Science and Religion Issues in Higher Education

  • Nidhal GuessoumEmail author


Recent cases of confusion of scientific knowledge and religious beliefs have rocked the Arab educational landscape, illustrating the need to address the relation between Science and Religion in the educational arena. Indeed, science professors are often faced with religion-infused questions raised by students in relation to the material that they teach (e.g. astronomy/cosmology, evolutionary biology). What is to be done then? Simply telling students that their beliefs are wrong (as in the case of creationism) or that religion-based ideas are not to be brought into the science classroom, is not a constructive and satisfactory educational approach. At the same time, allowing the confusion between science and religion that currently suffuses the Arab-Islamic cultural landscape to move into the classroom is dangerous and unacceptable.

In the first part of this essay, I describe the current situation and highlight the educational problems that arise from improperly relating science and religion. In the second part, I review a few pedagogical solutions that have been proposed to this problem: presenting Stephen J. Gould’s NOMA (Non-Overlapping Magisteria) view of science and religion to students; designing ‘bridge courses’, where topics at the intersection of science and religion (e.g. origins topics and ethics issues) are addressed in interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary ways; etc. I then suggest a “harmonization” approach that differs from the above approaches and which, I believe, helps resolve the tension between science and Religion both at the philosophical level and in the educational arena.


Higher education Science and Religion Pedagogy Non-Overlapping Magisteria 


  1. Aflalo E (2013) Religious belief: the main impact on the perception of the nature of science on student teachers. Cult Stud Sci Educ 8:623–641CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander PA, Fives H, Buehl MM, Mulhern J (2002) Teaching as persuasion. Teach Teach Educ 18:795–813CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Burton EK (2011) Evolution and creationism in middle eastern education. Evolution 65(1 (January 2011)):301–304CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Calderhead J (1996) Teachers: beliefs and knowledge. In: Berliner D, Calfee R (eds) Handbook of educational psychology. Macmillan, New York, pp 708–725Google Scholar
  5. Dajani R (2015) Why I teach evolution to Muslim students. Nature 520, 409 (23 Apr 2015); Evolution and Islam – Is there a contradiction? (Aug 9, 2015), Accessed 6 June 2017CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Guessoum N (2011) Islam’s quantum question: reconciling modern science and Muslim tradition. IB Tauris, LondonGoogle Scholar
  7. Guessoum N (2012) Issues and agendas of Islam and science. Zygon 47(2. (June 2012):367–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Honey PL (2015) Why I teach the controversy: using creationism to teach critical thinking. Front Psychol 793:1664–1078Google Scholar
  9. Kirk C (2014) Map: publicly funded schools that are allowed to teach creationism (Jan 26 2014): Accessed 4 June 2017
  10. Mansour N (2008) Religious beliefs: a hidden variable in the performance of science teachers in the classroom. Eur Edu Res J 7(Nb 4):557–576CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Mansour N (2011) Science teachers’ views of science and religion vs. the Islamic perspective: conflicting or compatible. Sci Educ 95(2):281–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Mimouni J (2015) Should religion be kept out of the science classroom. In: report of the task force on science at Universities of the Muslim World, pp 83–86: Accessed June 4, 2017
  13. Moore R (2008) Creationism in the biology classroom: what do teachers Teach & how do They Teach it. Am Biol Teach 70(2):79–84CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Peker D, Comert GG, Kence A (2010) Three decades of anti-evolution campaigns and its results: Turkish undergraduates’ acceptance and understanding of the biological evolution theory. Sci Educ 19:739–755CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Reiss M (2008) Should science educators deal with the science/religion issue? Stud Sci Educ 44:157–186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Reiss M (2009) Imagining the world: the significance of religious worldviews for science education. Sci Educ 18:783–796CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Roth W-M (2010) Science and religion in a high school physics class: revisiting the source materials of “the interaction of scientific and religious discourses”. Cult Stud Sci Educ 5:163–167CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Roth W-M, Alexander T (1997) The interaction of students’ scientific and religious discourses: two case studies. Int J Sci Educ 19:125–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Scott EC (2007) What’s wrong with the ‘Teach the Controversy’ slogan? McGill J Educ 42:307–315Google Scholar
  20. Shipman HL, Brickhouse NW, Dagher Z, Letts WJ IV (2002) Changes in student views of religion and science in a college astronomy course. Sci Edu 86(4):526–547CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Southerland SA, Scharmann LC (2013) Acknowledging the religious beliefs students bring into the science classroom: using the bounded nature of science. Theory Pract 52(1):59–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Stolberg T (2007) The Religio-scientific frameworks of pre-service primary teachers: an analysis of their influence on their teaching of science. Int J Sci Educ 29(7):909–930CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Taşkın Ö (2014) An exploratory examination of Islamic values in science education: Islamization of science teaching and learning via constructivism. Cult. Stud. of Sci. Educ. 9:855–875CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsAmerican University of SharjahSharjahUAE

Personalised recommendations