Faith and the Scientific Mind / Faith in the Scientific Mind

The Implicit Religion of Science in Contemporary Britain


  • Timothy Jenkins University of Cambridge



Faith, Scientific Mind


Consultation at St George’s House, Windsor Castle, 11-12 February 2008. “Social Values in a secular age: what sort of religion do they imply?” Modern sciences share a number of characteristics concerning the kind of knowledge they produce, the communities of scientists who produce such knowledge, and the relation of the motivation behind the research to the discoveries made. From the social scientific point of view, the interesting question is how the discoveries of science are recaptured by the categories of common sense, and put to work in moral descriptions of the world, mappings that are very selective regarding which characteristics of scientific practices they choose to notice. These “moral” employments of science fall under two broad heads. First, there are hybrids of various moral authorities—scientific and religious—that allow us to offer a description of the historical development of “non-standard” religious forms (Fundamentalisms, New Religious Movements, New Age…) in the last century. And second, there is a spectrum of literature, from Fantasy and Science Fiction to popular science, which plays on the same materials and issues, again in a strictly time- and context-bound fashion. This latter material (which includes, among others, Dawkins’ discussions of faith and science) may be said to represent an urban folklore, and is both diffuse and influential. The project of critical thinking is, then, less a matter of relating science and faith, and more a matter of comparing the relations of orthodox to popular faith with those of orthodox to popular science.

Author Biography

Timothy Jenkins, University of Cambridge

University of Cambridge


Bachelard, Gaston. 1938. La formation de l’esprit scientifique. J. Vrin, Paris.

Barrow, Logie. 1986. Independent Spirits: Spiritualism and English Plebians 1850–1910. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Dawkins, Richard. 2006. The God Delusion. London: Bantam.

Hess, David. 1992. Science and the New Age. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Jenkins, Timothy. 1999. “Secrets of the Spirit World.” In Religion in English Everyday Life: An Ethnographic Approach, edited by Timothy Jenkins, 221–237. New York/London: Berghahn.

Lash, Nicholas. 1996. The Beginning and the End of “Religion”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Leavis, Q.D. 1968 [1932]. Fiction and the Reading Public. London: Chatto and Windus

Shippey, Thomas. 1982. The Road to Middle Earth. London: Allen and Unwin.

———. 2000. J.R.R. Tolkein: author of the Century. London: Harper Collins.

Snow, C.P. 2000. The Two Cultures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



How to Cite

Jenkins, T. (2010). Faith and the Scientific Mind / Faith in the Scientific Mind: The Implicit Religion of Science in Contemporary Britain. Implicit Religion, 12(3), 303–311.