Thursday, February 1, 2018

Elaine Howard Ecklund and Christopher P. Scheitle's "Religion vs. Science"

Elaine Howard Ecklund is Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology at Rice University. Christopher P. Scheitle is Assistant Professor of Sociology at West Virginia University.

They applied the “Page 99 Test” to their new book, Religion vs. Science: What Religious People Really Think, and reported the following:
From page 99:
An Orthodox Jewish primary schoolteacher explained, “There’s a saying called tikkun olam, that we are supposed to repair the world. We’re supposed to be in partnership with God to repair the world.”
The quote above appears on page 99 in Religion vs. Science, in a chapter examining how religion influences individuals’ attitudes towards the environment broadly and towards specific environmental issues like climate change. The book presents the results of five years of research that included a nationally representative survey of over 10,000 Americans as well as over 300 in-depth interviews with individuals representing a wide range of faith traditions. Contrary to what one might think based on certain caricatures found in the public sphere, our research finds that religious people across faith traditions are quite positive towards science.

This is not to say that there are no tensions or conflicts between individuals’ religious faith and their orientation towards science. As we argue throughout the book, at the center of such conflicts is the question of how particular scientific findings or areas of research challenge individuals’ conceptions of a God who is active in the world and conceptions of humans as sacred in nature. For instance, we found in our survey data and our interviews that religious individuals are quite flexible in what they are willing to accept in regards to the origins of the world and life as long as they perceive some room for God to have a role.

The book also offers guidance on how the relationship between scientific and religious communities might be improved. The first step is to shed the stereotypes held of each other in both communities. The second step is to recognize that the religious and scientific communities hold many overlapping concerns. Finally, both communities need to better understand the nature of the tensions that do exist. While these tensions may take the manifest form of technical debates about scientific findings, they often mask more latent concerns about meaning and identity.
Learn more about Religion vs. Science at the Oxford University Press website, and visit Elaine Howard Ecklund's website and Christopher P. Scheitle's website.

--Marshal Zeringue