Elaine Ecklund: Do Science and Faith Need Each Other?

Elaine Howard Ecklund’s most recent book Why Science and Faith Need Each Other: Eight Shared Values That Move Us Beyond Fear. This is an excellent book that maps out how a cooperative exchange between faith and science could proceed. Could there be a way for the world to interact in a way that mutually benefits both? Maybe in the common ground of virtues, embodied in Scientist Christians, there could be a way.

Dr. Ecklund is a sociologist. She has been studying the relationship between science and religious communities for decades. She been interviewing and surveying scientists, pastors, parishioners, and students, both in the United States and internationally. She has interviewed so many people about about faith and science. This book brings new information to the conversation, and in this case it also brings great wisdom.

Don’t let the academic credentials dissuade you. Ecklund sees the world as does a sociologist. It is not impersonal ideas she is bringing together. She sees people in communities. This book is an easy read, full of relatable stories and engaging quotations. She exposes a real personal dimension to the exchange between faith and science, grounded in both her personal story, but also the stories of hundreds of people she has interviewed over the years.

In the first part of the book, in three chapters, Ecklund invites us to move beyond fear, to understanding. She rightly defines science a community, emphasizing that the church and science are overlapping communities. She also encourages us to move beyond the conflict of the orgins debate, to engage a larger and more engaging dialogue between the two worlds.

Ecklund suggests that virtues which might be a meeting ground, a place where an exchange could grow between the two communities, science and the church. The next four chapters explores virtues of process: curiosity, doubt, humility, and creativity. The final four chapters explore virtues of redemption: healing, awe, shalom, and gratitude. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my favorite chapter was on shalom, which is another word for peace.

I endorse the focus on virtues. I also see virtues as a key way to build a productive exchange between faith and science. Peaceful Science is oriented around eight virtues, virtues that are certainly motivated from my personal Christian faith, but are also resonant with the values of secular science.

The book caught me off guard. I notice that a good number of the quotations were from me, from an interview with her I had forgotten a few years ago. I saw a deep commonality of experience between us, her subjects. Several times, I thought a quotation was from me, only to discover that the chapter notes indicated the quotation was actually from another scientist. This speaks a common experience and perspective many of us in science have come too. Our voice comes through clearly in this book.

This book is for the Church and I hope it gets a wide audience. It is such an important book, it is going on my short list of highly recommended books.

Join Ecklund and I today for a conversation about this important book.

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