On Monday 24th April the Centre for Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society and the team from the Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum project hosted a one day symposium in central Birmingham. In this video, project Principal Investigator Dr Fern Elsdon-Baker opens the symposium by introducing and contextualising the research being undertaken by the team. Continue reading Studying Public Perceptions of Evolution and Religion from a Multidisciplinary Perspective
***This original version of this post was published on the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network website on 6th April 2017***
The “conflict thesis” is the label historians of science give to the purported essential and enduring incompatibility or clash between science and religion. However, today this thesis is considered historically inaccurate (Harrison, 2015, Lightman, 2015). So, why then does it persist? This gap between narratives, perceptions, and knowledge was part of the motivation for the current Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum project. Given that the US is already the most researched country and a distinctively polarized one in terms of science and religion debates (Baker, 2012, Ecklund and Park, 2009, Evans and Evans, 2008, Evans, 2016, Guhin, 2016, Hill, 2014, Long, 2011, Noy and O’Brien, 2016), we chose to focus upon two cognate and yet contrasting national contexts: Canada and the UK.  The multidisciplinary, multi-sited team has been conducting qualitative sociological, historical, psychological, and survey research in both countries. We also decided to concentrate upon the relationship between evolution and religion, because this has become a focal point for wider science and religion debates (Aechtner, 2016). Fern Elsdon-Baker, a philosopher and historian of science, leads the project and her work has already begun to draw out how such a “clash” gets framed (Elsdon-Baker, 2009, Elsdon-Baker, 2015). I work on the qualitative strand of the project, alongside Stephen Jones and Tom Kaden.
Here I draw upon initial findings from some of the project’s sociological research to illustrate the observation that non-religious people in Canada and the UK appear to be the most likely to perceive a necessary clash between science and religion. Stephen and Tom have conducted semi-structured interviews (123 total) and focus groups (15 total) with scientifically literate publics and life scientists in the UK and Canada, sampled purposively in order to gain a balance in terms of gender, as well as a range of religious identities, geographic locations within both countries, ethnic backgrounds, and age groups. The sample includes 25 ‘non-religious’ scientists and 31 ‘non-religious’ members of the public.  Continue reading Science and religion conflict for non-religious Britons and Canadians
By Mairead Shanahan
As the seriousness of the human impact on a changing global climate becomes evident, many religious movements are developing theological responses to such ecological issues. As one of the fastest growing Christian denominations on the globe, Pentecostal and Charismatic churches are now formulating theological positions on anthropogenic climate change. Australian neo-Pentecostal churches such as Hillsong, C3 Church, Planetshakers and Influencers Church, are part of this global Pentecostal Charismatic movement. These Christian churches emphasise receipt of spiritual gifts as evidence of salvation; blessings can take the form of glossolalia (speaking in tongues), healing and prophesy interpretation. Continue reading Australian neo-Pentecostal perspectives on anthropogenic climate change
If you can believe what you read, “FAKE NEWS” is everywhere these days. Shot onto the media scene like a lexical gag, the phrase was fired from the mouth of President Donald J. Trump as he confronted CNN reporter Jim Acosta during the then president-elect’s first press conference. Although the words are much older, Trump has certainly made the capitalisation his own. “FAKE NEWS!” The phrase itself comes stinking of Orwell’s ink, and when levelled it splits the media between those who goodthink and crimethink—between those who carry the party line, and those who don’t. However, this post isn’t concerned with presidential duckspeak, but rather the shape of the messages themselves—fake or not—which we receive via the media. Continue reading Fake news, media framing, and the case of Pope Francis’ ‘shocking’ comments on evolution
***This podcast first appeared on The Religious Studies Project on 30 January 2017***
Science and evolution in Muslim societies is a complicated topic. Among members of the public, what does evolution mean? Is there one ‘Muslim view’ on evolution, or are there a great variety of views on evolution in Muslim majority contexts?
In this podcast for The Religious Studies Project SRES’s Dr Stephen Jones interviews Dr Salman Hameed about recent research on Muslim perceptions of science and evolution.
