The Network for the Social Scientific Study of Science and Religion (N4SR) was established in 2011 to promote empirical research on the relationship between science and religion. While historians, theologians and philosophers have done impressive work on this topic, we believe that social science, with its distinctive theoretical frameworks and methodological tools, has much to add to this important area of inquiry. We do not begin with any transcendent epistemological assumptions— as in theology, for example— but rely on empirical observation and reasoned induction and deduction when making claims about the social world. Our research proceeds with what we believe to be the empirical consensus— that religion and science are not inherently or in all instances in conflict in the social world. We explore the conditions under which science and religion are in varying degrees of concord or conflict.
In addition, while not denying that beliefs influence action, we insist that actions are shaped by a variety of social and environmental factors. Finally, we tend to focus on the contemporary relationship between religion and science, enabling the use of ethnography, in-depth interviews, discourse analysis, statistical analysis of social surveys, and other social scientific methods that generate deep insights, permit comparative analyses, and in some cases suggest causal relationships. In these ways, social science contributes to a more comprehensive account of actions and attitudes related to the relationship between science and religion.
Inasmuch as religion and science remain two of the most dominant lenses through which people view the world, our topic is vital. Given the importance of this domain of inquiry, the objectives of the N4SR are as follows:
- Promote rigorous social scientific exploration of the social relationship between science and religion.
- Enhance the quality and visibility of research in this area.
- Advance research-based contributions to policy advisors contemplating problems associated with the science-religion interface.
- Support social science scholars who study science and religion by providing recent research, news, and other relevant professional resources.