Overview

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 an assumption that these two approaches to understanding the world are inevitably in conflict with each other. Yet the evidence of history and experience reveal a very different truth.

We would like to tell a new and truer story. We have collected examples from history, science, and theology which show how science and faith can have positive and sometimes surprising interactions. We have selected three of these stories as the basis for a new study of how Twitter users respond to the ‘conflict narrative’.

Story One explores how Messy Church are bringing science into church buildings and outdoor spaces, to allow more people to make links between science, wonder, and God.

Story Two is about Draper and White, and how their conflict narrative fooled the world.

Story Three follows two pioneers in the field of climate science, Sir John Houghton and Dr Katharine Hayhoe, and how their faith is central to their vocation as scientists.

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

Data and ethics

From August-September 2022 we will monitor engagement with these three narratives in terms of Twitter engagement, views, and shares.

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).

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Church is a Place Where Science Happens

In 2017 ECLAS funded a new church outreach resource, Messy Church Does Science, from the Bible Reading Fellowship. They developed 100 experiments that help children and families explore big questions about the universe and God.

Messy Church founder Lucy Moore commented: “Our dream is that in ten years’ time nobody will be saying ‘science and faith don’t mix’ but instead it will be common to hear, ‘I had my first experience of science being fun at my local church.”

ECLAS has supported more than 70 churches to host science-faith outreach and engagement events since 2014. By rooting scientific knowledge and experience in this context, and engaging theologically with the questions raised by scientific progress, we are showing that church is a place where science happens.

 

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Draper and White: How Victorian Fake News Fooled the World

The year was 1874. The scientist John William Draper had just published a book, the History of the Conflict between Religion and Science, which explored the intrinsic hostility between science and religion. The same year, writer Andrew Dickson White published his thesis The Warfare of Science, followed 30 years later by an 800 page book on the same theme. The two men went on to be widely published, translated, and respected voices on the incompatibility of science and religion and the Church’s opposition to science.

The only problem? They had completely made it up.

 

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Christian Climate Science Champions

Sir John Houghton and Dr Katharine Hayhoe are two giants of climate science – and committed Christians. Sir John Houghton (1931-2020) was Director General of the Met Office before becoming scientific lead of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and credits his Christian faith with helping him discover his vocation as a scientist and sound the alarm about the dangers of climate change.

Dr Katharine Hayhoe, a Canadian evangelical Christian, is an internationally-recognised climate champion, author and speaker, raised in a Christian family with a dad who taught science. She has advised governments, businesses, education institutions and the general public about the science behind climate change and what it means for our planet.

She writes: “I chose what to study precisely because of my faith, because climate change disproportionately affects the poor and vulnerable, those already most at risk today. To me, caring about and acting on climate was a way to live out my calling to love others as we’ve been loved ourselves by God.”

 

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