Do you want to know what people think about the relationship between science and religion? I’m not talking about the popular-level myths that circulate all too often in our culture: you know, those episodes that produce more heat than light, that involve the loud-mouths and the angry, insistent voices. No, I’m talking about accurate, scholarly insight into what people really think — the opinions that are unlikely to get the publicity they deserve.
I just got my copy of a brand new, Oxford-published book on sociological research into science / religion relationships. I’ve started into it, and I can already recommend that you prioritize it for your own interests and readings in this field of study.
Elaine Howard Ecklund and Christopher P. Scheitle, Religion vs. Science: What Religious People Really Think (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 224 pp. (Amazon link here.)
To whet your appetite for the book, and, more importantly, for the research and insights revealed in the book, allow me to post a couple of quotes that exemplify the message of the book.
“In Religion vs. Science we argue that the way religious Americans approach science is shaped by two fundamental questions. First, what does science mean for the existence and activity of God? Second, what does science mean for the sacredness of humanity?” (p. 2)
That is, these sociologists are trying to help people, whoever their readers might be, to understand what is really at stake for those whose religious convictions compel them to respond to science in particular ways. The second quote speaks to the difference between popular impressions and actual realities.
“Despite the dominance of the conflict narrative in the media and public discourse, in reality most Americans actually do not perceive religion and science as being inherently in conflict.” (p. 16, emphasis in the original)
In other words, there is this powerful and pervasive belief in our culture that science and religion are at war, but when you sit down to listen carefully to what religious people really think, you learn that most religious people do not see or support a war model (“conflict narrative”) for science / religion relations.
Ecklund and Scheitle’s book will go a long way toward making us informed about reality, and God knows that in our social and political climate we need people to be informed about reality.