Fern Elsdon-Baker

Colleges, School and Institutes


I am currently Professor of Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society at the University of Birmingham and I lead the Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society Research Group within the Department of Theology and Religion.

Before moving to the University of Birmingham, I was the Director of the Centre for Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society at Newman University, one of the few research centres globally whose core focus was the study of science and religion across sociology, social psychology, religious studies, historical, philosophical and science studies perspectives. Prior to that I was deputy Director of the Centre for Social Relations at Coventry University.

I briefly left academia from 2008 – 2012 to work for the British Council on large-scale science and religion related projects. In the first instance I worked as Head of the Darwin Now Project. Darwin Now was a multi-million-pound global initiative running in 50 countries worldwide, which celebrated the life and work of Charles Darwin, as part of the international celebrations of the Darwin anniversaries in 2009. Subsequently, I went on to become Director of the British Councils Belief in Dialogue Programme – a multi-regional portfolio of inter-cultural and interfaith dialogue projects.

My earlier doctoral/postdoctoral research focused on theories of inheritance, science communication and its relationship to scientific knowledge production from the 1800s to present. In 2009 I published a book based on aspects of this research: Selfish Genius: How Richard Dawkins Rewrote Darwin’s Legacy.

I am currently serving on the general committee for the British Science Association.

Research interests

I am transdisciplinary researcher whose work is predominantly philosophical, historical, sociological and psychological in approach. My research focuses on: public perceptions of the relationship between science and religion; the perception and communication of science in pluralistic societies; the role of 'science', non-religion and/or beliefs as identity markers, in public space 'conflict narratives', or prejudice formation; and the perceptions of evolutionary theory within religious, non-religious and spiritual groups; and theories of inheritance from 1800 to the present.

I am also the principal Investigator on the ‘Science and Religion Exploring the Spectrum: The Relationship between Evolutionary Science and Religious Belief in Global Perspective’ (SRES2), a £3.4 Million 3-year research project working with partners in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, Sri Lanka, the UK and the US.

Previously I was Project Director on the 3 -year 'Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum' (SRES 1) project, which undertook Sociological, psychological and historical research in the UK and Canada into religious, non-religious and spiritual publics perceptions of evolutionary science.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

I am happy to supervise students on any aspects of the following areas:

Science, Religion and Belief in Society or Culture
Science Communication and Public Engagement
Public Perceptions of Science
Public perceptions of Religion, Spirituality or Non-Religion
Non-Religion and Atheism in Society
History and Communication of Darwinism/Evolutionary Science
Intercultural or Cross-Cultural dialogue.