author, J.-A. Fabricius, in 1734. This turns out to be but one of a number of similar specialised works on natural theology in the early eighteenth century. The theme was developed by many others, especially by three of the authors of the Bridgewater Treatises in the next century. Following Darwin, natural theology was transformed but not annihilated. A Harvard chemist, J. P. Cooke, wrote a book Religion and Chemistry which devoted one chapter to water, and other authors dealt with fitness of the environment in general, with water as an important constituent. Its remarkable anomalies have been dealt with most recently by M. J. Denton. To conclude, hydrotheology is placed within the wider context of natural theology as a whole, and its implications for environmental concern are suggested.

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