Playing God
Religious influences on the depictions of science in mainstream movies
in Science and the politics of openness

This chapter explores how religious communities, primarily western mainline Christians, have attempted to influence how stories about science have appeared on cinema screens. We show how religious groups tried to modify cinematic stories about science because they believed that movies were a powerful force in determining our perceptions of the world and they were concerned about the ways that movies portrayed science’s role in society and science’s place as a knowledge producer. Religious groups altered, responded to, and appropriated scientific content in movies through various methods including formal and informal censorship, negotiations with filmmakers during production and distribution, reviews written as guidance for religious audiences, and the creation of their own science-based movies. We find that religious groups were particularly concerned about the intersection between science and sex, the theological implications of scientific depictions, and the cinematic deification of science and scientists. Instead, religious groups preferred stories in which the goals of science aligned with the goals of religion by improving the human condition. Ultimately, we argue that religious responses to movie narratives show us the kinds of stories moral reformers did, and did not, want told about science as a social, political and cultural force

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