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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Public opinion polls on science and religion


Cartoon from Answers-in-Genesis website

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A Pew Research Center report says,

When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll. Indeed, in a May 2007 Gallup poll, only 14% of those who say they do not believe in evolution cite lack of evidence as the main reason underpinning their views; more people cite their belief in Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%) as their reason for rejecting Darwin's theory.

The above poll results do not take into account the importance of the strength of the scientific evidence that contradicts religion. IMO the stronger the scientific evidence, the greater the tendency of people to accept science over religion. For example, geocentrism [link], like creationism, is supported by the bible (also, re: the conflict with Galileo, geocentrism was once an official doctrine of the Catholic church), but practically all fundies accept heliocentrism because heliocentrism is based on direct observations and is plausible. In contrast, evolution -- the macroevolutionary kind -- is not based on direct observations and is not plausible. Also, more people accept an old earth than accept evolution because an old earth is plausible, even if not based on direct observation. So I was a bit surprised by the above poll data because I thought that the main reason for people's non-acceptance of evolution was a belief that evolution is not plausible on scientific grounds, not that evolution conflicts with their religious beliefs. However, the above poll results only give the "main" reason for non-acceptance of evolution, whereas some respondents may have had two or more reasons, e.g., both science and religion, so perhaps more than just 14% of those who did not accept evolution believed that scientific evidence was lacking. As for myself, a belief that the scientific evidence is inadequate is my sole reason for my non-acceptance of evolution -- religion has nothing to do with it at all. And I am more influenced by my ideas about coevolution than by Intelligent Design or irreducible complexity.

We can forget about the flat-earth idea, a favorite straw man of ignorant Darwinists. The flat-earth idea has little or no support in the bible and an expert historian said, "It must first be reiterated that with extraordinary few exceptions no educated person in the history of Western Civilization from the third century B.C. onward believed that the earth was flat . . ." (emphasis in original) [link] [link]

BTW, the reason for the overlap in the above responses to the May 2007 Gallup poll (16% religion generally, 16% a belief in God, and 19% a belief in Jesus) is that the question was open-ended, i.e., the respondents answered in their own words rather than chose from a list of fixed answers. A complete report of this poll is here.

Also, these poll results are discussed on the blogs of Chris Mooney and Jerry Coyne.
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