Can Scientists and Evangelical Leaders Work Together?

The Perceptions Project is bringing together two groups who rarely have a chance to meet.
Can Scientists and Evangelical Leaders Work Together?
Image: AAAS/Christine A. Scheller

In February, more than 7 million people tuned in to watch a debate between Bill Nye “the science guy” and Creation Museum founder Ken Ham. In September, more than 300,000 people—including representatives of evangelical faith groups—marched through the streets of New York City to bring attention to the dangers of climate change. In October, a Slate science writer asked if it should be worrisome that so many of the doctors treating Ebola in Africa are missionaries. The intersection of science and religion clearly has the power to capture the public’s attention, but collisions can happen at that intersection. Is there a way for scientific and religious communities to work together more productively?

Answering this question is a primary goal of the Perceptions Project, a three-year endeavor spearheaded by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) program of Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER). (AAAS is the largest general scientific membership society in the world and publisher of the Science family of journals. Its mission is to “advance science, engineering, and innovation for the benefit of all people.”)

Based on data gleaned from a nationwide survey and subsequent focus groups, the Perceptions Project brings together scientists and religious leaders (especially evangelicals) for conversation about how members of these influential communities view one another and how relations between them can be improved.

To date, more than 100 research scientists, pastors, denominational, and faith-based non-government agency leaders have met for up to two days of off-the-record conversation. These talks spanned three regional areas—Pasadena, Denver, ...

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