Continue reading Podcast: Religion, Science and Evolutionary Theory
Late nineteenth-century British culture was somewhat preoccupied with the presence of ghosts. Conjuring spirits at séances was a popular pastime, with the exploits of some spiritualists, such as the medium Henry Slade, the fodder of press gossip and celebrity. Communicating with spirits became of deep interest to some scientists, including the physicist William Crookes and the naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, who debated their peers about aberrant physical phenomena and whether certain observations confirmed the reality of spirits or not. Continue reading Spiritualism, religion and mathematics in the Victorian period
In partnership with the British Science Association and their regional branches, we recently ran a series of public events about our research and the relationship between science and religion in general. Do not fear if you were unable to attend one of our events in person, below you can listen to the panel on evolution from our London panel discussion.
The panel includes Professor Steve Fuller (University of Warwick), the Reverend Philippa Turner (Royal Veterinary College), Dr Kris de Meyer (Kings College London), and myself (Dr Alexander Hall). Continue reading Podcast: Science and Religion Live
By Dr Stephen Pihlaja
For the last 10 years, I have been studying interactions between Christians and atheists on YouTube and social media, focusing particularly on how they structure arguments and categories to fit very specific social contexts. One recurring issue in my work, and one that seems particularly prescient as we collectively practice saying the words ‘President Tump’, is how arguments about theology and science are often used to reinforce beliefs which a user’s audience might already hold. They need not be logical or fact-based, but they must appear to be delivered by an ally and broadly comport with a viewer’s own belief system.
One social media user, Joshua Feuerstein, provides a particularly good case study of how this operates. He has over 2 million likes on Facebook and holds a set of intersectional beliefs that are not uncommon—the redemptive power of Jesus Christ, the right to bear arms, a small government, and Donald Trump. His videos are portrait—shot on his phone—and feature two minutes of focused and simple sermons meant to be shared for the encouragement of all.
By Richard Fallon
No one could accuse the Reverend Henry Neville Hutchinson (1856-1927) of being close-minded. He belonged to the Geological Society, the Anthropological Institute, the Royal Geographical Society, the Zoological Society, the Folk-Lore Society, the Palæontographical Society, and the Hampstead Scientific Society. He wrote a great number of popular science books, especially during a prolific period in the 1890s. He sculpted models of dinosaurs and gemstones, made scientific instruments, and even proposed designs for gas fittings that would leave a room smelling ‘fresh and sweet’.
Hutchinson was also a clergyman. Admittedly, due to illness, for most of his adult life he was an unbeneficed clergyman and worked as a writer. But, as his Geological Society obituarist observed, the ‘expository power which his ill health lost to the Church was a gain to science’. Amongst the most famous—and, according to some reviews, infamous—of Hutchinson’s popular science books were the lushly-illustrated, dinosaur-filled Extinct Monsters (1892) and controversial Prehistoric Man and Beast (1896).
By Peter Harrison
A note from the editor: In a previous article on this site, historian of science Bernard Lightman offered a reflection on the new work of Peter Harrison. Harrison’s book, The Territories of Science and Religion, seeks to outline how conceptions of science and religion have changed throughout history, and details the inadequacy of projecting our present categories onto the past. In his reflection, Lightman raised four points about Harrison’s work: concerning the influence of Darwin’s evolution, the role of ‘professionalization’, the impact of evolution on natural theology, and how Harrison’s Territories relates to the ‘complexity thesis’, the current dominant idea in the historiography of science and religion. Below is Harrison’s response to Lightman’s post:
I’m grateful to Bernie Lightman for his thoughtful and perceptive comments on The Territories of Science and Religion. Lightman is a leading authority on science and religion in the nineteenth century, and a scholar from whom I have learned a great deal. Accordingly, I was interested to see his assessment of my treatment of a pivotal period in which he has a particular expertise. Fortunately, it seems mostly to have passed muster, although Lightman has issued a few challenges and identified some important issues that warrant further attention. Continue reading Old Categories, New Territories, and Future Directions: A Response to Bernard Lightman