Dr Amy Unsworth
Dr Amy Unsworth obtained her PhD from University College London and subsequently studied Science Communication at Birkbeck College. She joined the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kent in October 2018 as a Research Fellow.
Amy has previously researched and developed contemporary science exhibitions and public events at The Science Museum, London and worked as a postdoctoral researcher for ‘Science, Culture and Modernity’, part of a British Council intercultural and inter-religious dialogue project.
Amy has a long-running interest in science popularisation and public understandings of science, and in recent years has developed a specific interest in the ways people use science in religious and non-religious identity work.
She has recently studied perceptions of science, particularly evolutionary theory, among Christians and Muslims using both quantitative and qualitative methods. Her current work focuses on non-religious narratives and identities.
Unsworth, A. and Voas, D. (2018). Attitudes to evolution among Christians, Muslims and the Non-Religious in Britain: Differential effects of religious and educational factors. Public Understanding of Science [Online] 27:76-93. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0963662517735430.According to poll results and media reports, Britain has a significant and growing number of creationists. However, little scholarly research has been carried out to explore this phenomenon. We present results from a national survey of 6020 individuals to give a comprehensive picture of contemporary public attitudes to evolution in Britain. Furthermore, we explore the effects of religion and education on attitudes to evolution. Unique to this study, we analyse the effects of attending a religiously affiliated school (‘faith school’) on acceptance of evolutionary theory. We examine these effects in the general population, and additionally, across different Christian, Muslim and Non-Religious subpopulations. Results give strong evidence that the number of creationists has been overstated previously. We find the effect of education is complex and varies between different religious groups, but that faith school attendance is associated with more acceptance of evolution for people belonging to groups that tend to reject it.
Unsworth, A. (2019). Discourses on Science and Islam: A View from Britain. in: Jones, S. H., Catto, R. and Kaden, T. eds. Science, Belief and Society: International Perspectives on Religion, Non-Religion and the Public Understanding of Science. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, pp. 225-245.In this chapter examining discourses on science and Islam, I first briefly highlight a dominant contemporary discourse among non-Muslims, which tends to cast Islam as a particularly backward and unintellectual religion requiring scientific enlightenment. I point out historical precedents for this viewpoint, before turning to examine a specific discourse on science and Islam among Muslims, in which the Qu’ran is deemed to be scientifically miraculous, a view that has its roots in the salafi reformist movement. Drawing on data from focus groups conducted with British Muslims of South Asian heritage actively engaged with institutions influenced by salafi reformism, I argue that these popular scientific interpretations of the Quran may hold particular appeal for Muslims in Britain who are, as members of a religious minority viewed with suspicion, frequently required to “explain themselves” and defend their religious beliefs and practices. I also discuss survey data examining views of science among Muslims, making suggestions for how such work could be refined and extended in the future.