Popes, papers & publics: media representations and public perceptions of Catholicism and evolution in England

Riley, James ORCID: 0000-0002-3585-7544 (2019). Popes, papers & publics: media representations and public perceptions of Catholicism and evolution in England. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The majority of social studies of science and religion have been conducted in the USA, and tend to focus on perceived ‘problematic groups’ such as Evangelical creationists, potentially skewing our perception of how science and religion may relate in other societies. Furthermore, Catholicism is a religion held in a paradoxical position, with scholarly discourse not deeming it a ‘problematic group’ regarding evolution, yet the Church is often represented as particularly anti-science in public discourse. Accordingly, this thesis aims to empirically investigate the relationship between Catholicism and evolution in England. It achieves this in two ways. Firstly, through an ethnographic content analysis of public discourse, exploring how large-circulation English newspapers have represented recent papal statements on evolution by John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis (1996-2017). I find some contradictory media interpretations of popes’ statements on evolution, highlighting the contingent nature of representations of science and religion in public discourse. Secondly, through analysing public attitudes, via a thematic analysis of 31 semi-structured interviews with Catholics in England. While the majority had ‘no problem’ with evolution, 5 expressed opposition to evolution, this however was not based on Biblical literalism. The implications are discussed, particularly regarding the use of evolution-related survey measures.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Theology and Religion
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/9771


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