Science Education and Religion in America in the 21st Century: Holding the Center

by Jon D. Miller, John A. Hannah Professor of Integrative Studies at Michigan State University & Robert T. Pennock, Professor of Philosophy of Science at Michigan State University in Lyman Briggs College, the Departments of Philosophy, Computer Science and Engineering, and the Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior program

For most of the 19th and 20th centuries, there has been an uneasy truce between science and religion in the United States. During the 60 years since the end of the Second World War, the United States has been viewed as the most scientific nation on the planet. American universities and laboratories have developed an extraordinary array of technologies, and are responsible for a substantial portion of our modern scientific understanding of nature. More Americans have been early adopters of new technologies—from automobiles and airplanes to antibiotics and new medical technologies—than adults in any other country. Nine out of ten Americans think that science and technology have made their lives “healthier, easier, and more comfortable.” And yet, on particular issues such as evolution and stem cell research, there has been active political resistance to scientific advancement from at least some religious quarters. Such religious opposition has led to a low-level but ongoing struggle over the content of science education.

Science Education and Religion in America in the 21st Century: Holding the Center

Secularism and Science in the 21st Century

by Ariela Keysar, Associate Research Professor of Public Policy and Law and the Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC) at Trinity College, Hartford & Barry A. Kosmin, Founding Director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture and Research Professor, Public Policy and Law Program at Trinity College, Hartford

As this book went to press in early 2008, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board was weighing a request by a Bible-based creationist institute to offer online master’s degrees in science education. The Institute for Creation Research aims to challenge the standard teachings of evolution and (according to its website) “equip current and future Christian leaders with practical tools to effectively influence their world with the truths of Scripture.” Its goal is to staff classrooms with science teachers sympathetic to religious fundamentalism, educators who believe in the Biblical account of the world’s creation. This is an open challenge to the normative model of Western science, which is based on the secular principles of free inquiry and empiricism.

Introduction: Secularism and Science in the 21st Century