science and religion

One in five Americans are deeply religious and scientifically literate, but reject evolution

science and religion

Image: Slayerment

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.

17 thoughts on “One in five Americans are deeply religious and scientifically literate, but reject evolution

  1. Charles Hopkins

    Scientific truths can NOT overcome religious indoctrination very
    easily. But religion has no business making claims about the natural world
    in which we live. Their realm is the spiritual world. At least that is what they claim. And yet
    all of their Doctrines and Dogmas do just that. They make claims about the natural world in which we live, such as :
    Human kind is descendant

    Faith in the sense of accepting something to be true without evidence is
    not a Virtue. This includes religious faith. It might make people feel good. This is true. But making people feel good
    has nothing to do with weather or not something is actually true or not.

  2. Dgragson

    There is as much Proof ( evidence sufficient to establish a thing as true) for religion as there is that we evolved for water and rocks.

  3. GeneralDrake

    The problem is that 99% of the public is ignorant (by design) as the evolutionary preachers of our day GREATLY limit the flow of information about the TRUE EVIDENCE. That is because it DEVASTATES the philosophy of evolution making it impossible to believe for anyone educated on the OBSERVABLE fossil record. Human artifacts and remains have been unearthed in what we have been told (without any solid proof) is 100 million year old rocks. Blasphemy! We cannot allow the public (especially children in school) to be made aware of this fact. Evolution is taught as a religious doctrine—not objective truth and certainly not “science”. There is NO OBSERVABLE EXAMPLE of ANY plant or animal transitional chain linking one species to another—let alone the entire evolutionary system. *Gasp* We cannot tell children this! They might not…BELIEVE! Who then are the religious preachers in the classroom. It is not the creationists who simply ask for the WHOLE of the EVIDENCE to taught…as opposed to the INDOCTRINATION that we have now. This is why for 75 years Recapitulation was taught in the classroom even though it was found as a FRAUD in 1924!!! Because there IS NO REAL EVIDENCE TO SHOW!!! In fact, without creationist activism…it would STILL be in science textbooks (in some cases still is actually) in public schools.

  4. Skeptic NY

    Please site the reference that “we evolved for water and rocks”? Thank you. Btw there is no such thing as “proof” in science – only degrees of certainty and ALL of it is provisional.

  5. Gnarlodious

    If you are gullible enough to believe the universe was created 6,000 years ago, you are probably a candidate for religion.
    But if you aren’t that gullible, and you accept that the universe was created 15 billion years ago, it might seem obvious that evolution is nothing more than a tool God uses to create life.

  6. Edward MacGuire

    Fraud is too strong a word. Haeckel’s work may have been overly influenced by wishful thinking but he’s not the first or the last to fall in love with his own ideas. The development of embryos does not fit into the strict progression that Haeckel claimed and his theory is considered invalid, but embryos do undergo a period where their morphology is strongly shaped by
    their phylogeny. As for discredited theories being found in school texts, it can take decades for science to trickle down to that level. Not indoctrination, just frugality on the part of school boards. And as for there being no evidence for evolution, the evidence for evolution is simply overwhelming. As Steven Weinberg has said, ‘I wish theories in physics were backed up by as much evidence’.

  7. Rick

    Show me solid proof of evolution. I won’t hold my breath. There isn’t a link between human and animals, just hypothesis. Even if all this “well established” science is more than hypothesis, who or what started the ball rolling. Used to be that if we couldn’t see it, it didn’t exist. That has kind of changed now, hasn’t it?

  8. Richard Forrest

    Show us the proof of evolution.

    The fact that we need to put a lot of resources into combating pathogens which have acquired resistance to treatment. This is one of countless examples of evolution in action.

    This is evolution, using term in the sense for which it was coined by the people who coined it, and is accepted as evolution in action by the scientists who have devoted their working lives to studying it.

    Why should we use the term in any other sense than that for which it was coined, or the sense in which it is used by those who study it?

  9. TheRaptureIsImminent

    Since you agree that the universe was created, then there must also be a creator. A watch has a watchmaker just as a creation has a creator.

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  12. Phillip

    Australian, scientist and mathematician, physician and psychiatrist and 74 year old Christian, I have no problem with seeing much of the diversity of organic or biological life as a product of the plasticity of life already in existence.

    I appeal to all science publications to assist rather than confuse the dialogue about the *origin* of LIFE.
    Darwin wrote Origin of SPECIES and it was predicated on life already having arisen somehow and most of us educated Christians and Jews are neo-Darwinians (we know his theory plus modern population genetics) and have no problem with it.

    Both fundamentalist religious believers in creation out of nothing in a way described in the library of ancient books by a pre-existent being which was uncreated and secular rationalists who believe the material universe popped out of nothing for no reason will argue until the end of time, or the extinction of the human race, whichever comes first.

    The truth will not be established by either preaching or science – it was a one-off thing unable to be repeated under lab conditions and requiring the exercise of faith as well as intelligence.

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