New study: scientists and the general public similar in religious practices

Christianity and the progress of science
Christianity and the progress of science

Rice University reports on a new study conducted by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund.


The public’s view that science and religion can’t work in collaboration is a misconception that stunts progress, according to a new survey of more than 10,000 Americans, scientists and evangelical Protestants. The study by Rice University also found that scientists and the general public are surprisingly similar in their religious practices.

The study, “Religious Understandings of Science (RUS),” was conducted by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and presented today in Chicago during the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference. Ecklund is the Autrey Professor of Sociology and director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program.

“We found that nearly 50 percent of evangelicals believe that science and religion can work together and support one another,” Ecklund said. “That’s in contrast to the fact that only 38 percent of Americans feel that science and religion can work in collaboration.”

The study also found that 18 percent of scientists attended weekly religious services, compared with 20 percent of the general U.S. population; 15 percent consider themselves very religious (versus 19 percent of the general U.S. population); 13.5 percent read religious texts weekly (compared with 17 percent of the U.S. population); and 19 percent pray several times a day (versus 26 percent of the U.S. population).

[…]RUS is the largest study of American views on religion and science.

What would be interesting is to find out what specific arguments scientists who believe in God would appeal to, and which specific arguments scientists who don’t believe in God would appeal to.

Personally, I think the scientific evidence is there for people who are open-minded, and who do not have a pre-commitment to behaviors that would have to change, should they become a Christian. Most of the atheists I know are atheists because they don’t want to live like Christians. And even if they don’t have major adjustments to make, they don’t want to live in a society where Judeo-Christian values dominate. So, for example, a successful, married atheist with children who lives mostly like a Christian still will champion abortion and gay marriage, because he simply doesn’t want Judeo-Christian values to dominate in a society.

Atheism is the “anything goes” worldview. Do what pleases you, squash those who get in your way, like unborn babies or Christian business owners who don’t want to celebrate your gay wedding. It is a major adjustment for atheists to start living like Christians. And it is these behavior concerns that motivate their refusal to wrestle with and accept the abundant scientific evidence for a Creator and Designer. Atheism makes life easier – you get to do what you want to feel good, and moral oughts are just fashions and customs, that vary by time and place. Nothing to be concerned about. And when you die, there’s no judgment. What’s not to like? It’s easier. As long as you are able to ignore / deny the progress of science.

On the flip side of the issue, no Bible-believing Christian chooses Christianity because it’s easier (especially the Christians in China, Africa, Muslim countries and atheist countries like North Korea). The founder of the religion gives his life for others, in obedience to God. That does not sound like fun to anyone. People become Christians because it’s true. It’s actually not very fun at all compared to what the atheists get to do with their lives.

Positive arguments for Christian theism


2 thoughts on “New study: scientists and the general public similar in religious practices”

  1. During my doctoral studies (I passed my comprehensive exams, but I haven’t written my dissertation. I hope to do this soon?), I had to read a book entitled, ‘The American College & University: A History’ by Frederick Rudolph, 1990 ed. In this book, Rudolph asserts that science and religion held a unique relationship, dating back since the 1700s:

    ‘The religious orientation of the American colleges provided a climate in which pioneer science could be effectively nurtured, for it was not really necessary for the orthodox to capture or constrain science. The early scientists on the whole were men of religious conviction who could pursue their studies of the natural world without involving their deeply held belief in the supernatural. The evangelical saw science as a useful tool in demonstrating the wondrous ways of God. Science, therefore, gained entry into the American college not as a course of vocational study but as the hand-maiden of religion. As early as 1788, at Princeton, Professor Walter Minto recognized the intrusion of science into the curriculum and welcomed it: “Natural philosophy…by leading us in a satisfactory manner of the knowledge of one almighty all-wise and all-good Being, who created, preserves and governs the universe, is the very handmaid of religion. Indeed, I consider a student of that branch of science as engaged in a continued act of devotion…” Throughout the era of the colleges this sentiment would be echoed by college presidents, by pioneer scientists themselves, as they built the structure of American collegiate science.’

    However, this relationship changed (or marriage ended in a divorce, per se) in the late 1990s. In her book entitled ‘The Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and the Marginalization of Morality’, 1996 ed., Julie A. Reuben asserts that in the early 19th century, ‘a unity of truth’ set of courses were added to the college curriculum to keep students focused on morality and God. However, in the late 19th century, educators wanted to go a different route as Americans believed the current college curriculum was ‘impending the nation’s intellectual and material progress.’ By eliminating courses designed to keep students focused on Morality and God, science and religion were no longer partners. Materialism and Naturalism replaced religion as science new partner.

    It is good to see that people, like William Lane Craig, are brining the science & religion relationship back to the table!

    I encourage everyone to purchase Dr. Rueben’s book!

  2. That is why it is up to us to provide information so that when they discover that they are wrong, at judgement, they can not say that no one ever told them.

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