Religion and science are often seen as non-overlapping — like oil and water, often on the same menu but never really mixing. Does this represent the reality of the relationship, or do they sometimes blend — and should they? This edition of ReligionLink is intended to be a companion resource to “Forefront Science for Religion Reporters,” the pre-conference program of the 2015 Religion Newswriters Association conference
Articles and stories:
- The American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion maintains a number of resources about the intersection of religion and science, including articles, stories, books and videos.
- Read “Stephen Hawking Joins Russian Entrepreneur’s Search for Alien Life” by Dennis Overbye for The New York Times, July 20, 2015. Scientists, theologians and others have long considered what finding life on other planets would mean for religion.
- Read “Artificial Intelligence,” a special issue of Science magazine, July 17, 2015.
- Read “Holy Cow: Would lab-grown meat ever be kosher?” by Rachel E. Gross for Slate.com, Sept. 11, 2014.
- The Pew Research Center has long polled Americans on their attitudes toward science and religion and maintains a page with information about religion and evolution, stem cell research, life extension, cloning, genetic engineering, medical ethics, neuroscience and the faith of scientists.
- Read “Cosmology and Culture” by Joel R. Primack, a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The essay looks at the way different cultures and religions have constructed cosmologies.
- Read “Cosmology and Theology,” an entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, an edited, online open-source database.
- Read “Religion and Science,” an entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, an edited, online open-source database.
- Watch “Exoplanets and Life Beyond Earth,” a lecture by Stephen Freeland of the NASA Astrobiology Institute who is director of interdisciplinary studies at the University of Maryland. The lecture was given June 19, 2013, as part of a series sponsored by the Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion.
- Read “Modern Cosmology Versus God’s Creation,” an interview between Gary Gutting of The New York Times and Tim Maudlin, a professor of philosophy at New York University and the author of Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time. The interview was part of a series of discussions with philosophers posted on the Times’ website June 15, 2014.
Center for the Study of Science and Religion
The Center for the Study of Science and Religion at Columbia University’s Earth Institute examines the idea of the natural from both scientific and religious perspectives. Robert Pollack is founder and director.
Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion
The Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion is a project of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and works to promote dialogue and understanding between scientific and religious communities, groups and individuals. It is based in Washington, D.C., and Jennifer Wiseman is its director.
European Society for the Study of Science and Theology
The European Society for the Study of Science and Religion is a nonconfessional organization of scholars and scientists who study the intersection of religion and science. They organize conferences and publish books and papers on the subject. Dirk Evers is president. The organization has no fixed address, but members meet every two years at their conference.
Faraday Institute for Science and Religion
The Faraday Institute at St. Edmund’s College, Cambridge, provides courses, seminars and lectures on the convergence of science and religion. Contact Eleanor Puttock, external communications officer.
The institute was founded with seed money from the John Templeton Foundation.
Institute for Science and Human Values
The Institute for Science and Human Values is committed to scientific inquiry and the enhancement of human values and seeks to combine reason and compassion to achieve ethical wisdom. Toni Van Pelt is director of public policy.
The Metanexus Institute is a New York-based not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting scientifically rigorous and philosophically open-ended explorations of foundational questions. William Grassie is the founder and executive director.
The institute was founded with seed money from the John Templeton Foundation.
Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science supports “the scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and human suffering.” The U.S. branch has headquarters in Washington, D.C., and is led by executive director R. Elisabeth Cornwell.
American Islamic Congress
The American Islamic Congress was founded after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and works to fight steroetypes about Islam and battle extremism and terrorism. It runs programs in the U.S. and overseas. Zainab Al-Suwaij is executive director.
The AIC runs a program called “Science and Islam” that promotes Islamic perspectives on science through discussions, panels and lectures on college campuses.
Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists
The Association of Orthodox Jewish Scientists, founded in 1947, fosters the synthesis of science and Orthodox Jewish teaching and practice through symposia on specific topics, an annual conference and publications. Both science and Torah are regarded as expressions of truth, and therefore conflicts between them are only “apparent,” according to the group’s website. Clara Wajngurt-Levy is executive director of the association, which is based in Fresh Meadows, N.Y.
BioLogos is a Christian organization founded by Francis S. Collins, the director of the Human Genome Project, that works to promote what it sees as the harmony between the Bible and science. The organization is especially vocal on evolution, holding that it does not contradict the Bible. The foundation is based in Grand Rapids, Mich., and Deborah Haarsma is president.
