Balancing Perspectives

Science and Religion Research and Teaching within the Member Institutions of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, 2011–2013

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Balancing Perspectives: Executive Summary
Balancing Perspectives: Full Report

The relationship between science and religion has profound cultural, religious, and academic significance, yet discussion of that relationship is frequently marked by debates notable more for fiery rhetoric and invective than for scholarship and balanced argument. Inaccurate master narratives, such as those concerning Galileo or the Huxley-Wilberforce debate, disfigure the history of science; and myths, such as the nineteenth-century romanticized history by Washington Irving claiming that the church, until the discovery of Columbus, believed in a flat earth, or Draper’s and White’s ‘conflict thesis’ which posits that science and religion are irrevocably opposed, persist. The popular press still cites Galileo’s trial as a simple suppression of science, despite numerous scholarly studies refuting this. Good scholarship needs to be identified, fostered, and applied to each issue in the relationship between science and religion, and its results need to be widely disseminated. Indeed, a new vision of the issues and new interdisciplinary skills are needed to advance the dialogue in science and religion.

Christian colleges and universities in the USA hold great potential for cultivating such interdisciplinary skills and casting a new vision for the intersection of science and religion. Dedicated to uniting serious scholarship, effective pedagogy, and a vital and authentic faith, these institutions are inherent motivated to contribute to the science and religion dialogue. As well as shaping the educational development and world-views of their students, Christian colleges influence American evangelicalism more broadly by training current and future leaders of educational, ecclesial, and parachurch organizations, and by producing scholarship in science and religion to put at the service of American evangelicals (and others). However, in spite of this potential for positive change, little is known about the preparedness of Christian college administrators and faculty to address science and religion issues.

The member institutions of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU) form an influential population within Christian higher education in the USA, yet very little is known about research and teaching in science and religion in CCCU institutions. Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, this study supplies this information.

The study addresses four questions:

  1. What is the content of undergraduate courses in science and religion, and what pedagogies do faculty members use to deliver that content?
  2. Do the faculty who teach in science and religion departments at CCCU institutions possess sufficient interdisciplinary training successfully to navigate ‘boundary issues’ that lie between science and religion?
  3. What campus factors support or encourage (or inhibit and truncate) campus dialogue in science and religion?
  4. How do faculty in the disciplines of science and religion balance the founding commitments of their sectarian institutions with their professional commitment to free enquiry?

Staff

Principal Investigator and Project Director:

  • Stanley P. Rosenberg, Ph.D., Director of SCIO; Faculty member of Wycliffe Hall and Faculty of Theology and Religion, Oxford

Principal Investigators:

  • Michael Burdett, DPhil (Oxon), Postdoctoral Fellow in Religion, Science, and Technology, Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, SCIO and University of St Andrews
  • P. Jesse Rine, PhD, former Director of Research & Grants Initiatives, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, Washington, D.C. (USA)
  • John Roche, DPhil (Oxon), Lecturer in History of Science, SCIO and Faculty of History, Oxford
  • Kenneth E. Bussema, EdD, former Vice President for Student Programs, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, Washington, D.C. (USA)
  • Ronald P. Mahurin, PhD, former Vice President for Professional Development & Research, Council for Christian Colleges & Universities, Washington, D.C. (USA)