The Social Scientific Study of Science and Religion

Elaine Howard Ecklund, John Evans, Cristine Legare, Dominic Johnson and Michael Price

This 4-year, $9.4 million program asks, What narratives about the relationship between religion and science are present in contemporary societies, and what factors shape these narratives? In other words, what do people think and why do they think it?

The project sponsors research by large international teams of scholars in three social science disciplines:

Sociology: A sociologists led by Elaine Howard Ecklund (Rice University) and John Evans (University of California—San Diego) explore these questions: How do people use beliefs about religion and science to anchor their identities in the modern world? How do people approach ultimate questions about reality and meaning through the lens of science and religion? When, and why, does conflict emerge between religious and scientific claims about ultimate concerns?

Psychology: Led by Cristine Legare (University of Texas at Austin), a psychologists and cognitive scientists study the changes that take place in religion-and-science narratives when individuals, communities, and societies become exposed to formal education. How does formal education, and its psychological impact, change the scientific and religious beliefs, values, and behaviors of individuals and groups? In what ways do they change? And why?

Anthropology: Dominic Johnson (Oxford University) and Michael Price (Brunel University) lead anthropologists and other social scientists conducting research on the evolution of science and religion as meaning-making systems. How do the evolutionary origins of religion and of science influence give rise to, and shape, our narratives about the science-religion relationship?

Funding for this project is provided by Templeton Religion Trust, and administration is provided by the Issachar Fund.