Canadian Scientific & Christian Affiliation
The Canadian Scientific & Christian Affiliation describes itself as “a fellowship of scientists and those interested in science, who want to understand how science should best interact with the life-giving Christian tradition.” Donald McNally is executive director.
Center for Islamic Sciences
The Center for Islamic Sciences is dedicated to the promotion of research and diffusion of knowledge on all aspects of Islam. CIS encourages a creative exploration of natural and human sciences from the Islamic worldview, critical integration of contemporary disciplines into the framework of traditional Islamic thought and learning, and a renewed and rigorous link with the intellectual tradition of Islam.
Christians in Science
Christians in Science is a British-based international organization open to scientists, teachers, students and others interested in the dialogue and interface of Christianity and science. It maintains local groups across the British Isles. Dr. Diana Briggs is the secretary.
Institute on Religion in an Age of Science
The Institute on Religion in an Age of Science brings together scientists and religious professionals to discuss the overlap and boundaries of science and religion. The institute hosts an annual weeklong conference to explore issues of concern to both science and religion. Barbara Whittaker-Johns, a Unitarian Universalist minister, is the current president.
Institute for Science and Judaism
The Institute for Science and Judaism works to foster dialogue between science and Judaism. It was started as an adult education program at a Reconstructionist synagogue and now puts on programs, lectures and discussions at other synagogues. It is based in Bethesda, Md.
Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences
The Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences is an international organization that highlights a Muslim perspective on environmental issues. It is based in Birmingham, England. Fazlun Khalid is founder and director.
Pontifical Academy of Sciences
The Pontifical Academy of Sciences is the scientific office of the Roman Catholic Church and is located at the Vatican. It has multiple goals, including promoting the progress of the mathematical, physical and natural sciences and the study of related epistemological questions and issues. Members include scientists, clergy and laypersons. Werner Arber is president.
Presbyterian Association on Science, Technology and the Christian Faith
The Presbyterian Association on Science, Technology and the Christian Faith is a program of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that promotes the study, understanding and discussion of science and technology on the church’s theology, worship, practice and moral actions. It is based in Dubuque, Iowa. Rev. James B. Miller is president.
Shenandoah Anabaptist Science Society
The Shenandoah Anabaptist Science Society, a membership organization with headquarters at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., sponsors programs fostering dialogues “at the intersection of science and religion.” The secretary of SASS is Tara Kishbaugh, Eastern Mennonite University professor of chemistry.
Zygon Center for Religion and Science
The Zygon Center for Religion and Science is dedicated to relating religious traditions and the best scientific knowledge in order to gain insight into the origins, nature and destiny of humans and their environment. The center is based at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
Dr. Francis Collins is director of the National Institutes of Health and former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. Collins has explained his belief in God in many press interviews and in his book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief.
Paul Davies is a theoretical physicist and founder and director of Beyond: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science at Arizona State University in Tempe. His books include The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life? In 1995 he won the Templeton Prize for work on science and religion. Contact via Skip Derra, media relations at ASU.
Richard Dawkins is former Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University and one of the best-known of the New Atheists. His many books include The God Delusion and 2009’s The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution.
Kevin T. FitzGerald
The Rev. Kevin T. FitzGerald is a research associate professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., in the department of oncology. He is also a Jesuit priest with doctorates in molecular genetics and bioethics. His research efforts in science focused on the investigation of abnormal gene regulation in cancer and research on ethical issues in human genetics. He has published both scientific and ethical articles in books, the popular press and peer-reviewed journals. FitzGerald has given presentations nationally and internationally on topics such as human genetic engineering, cloning, stem cell research and the Human Genome Project. For the past 10 years he has served as an ethics consultant for the National Society of Genetic Counselors. He is a consultant to the March of Dimes Ethics Committee and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and is on the advisory committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion. He can be emailed through this link.
Lawrence M. Krauss
Lawrence M. Krauss is a cosmologist and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, which explores questions ranging from the origin of the universe to the origins of human culture and cognition. His commentaries on matters of science and religion have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, including a Sept. 8, 2010, column, “Our Spontaneous Universe,” and one that ran June 26, 2009, titled “God and Science Don’t Mix.” His August 2007 essay for New Scientist magazine took issue with some tactics being used to discredit religion and increase public acceptance of atheism; it is better, he said, to eschew emotional arguments and stick to rational ones.
