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Author Topic: Science and religion: A false divide
Posts: 65
Post Science and religion: A false divide
on: October 10, 2011, 13:13

An informed and excellent Op Ed on science and religion is in today's [Oct 10, 2011] LA Times (see,0,7586180.story. It is by John H. Evans, a professor of sociology at UC San Diego, and it describes the lay of the land with respect to science and conservative Protestantism as sociological studies bear it out. Here are some quotes:

I recently conducted survey research comparing the most conservative of Protestants — those who identify with a conservative Protestant denomination, attend church regularly and take the Bible literally, or about 11% of the population in my analysis — with those who do not participate in any religion. The conservative Protestants are equally likely to understand scientific methods, to know scientific facts and to claim knowledge of science. They are as likely as the nonreligious to have majored in science or to have a scientific occupation.

On most issues, there is actually very little conflict between religion and science. Religion makes no claims about the speed of hummingbird wings ... There are, of course, a few fact claims in which conservative Protestant theology and science differ, such as the origins of humans and the universe. Here we find that typical conservative Protestants are likely to believe the teaching of their religion on the issue and not the scientific claim.

[Conservative Protestants] have a long-standing way, going back to at least the mid-19th century, of dividing the scientific findings they believe and don't believe. They tend to accept scientists' claims that are based on direct observation and common sense and to reject those based on what might be called unobservable abstractions. Since nobody was around for the Big Bang and for human evolution from lower primates, these unobservable claims are treated with more skepticism than measurements of the effect of airborne carbon on planetary temperature.

The greatest conflict between fundamentalists, evangelicals and science is not over facts but over values. While scientists like to say that their work is value-free, that is not how the public views it, and conservative Protestants especially have homed in on the moral message of science. William Jennings Bryan, famed defender of the creationist perspective at the Scopes "monkey trial," was not just opposed to evolution for contradicting the Bible but also concerned that the underlying philosophy of Darwinism had ruined the morals of German youth and had caused World War I.

... The same research that shows fundamentalists generally believe in science's ability to gather facts about the world also shows that they do not want scientists to lead the public debate on issues concerning morality.

... we would see less of the polarizing "we real Americans" rhetoric from the religious right if its members were not ridiculed as know-nothings. Conservative Protestants are not fundamentally opposed to all science.

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