Challenging stereotypes of ‘Science’ and ‘Belief’: STEM as cultural identity in a pluralist world?

Dr. Fern Elsdon Baker, Newman University

Monday, October 24, 2016

5:15pm - 6:15pm



We have become accustomed to representations of ‘science’ as episodically being in a state of conflict with faith based worldviews. However, surprisingly very little research has been done to actually examine what public perceptions are about the relationship between these purportedly clashing world views. Moreover, very little research has been conducted into public perceptions of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) across cultures, or within diaspora or diverse communities. Therefore, there is a significant lack of understanding of how different cultures, faith groups or communities might perceive or engage with STEM.

This seminar will explore the perceptions or prejudices that may affect individuals or institutions when approaching research, policy decision-making, STEM communication or delivery of services. These may manifest as implicit biases we hold towards certain groups, faiths or communities when thinking about science and medicine in relation to religious or more specifically non-Christian faith perspectives. Dr Elsdon-Baker will draw on research currently being conducted to reflect on a few of the issues arising in relation to science and religion across diverse contexts and science within Muslim societies.


About the Speaker

Dr. Fern Elsdon Baker, Newman University

Principal Investigator, Project Director: Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum


Having originally trained in environmental sciences, Fern’s PhD was in the history and philosophy of evolutionary science. This and her subsequent research focused on theories of inheritance, science communication and its relationship to scientific knowledge production from the 1800's to present. In 2009 she published a book based on aspects of this research: Selfish Genius: How Richard Dawkins Rewrote Darwin’s Legacy.

She briefly left academia from 2008 – 2012 to work for the British Council on large-scale science and religion related projects. In the first instance she worked as Head of the Darwin Now Project. Darwin Now was a multi-million pound global initiative running in 50 countries worldwide, which celebrated the life and work of Charles Darwin, as part of the international celebrations of the Darwin anniversaries in 2009. Subsequently, she directed the British Councils Belief in Dialogue Programme – a multi-regional portfolio of inter-cultural and interfaith dialogue projects. 

She is now based at Newman University as Principal Investigator of ‘Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum’, a major interdisciplinary research project incorporating a large-scale survey of public perceptions, attitudes and identity formation on the relationship between ‘science’ and ‘religion’ across all faiths and none.  For more information, visit


Keywords: History and philosophy of evolution; Darwin; inheritance; science communication; public perceptions of science


David Sloan Wilson, Director

Susan Ryan, EvoS Coordinator


Last Updated: 2/7/17