Friday, September 24, 2010

Science and Religion: Always in "Mortal Combat?"

Matthew Reicz of the Times Higher Educational Supplement has an interesting article on the conflict between religion and science.He writes:
One person who has looked closely at this issue is Elaine Howard Ecklund, assistant professor of sociology at Rice University in Texas. She surveyed nearly 1,700 natural and social scientists in elite American universities - "Arik" is a pseudonym for one of the academics she interviewed in depth - and she presents the results in her new book, Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think. By asking them about how religion and spirituality have had an impact on their lives, she hopes to offer "a balanced assessment of information gathered scientifically from scientists themselves".

Although they are undoubtedly less religious than the American public as a whole, the scientists Ecklund interviewed are far from a uniform band of militant atheists. Only 34 per cent say they concur with the statement "I do not believe in God" (and 30 per cent confess to agnosticism), 71 per cent believe "there are basic truths in many religions" and 18 per cent attend religious services at least once a month. Close to half could be said "to have a religious tradition" in some sense, and the age data in Ecklund's survey suggest that levels of faith among US scientists are rising.
This is similar to the numbers that Neil De Grasse Tyson was quoted as using and is encouraging, if nothing else because scientists are normally thought to be outside the norm of mainstream religion in the US. This has especially become a problem as of late with the GOP's more moderate members embracing the party line of the Discovery Institute while the evangelical base of the party leans toward the young earth creation perspective.

Reicz quotes Karl Giberson of the BioLogos Institute, who has a special dislike for young earth creation groups. Of people in the United States, he writes:
Many, notes Giberson, are left with "the impression that there is a religious objection to every scientific advance. Yet the most aggressive critics of the Creation Museum are more moderate Christians, not militant atheists. They believe young-Earth creationists have to be rejected, for turning Christians into anti-intellectual hillbillies."
Atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, typically ignore the YEC groups and go after the mainstream population, pointing out how ridiculous these groups are. Increasingly, as the GOP continues to go down this path, these atheists will point out how ridiculous it is to be a Republican. As long as those of us who are EC are considered by many evangelicals (including people like Ken Ham) to be apostate, the battle will be an uphill one.

The article is long but very illuminating. As Glenn Reyolds would say: "Read the whole thing."

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