Douglas Lauffenburger is a professor in and head of the department of biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.
He participated in a talk on the implications of genetic engineering on what it means to be human at the 2015 Religion Newswriters Association conference.
Lucas Mix is a scientist and an Episcopal priest. He is a researcher at the Ronin Institute at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., where he studies theoretical biology and theological biology. Among his interests is studying the definition of life. He blogs at “Science, Spirit and Scripture” and “An Ecclesiastical Peculiar.”
He participated in a talk on the implications to humanity from the search for intelligent life on other planets at the 2015 Religion Newswriters Association conference.
Robert Pennock is a professor in the departments of philosophy, computer science and engineering, and ecology, evolutionary biology and behavior at Michigan State University in East Lansing. He has taught courses in the philosophy of biology and technology and another on science and virtue.
He gave a talk on the implications of artificial intelligence on what it means to be human at the 2015 Religion Newswriters Association conference.
Ted Peters is a research professor emeritus in systematic theology and ethics at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences and the Graduate Theological Union, all in Berkeley, Calif. He is the author of God in Cosmic History and Playing God?: Genetic Determinism and Human Freedom and is co-editor of the journal Theology and Science.
He participated in a talk on genetic engineering, what it means to be human and the theological implications at the 2015 Religion Newswriters Association conference.
Robert Pollack is a professor of biological sciences at Columbia University in New York City. He is the author of The Faith of Biology & the Biology of Faith and was part of an online panel that discussed the conflict between religion and evolution for the PBS series Evolution.
Joel R. Primack
Joel R. Primack, a professor of physics at the University of California Santa Cruz, is co-author of The View From the Center of the Universe: Discovering Our Extraordinary Place in the Cosmos.
Lee Silver is a professor of microbiology and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J. His books include Challenging Nature: The Clash of Science and Spirituality at the New Frontiers of Life and Remaking Eden: How Genetic Engineering and Cloning Will Transform the American Family, which deals with genetic enhancement, or “reprogenetics” — selecting and engineering a child’s genes. He has published scientific articles in the fields of genetics, evolution, reproduction, embryology, computer modeling and behavioral science, and scholarly papers on topics involving biotechnology, law, ethics and religion.
Jennifer Wiseman is an astronomer and director of the Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. She is also an astrophysicist and studies the formation of stars and planets.
She has written about the scientific support for Pope Francis’ climate change encyclical and gave a talk on what the implication of the search for intelligent life is on being human at the 2015 Religion Newswriters Association conference.
Gayle Woloschak is a molecular biologist and a professor of radiology at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. She is director of “The Epic of Creation,” a lecture series that approaches the origins of the Earth through both scientific and religious perspectives, at the Zygon Center for Religion and Science at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago.
Laurie Zoloth is a professor of religion and ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where she previously served as dean. Before coming to the University of Chicago, she was a professor of religious studies at Northwestern University and professor of bioethics and medical humanities at the university’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Zoloth is a past president of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities. She is the author of Health Care and the Ethics of Encounter: A Jewish Discussion of Social Justice and co-editor of Notes From a Narrow Ridge: Religion and Bioethics and The Human Embryonic Stem Cell Debate.
Philosophers/historians/sociologists of science and religion
William Bainbridge is a sociologist of religion, science and popular culture. He is co-director of Human-Centered Computing at the National Science Foundation and a senior fellow at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. He teaches sociology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. In 2013, he published eGods: Faith Versus Fantasy in Computer Gaming, which presents research gained from more than 2,400 hours of ethnographic study of massively multiplayer online (MMO) game religious practices. He is also an expert on the Children of God, commonly called The Family, an end-times New Religious Movement.
Melinda Baldwin is a lecturer on the history of science at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Her research focuses on the history of science in Great Britain and the history of scientific communication.
She gave a talk on the history of science at the 2015 Religion Newswriters Association conference.
Arri Eisen is director of the Program in Science and Society at Emory University’s Center for Ethics in Atlanta and a professor of pedagogy in the department of biology. Eisen teaches research ethics to faculty, undergraduates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and physicians. He researches the basic science of gene regulation and research ethics education. He is co-author of “The Absent Professor: Why We Don’t Teach Research Ethics and What to Do About It” (published in The American Journal of Bioethics) and co-editor of the two-volume collection of essays titled Science, Religion and Society: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture and Controversy.
