Network for the Social Scientific Study of Science and Religion

David Johnson

The Religion and Science in State Legislatures Study

State legislators dictate official boundaries between science and religion, legitimate the beliefs and identities of their constituents, and shape the cultural authority of scientific and religious institutions within states. Yet research has ignored this context where science, religion, politics, and power intersect. What are the implications of lawmakers’ religious beliefs and identities for their view of the science-faith interface and decisions they make about science policy? Drawing on a nationwide survey of state legislators and in-depth interviews, this project will examine how policymakers view the relationship between science and religion, how these views compare with scientists and the public, the implications of these views for legislators’ views of science policy, and religious and political dynamics that shape various science policies within stataes. The project is designed to generate a book, articles, and conference presentations that will help institutionalize the field of sociology of science and religion by building empirical and theoretical bridges to other fields within and beyond sociology. The results will contribute to moving the field beyond the familiar turf of lay citizens and scientists by examining legislators—a key group that wields considerable influence over concrete debates about science and religion. Indeed, one of the distinctive features of studying state legislators, compared to lay citizens, is that reconciling science and religion is not just an individual matter; it entails action with implications for group and state interests.