Welcome to the Perceptions Project website!

When it comes to public understanding of and support for science from the large and varied sector of religious communities, it is the perception of the role of science and of scientists themselves – e.g. their motives, expertise, and influence – that often carries the most weight. Likewise the perceptions of scientists toward religious communities greatly impact their effectiveness in science engagement.

The Perceptions Project used comprehensive new data from a nationwide survey conducted by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and sociologists at Rice University to increase understanding between scientific and religious communities. The project involved four religious groups—Catholics, Mainline Protestants, Jews and Evangelicals—but primarily focused on the Evangelical Christian community.

Evangelical Christians constitute as much as 30% of the U.S. population and their influence on public support and perceptions of science is considerable. When compared to other religious groups, Evangelicals have often been more wary of science as evidenced in popularized debates. However, the community is diverse and there is evidence to suggest that it is becoming more open to dialogue.

The Perceptions Project  held community-based workshops that brought together scientists and evangelical leaders to explore issues of mutual concern. These events served not only to increase positive understanding between these groups but acted as models from which other religious groups can develop activities for their own communities. Small group workshops were also held to bring the project’s data and experiences directly to Catholic, Mainline Protestant, and Jewish communities.

Uniquely informed by data, experience, and the resources it developed, the project reached beyond elite leaders to the heart of the religious communities, seeding a sea-change in the dialogue about science between scientific and religious groups, and through strategic dissemination of data, with the wider American public.

The project concluded with a national conference in Washington, DC, on March 13, 2015. This meeting of more than 200 people brought together scientific and religous leaders from a range of disciplines and organizations, along with more locally influential members of these communities. The purpose was to disseminate knowledge gained through project activities and plot a course for future engagement.

For more information about the genesis and goals of the Perceptions Project, read this detailed description from the winter 2013 issue of the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Professional Ethics Report.

The Perceptions Project is administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion program. It is primarily funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, with support from AAAS. The project launched in April 2012 and ends April 2015. It is a joint project of AAAS and Rice University, guided by an esteemed advisory committee in consultation with:

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