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U.S. Majority Perceives Conflict between Religion, Science

Religion and science are in conflict, according to 59 percent of U.S. adults, a 4 percent increase from 2009.

However, when respondents were asked about their personal religious beliefs vis-à-vis science, only 30 percent expressed a sense of divergence (a 6 percent decrease from 2009), with 68 percent saying there was no conflict.

The Pew Research Center report revealed an inverse relationship between church attendance and the perception that religion and science are in conflict.

As church attendance increased, the person’s sense of a divergence between science and religion decreased, and vice versa.

Only 50 percent of weekly worshippers noted a conflict, compared to 73 percent of those who seldom or never attended religious services.

Results also varied based on religious tradition, Pew noted.

“Of the country’s major religious groups, Hispanic Catholics and white evangelical Protestants are especially likely to say science and religion are mostly compatible; roughly half of both groups take this position.”

The report added, “But white evangelical Protestants also are somewhat more likely than members of other large religious groups to see a conflict between science and their own religious beliefs; 40 percent of white evangelicals say their personal beliefs sometimes conflict with science, while 57 percent say they do not.”

Persons claiming no religious affiliation were most likely to think there was a fundamental conflict between science and religion, with 76 percent affirming this position.

Views about religion’s role in science policy debates were more evenly divided – 50 percent of respondents said religious organizations should express their views and 46 percent stated they should not.

The parity regarding religion’s role in assessing scientific policy expressed itself in response to questions about various science-related topics.

Pew found that “there are only a handful of areas where people’s religious beliefs and practices have a strong connection to their views about a range of science-related issues.”

Beyond evolution, the creation of the universe and modifying a baby’s genes, “people’s religious differences do not play a central role in explaining their beliefs about a range of other science topics, including some in the realm of biomedical issues.”

A summary of the report’s findings can be accessed here, with the complete report available here.