What is Science for Seminaries?
Science for Seminaries is a project of the AAAS Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER) program, in consultation with the Association of Theological Schools (ATS). The project helps a diverse group of seminaries integrate science into their core curricula.
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The value of this project, long recommended by AAAS advisers, stems from the fact that many people look to their religious leaders for guidance on issues relating to science and technology, even though clergy members may have had little exposure to science in their educational experience.
A joint survey conducted in 2013 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and sociologists at Rice University found that some Christians (particularly evangelicals) are more likely than other religious groups to consult a religious leader or fellow congregant if they have a scientific question. Science for Seminaries aims to equip religious leaders with a solid scientific foundation from which to answer such questions.
Phase I of the project was officially launched in 2013 with an invitation sent throughout the ATS network for seminaries to submit Letters of Interest for a potential pilot program. Twenty-eight enthusiastic LOIs arrived from throughout the United States and Canada, representing the breadth of the ATS ecclesial families (Mainline Protestant, Conservative Protestant, and Catholic/Orthodox) and revealing broad interest in this effort.
With expert review by an esteemed panel, ten seminaries were chosen to receive funding that covered faculty, campus-wide events on the relevance of science to theological education, science resources, guest speakers, and more.
Curricula with integrated science for at least two core theological courses (such as those in systematic theology, biblical studies, church history, and pastoral theology) were developed by each pilot school. Because science was integrated into core courses rather than sidelined in electives, the impact on each seminary was significant.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) provided additional science resources, including a series of short science education films appropriate for use in these courses. To support participating faculty, the project helped recruit local scientist advisors and faculty mentors with experience integrating science into seminary classes.
Science for Seminaries also organized conferences for Catholic, mainline Protestant, and conservative/evangelical Protestant seminaries to further the reach of the project by disseminating the resources and experience gained through its pilot programs. Science resources are archived here on the Science for Seminaries website.
Through strategic engagement with leaders in theological education and future religious leaders-in-training, Science for Seminaries saw such a positive impact on seminary education that a second phase of the project was launched in fall 2017.
This new iteration is designed to expand the reach of the original project by providing opportunities for additional seminaries to integrate science in their core curricula, leveraging the significant interest in the pilot project seen from nearly 40% of North American seminaries. Each year, approximately 8 schools will be awarded 18-month grants in the amount $75,000. More information about submitting an LOI can be found here.
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