New Pew Research Center survey on religion and science

The Pew Research Center released a new survey today on religion and science. The subtitle reads “Highly religious Americans are less likely than others to see conflict between faith and science.” That definitely intrigued me, so I had to read more. I encourage anyone interested in the area of science and religion to read the report. Here are a few key points that really stood out for me.

1. The first graphic really got me thinking. Here’s what they said in their analysis:

People’s sense that there generally is a conflict between religion and science seems to have less to do with their own religious beliefs than it does with their perceptions of other people’s beliefs. Less than one-third of Americans polled in the new survey (30%) say their personal religious beliefs conflict with science, while fully two-thirds (68%) say there is no conflict between their own beliefs and science.

Most Americans Say Science and Religion Conflict, But Fewer Say Their Own Beliefs Conflict With Science

This is really interesting. So while the majority of people in the survey believe that science and religion are often in conflict, less than a third said science conflicts with their own beliefs. Clearly a perception issue. People hear from others or read articles arguing that there has to be a conflict, yet they don’t think science conflicts with their own beliefs.

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Science, Religion, and the Classroom

On Thursday, June 11, 2015, I was interviewed for the Live Wire, UNC Charlotte’s online news program about my work with science, religion, and the classrooms. I primarily discussed some of the work I did while in Louisiana associated with evolution, but this gives a nice overview of what we are currently facing when it comes to Academic Freedom legislation. There are some really good readings available on the history of the anti-evolution movement. Most of the resources that I can think of at the moment require a subscription to the journal. Here are a few:

  • Matzke, N. (2010). The evolution of creationist movements. Evolution: Education & Outreach, 3, 145-162. (NOTE: This journal is now open access. Go here.)
  • Binns, I. C. (2013). Academic freedom legislation: The latest effort to undermine the integrity of science and science education. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 24, 589-595.

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Another Wedge from Another Direction: Science Also Contributes to the Divide between Science and Faith

Darwin Fish

My first post on this blog (http://bit.ly/1F7fwRf), focused on a wedge that is separating science from religion. This wedge technique, promoted by the Discovery Institute (and employed by other religious groups) is overtly trying to force people to choose between accepting scientific explanations of the natural world and alternative Biblical explanations. Before I am accused of holding a scientistic (and anti-religious) bias, let me be clear that there is, quite certainly, a corresponding wedge from the scientific community that equally tries to force this choice between evidence and belief. I believe the figure above (found via a quick Google search) demonstrates this counterpoint quite effectively.

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Science or Faith: You Don’t Have to Choose

“It won’t matter. You won’t be able to make a difference.” This was said to me by one of my colleagues when I was a faculty member at Louisiana State University in spring of 2011. We had just discussed my efforts to stop proposed legislation (HB 580) at the Louisiana State Legislature that would have drastically changed the textbook adoption process for K-12 textbooks; namely, it would have replaced the state board’s power to “prescribe and adopt” textbooks and instructional materials with the power merely to “recommend” and it would have allowed local school boards to adopt and purchase textbooks and other materials that were not on the state list with no spending limits. This legislation was proposed because of a failed attempt in fall of 2010 to stop the adoption of biology textbooks. Nevertheless, I was determined to move forward with my efforts. I was the only person to testify against the proposed legislation in the House and Senate Education Committees. The bill sailed through both committees and the full House, but was stalled in the full Senate and died with the official adjournment of the Louisiana legislature on June 23, 2011. Go here if you want to know more about these efforts and read an article I wrote about them here. If I had listened to my LSU colleague or paid attention to comments in the newspaper, I would have just given up. Yet, I believed that it was too important for me to just give up.

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Reversing the Wedge Between Science and Faith

I was raised in a Christian home and learned much about the Creator of the universe long before learning about the universe itself. Throughout my K-16 schooling, I focused on biology; this remains my primary interest today. Sadly, during my middle and high school years, my growing understanding of the natural world collided with the teachings from my religious leaders. I encountered a supposed contradiction between the teachings of science and those of the church. It was implied (and later asserted) that I should choose which knowledge path I would pursue: that of faith, or of science. I wish my experience was uncommon during this modern age in which we live; sadly, I cannot. There is a wedge that continues to force such a choice and strives to encourage future generation to reject scientific teachings in favor of supernatural causes (Discovery Institute, 1998). The Discovery Institute is not alone in this cause (see Answers in Genesis, the Institute for Creation Research, and the Creation Research Society). While the primary focus of such organizations centers on questions of origins, their implications can extend far beyond this focus of scientific investigation. Instead, their efforts erode their followers’ confidence in science and create unhealthy skepticism about scientific claims. A major motivation for my involvement in this blog is to counter the effect of this wedge between science and religion. My primary reason to participate in this blog is to help future scientific innovators recognize how they can be BOTH people of science and people of faith.  I justify my position for working against this wedge with three major propositions. Continue reading

Why we started this

We are Ian Binns and Mark Bloom. We have worked together for several years on various research projects but always found ourselves discussing the intersection between science and faith. Recently I suggested to Mark that we should start this blog as a way to be more involved in the world outside of academia. We both recognize the importance of academic research, but we also recognize that we want our work to have a broader impact than the academic world.

I anticipate that we will delve more into our interests in future posts. I want to end this with a link to the conference that Mark and I attended along with some other friends on Friday, March 13th. We attended the Perceptions Project conference and met some really incredible people. We hope that this will be the start of some fruitful relationships and collaborations.

That’s all for now.