So-called conflict between religion and science continues to make headlinesBlame it on Pope Francis and his widely read encyclical on climate change, but this past month was remarkable when it came to the number of the headlines relating to religion and science. A brief Google search yielded, among others:

“Do Science and Religion See Differently?” – Christian Post

“How the Pope Got Religion on Climate Change” – Bloomberg

“Science, religion and the hope for an ecological revolution” – The Fresno Bee

“Is science policy a theological matter?” – The Guardian

A casual reader could believe that religion and science have historically had and still do have an uneasy alliance on the issue of climate change. And if you did not read a little more into each story, you might believe something new is going on.

When one starts to dig a little deeper into what may seem like a weird topic comprising two seemingly unrelated topics – “religion and science” – something interesting happens. Only a few minutes into such online reading, one may see that while there are reasons for the current conflict driven headlines, many of the ideas being discussed are far from being new. In fact many scholars these days are quick to dismiss the notion of conflict as limited to a few on both sides of the so-called “war.”

Researchers from Rice University and West Virginia University wanted to find out how scientists could impact public perceptions of the relationship between religion and science.

What they found was that the views of Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins not only differ in their content but also in their impact on the public.

Sociologists found that people’s perceptions of the religion-science relationship were not influenced when they read about a scientist who believes science and religion are in conflict (Dawkins); however, reading about a scientist who believes both institutions influence and guide each other (Collins) shifted respondents toward a collaborative view of religion and science.

As this month’s Covalence is posted, the Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology is gearing up an interactive exhibit at the ELCA 2015 Youth Gathering that begins July 15.  The theme of the booth is Mythbusters, at which youth will bust in fun ways the myth that faith and science are enemies. They will be exploring through experiments, quizzes and videos what seminary and college students have been exploring for years at various center of learning featured in this month’s reprise of an essay from April 2013.  The point is that faith and science centers have been counteracting the false notion of pure warfare for years with an understanding that the relationship is much more nuanced.

This reality of science and the Christian faith is difficult to capture in a single news story on climate change, faith, evolution, worship practices, genetic research, physics or any other scientific or theological concept. Only by combining stories of the people, events and scholarship behind the continually evolving arena of faith and science can readers get a real sense of things. If this is your first time reading Covalence, you will soon see we repeatedly explore what it means to go beyond the traditional conflict model of religion and science.

So while you may see renewed interest in what theology has to say about science and what science has to say about faith, we can say that these topics are certainly not new. And here at Covalence, we are asking the same question as The Huffington Post – “Religion and Science: Where Are They Headed?”

Photo by Lee Jordan [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0], via Flickr

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