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Can Science Coexist with Religion? A New Study Finds Misconceptions of the Two

science and religionAccording to a new survey of more than 10,000 Americans including scientists and evangelical Protestants, the public’s view that science can’t work in collaboration with religion is a misconception that stunts progress. This study, conducted by Rice University, also found that scientists are surprisingly similar to the general public in terms of their religious practices.

The study, “Religious Understanding of Science (RUS)” was led by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and presented in the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Chicago on February 16, 2014. Ecklund is the Autrey Professor of Sociology and at the same time, is the director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program.

 “We found that nearly half of the evangelicals believe that religion and science can work in collaboration and support one another,” said Ecklund. “On the contrary, only 38 percent of Americans feel that the two can work together.”

The study also revealed that 18 percent of scientists attended religious services weekly, compared with 20 percent of the general American population; 15 percent of them consider themselves very religious (compared with 19 percent of the general American population); 13.5 percent read religious texts weekly (versus 17 percent of the general American population); and 19 percent of them pray several times per day (compared with 26 percent of the American population).

Ecklund said: “This is a hopeful message for science policymakers and educators, since these two groups of people don’t need to approach religion with an attitude of combat. Rather, they should have a mind of collaboration.”

Ecklund believed that the misperception is resulted from the way that science-religion relationship is portrayed in the news media.

 “Most of the news reports and stories about the two groups are focused on the controversial issues, such as teaching creationism in schools. Also, the pundits and news panelists are probably the most strident representatives for each group. It may not be as riveting for TV, but consider how frequently you see a story about these two groups doing thing for their common good. People have enormous stereotyping about the issue and this is not good.”

However, Ecklund noted that a portion of the two groups are likely to maintain put in their oppositional camps. For an instance, she fund that evangelical Protestants are twice as likely as the general U.S. population (11 percent) to find answers for questions about science from a religious text or religious leader.

Some other key findings:

  • Almost 60 percent of evangelical Protestants and 38 percent of all survey participants believe that “scientists should be open to considering miracles in their explanations and theories.”
  • 27 percent of the U.S. population fell that religion and science are in conflict and 52 percent sided with religion.
  • 48 percent of evangelicals feel that science can collaborate with religion.
  • 22 percent of scientists think most religious people are hostile to science;
  • About 20 percent of the general U.S. population believe religious people are hostile to science;
  • Nearly 22 percent of the general U.S. population think scientists are hostile to religion;
  • 36 percent of scientists believe in God’s existence.

There was also another counterintuitive finding in the survey: conventionally we think that religious people working in science field will have more doubts about their faith, however, the survey revealed the opposite—Evangelical scientists had more religious practices than evangelical Protestants in the general population.

 “Those evangelical scientists are more religious than regular American evangelicals who are not working in science,” said Ecklund.

 “Evangelical scientists think they have been put under more pressure or they find themselves in more hostile environment. Potentially, they regard themselves as more religious because they are seeing the difference between the two groups all the time.”

RUS is the largest-scale study of American views on science and religion, which includes the nationally representative survey of over 10,000 Americans, more than 300 in-depth interviews with Christians, Muslims and Jews—more than 140 of whom are evangelicals—and extensive observations of religious centers located in Chicago and Houston.

This study is now being provided to the AAAS Dialogue on Science Ethics and Religion programs to help facilitate dialogue between scientists and religious groups.

Source: EurekAlert!
Image source: drroyspencer

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