In Defense of Publics: Projection, Bias, and Cultural Narratives in Science and Religion Debates

Fern Elsdon-Baker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


John H. Evans's recent book Morals Not Knowledge is a timely argument to recognize broader social and cultural factors that might impact what U.S. religious publics think about the relationship between science and religion and their attitudes toward science and/or religion. While Evans's focus is primarily on what can be classed as moral issues, this response argues that there are other factors that sit within neither the older epistemic conflict model approach nor a moral conflict model approach that also merit further investigation. There is a significant need for further research that examines the social, psychological, (geo)political, and broader cultural factors shaping people's social identities in relation to science and religion debates. When undertaking such research, we need to be wary of creating a binary between scholarly and public space discourse. Social scientific research in this field should be led by public perceptions, attitudes, and views, not by concepts or frameworks that we project onto them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)618-633
Number of pages16
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This paper draws on research undertaken as part of the “Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum” project on which the author was the lead principal investigator. This project ran from February 2015 to December 2018 and was generously funded by the Templeton Religion Trust. I would like to thank my colleagues Prof. Bernie Lightman, Dr. Carola Leicht, Dr. Rebecca Catto, Dr. Stephen Jones, Dr. Carissa Sharp, and Dr. Alex Hall for their roles in relevant data collection and comments on drafts.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the Joint Publication Board of Zygon


  • evolutionary science
  • public perceptions of science
  • science and religion in society

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Religious studies


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