AAAS President

Grants awarded by American Association for the Advancement of Science will provide seminaries with better knowledge on science.

If you had a question about science, who would you consult for information? A study released in February found that Evangelical Protestants are more than twice as likely as the general population to consult a religious text, religious leader, or others in their religious congregation with science questions. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, who underwrote the study, has also come up with a plan to help equip some of those religious sources with better science knowledge.

The AAAS Department of Science, Ethics and Religion announced last week that it had awarded grants to ten Christian seminaries to incorporate science into their curriculum requirements. Selected schools will receive support to add science content to at least two core courses within the next two years. Potential courses to receive the new material include systematic theology, church history, biblical studies, and more.

In addition to augmenting core curriculum, schools will use grant money for campus-wide events, guest speakers, hiring of new faculty, and acquisition of science resources. The AAAS will also help connect the schools with science-advisers from other local educational institutions.

The Department of Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER) will provide resources such as a series of short science videos. Once the pilot program, called Science for Seminaries, is running, DoSER will implement conferences available to other Mainline, Evangelical, and Catholic seminaries to share the experience and resources gathered. Archived online resources will also be made available to other schools to use for supplementing their own curricula with science.

The ten seminaries chosen come from a pool of 28 schools in the Association of Theological Schools who responded to a 2013 invitation for applicants for pilot programs. This program received the most interest, which the AAAS felt demonstrates the need for greater science presence in religious education. Both the ATS and the chosen schools represent a range of theological perspectives, including Evangelical Protestant but also Mainline Protestant, Charismatic/Pentecostal, and Catholic.

Funding for the $1.5 million in awards came from the John Templeton Foundation, which dedicates the largest portion of its resources to work that studies the interaction between science and the big questions of humankind’s place in the universe.

Another question in the study asked whether the relationship between science and religion was perceived as one of conflict, collaboration, or independence. Nearly half of Evangelical Protestants surveyed felt this relationship is one of collaboration, in which each can be used to support the other. Through this pilot program and the dissemination of its resultant information, it is hoped this statistic will grow to indicate a greater sense of collaboration between the two, especially among religious leaders.

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