Overview

Research forms the basis of ECLAS’ work to drive culture change within the church. Through surveys and in-depth interviews, we explore current attitudes towards science within the church and suggest evidence-based ways to engage more deeply with science. Our research informs our policy work, resource development, and senior leaders’ conferences.

Our main research interests are:

  • Senior Christian leaders’ attitudes toward science and science-engaged theology.
  • ‘Narratives of Science and Religion’, past and present, in relation to health, environment and artificial intelligence. Relatedly, working directly with church leaders to reflect on questions of how to best engage with and communicate science in the setting of faith communities.
  • Finally, we are following and analysing the unfolding Church of England response to Covid-19.

Seeding New Narratives Pilot

Science and faith come together in every aspect of our daily lives. At ECLAS we are looking for new narratives that capture the positive integration of these two essential aspects of the human experience.

Public discussions about the relationship between science and religion are, too often, based on the assumption that these two approaches to understanding the world are inevitably in conflict with each other.

We would like to tell a new story. We are collecting examples from history, science, theology, and more which show how science and faith can interact. We will select some of these stories as the basis for a new study of how Twitter users respond to the ‘conflict narrative’.

By monitoring how people interact with and respond to these new narratives, we hope to gain insight into the narratives and formats that resonate.

Dr Amanda Rees (amanda.rees@york.ac.uk) and Dr Franziska Kohlt (franziska.kohlt@york.ac.uk) are guiding this aspect of ECLAS’ work, and will be very happy to answer any questions you would like to ask about it.

The project has been approved by the University of York’s Ethics Committee. If you have any concerns about our activities, please feel free to contact Professor Nik Brown (nik.brown@york.ac.uk), Head of Department in Sociology, or the University of York Ethics Committee (tony.royle@york.ac.uk).

See more about this project
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Research Interests

Our researchers are based at St John’s College, Durham University; the University of York; and the Church of England's Faith and Public Life team.

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Dr Thoko Kamwendo Durham University
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The Revd Dr Kathryn Pritchard Faith and Public Life,
Church of England
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Dr Franziska Kohlt University of York
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Dr Alex Fry Faith and Public Life,
Church of England

RESEARCH FINDINGS AND PUBLICATIONS

2022

Reid, Lydia. Forthcoming. ‘Beyond Conflict: An Exploration of how UK Church Leaders View the Relationship Between Science and Religion’, Journal of Contemporary Religion.

  • From 2018-2019 Dr Reid interviewed more than ten church educators and advisors on their views toward artificial intelligence and technology, as well as potential avenues for including these topics in ministerial training. This research is currently being prepared for academic publication. For more information on the findings, please contact lydia.j.reid@durham.ac.uk  directly.

2021

Reid, Lydia and Wilkinson, David. (2021.) ‘Building Enthusiasm and Overcoming Fear: Engaging with Christian Leaders in an Age of Science’, Zygon 56 (4).

  • From 2015-2017 Dr Reid carried out original research on clergy’s attitudes to science. She conducted interviews with over 20 church leaders and senior church leaders, as well as conducting a nationwide survey of over 1,000 clergy from the UK. Find out more about this research.

Kamwendo, Zara Thokozani. (2021.) ‘Resistance to Narratives of the Covid-19 Pandemic as an Act of God,’ Zygon 56 (4).

  • Dr Zara Thokozani Kamwendo interviewed 12 Anglican bishops about narratives they have encountered during the Covid-19 pandemic, and identified resistance to the narrative that Covid-19 is an act of God. Watch her discussing this research.

2020

Kohlt, Franziska. (2020.) “’Over by Christmas’: The Impact of War-metaphors and Other Science-religion Narratives on Science Communication Environments During the Covid-19 Crisis” SocArXiv. doi:10.31235/osf.io/z5s6a 

  • Dr Kohlt analyses the implications and effects that Covid-19 war narratives had on public life, and what their usage tells us about effective science communication in a crisis.

Kohlt, Franziska. (2020.) “‘Saints Informed by Science’: Identifying productive science-religion narratives in times of Covid-19”, presented at the University of Winchester’s conference Christian Theology in the Midst of Covid-19. Read the paper here.

2016

Bouveng, Rebecca, and Wilkinson, David. (2016.) “Going beyond the how and why of science-religion? Senior Christian leaders on science and personal faith.” Science and Christian Belief 28 (2): 100-115.

  • This pilot study addresses the question of how people of faith actually relate to science, focusing on senior Christian leaders in England. Interviews with fourteen leaders explore how they actually relate to science and conceptualise various science-religion questions. This article explores how the interviewees understand the relation between faith and science and how they deal with the difficult questions of evolution, creation, and the interpretation of Scripture.

