Feb 17, 2014
Yesterday at the AAAS meeting in Chicago, sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund presented some initial results from her “Religious Understandings of Science” study. RUS is a nationally representative survey of more than 10,000 Americans (with an over-sampling of scientists) designed to explore three questions: What do religious people (especially evangelicals) think about science, what do rank-and-file scientists think about religion, and where might there be room for dialogue?
The study just closed two weeks, so the results are very fresh, and Ecklund said she had time to analyze only six of the survey’s approximately 75 questions before the meeting. But here are some of her initial findings:
• 15 percent of scientists consider themselves very religious—compared with 19 percent of the general population, and 44 percent of evangelicals.
• Almost 60 percent of evangelicals and 38 percent of the general population believe “scientists should be open to considering miracles in their theories or explanations.”
• 27 percent of Americans feel that science and religion are in conflict—and of this group, 52 percent side with religion.
• Close to 30 percent of evangelicals see a conflict between science and religion, and see themselves on the side of religion.
• Nearly 20 percent of Americans perceive religion as hostile to science, while about 22 percent think scientists are hostile toward religion.
• Evangelicals are twice as likely as those in the general population to consult a religious text or a religious leader when they have a question about science—but they’re as likely as the general public to consult a scientist (though that number is low at only 14 percent).
• 48 percent of evangelicals support that idea that science and religion can work in collaboration—compared with 40 percent of scientists and 38 percent of Americans overall. Among evangelical scientists specifically, however, that number rises to 73 percent.
The survey also revealed that “scientists who identify as evangelical are more religious than regular American evangelicals who are not in science,” Ecklund points out in a news release. “Evangelical scientists feel that they’ve been put under pressure or they find themselves in what they view to be more hostile environments. They potentially see themselves as more religious because they’re seeing the contrast between the two groups all the time.”
Stay tuned for more on this study as we have time to dive deeper into the results and Ecklund has the chance to analyze more of the survey questions.