What Bishops Really Think about Science: Science and Religion among Senior Christian Leaders in the UK

By Rebecca Bouveng.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Science and religion are often represented as being in conflict with one another, and people of faith as being ‘anti-science’. But is this true? This study addressed this question by focusing on particular group in a faith community: senior Christian leaders in the UK, who carry significant influence on values in their organisations as well as in the wider British society. We interviewed 14 leaders, Anglican Bishops, and directors of other Christian denominations, exploring how they actually relate to science and science-religion questions, and then situating the emerging themes within the context of popular discourse. We suggest that contrary to popular narratives, the church leaders are not averse to science but engage with science in a number of ways. There are some areas of tension in their relation to science, but when they perceive science in negative terms, it not because of their religious faith and understanding of scripture; rather, it is because of the science: mainly because they see science as being misrepresented (secularist ‘scientism’ vs. ‘good’ science). The popular narrative which juxtaposes science and religious faith and depicts people of faith as ‘anti-science’ is not only misleading, but detrimental both to the scientific community and to the church. With a growing public distrust of science, senior faith leaders may just be well-placed as partners with the scientific community in helping promote the ‘public engagement with science’.

Keywords: Science-religion, Scientism, Science engagement, Bishops

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 5, Issue 3, November 2014, pp.1-11. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 553.434KB).

Dr. Rebecca Bouveng

Research Associate, St John's College, University of Durham, Durham, Durham, UK