The methodology of the science-religion dialogue as an academic subject is endlessly debated and disagreed over. It came up in a very enjoyable lunch yesterday with John Henry and John Evans, the sociologist from the University of California San Diego, who has interests in the science-religion discourse (among others). We had an extensive discussion on creationism and all kinds of Christian fundamentalism, features of Christianity which are very live on the public scene in California, but practically “underground” or invisible in the UK in comparison to the US. We noted that, while science and religion as an academic subject in the UK has tended to focus on theological and philosophical debates – and has been dominated by Richard Dawkins and New Atheism over the last decade – in the US science and religion often turns out to be a more practical subject, dominated by political issues such as education and bioethics (the US anti-abortion lobby being an excellent case in point).
When we get to methodology in our Edinburgh classes in science-religion, I try to emphasise that there is really no such thing as “science and religion”, but rather “sciences and religions”. Thanks to our lunchtime discussion yesterday, I realised that I really shouldn’t ignore the fact that the science-religion discourse is also driven by public and social agendas that the usual theological/philosophical angles don’t sufficiently take into account. “Science and Religion” might be more appropriately named (this is getting very cumbersome now) “Sciences and Religions and Politics”.