science and religion

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There’s no secret that evolution directly contradicts religious views on creationism. What’s surprising, however, is that many people who are scientifically literate – that is, they’re knowledgeable about scientific topics and appreciate its practical usage on a day to day basis – reject mainstream scientific accounts of evolution and the big bang, Around one in five Americans fall in this scope, according to Timothy L. O’Brien, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Evansville and the lead author of the study. This suggests that scientific literacy does not necessarily imply accepting well established science when it contradicts deeply entrenched religious views.

“We were surprised to find that many people who are knowledgeable about science and appreciative of its practical uses reject certain well-established scientific theories,”  O’Brien

The team relied on nationally representative data on U.S. adults from the 2006, 2008, and 2010 waves of the General Social Survey. The study considers people who self-identified as Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and followers of other faiths, as well as individuals who did not identify with a religious group.

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O’Brien and colleagues spread participants over three social groups based on their scientific and religious views. Twenty-one percent hold a post-secular perspective, which values both science and religion, but which rejects science in favor of religion when it comes to topics such as creation and evolution. Forty-three percent hold a traditional perspective, which favors religion over science, and 36 percent hold a modern perspective, which favors science over religion.

This is the first study that studied people’s perspective on science and religion together, as opposed to focusing on these views separately. The findings provide a much broader and complex view of how science and religion intertwine and where the two begin to diverge across social groups. For instance, even though 90% of the post-seculars showed understanding and acceptance o scientific theories about topics such as geology, radioactivity, planetary motion, genetics, and probability the same people drew the line when evolution and creationism is concerned – only 6 percent believe that the universe began with the Big Bang and fewer yet (3 percent) accept humans evolved from earlier animals.

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This gives to show how the interpretation of creationism is constantly changing. Centuries ago, religion rejected that Earth is not at the center of the Universe, but in the face of mounting evidence this has been accepted. Radioactive decay and geological evidence, similarly, proves without reason of a doubt that Earth is billions of years old, conflicting a popular biblical notion that it’s only 6,000 years old. Creationists have thus been constantly adapting and integrating scientific findings in their religious world view. Ideas like man has evolved from an earlier creature or that all matter and energy in the Universe came from a singularity are the hardest to integrate with religious dogma, highly interpretative as it may be.

Almost half of the post-seculars also  believe that the Bible is the literal word of God, compared to 31 percent of all U.S.adults and 3 percent of moderns. What’s odd is that more post-seculars take the bible literally than traditionals, which according to the study are less familiar and less willing to accept other established science like radioactivity, geology and genetics. Clearly, there’s some cognitive dissonance around. Most importantly, the data published in American Sociological Review suggests that being scientifically literate does no generally make you capable of being critical of religion.

“This suggests that bridging gaps between different groups of people may have less to do with reducing knowledge deficits among them and more to do with increasing empathy for and awareness of different lifestyles and cultural preferences,” O’Brien said.