 

Related research from the ECLAS team

ECLAS research has contributed to the following additional books and papers related to science-engaged theology.

2022

  • Mix, Lucas John, The End of Final Causes in Biology, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022)
  • McLeish, Tom and David A. Wilkinson, ‘After an apologetics of conflict: Biblical exegesis for a creation theology of science’ in Peter Harrison and Paul Tyson (eds.) New Directions in Theology and Science: Beyond Dialogue (London: Routledge, 2022): 147-169
  • Taylor, John C. and David A. Wilkinson, ‘John Charlton Polkinghorne KBE. 16 October 1930—9 March 2021’ Biogr. Mems Fell. R. Soc. 72293–309 (2022). http://doi.org/10.1098/rsbm.2021.0044

2021

  • McLeish, Tom, ‘Before Science and Religion: Learning from Medieval Physics’, Modern Believing 62:2 (Spring 2021): 124-135.
  • McLeish, Tom, ‘The Rediscovery Contemplation Through Science (Boyle Lecture 2021)’, Zygon 56:3 (2021): 758-776.
  • McLeish, Tom, ‘Response to Boyle Lecture 2021 Panel and Participant Discussion’, Zygon 56:3 (2021): 786-803.
  • Mix, Lucas John, ‘Play among the stars: Astrobiology and intra-action in Pryor’s Living with Tiny Aliens, Dialogue in Dialog 60 (2021): 86-93.
  • Mix, Lucas John, ‘Distinguishing Biological Trends from Adaptation. Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology. 14 (2021): 10.
  • White, Rebekah C. Tom McLeish et al, ‘Magnifying Grains of Sand, Seeds and Blades of Grass: Optical Effects in Robert Grossteste’s De iride (On the Rainbow) (circa 1228-1230)’, Isis 112:1 (2021): 93-107.

2020

  • McLeish, Tom, ‘Evolution as an Unwrapping of the Gift of Freedom’, Scientia et Fides 8:2 (2020): 43-64.
  • McLeish, Tom, “A meta-metaphor for science: the true and the fictional within the book of nature.” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 45, no. 3 (2020): 406-415.
  • Mix, Lucas John, ‘Three lives in astrobiology’ in Kelly Smith and Carlos Mariscal (eds.) Social and Conceptual Issues in Astrobiology (New York: Oxford, 2020): 57-78.
  • Wilkinson, David A. ‘Pop Science and pop theology: new ways of exploring an old dialogue’, Theology 123:1 (Jan 2020): 20-27

RESOURCES

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Saved From What? And For What?

Recordings from a clergy study day held for Southwark diocese exploring science-engaged theology linked to Covid-19. The ECLAS team presented on three topics: Finding effective science-religion narratives in the Covid-19 pandemic – and beyond, Dr...

by Helen Billam
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What can we learn from the Church’s response to Covid-19?

ECLAS researcher Dr Thoko Kamwendo in conversation with Adeyinka Oshin, science communicator and RCCG pastor who completed a research work placement with ECLAS. They discuss their studies into attitudes towards science among Church of England...

by Helen Billam
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The place of coronavirus in God’s creation

We spoke to Bishops in the Church of England about how the Covid-19 pandemic could change the way we live alongside Creation and each other. Interviews conducted by Dr Thoko Kamwendo.

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Theological and biblical narratives relating to COVID-19.

We spoke to seven Bishops in the Church of England about theological and biblical narratives they have come across during the pandemic, and whether these are helpful or unhelpful ways of thinking about the current...

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How can Christian leaders model a healthy engagement with science?

We asked seven bishops in the Church of England how Christian leaders can model a healthy engagement with science, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

by David Wilkinson
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Saints Informed by Science

This paper will offer a structured analysis of the perhaps surprisingly common religious narrative patterns that emerged in public responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. A constructive critique of these narratives, it will address insecurities over...

by Franziska Kohlt
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God, Stephen Hawking and the Multiverse: What Hawking Said and Why it Matters (2020)

In ‘God, Stephen Hawking and the Multiverse’, Hutchings and Wilkinson explain the key elements of Stephen Hawking’s physical and mathematical theories, consider their philosophical and religious implications, and relate his ideas to traditional Judaeo-Christian concepts...

by David Wilkinson
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The Poetry and Music of Science (2019)

What human qualities are needed to make scientific discoveries, and which to make great art? Many would point to ‘imagination’ and ‘creativity’ in the second case but not the first. This book challenges the assumption...

by Tom McLeish, FRS
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