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Perceptions and Misperceptions: A Starting Point for Dialogue

Jennifer Wiseman

Welcome to the DoSER Director’s Corner! Here Jennifer Wiseman will share her reflections on public dialogue at the interface of science, ethics, and religion and how DoSER is working to support constructive exchange and understanding between these communities. This is also an opportunity to explore positive and productive ideas; we welcome your thoughts.

Perceptions and Misperceptions: A Starting Point for Dialogue

Dear DoSER Friends,

Happy Holidays! It’s been an exciting year for DoSER. Interest in the constructive interface between science and societal values has never been higher, as can be seen everywhere from popular books to internet blogs, science policy committees to classrooms, and political networks to religious congregations.

AAAS continues to encourage and develop this interest as part of its commitment to ensure that the benefits of science may be enjoyed and appreciated by all. At this summer’s intriguing DoSER panel discussion on “Re-Envisioning the Science and Religion Dialogue,” three top scientists and a leading pastor discussed their ideas for improving understanding and engagement between the scientific and religious communities. A focus of the discussion was the fact that the relationship between science and religion is colored by the misperceptions that each community can sometimes have towards the other. For example, far from the simplistic projections of media extremes, religious communities are not all anti-science or uninformed, and scientists themselves span a wide range of religious and philosophical perspectives. One of panel’s top recommendations was that these communities interact more directly in order to increase understanding of each other’s beliefs, concerns, and values.

Building upon this, we are excited to welcome Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund to speak at our special DoSER event December 15th, where she will discuss her recent in-depth study of the religious beliefs of 1700 scientists from top universities, yielding some very interesting and even unexpected findings about both the beliefs and culture of scientists. To help put these results in the perspective of public dialogue, NPR Religion Correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty will provide reflections on Dr. Ecklund’s study in relation to public perceptions. Please join us for this special event! We plan to post a video of the event later on our site as well.

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