Resources for science and religion
Here are some resources on dialogues between science and religion across faiths that I found helpful. There are many more websites and books on science and religion than are listed here; I only chose the ones I find the most helpful, and this list will continue to grow as I discover more resources. I have chosen resources that support mainstream science and have intellectual rigor. Note that while these resources all seem to oppose the common belief that science and religion are in essential conflict and cannot be reconciled (a.k.a. the conflict thesis), this does not imply a bias in favor of religion. Historians of science have discredited the conflict thesis in recent decades, though this development have not gone far beyond the academia. In fact, some of the most well-known scholars in this field, who are not fans of the conflict thesis, such as Michael Ruse, Ronald Numbers, and Paul Davies, are not religious. Also note that I don’t necessarily agree with all those resources.
Christian resources are over-represented, and some of the interfaith resources also seem to have some Christian slant as Christians seem to write more on this topics than people of other faiths. Honestly, it’s much more difficult to find resources on science and religion outside Christian institutions. Why? Here are some of my speculations:
- The scientific revolution took place in Christian Europe, and today, most of scientific research is done in predominantly Christian countries.
- Relationships between science and religion, especially when it comes to evolution and age of the universe, are very politicized in the US, among conservative Christians. Meanwhile, in the English speaking world, New Atheism is spreading simplistic accounts of how science disproves religion. As a result, more effort is expended to foster dialogue and correct misunderstandings.
- I have talked to some Muslims, Bahais, Hindus, and Sikhs, and asked them about what they think of relationships between science and religion. The answer they gave me is something along the line of “there’s no conflict”. In other words, they don’t consider relationships between science and religion a problem1. However, after some scrutiny, it turns out that they do need to think more about science and religion and engage in the dialogue. For instance, it’s quite common among Muslim students I met to reject human evolution while accepting evolution of other species. What shall they do facing evidence for human evolution?
Scholars in science and religion do acknowledge this bias2, and would like to invite more non-Christian voices. That said, much of the resources apply across theistic traditions, such as those on topics on methodological naturalism, science and interpretation of scriptures, philosophy of mind, artificial intelligence, ethics of genome modification, environmentalism, and problem of natural evil. Moreover, I have only listed English resources here. There may be good resources in other languages.
The Faraday Institute of Science and Religion Institute at University of Cambridge for research in relationships between science and religion. Its website has a series of papers on central issues in science and religion written for the general public and video recordings of seminars and courses.
Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion Institute at University of Oxford for research in science and religion. Its website is somewhat incomplete, but it already has some videos on philosophical issues in science and religion. This institute also has conferences.
International Society for Science and Religion The website has a blog and a list of publications by fellows of this organization.
AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion This is a program of the American Association for Advancement of Science. The website has articles, videos, and links on science and religion.
Zygon Journal Academic journal on science and religion, covering a variety of topics and religions. This journal is not open access; you may get its papers from a university library.
The Special Divine Action Project Oxford project on how God acts in the world from perspectives across faiths and disciplines.
Abraham Kuyper Center This is center at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, which aims to reflect on the big questions science raises. The projects at this center are not all about science and religion; there’re some reflections on the humanities in general, but these can be relevant to theology since theology also belongs to the humanities. There was a project Science beyond Scientism at this center, and a list of publications from this project is available on the website; some of the publications are directly related to science and religion.
The Gifford Lectures Prestigious lectures on natural theology. In short, natural theology means understanding God only from reason and nature, independently from revelation, though the definitions of natural theology is quite contentious and complex. The lectures in fact cover a wide range of topics in science and religion, not just natural theology in the conventional sense.
The Big Questions in Science and Religion short course on ebrary.net This is the material for a short course written by anonymous authors. Honestly, I find this website somewhat mysterious, since it doesn’t have an about page and the articles don’t have names of authors. But some of the articles give good summaries of viewpoints of big questions in science and religion. It seems that some of the articles here are written by atheists, but at least they show some knowledge of philosophy. I find articles arguing for what I disagree in more thought provoking, since I have to think more to figure out how to refute the arguments, though reading those articles is stressful.
