This project examines the extent to which understandings of textual hermeneutics – the ways in which religious believers read the Bible and the Qur’an – shape the relationship between science and religion. Our specific aim is to understand how Christian and Muslim scientists relate their scriptures and traditions to the scientific worlds in which they operate, and to explore the challenges that individuals and groups face in different contexts. We then explore how the narratives of science and those of religious texts can be brought into dialogue by suggesting new theoretical models, and developing and testing innovative, practical resources to this end.

The project focuses on Christianity and Islam, world religions that both attach great importance to their written Scriptures and historical traditions. The research draws in experts from different disciplines, including scientists, theologians and textual critics from both faith traditions. Ultimately, the project aims to enable people in the Christian and Islamic traditions, scientists and non-scientists alike, to explore creative ways in which their Scriptures can be related to some of the big questions in science.

The implementation of the project falls into three distinct parts: a literature survey, a fieldwork element and the development of key models and resources. Since the research is orientated towards providing constructive ways for scientists to relate their scientific knowledge to their religious Scriptures, the priorities for the first two parts of the implementation are to gather knowledge on the way science is or has been related to Scripture in Islam and Christianity and to gain an understanding of the questions and issues that scientists in each tradition face when they read their Scriptures and the ways that they attempt to resolve these.

The fieldwork will adopt a mixed-method approach comprising online surveys, group discussions and semi-structured individual interviews. A further priority in the fieldwork, particularly in the group discussions, will be to explore potential new and creative ways in which Scripture can be related to some of the big questions in science. Both group work and interviews will provide new insights that will, in turn, generate fresh theoretical models to facilitate fruitful engagement between scientists and Scriptures and to enable the production of high quality tools and resources for reading Scripture in the light of science. These resources will be developed and tested in collaboration with the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Divinity.