Recently the scholarly community and popular media have highlighted the denial of science by conservative Christians, linking a low view of scientific expertise to the United States' current cultural turmoil. Various theories are offered to explain such Christians' persistent denialism: cognitive mechanisms that short-circuit human reasoning, manipulation by media companies for profit, or a cult-like willingness of believers to accept whatever their faith leaders assert. Critics contend that the religious impulse to believe blindly without evidence is the main obstacle to a more just and sustainable world.
Redeeming Expertise: Scientific Trust and the Future of the Church argues against this diagnosis, suggesting that however misguided individual conclusions about science may be, most Christians reason their way to those conclusions in the same way that non-Christians do: they rely upon trusted sources of information to guide them through an overwhelmingly expansive information landscape. Rather than heaping derision on the uneducated or unenlightened believer, Josh Reeves offers a sympathetic account of the average Christian in the pew and explains the reasons why skepticism toward mainstream science is compelling to many conservative Christians. The second part of the book then proposes a uniquely Christian defense of taking scientific expertise "seriously." Trusting experts plays an important role in a healthy intellectual life, and believers must learn how to make discerning choices.
Redeeming Expertise presents a middle-ground that avoids the extremes of allowing "experts to rule" or of foregrounding populist positions that champion the intellectual superiority of laypersons. Christians who dismiss what communities of experts have discovered about our universe do so at their own peril. Unless the church can trust the best knowledge of the modern world, that same modern world will not trust the church.
Josh A. Reeves is Assistant Professor of Science and Religion and Director of the Samford Center for Science and Religion at Samford University.
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