Turns Out, Science and Religion Get Along Just Fine

Most people say science and religion are not at odds with each other. So why does the media present it that way?

National Journal
Brian Resnick
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Brian Resnick
Feb. 20, 2014, 7:29 a.m.

If it ac­com­plished any­thing at all, the re­cent evol­u­tion-versus-cre­ation de­bate between Bill Nye (sci­ence guy) and Ken Ham (cre­ation­ist guy) re­in­forced this idea: that sci­ence and re­li­gion are im­possib­ley at odds, that Nye and Ham are speak­ers of two dif­fer­ent lan­guages, in­com­pre­hens­ible to one an­oth­er. 

But that im­pres­sion — that the pop­u­la­tion is stub­bornly sor­ted in­to sci­ence people and re­li­gious/cre­ation people — is not ac­cur­ate. 

re­cent sur­vey of 10,000 in­di­vidu­als of many re­li­gious back­grounds found that only 27 per­cent felt sci­ence and re­li­gion were at odds with each oth­er. Fur­ther­more, 48 per­cent of re­spond­ents who iden­ti­fied as evan­gel­ic­als said that sci­ence and re­li­gion can col­lab­or­ate with one an­oth­er. Pew Re­search found sim­il­ar res­ults in 2009. “Only 48 per­cent of those who at­tend re­li­gious ser­vices at least once a week see a con­flict,” that study noted.

The chart be­low is ad­ap­ted from the sur­vey. No­tice that more than half of those who iden­ti­fied as “Evan­gel­ic­al Prot­est­ant” hold a be­lief that meshes sci­ence and re­li­gion on the ques­tion of hu­man ori­gins.

The stick­ing points for evan­gel­ic­al cre­ation­ists, though, are par­tic­u­larly sticky. For in­stance, 42 per­cent of evan­gel­ic­als strongly be­lieve cre­ation­ism should be taught in­stead of evol­u­tion in schools. An ad­di­tion­al 25 per­cent say it should be taught along­side it. 

But the bot­tom line is this: Fram­ing the de­bate between sci­ence and re­li­gion as bin­ary is not right. It’s more of a con­tinuum of be­lief. “The em­phas­is on hu­man ori­gins has nar­rowed the con­ver­sa­tion,” the sur­vey con­cludes.  

“It would serve us well to re­mem­ber the top­ics on which there is great­er agree­ment or open­ness to col­lab­or­a­tion, such that a frame­work of trust and mu­tu­al re­spect might de­vel­op between these two com­munit­ies,” the au­thors write.

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