Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • Cleve Tinsley (a1), Pamela J. Prickett (a2) and Elaine Howard Ecklund (a3)


We ask how Black Protestants frame the connection between religion and science, analyzing fifty in-depth interviews with Black Protestants of different socioeconomic backgrounds who attend churches in two U.S. cities. Although individuals across the sample observe some tension, or incompatibility, between religion and science, Black Protestants from lower socioeconomic backgrounds tended to perceive much more tension when compared with those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. However, when science is thought to contribute to improving health conditions (e.g., medical improvements to diagnose or prevent birth defects), individuals from both SES backgrounds framed religion and science as compatible. This lack of tension in regards to medicine challenges prevailing wisdom about lower-income African Americans’ attitudes towards medicine. We draw out the implications of these findings for larger discussions about trust toward science and scientific communities, elucidating Black Protestant particularities and perspectives in tensions between science and religion as a foundation for further research.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Cleve Tinsley IV, Department of Religion, Rice University, 6100 Main Street - MS 15, Houston, TX 77005-1892. E-mail:


Hide All
Barbour, Ian G. (1990). Religion in an Age of Science: The Gifford Lectures, 1989–1991, Volume 1. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
Beasley, Samuel T., Miller, I. S. Keino, and Cokley, Kevin O. (2015). Exploring the Impact of Increasing the Number of Black Men in Professional Psychology. Journal of Black Studies, 46(7): 704722.
Billingsley, Andrew (1999). Mighty Like a River: The Black Church and Social Reform. New York: Oxford University Press.
Boulware, L. Ebony, Cooper, Lisa A., Ratner, Lloyd E., LaVeist, Thomas A., and Powe, Neil R. (2003). Race and Trust in the Health Care System. Public Health Reports, 118(4): 358365.
Caldwell, Cleopatra. H., Chatters, Linda M., Billingsley, Andrew, and Taylor, Robert J. (1995). Church-Based Support Programs for Elderly Black Adults: Congregational and Clergy Characteristics. In Kimble, Melvin A., McFadden, Susan H., Ello, James W., and Seeber, James J. (Eds.), Aging, Spirituality, and Religion: A Handbook, pp. 306324. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Christerson, B., Edwards, Korie L., and Emerson, Michael O (2005). Against All Odds: The Struggle for Racial Integration in Religious Organizations. New York: New York University Press.
Corbie-Smith, Giselle (1999). The Continuing Legacy of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study: Considerations for Clinical Investigation. American Journal of the Medical Sciences, 317(1): 58.
Ecklund, Elaine Howard (2010). Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think. New York: Oxford University Press.
Ecklund, Elaine Howard, and Scheitle, Christopher P. (2017). Religion vs. Science: What Religious People Really Think. New York: Oxford University Press.
Edwards, Korie L. (2009). Race, Religion, and Worship: Are African American Worship Practices Distinct? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 48: 3052.
Ellison, Christopher G., and Musick, Marc A. (1995). Conservative Protestantism and Public Opinion towards Science. Review of Religious Research, 36(3): 245262.
Emerson, Michael O., and Smith, Christian (2000). Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. New York: Oxford University Press.
Evans, John H. (2002). Playing God? Human Genetic Engineering and the Rationalization of Public Bioethical Debate. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Evans, John H. (2011). Epistemological and Moral Conflict between Religion and Science. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 50: 707727.
Evans, John H. (2013). The Growing Social and Moral Conflict between Conservative Protestantism and Science. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 52: 368385.
Gamble, Vanessa N. (1999). Race and the New Genetics: A Historical Perspective. In Hager, M. (Ed.), The Implications of Genetics for Health Professionals, pp. 163185. New York: Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.
Gauchat, Gordon (2011). The Cultural Authority of Science: Public Trust and Acceptance of Organized Scientists. Public Understanding of Science, 20(6): 751770.
Gauchat, Gordon (2012). Politicization of Science in the Public Sphere: A Study of Public Trust in the United States. American Sociological Review, 77(2): 167187.
Granger, Maury, and Price, Gregory (2007). The Tree of Science and Original Sin: Do Christian Religious Beliefs Constrain the Supply of Scientists. The Journal of Socio-Economics, 36(1):144160.
Glaude, Eddie S. Jr. (2000). Exodus!: Religion, Race, and Nation in Early Nineteenth-Century Black America. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
Hackett, Conrad D., and Lindsay, Michael (2008). Measuring Evangelicalism. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 47: 499514.
Johnson, Sylvester (2004). The Myth of Ham in Nineteenth-Century American Christianity: Race, Heathens, and the People of God. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lincoln, C. Eric, and Mamiya, Lawrence (1990). The Black Church in the African American Experience. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Morning, Ann J (2011). The Nature of Race: How Scientists Think and Teach about Human Difference. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Omi, Michael, and Winant, Howard (2015 [1994]). Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.
Paris, Peter J. (1985). The Social Teaching of the Black Churches. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress Press.
Paul, Diane B. (1998). Controlling Human Heredity: 1865 to the Present. New York: Humanity Books.
Pattillo-McCoy, Mary (1998). Church Culture as Strategy of Action in the Black Community. American Sociological Review, 63(6): 767784.
Pew U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (2009). <> (accessed June 11, 2016).
Pinn, Anthony (2003). Terror and Triumph: The Nature of Black Religion. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.
Reverby, Susan (2001). More than Fact and Fiction: Cultural Memory and the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Hastings Center Report, 31: 2228.
Sherkat, Darren (2011). Religion and Scientific Literacy in the United States. Social Science Quarterly, 92(5): 11341150.
Shelton, James E., and Emerson, Michael O. (2012). Blacks and Whites in Christian America: How Racial Discrimination Shapes Religious Convictions. New York: New York University Press.
Skloot, Rebecca (2010). The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. New York: Broadway Paperbacks.
Steensland, Brian, Park, Jerry Z., Regnerus, Mark, Robinson, Lynn, Wilcox, W. Bradford, and Woodberry, Robert (2000). The Measure of American Religion: Toward Improving the State of the Art. Social Forces, 79(1): 291318.
Strauss, Anselm L., and Corbin, Juliet M. (1998). Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Taylor, Marylee C., and Merino, Stephen M. (2011). Race, Religion, and Beliefs about Racial Inequality. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 634(1): 6077.
Taylor, Robert J., Chatters, Linda M., and Levin, Jeff (2004). Religion in the Lives of African Americans: Social, Psychological, and Health Perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
Thomas, Stephen B., Quinn, S. C., Billingsley, Andrew, and Caldwell, Cleopatra (1994). The Characteristics of Northern Black Churches with Community Health Outreach Programs. American Journal of Public Health, 84: 575579.
Thumma, Scott (2001). Megachurches Cluster in Bible Belt, Study Shows. Faith Communities Today (FACT). Hartford, CT: The Hartford Institute for Religion Research.
Witherspoon, Karen M., and Speight, Suzette L. (2009). An Exploration of African Americans’ Interests and Self-Efficacy Beliefs in Traditional and Nontraditional Careers. Journal of Black Studies, 39(6): 888904.
Woodberry, Robert, Park, Jerry Z., Kellstedt, Lyman A., Regnerus, Mark, and Steensland, Brian (2012). The Measure of American Religious Traditions: Theoretical and Measurement Considerations. Social Forces, 91(1): 6573.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race
  • ISSN: 1742-058X
  • EISSN: 1742-0598
  • URL: /core/journals/du-bois-review-social-science-research-on-race
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed