Prophecy, Mistrust and Development: Religion and the 2014-15 Ebola Epidemic in Sierra Leone

By CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One night in June 2015 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, the Ghanaian Prophet Daniel Amoateng roared to a crying, praising and screaming crowd that there would be ‘No more Ebola’. Backed by the clanks of an electric keyboard, the noise became rapturous with call, response and cheers as Amoateng declared over and over that the disease must ‘touch nobody’. Aside from prophecy, Amoateng donated scholarships to orphans affected by Ebola and, for his efforts, received the 2015 Ghana UK-Based Achievement (GUBA) Humanitarian Award. Continue reading Prophecy, Mistrust and Development: Religion and the 2014-15 Ebola Epidemic in Sierra Leone

What’s the best way to think about creationists?

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Michelangelo_S%C3%BCndenfall.jpg

What’s the best way for non-creationists to think about creationists?  Some view them, unhelpfully, as inescapably anti-modern, utterly unwilling to face facts.  This unwillingness is often supposed to be linked to religion itself, with religious belief understood as diametrically opposed to the scientific process.  Science, we are told, is about facing facts, being open to correction, being willing to be wrong.  Religion, we are sometimes told, is about none of those things. Continue reading What’s the best way to think about creationists?

Tracking Dinosaurs and Finding God

Photograph by Edward B. Davis.

***This post originally appeared on 07 January 2016, on Ted Davis’ blog, Reading the Book of Nature hosted on the BioLogos website***

Giant Birds and Dinosaur Footprints

In 1802, a twelve-year-old farm boy named Pliny Moody found an unusual object while plowing a field in South Hadley, Massachusetts—a big, flat stone bearing what appeared to be footprints of large birds, which some are said to have attributed to “Noah’s raven.” For decades they drew no scientific attention, but in 1835 a local stonemason, Dexter Marsh, noticed similar marks on a flag stone he had set aside for use in a sidewalk he was building near his house in nearby Greenfield. Others also saw them, including a physician, James Deane, who wrote to geologist Edward Hitchcock of Amherst College, describing what he called “the tracks of a turkey in relief” (Hitchcock, Reminiscences of Amherst College, cited below, p. 82). Continue reading Tracking Dinosaurs and Finding God

The Bible and Qur’an in the Light of Modern Science

Sacred texts are central to many faith traditions, but how do they retain their authority as divine revelation in a supposedly rational age? What happens when the Word of God appears to contradict modern scientific knowledge about the world? And how do individual believers reconcile these potential conflicts?

These are the questions that we are exploring at the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion in Cambridge, in a new research project entitled ‘Science and Scripture in Christianity and Islam’. Rather than attempting a direct comparison between these two world religions, our intention is to bring them into fruitful dialogue with one another on a question that is of mutual concern: that of scripture and its relationship to modern science. Continue reading The Bible and Qur’an in the Light of Modern Science

Reimagining both the peg and the hole in the conversation between Christianity and science

Have you noticed that within many of the current leading classifications of the religion-science relationship (such as those proposed by Ian Barbour, Willem Drees, Philip Hefner, Ted Peters, or John Haught), there is an implicit or explicit goal within the author’s classification? For some, it could be demonstrating the plausibility of a deity. For others, it could be upholding the relevance of Christianity, or the authority of science. If left at that, there would be no problem, as these thinkers would merely be arguing from a particular point of view. Instead, however, more often than not, you find each universalizing their own categories, suggesting not so much a description about the religion-science nexus, but ultimately a prescription of how it actually ought to be. Continue reading Reimagining both the peg and the hole in the conversation between Christianity and science

What’s in a name? Does Darwin hinder the acceptance of evolution?

Copyright: Charis Tsevis, TIME Inc. 2009. Licensed under the Creative Commons scheme for Non Commercial Use.

For nearly 35 years, Gallup has polled Americans regarding their views on human evolution using a polling question that gives respondents three options to choose from regarding human origins. Surprisingly, the results of the survey question remained relatively steady over time. Since 1982, the percentage of Americans that believe God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years has remained relatively stable at just over 40%. Continue reading What’s in a name? Does Darwin hinder the acceptance of evolution?

Talking about science, religion and oneself

Copyright The British Library

Joseph Farman: “Well I mean as Scouts one went to church […] I don’t think I ever found it very attractive and […] when you sort of kept saying, ‘You use these three letters together, g-o-d, and I haven’t yet fathomed out what on Earth you mean by it’ and then they just say, ‘Well forget all about that, you know, it will come, it will come.’ [Laughs] To which the answer is […] that if you think in the silly ways which I do, I guess it never comes at all. [Laughs] There’s no room for it.  […] Science is thinking you know how things work. And so you make something work and it either works as you think it does, or it doesn’t work as you think it does, and now you move on. It’s no good sort of praying to God and if something doesn’t happen so – I mean this isn’t a test of anything.” Continue reading Talking about science, religion and oneself

Where is the Evidence? Privileging Science over Religion

When I examine comment sections online in response to stories about religion in Canada, remarks almost inevitably spiral into a religion versus science debate. In my book, The Meaning of Sunday: The Practice of Belief in a Secular Age – based on ninety interviews with those in Canada who identify with a Christian group and attend church weekly (active affiliates), those who identify as Christian and attend services mainly for religious holidays or rites of passage (marginal affiliates), and those who do not identify with any religion and never attend religious services (religious nones) – I explore what explains higher and lower levels of religiosity. Continue reading Where is the Evidence? Privileging Science over Religion

Un-Natural Selection: Evolutionary Concepts in Horror Cinema

Evolution doesn’t seem scary.  It is the processes of change in heritable traits of biological entities over successive generations, which give rise to biological diversity between and within organisms. This isn’t something likely to make you cower behind your popcorn box at the multiplex. However, the horror genre has frequently borrowed from science to create cinematic nightmares and evolutionary concepts provide a rich source of raw materials. In this piece I outline four key themes in horror cinema:  ‘super-evolved monsters’, ‘abomination’, ‘devolution’ and ‘monstrous mutation’ all of which are informed by evolutionary science, and along the way I’ll suggest a few films for your Halloween viewing pleasure.

Like the harbinger of doom in any good slasher movie I must offer some warnings. Firstly, horror films frequently misrepresent the reality of evolutionary science; the underlying themes are influenced by evolution, but no film discussed is scientifically accurate. Secondly, this isn’t an exhaustive review; I’d welcome you to consider these themes in relation to your own horror favourites. Thirdly, some of the hyperlinks link to scenes of a graphic nature. And lastly, there may be spoilers ahead. You have been warned! Continue reading Un-Natural Selection: Evolutionary Concepts in Horror Cinema

Is the Danish Minister of Higher Education and Science a creationist? – The monkey business revisited

Charles Darwin, as an ape. Source: Wellcome Images, Wellcome Library, London. (CC BY 4.0)

By Hans Henrik Hjermitslev

During July and August 2015 the Danish public witnessed a heated controversy on science and religion in the popular media. The reason for this was that two historians of religion, Michael Rothstein and Jens-André Herbener, accused the newly appointed Minister of Higher Education and Science, the Liberal MP Esben Lunde Larsen, of being a creationist and therefore unsuitable for the office. Continue reading Is the Danish Minister of Higher Education and Science a creationist? – The monkey business revisited