The New Atlantis Quarterly journal to improve public understanding of the social, political, ethical, and policy implications of modern science and technology. Some articles in this journal, especially those in the category science and philosophy, address questions in science and religion, such as scientism, whether neurobiology explains away free will, purpose in evolution, and etc. Many articles in this journal reflect on modern technology. The articles can be freely accessed online, but hard copies are also available. Note that this journal is not peer reviewed; nevertheless, some articles are quite thought provoking.
Big Questions Online This is the sister site of The New Atlantis. On this site are articles on big questions, such as religious freedom, free will, problem of evil, and philosophy of science, as well as a summary of the discussion in response to those articles. This site also shares relevant posts from other sites.
BioLogos Website of organization founded by Francis Collins to answer questions on Christianity and the theory of evolution. Now it also has blog posts on this topic, its own conference, and a podcast.
Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences Part of the Graduate Theological Union in San Francisco and Berkeley. This institute focuses on Christian theology, and has an academic journal Theology and Science.
American Scientific Affiliation (ASA) This website has articles for general audience and open access academic journal Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. This organization also has an annual conference whose registration is free for students.
The Canadian Science & Christian Affiliation The Canadian counterpart of ASA.
Christians in Science The British counterpart of ASA.
The Pontifical Academy of Science Roman Catholic perspective; the website has articles and videos on various topics on science and religion.
Science and Faith Examined Caltech student events with invited speakers on central issues in science and religion. Videos of past events are available online.
The Veritas Forum A program that started in Harvard and has spread to many other universities in the US and Europe that invites both Christian and non-Christian speakers to discuss big questions related to Christianity. The topics are not necessarily related to science, but some of them are, and it’s good to think through those big questions in general since they matter to how we live our lives and make sense of the world. The forums are held annually in some universities (they’re not that frequent), and the audio or video recordings of the forums are available on the website. Transcripts are not available, but there’re written posts on the website as well.
Musings on Science and Theology Blog by a Christian chemistry professor, with thoughtful articles and book reviews.
Science Meets Faith Blog mainly on how scientists and theologians in history think about science and faith.
Society of Catholic Scientists The science and religion dialogue seems to be dominated by Protestants, but Catholics are standing up and have their voices heard. This website has interesting video recordings of the Society’s conferences, which is a great resource.
Science and Belief The field of study called “science and religion” is really mostly theology, philosophy, and anthropology; it’s very different from science. But scientists of faith do have something to contribute to the dialogue. This is a blog by former biologist Ruth Bancewicz (now at the Faraday Institute), featuring more of the perspectives of scientists, such as wonders of nature. She also wrote a book God in the Lab, which is about how science enhances faith in practice. This is a helpful perspective, since the field science and religion is dominated by how science and religion interact in theory, though practice is central to both science and religion.
Thomas Jay Oord Theologian and philosopher who argues for process theology. I don’t mean that I embrace process theology (still need to do more research before I decide), but how God relates to the world is an important subfield within science and religion. Process theology and panentheism are towards the liberal end of a spectrum of models relating God and the world (the conservative end is classical theism); they’re considered unorthodox by some, but unorthodox perspectives can be very thought provoking.
Philip Clayton Theologian who supports panentheism, which is another model on how God relates to the world. Yeah, a way I find out more websites for science and religion is to google the authors of science and religion papers I read; if the author has a website, then it probably is a thought provoking resource.
Test of Faith Accessible course, book, and movie and associated resources on science and Christianity.
Islam & Science Interesting articles on Islam, science, and philosophy
Renovatio: The Journal of Zeytuna College Zeytuna college is the first Muslim liberal arts college in the US. The journal Renovatio explores big questions related to faith (not just Islam; some authors are Christian), philosophy, and modernity; some articles are about science and religion.
Kalam Research & Media Think tank dedicated to Islamic philosophy. The website has some interesting articles and monographs on science and religion. This organization has also published books (mainly in philosophy, but some issues are relevant to science and religion), but some of them are in Arabic.
Muslim Science Websites with news on science, technology, and science policy in the Islamic world. There’re more philosophical essays on science and religion (see Task Force on Islam and Science), though the website focuses on news.
Sinai and Synapses Interesting articles and videos on Judaism and science
The Institute for Science and Judaism Some interesting videos; they also have a blog, but it has not been updated since 2013.
