Gould and the fairies



This paper examines Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of science and religion as ‘nonoverlapping magisteria’ with reference to Spiritualism, specifically the case of the Cottingley fairies. It argues that this is a case in which the magisteria are neither separate nor overlapping but instead exist in a far more complex relationship. Through an exploration of this complexity, this paper offers discussion of the relationship between religion and science. In doing so, it problematises the common use of the terms ‘faith’ and ‘belief’ to characterise the experience of religious conviction.