Overview

Our research programme provides the foundations for our work.  Our current research focus is on attitudes of church leaders towards science; narratives of science and theology; and frameworks for science-engagement – with all three areas focusing on the role and influence of different contexts. We are now also starting work with international hub partners in Kenya, India, Poland and Singapore.

Previous research interests have included:

  • Responses to Covid-19, how the pandemic has influenced church leaders’ attitudes towards science, and how religious imagery and the language of warfare imagery is being used in public health communication.
  • 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.

Stories of Science and Faith

Public debates 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. ECLAS was conceived in order to challenge that assumption. So far, we have done so by creating opportunities for church leaders at all levels to build better connections with world-class science. Now, we are exploring how this ‘conflict narrative’ is used to frame other debates and concerns. At the moment, we are monitoring the ways that social media users are interacting with the new narratives about the nature of science/faith engagement that we have produced.

We are recording engagement analytics for each of these posts, as well as textual/image content, time and date, geographical location and patterns of engagement for any re- postings, quote postings, replies and so on. This data is safely and anonymously stored in password protected files. Usernames are also held securely in a separate file. We will not quote any of this material directly in any publication or platform without first obtaining the consent of the social media user.

We are not recording any further data about any of the accounts that interact with our posts, and we will destroy the data we do hold by the end of the project (December 31, 2027).

Amanda Rees is guiding this aspect of ECLAS’ work, and will be very happy to answer any questions you would like to ask about it.

In-person research

We are also conducting in-person research on these stories with specific faith communities. If you or your group would like to be involved in this aspect of our work, please contact Amanda for further details.

Ethics approval

The project has been approved by the University of York’s Ethics Committee. If you are dissatisfied with the information you’ve been given, please contact the ELMPS Ethics Committee at elmps-ethics-group@york.ac.uk or the University’s Data Protection Officer at dataprotection@york.ac.uk

 

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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 Sarah A. Qidwai University of York
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Dr Amanda Rees University of York
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Dr Sam Robinson University of York
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The Revd Prof Charlotte Sleigh UCL
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The Revd Prof
David Wilkinson
Durham University

RESEARCH FINDINGS AND PUBLICATIONS

2024

Wilkinson, David. ‘Theology and the Physical Sciences’ in Rachel Muers, Ashley Cocksworth, and David F. Ford (eds.) Ford’s The Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology since 1918 (Wiley-Blackwell, 2024): 520-532.

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

  • The research included in this article (carried out during 2015-2018) comprised a survey of over 1,000 UK church leaders and interviews with 20 senior church leaders. The paper explores church leaders’ views on science, their engagement with the subject, and the extent to which their views on science and religion reflect-back or problematise Barbour’s typology.

2023

Kamwendo, Zara Thokozani. (2023.) ‘Decolonizing Science-Engaged Theology’, Teaching Science and Religion. Read here.

2021

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

  • The data presented in this article (collected during 2015–2018) are derived from two separate pieces of research, the first consisting of a survey of over 1,000 church leaders and interviews with 20 senior church leaders, and the second, with a strategic focus on ministerial training, composed of 12 interviews with church educators. This article reflects on the findings from both pieces of research—covering topics such as church leaders’ enthusiasm toward science, how church leaders view the relationship between science and religion and the role of compartmentalization in ministerial training.

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.

2023

  • Lightman, Bernard and Qidwai, Sarah. eds. (2023.) ‘Evolutionary Theories and Religious Traditions: National, Transnational, and Global Perspectives, 1800–1920’. (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2023)
  • Sleigh, Charlotte. (2023.) ‘In the Beginning Was the Wort: A New Natural Theology of Meaning for Ecological Catastrophe’, Anglican Theological Review 105, 4. Read here.

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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