Professor Fern Elsdon-Baker

Professor Fern Elsdon-Baker

College of Arts and Law
Professor of Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Science and (non-) Religion in Society and Culture. Public Perceptions of Science and/or (non-) Religion.

Professor Fern Elsdon-Baker is part of the Birmingham Plastics Network, an interdisciplinary team of more than 40 academics working together to shape the fate and sustainable future of plastics.  This unique team brings together chemists, environmental scientists, philosophers, linguists, economists, artists, writers, lawyers and experts in many other fields, to holistically address the global plastics problem.


  • PhD in History and Philosophy of Evolutionary Science, University of Brighton (2007).
  • BSc (Hons) Environmental Science, University of Brighton (2002)


I am currently Professor of Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society at the University of Birmingham and I lead the Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society Research Group within the Department of Theology and Religion.

Before moving to the University of Birmingham, I was the Director of the Centre for Science, Knowledge and Belief in Society at Newman University, one of the few research centres globally whose core focus was the study of science and religion across sociology, social psychology, religious studies, historical, philosophical and science studies perspectives. Prior to that I was deputy Director of the Centre for Social Relations at Coventry University.

I briefly left academia from 2008 – 2012 to work for the British Council on large-scale science and religion related projects. In the first instance I worked as Head of the Darwin Now Project. Darwin Now was a multi-million-pound global initiative running in 50 countries worldwide, which celebrated the life and work of Charles Darwin, as part of the international celebrations of the Darwin anniversaries in 2009. Subsequently, I went on to become Director of the British Councils Belief in Dialogue Programme – a multi-regional portfolio of inter-cultural and interfaith dialogue projects.

My earlier doctoral/postdoctoral research focused on theories of inheritance, science communication and its relationship to scientific knowledge production from the 1800s to present. In 2009 I published a book based on aspects of this research: Selfish Genius: How Richard Dawkins Rewrote Darwin’s Legacy.

I am currently serving on the general committee for the British Science Association.

Postgraduate supervision

I am happy to supervise students on any aspects of the following areas:

Science, Religion and Belief in Society or Culture
Science Communication and Public Engagement
Public Perceptions of Science
Public perceptions of Religion, Spirituality or Non-Religion
Non-Religion and Atheism in Society
History and Communication of Darwinism/Evolutionary Science
Intercultural or Cross-Cultural dialogue.

Find out more - our PhD Theology and Religion  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


I am transdisciplinary researcher whose work is predominantly philosophical, historical, sociological and psychological in approach. My research focuses on: public perceptions of the relationship between science and religion; the perception and communication of science in pluralistic societies; the role of 'science', non-religion and/or beliefs as identity markers, in public space 'conflict narratives', or prejudice formation; and the perceptions of evolutionary theory within religious, non-religious and spiritual groups; and theories of inheritance from 1800 to the present.

I am also the principal Investigator on the ‘Science and Religion Exploring the Spectrum: The Relationship between Evolutionary Science and Religious Belief in Global Perspective’ (SRES2), a £3.4 Million 3-year research project working with partners in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain, Sri Lanka, the UK and the US.

Previously I was Project Director on the 3 -year 'Science and Religion: Exploring the Spectrum' (SRES 1) project, which undertook Sociological, psychological and historical research in the UK and Canada into religious, non-religious and spiritual publics perceptions of evolutionary science.



  • Elsdon-Baker, F. (2009). Selfish Genius: How Richard Dawkins Rewrote Darwin’s Legacy, Icon Books.

Selected recent articles and book chapters

  • Elsdon-Baker, F. (2019). ‘Placing Science and Religion Debates in their Historical, Social and Cultural Contexts’ In Jones, S, Catto, R and Kaden, T (eds) Science, Belief and Society: International Perspectives on Religion, Non-Religion and the Public Understanding of Science 
  • Carlisle, J. Hameed, S. & Fern Elsdon-Baker, F. (2019) ‘Muslim Perceptions of Biological Evolution: A Critical Review of Quantitative and Qualitative Research’. In Jones, S, Catto, R and Kaden, T (eds) Science, Belief and Society: International Perspectives on Religion, Non-Religion and the Public Understanding of Science
  • Jones, S, Catto, R, Kaden, T, Elsdon-Baker, F. (2018) “That is How Muslims Are Required to View the World”: Race, Culture and Belief in Non-Muslims’ Descriptions of Islam and Science, The Sociological Review.
  • Elsdon-Baker, F. (2018) ‘Re-examining ‘creationist’ monsters in the uncharted waters of the social study of science and religionin Nerlich,B, Hartley, S, Raman, S.&  Smith, A (eds) Science and the Politics of Openness: Here be Monsters, Manchester University Press.
  • Kaden, T, Jones, S, Catto, R, Elsdon-Baker, F. (2017) ‘Knowledge as Explanandum: Disentangling Lay and Professional Perspectives on Science and Religion’, Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses
  • Elsdon-Baker, F. (2016) ‘The compatibility of science and religion?’ in Carroll,A. & Norman,R.(eds) Beyond the Divide: Religion and Atheism in Dialogue. Routledge
  • Elsdon-Baker, F. (2015) ‘Creating Creationists: the influence of ‘issues framing’ on our understanding of public perceptions of clash narratives between evolutionary science and belief.’ Public Understanding of Science Vol. 24 no. 4 422-439
  • Elsdon-Baker, F. (2015) ‘Contested Inheritance: debates on the meaning of ‘inheritance of acquired characteristics’ Textual Practice Vol. 29, No 3 pg. 547 -571.

View all publications in research portal