Coming together on science, technology and the Christian faith

Welcome to the Ecumenical Roundtable!

Welcome to the Ecumenical Roundtable!

Currently comprised of four of the “Main Line” Protestant denominations in the Christian tradition, the “Ecumenical Roundtable” for Science, Technology and the Church is an informally organized, but substantially interconnected, group of “working groups” on issues regarding science, technology and the Christian faith.

The four denominations of the Ecumenical Roundtable represent 9.6 million members of the Christian Faith. For more than 20 years the Roundtable has, among other things, helped scientists and technicians to understand  their work is a sacred calling which should not be mischaracterized or demonized and to help church members to become more  conversant in the languages of both religion and science.

The four denominational working groups currently in the Ecumenical Roundtable are:

  • The Episcopal Church Network for Science, Technology and Faith
  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology
  • The Presbyterian Association for Science, Technology and the Christian Faith
  • The United Church of Christ Science and Technology Network

Are Science and Religion incompatible?

The popular press often characterizes the relationship between religion and science as hostile;   it is to be remembered that the press’ main focus  is on novelty (“man bits dog”) and controversy  (“if it bleeds, it leads.”). Although the house arrest of Galileo by the church five hundred years ago makes good press, the relationship between science and religion can take a number of forms – from direct opposition to benign neglect to assimilation to fruitful cooperation.

1) Opposition

When it comes to Science and Religion, many people think of them as mutually exclusive. You can believe in one or the other but not both. When asked  by Napoleon why his writings did not mention the Creator, the great scientist, Pierre-Simon Laplace is said to have remarked, “I have no need for that hypothesis.” [What he actually said was more nuanced]. As science has pushed into realms formerly the domain of religion, God was relegated to the “gaps” not available to scientific study. Likewise many religious people, though the beneficiaries of scientific research refuse to believe well established scientific theories, confusing the concept of theory with that of opinion.

2) Non-overlapping Magisteria (NOMA)

The noted paleontologist, Stephen Jay Gould, viewed both science and religion as legitimate magisteria, that is, “domain(s) of teaching authority,” that lie close to each other but do not overlap, essentially, two domains that treat each other with benign neglect.

3) Assimilation

Assimilationists try to assimilate Science into Religion or vice-versa. These efforts include “creation science” or “intelligent design,” which tries to integrate science into religion or materialists who believe that philosophy and religion will be taken over by science.

4) Fruitful Cooperation

Scientists Alister McGrath and Francis Collins have proposed “partially overlapping magisteria” (POMA), “reflecting a realization that science and religion offer possibilities of cross-fertilization on account of the interpenetration of their subjects and methods.”

For more information about programs of the Roundtable, please see our “About” page.

Photo credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team; public domain.