Science and Religion in French-speaking Africa
September 1, 2014 - August 31, 2017
Core Funding Area:
Director: Rev. Prof. Bernard van den TorenInstitution: Protestant Theological University
The aim of this project is to help Christian academics and students in French-speaking sub-Saharan Africa develop a constructive relationship between science and religion. This part of Africa is a unique melting-pot of at least three different cultural traditions: (1) a strong traditional African undercurrent with a great openness to the 'supernatural'; (2) the French Enlightenment tradition characterized by a specific understanding of 'laïcité' or secularity of the academy; (3) a history of Christian mission with strong participation by missions from conservative and sometimes fundamentalist denominations, often from North-America.
This project is developed along two different but closely interrelated axes. Along one axis, it uses social science tools to explore the main discourses on the relationship between science and religion in three different university contexts in French- speaking Africa (Yaoundé, Abidjan and Kinshasa). The material collected by this field research is analyzed from a philosophical-theological angle, to understand the background and the nodes of the dominant perceptions of the relationship between science and religion in the different Christian communities. Based on this analysis, alternative approaches will be proposed to come to a more constructive relationship between the African cultural heritage, science, and Christian faith. These alternatives will also challenge dominant Western approaches to the relationship between science and religion.
Along a second axis, the program intends to pilot and develop a conference and course program. These conferences will provide one of the sources for exploring how the tensions mentioned above play out on the ground. They will be a channel to test and share the insights of the research project with a crucial segment of its target audiences.
This project will, on the one hand, produce results for a specialist academic audience (an academic conference, a monograph, and academic articles) and, on the other, for a wider audience of students and academics with an interest in the interface between science and religion (conferences, a website and course material). This project will present both scholars and opinion leaders in the academy and beyond it with new models for engaging in a constructive dialogue between science and religion.
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