Gary B. Ferngren
Gary B. Ferngren is a history professor at Oregon State University and the author or editor of multiple books on science and religion, including Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction and Medicine and Health Care in Early Christianity. He can also be reached via the website contact form.
Sam Harris is a leading figure in the New Atheism movement. His 2004 book, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, was a New York Times best-seller and was followed by his Letter to a Christian Nation. Harris also wrote The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, which rejects the argument that religion plays a necessary role in morality. He has degrees in neuroscience and philosophy. Contact through his website.
His book Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion looks at brain science, religion and meditation.
Massimo Pigliucci, an atheist, is a philosophy professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He blogs about science, philosophy, politics and religion at Rationally Speaking and co-hosts the Rationally Speaking podcast.
Holmes Rolston IIIHolmes Rolston III is a University Distinguished Professor in the department of philosophy at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He has received the Templeton Prize and the Mendel Medal, both of which recognize achievement in science and religion.
Scholars of religion and science
Carol Rausch Albright
Carol Rausch Albright is a visiting professor of religion and science at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and is co-author or contributor to several books on science and religion, including The Humanizing Brain: Where Religion and Neuroscience Meet and NeuroTheology: Brain, Science, Spirituality, Religious Experience. Albright believes that human beings’ experience of God involves virtually every part of the brain. She has written about the interface of neuroscience, spiritual growth and complexity studies. She can be contacted here.
Francisco J. Ayala
Francisco J. Ayala is professor of biological sciences and of philosophy at the University of California, Irvine. His research focuses on population and evolutionary genetics and the interface between religion and science. He was part of a roundtable discussion on religion and evolution as part of the PBS series Evolution in which he stated there was no conflict between Catholicism and Darwinism.
The Rev. Antje Jackelén is archbishop of the Church of Sweden and is an adjunct professor of systematic theology/religion and science at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. She is president of the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology and is a former director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science, which brings together scientists, theologians and other scholars for discussion and research.
Patricia H. Kelley
Patricia H. Kelley is a geology professor at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. She is an expert on invertebrate paleontology, the debate between creation and evolution, and the compatibility of religion and science.
B. Andrew Lustig
B. Andrew Lustig is the Holmes Rolston III Professor of Religion and Science at Davidson College in Davidson, N.C. His specialties include bioethics and religion and science. He was staff ethicist for then-Gov. Mario Cuomo’s New York State Task Force on Life and the Law.
Margaret McLean is a senior lecturer in the religious studies department at Santa Clara University in California and associate director and director of bioethics for the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics. Her background is in life sciences and divinity; she has a doctorate in ethics from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. She teaches Christian ethics, religion and science, and medical ethics.
J. Anderson Thomson Jr.
Dr. J. Anderson Thomson Jr. is a psychiatrist in Charlottesville, Va., and a trustee of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. He is interested in the new cognitive neuroscience of religious belief — why human minds generate, accept and spread religious ideas — and spoke on the subject at the American Atheists’ 2009 convention. He has also talked and written on other religion-related topics, including religiously inspired suicide terrorism.
Warren Brown is a psychology professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., where he studies neuroscience and its relationship to religion. He has written and lectured on the integration of neuroscience and Christian faith, and was principal editor and contributor to Whatever Happened to the Soul?: Scientific and Theological Portraits of Human Nature. He has been critical of studies of neuroscience and religiousness, calling them simplistic and naive.
Karl Giberson serves as scholar-in-residence in science and religion at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass. He has written or co-written a number of books, including Worlds Apart: The Unholy War Between Science and Religion; Species of Origins: America’s Search for a Creation Story; Oracles of Science: Celebrity Scientists Versus God and Religion; and Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution. He is critical of intelligent design theory, charging that it is a religious belief because the “intelligence” referred to is always God. Giberson has lectured on science and religion at Oxford University and the Vatican, as well as many American universities and colleges.
Deborah Haarsma is president of the BioLogos Foundation, a Christian organization that promotes the harmony of religion and science. She is a former professor in the physics and astronomy department at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., and has written widely on the relationship of science and religion.
Keith Ward is an ordained Anglican priest and a senior fellow at the Metanexus Institute, where he gives frequent public lectures on the subject of science and religion. Topics have included “Has Science Made Belief in God Obsolete?” and “Can the Cruelty and Waste of Evolution Be Reconciled With Creation by a Good God?”