Playing God: Exploring the Intersections between Science, Religion and Entertainment Media

31 May – 1 June 2014
Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester

This workshop will bring together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to explore the important but under-researched area of entertainment media and its relationship to both science and religion. Research on public attitudes toward science has revealed that an individual’s personal values and belief system are crucial factors in determining how they respond to new developments in science, technology and medicine. Few cultural institutions have more influence on personal values and belief systems than religion, and few cultural products have as much impact on public perceptions of science as entertainment media texts. We aim to provide insights into these major cultural spheres by examining how science and the science/religion interface have been utilized, negotiated, and transformed in entertainment texts and how religious groups have influenced, responded to, or appropriated these texts.

The workshop is organized by the University of Manchester’s Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine with funding provided by the Wellcome Trust.

Workshop Programme:

Panel I: Cosmology

Willem Drees (Leiden University) “Using Science to Evoke a Religious Response: The Journey of the Universe as an Ecological Example”
Roger Launius (National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution) “The Battle over Cosmology in Recent America: Intelligent Designers, Science Communicators, and the Home Schooling Movement”
Jon Turney (Independent Scholar) “Religion and Science, or Religion in Science”

Panel II: Media Cultures

Joachim Allgaier (Independent Scholar) “Popular Culture as a Battleground? Science and Religion in Online Music Videos”
Marion Esch (Technische Universität Berlin) “Religion and Science in TV Drama and Serials in Germany”
Allan Jones (Open University) “Truth to the Public”

Panel III: Dystopian Futures

Amy Chambers (University of Manchester) “The Evolution of the Planet of the Apes: Science, Religion, and Society”
Joan Haran (Cardiff University) “Supplanting the Crossed Out God with the Immanent Goddess in Science and Entertainment”
Alexander Ornella (University of Hull) “‘I Saw a New Heaven and a New Earth’: On the Entanglement of Transhumanism, Religion, and SciFi Culture”

Panel IV: Praising Science on the Screen

Tim Boon (Science Museum London) “The Go-Betweens: Mediators in Science TV Documentary: A Priestly Mode?”
Ray Macauley (University of Manchester) “Lights, Camera, Miracle: the Aesthetics of Wonder and Religious Science in the Film Series Sermons from Science”
Felicity Mellor (Imperial College London) “Appropriating Religion for Science in Brian Cox’s Wonders”

Panel V: Body and Soul

Susan Lederer (University of Wisconsin-Madison) “Their Eyes Were Watching
God: Cornea Transplants in Popular America Media”
Katy Price (Queen Mary University London) “Precognitive Dreams and Entertainment Media in Twentieth-century Britain”
Andrew Crome (University of Manchester) “‘You believing. I never expected that to happen’: Divergent Reactions to ‘Superstition’ in Doctor Who, Left Behind, and My Little Pony Fandom”
David Kirby (University of Manchester) “Science, Movie Censorship and the Sanctity of the Soul on the Silver Screen”

Roundtable Discussion led by Susan Gaines (University of Bremen)

Plenary Session
Paul Sapin, Television documentary producer/director
Michael Waterhouse, Television documentary producer/director

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