Does Believing in God Make It Harder to Believe in Science?

Does believing in God make it harder to believe in science, or vice versa? There are lots of people who manage to do both, despite the assumptions our culture makes about the incompatibility of the two. But it's undeniable that the realms of faith and science could find better ways to communicate.Elaine Howard Ecklund is Herbert A. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences, professor of sociology and director of the religion and public life program at Rice University. A few years ago, she wrote a book about what scientists really think about religion and religious people, which dispelled some persistent myths about the universal disdain scientists are expected to feel for religious belief.Then she turned her focus around and interviewed hundreds of Muslims, Jews, Catholics, mainline Protestants and Evangelicals to learn how religious people view scientists and their research. She again discovered more nuance and variation than many people acknowledge.Did you always plan to follow your study of how scientists feel about religion with a study of how religious people feel about science, or did that first book reveal to you that there were lots of unanswered questions on the other side?You are exactly right. The first book did reveal there were some unanswered questions. In my first survey of U.S. scientists, I found that there were more religious scientists than we might think and that scientists tend to be a bit more friendly towards religion that we might think. But I also found that some scientists have stereotypes of religious people, and I wanted to put on my hat as a sociologist of religion and try to go back out and do some survey work. And with co-author Christopher Scheitle we did a survey of over 10,000 people in the U.S. as well as in-depth interviews with hundreds about their views about these issues to really try to bring some light to what religious people think about science and scientists.Did you allow people to self-identify as religious, or was there some bar they needed to meet in order to be religious enough for the studies that you did?We did allow them to self-identify. Sociologists think about religion in terms of how we identify. So do I think of myself as a religious person? The kinds of practices that people engage in, like things like church attendance and the kinds of beliefs that people have. So we both measured across those three kinds of factors, and then in our in-depth conversations, we allowed people to self-identify about their strength of belief and their practices and the like.  Continue reading...

Copyright The Dallas Morning News
Contact Us