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 member Dr Tom Kaden presents some of the preliminary findings of the qualitative sociological research being undertaken as part of the Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum project. Continue reading Authority, Authenticity, and Belief: British and Canadian life scientists and publics’ narratives of evolution and religion
***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
John H. Evans offers a sociologists’ view on science and religion debates
John H Evans is the author of Playing God? Human Genetic Engineering and the Rationalization of Public Bioethical Debate and Contested Reproduction: Genetic Technologies, Religion and Public Debate. Here, he talks to Tom Kaden, one of the Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum team about sociology and debates about science and religion.
Tom Kaden: So welcome, John Evans, to this talk. Could you first of all please say a little about who you are and your general areas of study?
John H. Evans: My name is John Evans. I’m a Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego. I was trained as what’s called a sociologist of religion. The basic difference between a sociologist of religion and, for example, a theologian, is a theologian makes arguments based upon faith presuppositions, like the bible was influenced by God or something like that. A sociologist of religion makes claims about religious people, religious institutions, using secular forms of argument, mostly through social science. Continue reading ‘Most people don’t have the time to be concerned with systems of ideas, because they have day jobs’
Have you ever wondered how people think about God? Do they think purely in theological terms, such as the Christian Trinity or do they think of God in terms of the roles that God plays in their lives? Does people’s theological understanding always match their personal experience of God? In our latest research project, “God-complexity: Conceptualising the Divine,” our team is investigating how people think about God and some of the consequences this has in their day-to-day lives. Continue reading God-complexity: Conceptualising the Divine
As the UK heads to the polls today, with the seeming inevitability of a hung parliament, we are reminded that simple either/or binary choices are not always reflective of public perceptions, attitudes or interests. The British public is currently filing through the polling stations (or not) in what promises to be one of the most indecisive elections in a generation.
As is often the way with the big questions that matter most – about how we view the world, how we understand society and how we would like the world to be – the choices being made don’t fall into simple black and white (or indeed red and blue) categories. They tend to be more complex, so are more nuanced and varied shades of grey. In a world then that has purportedly moved past ideology and dogmatic or polarized positions, why is it that two significant aspects of our collective way of answering these big questions – ‘science’ and ‘religion’ – are still represented in a starkly divisive and binary way. ‘Science’ and ‘religion’ are arguably two of the most important frames with which to view our world today and each to a greater or lesser degree plays an integral role in our day-to-day lives. Continue reading Towards a hung parliament of science and religion: science engagement in a diverse and democratic world