The New Biology: Implications for Philosophy, Theology, and Education

Professor Michael J. Reiss
International Society for Science and Religion

Project Summary

The project addresses two problems relating to the new more systemic, organismal biology that is currently gaining ground: first, that its philosophical and theological implications have not yet been adequately explored; second, that it is not yet being adequately disseminated in either schools or the media. The first problem will be addressed through the conceptual research of an expert, interdisciplinary group of biologists, philosophers, and theologians. This will lead to an interdisciplinary book, a set of journal articles, and an ISSR conference. The second problem will be addressed by an empirical evaluation of innovative teaching, and by encouraging textbooks and programmes of work for school biology that reflect a more organismal approach.

For the empirical research, we will produce a psychometric questionnaire to measure perceived compatibility between science and religion, a module for school biology teaching and an RE module on biology and religion. These will all be available for general use. The educational research will test the hypothesis that most change in perceived compatibility between biology and religion is achieved by the combination of (i) more holistic biology teaching with (ii) RE teaching on biology and religion.

This educational research will lead to several journal articles. To achieve better dissemination to the general public there will be a seminar for journalists leading to a set of journalistic pieces popularizing the new, more systemic biology. We expect that our project will lead to a holistic approach being given more emphasis in school biology teaching. We also expect to make the academic world more aware of the philosophical and theological implications of the new biology, and to make the public more aware of a less reductionist approach to biology. In both cases, we hope to undermine the widespread idea that biology is incompatible with religious belief. In the long term we expect that this will lead to a wider dissemination of holistic biology, at least in the UK, and especially in schools. We also expect it to lead to more people concluding that there is no opposition between biology and religious belief, and to greater exploration of the potential for fruitful convergence between them.

Project Details

Project Duration

1 May 201528 February 2018

Core Funding Area

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Big Questions in Classrooms

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