Mixing Believers, Scientists and Many Who Are Both.

imageAs reported by Religion News Service (here via the Huffington Post):

The American Association for the Advancement of Science and its Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion program released a major research project on Sunday (Feb. 16), at the AAAS annual meeting in Chicago, and announced an upcoming series of conferences mixing believers, scientists and many who are both.

The massive survey of views on God, religion, and science included 10,241 respondents and took a particularly close look at the views of evangelicals and people in science-related occupations.

The concern is not whether “science and religion can co-exist. They already do,” said lead researcher Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist and director of Rice University’s Religion and Public Life Program. “The question is how to do it well.”

Interesting statistics:

Among the findings of the study, “Religious Understandings of Science”:

* Nearly 36 percent of scientists have no doubt about God’s existence.
* 18 percent of scientists attended weekly religious services (compared with 20 percent of the overall U.S. population).
* 17 percent of scientists consider themselves evangelical.
* 15 percent of scientists consider themselves “very religious” (19 percent of the overall population).
* 13.5 percent of scientists read religious texts weekly (17 percent overall).


“If you are looking for conflict, there’s a place to find it in the data,” Ecklund pointed out in a live online chat for AAAS’ “Science” magazine. The study reports:

* 22 percent of scientists and 20 percent of the general population think most religious people are hostile to science.
* 22 percent of the general population thinks scientists are hostile to religion.
* 27 percent of Americans feel that science and religion are in conflict.
* Of those who feel science and religion are in conflict, 52 percent sided with religion.

6 thoughts on “Mixing Believers, Scientists and Many Who Are Both.”

  1. Considering the ever increasing scepticism, the picture is not that bad, it is really something that could be expected. However, there is no mention of what Catholics and Jews think. Whatever the general result, it is science that will say “How” and religion that will tackle the “Why”. The clashes occur when scientists indulge in scientism and the Christians are fundamentalists.

  2. Western scepticism is having an adverse effect in African and other countries, as a Nigerian prelate has just pointed out:
    The Anglicans in Nigeria have also refused to accept key decisions taken by Canterbury.
    Most of the persecution against Christians in the East is due to the fact that Western Christians are not bothered. Last month it led Prince Charles to issue a statement against this persecution.

  3. Louis: Tnanks for this – a good terse summary of the situation which set me off on a train of ideas. Concerning the conflict of values, it is probably endemic to the human situation. I vaguely recall, perhaps in an encyclical, or it may even be in Aquinas, that it is not in man’s nature to seek to do evil as such, but rather that it is in pursuing a perceived good that may result in evil. For example the good that is perceived in liberal secular values is the freedom of choice, and the exercise of individual rights, but which is often devoid of the concomitant obligations that go with such freedoms.

    It is interesting that the Catholic Herald article sees more common ground between the traditional values of the Nigerian Archbishop of Jos and those of Vladimir Putin with his Russian Orthodox background, than he has with those of the now entrenched Western secular values.

    Concerning the posted topic, the alleged conflict between science and religion, much of it stems from the extreme polarities on both sides: the biblical literalism of the evangelical wing of religion, and the extreme scientism of the so-called free-thinkers. Truth will not be found in adopting either of these positions. Religion has been brought into disrepute by extreme evangelicalism and has wounded its credibility. The historical religious conflicts in both Europe and the United Kingdom, had the effect of the various colonies adopting a public policy of secularism. In NZ for instance this became manifest in the 19th century Education Act which demanded that education in public schools shall be free, compulsory and secular. The consequence has been that most NZers are religiously ignorant and utterly unaware of the historical influence of Christianity in their heritage, values and culture. It has been left entirely to the churches to educate their congregations in this heritage.

    Religion has also been brought into disrepute by the human failures of more orthodox churchmen, particularly with the media’s focus on anything with a whiff of scandal. Historically, the religious conflicts of the distant past, with the persection and martyrdoms of religious opponents can also be cited. It is an unfortunate legacy, that raises legitimate questions in the minds of the opponents of religion.

    Ever since the times of Copernicus and Galileo, there have always been scientists who also found a truth in religion and belief in God, sometimes unconventional, but at least an awarness that there was something more than just the material world of their particular specialty. The orderliness of nature revealed in “Goldilocks Zones” for example persuades many scientists today towards some belief in the inference of creation by design.

    There is a middle way between science and religion, and one may hope that it may yet be attained. However there can be little hope for compromise where rigidly held extreme views are held entrenched.

    1. Daveb, it is good to hear that you were provided with some food for thought. Your position is exactly the one I am hoping for: avoid the extreme polarities by attaining a middle way and allow the science-theology dialogue to move forward. While one has to agree that religious conflicts of the distant past require a lot of rethinking, it must also be pointed out that atheists have no choice but to admit that Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot also caused bloodshed.

      As for the Catholic Herald’s’ link between the Nigerian prelate and practising Orthodox Christian Vladimir Putin that is because the Russian president is holding on to traditional Christian teachings, which many Western leaders have given up. It is something that the science-theology dialogue can bring back to the West.

  4. Talking about science and religion, Jerry Coyne, a fanatical atheist, has a picture of the Holy Shroud on his blog today with comments about the earthquake theory. The proof that Jerry is a nut job is that he quoted my short treatise on biological evolution in full and ridiculed it. I can lawfully teach biology in New York State if no biology teacher is available, so I speak with more authority about evolution than Jerry Coyne who is only a professor of biology at Chicago U. This is the blog:


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