Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think
Elaine Howard Ecklund
Oxford University Press, 2010
240 pp., $33.95
Amy Reynolds and Catherine H. Crouch
The shortage of models for engagement revealed in Ecklund's work extends from the classroom to disciplinary scholarship itself—which is no surprise, given how few of Ecklund's respondents see religious faith as legitimately informing scholarly thinking. If religious scientists are to make a compelling case to nonscientists—especially students and non-academics—that their work can be fundamentally in harmony with faith, they will have to demonstrate thoughtfulness about how their faith appropriately shapes their work, and how academic work can be a worthwhile enterprise within the values of religious traditions.
We agree that dispelling myths is an important step towards a more productive relationship between religious and scientific communities; Ecklund's pioneering work offers critically important information toward dispelling those myths. However, when it comes to addressing issues of religious voices within colleges and universities—where her data and our experiences suggest some of the most significant and complex conflicts occur—there are fewer easy answers, and fewer examples of success, than her concluding chapter might suggest. As secular and religious scientists seek to more accurately understand the natural world and human society, both will be able to better serve students and conduct more honest research if such dialogue occurs. We hope to see Ecklund and other scholars pursue these questions in the future.
Amy Reynolds is assistant professor of sociology at Wheaton College. Catherine H. Crouch is associate professor of physics at Swarthmore College.
1. Here John Schmalzbauer's People of Faith (Cornell Univ. Press, 2003) would be a helpful resource; he profiles scholars actively and publicly engaged in asking how their religious worldviews shape their scientific endeavors (albeit, often at religious or less élite institutions).
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