On the Seventh Day, God Created Science
Friday, August 19, 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. CDT | Zoom Room B
Science and religion are often presented as opposites, and despite decades of scholarship presenting more nuanced accounts of that relationship, it seems like the spectre of conflict haunts the way that scientific ideas are communicated to religious communities. Questions that have served as the titles of well regarded books, like “Can a Darwinian Be a Christian?” or “Can You Believe in God and Evolution?” speak as if the friendliest possible relationship between religion is that of merely logical non-contradiction. Metaphors of science and religion as distinct territories or domains can coexist peacefully with a sufficiently guarded DMZ. Against the strident militarism of the conflictarians – whether fundamentalist religious or atheist, we are offered the milquetoast mewling of mere compatibility. As forms of religious antiscience have become increasingly incorporated into the political pandemonium of religious nationalism, these militant metaphors become ever more wedded to a conflict between facts and fascism.
Against all of this, I propose to examine the potential for new narratives of science and religion that aren’t limited to a range between sanguinary pseudscience and phlegmatic feats of logic. Drawing on the history of natural theology and what we might consider its modern heirs, we ask: What if religion and science are able to strengthen one another? How then might we be able to communicate science more effectively?
Adam R. Shapiro is a historian of science and religion. His work looks at the way that religious societies communicate and interpret ideas about science and technology, and the way that narratives of science-religion conflict give shape to cultural and political controversies. His first book, Trying Biology (University of Chicago Press, 2013) explored how the early antievolution movement in the U.S functioned as an expression of political opposition to education reform and the expansion of compulsory schooling in America. His most recent book, with Thomas Dixon, is Science and Religion, A Very Short Introduction (Oxford UP, 2022.) His articles on a range of science and society topics have also been published in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, American Scientist, Aeon, Undark, and several other venues.