Religion and Science

 Table 1

 

Adjusted Mean Number of Correct Answers on the 2006 GSS Science Exam by Religious Affiliation and Religious Belief  

 

 

Religious Belief

Mean

Std. Error

95% Confidence Interval

 

Lower Bound

Upper Bound

 % of Sample

Bible is literal Word of God

7.8

.100

7.6

7.9

33%

Bible is Inspired Word of God

8.6

.078

8.5

8.8

50%

Bible is a Book of Fables

9.1

.136

8.9

9.4

17%

Religious Affiliation

 

 

 

 

 

Sectarian Protestant

8.0

.117

7.8

8.2

26%

Catholic

8.1

.121

7.9

8.4

23%

Other Protestant

8.7

.097

8.5

8.9

28%

Non-Christian

 

8.8

.122

8.6

9.0

23%

 

 Religious activists, funded by religious foundations, have become fond of asking idiotic survey questions which appear to blur the lines between religion and science. I don’t know what “Religion” or “Science” really mean at this level of abstraction (that’s for philosophy and theology), but I do know that particular variants of religious beliefs which are promoted in particular religious institutions generate considerable hostility towards scientific research and pedagogy. Still, many like to dress up their ignorance in a veil of pseudo science, hence we have “creation science,” and “theories”of intelligent design.

The 2006 General Social Surveys included a brief science examination. I shorten it to 13 items to exc lude a question on evolution, since fundamentalists may reflexively get that one wrong. Using data from 1780 respondents to the most recent General Social Surveys, I found that that Americans who believe that the Bible is the literal word of god (about 30% of respondents in the nationally representative sample of U.S. Adults) scored substantially lower the other respondents on a test of basic scientific literacy. Bible believers averaged 54% on the 13 question examination, which included questions about basic scientific understanding (like experimental design, and probability), earth science (such as whether the core of the earth is cold or hot, and whether continents have and continue to drift), and biology (such as whether antibiotics kill viruses). The test excluded controversial items such as evolution. In contrast, more skeptical believers averaged 68% on the exam, and non-believers answered 75% of the questions correctly.

     Notably, my findings are not a function of race, social class, region, or gender. Even after statistical controls for these factors, religious conservatives scored significantly lower than non-Christians and non-believers. In fact, the effect of conservative religious identifications (affiliation with Baptists, Pentecostals, and other sectarian groups, or with Catholicism), and fundamentalist beliefs in the Bible have a stronger predictive effect on scores on the science examination than do income, race, or gender. While much has been made about racial and gender differences in scientific ability, my results suggest that cultural factors like religion are much more important impediments of scientific literacy.

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7 Responses to “Religion and Science”

  1. Does Science Education Inoculate Against Religion? - Science and Religion Today Says:

    […] knowledge. The paper isn’t published yet, but he sent me the manuscript, and he’s also blogged it, if you want the “horse’s mouth” version. This is an analysis of the U.S. General […]

  2. Science can't prove that! How rejecting evolution leads to rejecting scienc | Paliban Daily Says:

    […] at least in the USA, science and religion don’t really mix. Religious people tend to have worse understanding of science, and scientists are, of course, far less religious that the general population (probably because […]

  3. Scientific Illiteracy in Action! « Iranianredneck’s Weblog Says:

    […] as I’ve shown in several posts related to my forthcoming paper in Social Science Quarterly, fundamentalist religious beliefs and […]

  4. 7 “lecciones”, desde las ciencias humanas, que nos ha dejado el 2010 Says:

    […] un trabajo de Darren Sherkat (comentado aquí) el efecto de las creencias religiosas sobre la educación científica es palpablemente negativo en […]

  5. Education and Support for Same Sex Marriage: Religion Blocks Education « Iranianredneck’s Weblog Says:

    […] similar increasing gap with education for sectarians and fundies in my papers on verbal ability and scientific literacy. Among sectarians and fundamentalists, education has less of an effect on verbal ability […]

  6. Science can't prove that! How rejecting evolution leads to rejecting science Says:

    […] at least in the USA, science and religion don’t really mix. Religious people tend to have worse understanding of science, and scientists are, of course, far less religious that the general population (probably because […]

  7. Eric Says:

    I dont see here “religion”, I just see christian-catholic point of view, religion is much much bigger concept than this two examples.

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