Because “science” and “religion” defydefinition, discussing the relationship between science (in general)and religion (in general) may be meaningless. For example, Kelly Clark(2014) argues that we can only sensibly inquire into the relationshipbetween a widely accepted claim of science (such as quantum mechanicsor findings in neuroscience) and a specific claim of a particularreligion (such as Islamic understandings of divine providence orBuddhist views of the no-self).
From the 1920s onward, the scientific study of religion became lessconcerned with grand unifying narratives, and focused more onparticular religious traditions and beliefs. Anthropologists, such asEdward Evans-Pritchard (1937/1965) and Bronislaw Malinowski(1925/1992) no longer relied exclusively on second-hand reports(usually of poor quality and from distorted sources), but engaged inserious fieldwork. Their ethnographies indicated that culturalevolutionism was mistaken and that religious beliefs were more diversethan was previously assumed. They argued that religious beliefs werenot the result of ignorance of naturalistic mechanisms; for instance,Evans-Pritchard noted that the Azande were well aware that housescould collapse because termites ate away at their foundations, butthey still appealed to witchcraft to explain why a particular househad collapsed. More recently, Cristine Legare et al. (2012) found thatpeople in various cultures straightforwardly combine supernatural andnatural explanations, for instance, South Africans are aware AIDS iscaused by a virus, but some also believe that the viral infection isultimately caused by a witch.
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These latter findings indicate that academics are more religiouslydiverse than has been popularly assumed and that the majority are notopposed to religion. Even so, in the US the percentage of atheists andagnostics in academia is higher than in the general population, adiscrepancy that requires an explanation. One reason might be a biasagainst theists in academia. For example, when sociologists weresurveyed whether they would hire someone if they knew the candidatewas an evangelical Christian, 39.1% said they would be less likely tohire that candidate—there were similar resultswith other religious groups, such as Mormons or Muslims (Yancey 2012). Anotherreason might be that theists internalize prevalent negative societalstereotypes, which leads them to underperform in scientific tasks andlose interest in pursuing a scientific career. Kimberly Rios et al.(2015) found that non-religious participants believe that theists,especially Christians, are less competent in and less trustful ofscience. When this stereotype was made salient, Christian participantsperformed worse in logical reasoning tasks (which were misleadinglypresented as “scientific reasoning tests”) than when thestereotype was not mentioned.
Science and Religion: Two Books | HuffPost
By contrast, some authors see stochasticity as a genuine designfeature, and not just as a physicalist gloss. Their challenge is toexplain how divine providence is compatible with genuine randomness.(Under a deistic view, one could simply say that God started theuniverse off and did not interfere with how it went, but that optionis not open to the theist, and most authors in the field of scienceand religion are theists, rather than deists.) Elizabeth Johnson(1996), using a Thomistic view of divine action, argues that divineprovidence and true randomness are compatible: God gives creaturestrue causal powers, thus making creation more excellent than if theylacked such powers, and random occurrences are also secondary causes;chance is a form of divine creativity that creates novelty, variety,and freedom.
New Survey Suggests Science & Religion Are …
Sociological studies (e.g., Ecklundt 2010) have probed the religiousbeliefs of scientists, particularly in the United States. Theyindicate a significant difference in religiosity in scientistscompared to the general population. Surveys such as those conducted bythe Pew forum (Masci and Smith 2016) find that nearly nine in tenadults in the US say they believe in God or a universal spirit, anumber that has only slightly declined in recent decades. Amongyounger adults, the percentage of theists is about 80%. Atheism andagnosticism are widespread among academics, especially among thoseworking in elite institutions. A survey among National Academy ofSciences members (all senior academics, overwhelmingly from elitefaculties) found that the majority disbelieved in God’sexistence (72.2%), with 20.8% being agnostic, and only 7% theists(Larson and Witham 1998). Ecklund and Scheitle (2007) analyzed responsesfrom scientists (working in the social and natural sciences) from 21elite universities in the US. About 31.2% of their participantsself-identified as atheists and a further 31 % as agnostics. Theremaining number believed in a higher power (7%), sometimes believedin God (5.4%), believed in God with some doubts (15.5%), or believedin God without any doubts (9.7%). In contrast to the generalpopulation, the older scientists in this sample did not show higherreligiosity—in fact, they were more likely to say that they didnot believe in God. On the other hand, Gross and Simmons (2009)examined a more heterogeneous sample of scientists from Americancolleges, including community colleges, elite doctoral-grantinginstitutions, non-elite four-year state schools, and small liberalarts colleges. They found that the majority of university professors(full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty) had some theistic beliefs,believing either in God (34.9%), in God with some doubts (16.6%), inGod some of the time (4.3%), or in a higher power (19.2%). Belief inGod was influenced both by type of institution (lower theistic beliefin more prestigious schools) and by discipline (lower theistic beliefin the physical and biological sciences compared to the socialsciences and humanities).