The Big Questions in Science and Religion by Keith Ward (Oxford philosopher). This is a thought provoking survey of philosophical perspectives on hot button issues in science and religion.
Galileo Goes to Jail: And Other Myths about Science and Religion edited by Ronald Numbers. This book debunks common myths about science and religion, including, as the title suggests, that Galileo went to jail, by historical evidence. The myths debunked here include both those used to promote atheism and those used to promote Christianity.
Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think by Elaine Howard Ecklund (Rice sociologist). This book presents results of sociological research on religious beliefs of scientists in elite universities. It debunks some myths and stereotypes about scientists, such as that all scientists are atheists, and provides some suggestions on dialogue to foster understanding.
Religion vs. Science: What Religious People Really Think by Elaine Howard Ecklund. This is a more recent study by Dr. Ecklund involving an online survey and in depth interviews in places of worship. This book debunks myths and stereotypes about religious people in the US, such as that religious people are not interested in science.
The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss by David Bentley Hart (Eastern Orthodox theologian, University of Notre Dame fellow). There’s a wide variety of views on science and religion even within Christianity; I just listed resources on process theology and panentheism, and this one is on classical theism. This book aims to define the word “God” from the perspective of classical theism, and draws from mystical traditions from major religions around the world. It’s not intended to be about science and religion, but it does discuss many issues in science and religion, such as naturalism, how God relates to the world, consciousness, and relations between evolution and morality and aesthetics. God is so much beyond our feeble human minds that we can never give a comprehensive definition of God, but at least believers should have a better sense of what they believe in, and non-believers should have a better sense of what they don’t believe in; most theists don’t believe in the kind of god that Richard Dawkins doesn’t believe in anyway.
The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World by Paul Davis. While to be honest, I do not find the arguments in this book convincing, this book touches upon central issues in science and religion, such as natural law, multiverse, and how God relates to time. Thus I recommend this book as an introduction to science and religion.
Evolution, Games, and God: The Principle of Cooperation edited by Martin A. Nowak (Harvard biologist) and Sarah Coakley (Cambridge theologian). One of the burning questions in science and religion is whether the attempt to explain morality from evolution encroaches the traditional territory of religion. This book contains short introductory papers on the historical background of evolution and morality, math of game theory, 21st century work on evolutionary morality, and philosophy and theological views on this issue. Some of the papers discuss how what’s normative in ethics relates to evolution, and there is an account of the problem of natural evil (namely how can a good God create so much animal suffering in evolution?). The papers here are generally shorter than more in depth journal papers in science and religion, but I recommend this book as good starting points for book club discussions.
The Language of God by Francis Collins. This book is not very in depth or philosophical, but is a good and common place to get started. It describes Francis Collins’ journey from atheism to Christianity, and it easy to read.
Monopolizing Knowledge: A Scientist Refutes Religion-Denying, Reason-Destroying Scientism by Ian Hutchinson (MIT physicist). This book present reasons against scientism, a belief that science is the only valid path to knowledge.
Can a Scientist Believe in Miracles? by Ian Hutchinson. This book answers FAQs about science and Christianity, debunking the popular perception that faith can only be intellectually dishonest.
Islam’s Quantum Question: Reconciling Muslim Tradition and Modern Science by Nidhal Guessoum (American University of Sharjah astrophysicist). This book summarizes issues unique to relationships between Islam and science, such as Creationism in the Islamic world and development of various strands of “Islamic science” and why they are problematic.
Philosophy in the Islamic World by Peter Adamson. This is not about science and religion per se, but central issues in science and religion have already been discussed by philosophers before the advent of modern science. Issues discussed in this book are relationships between religion and reason (in both Islam and Judaism), natural theology, and some history of science, with precursors to ideas in the scientific revolution.
About the cover photo: Psalm 111:2 at the main entrance to the new location of the Cavendish Laboratory built in the 1970s. The original Cavendish Laboratory (from the 19th century) has the Latin version at the entrance, carved at the instigation of James Clark Maxwell.
See a paper on how American Muslims and Jews view science and religion: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0037768616664473 ↩︎