Are Religion and Science Compatible? Special

Posted Apr 29, 2009 by Carol Forsloff
According to a sociology expert, religion and science need to dialogue. If they don’t we might not have enough scientists since religion plays an active role in people’s lives. Therefore good communication between science and religion is essential.
Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins Dawkins at the University of Texas at Austin.
Photo by Shane Pope
I interviewed Dr. Elaine Howard Ecklund, Asst. Professor of Sociology and Associate Director for the Center on Race, Religion and Urban Life ar Rice University about this issue on Thursday, April 29. Ecklund recently completed a study on religion among academic scientists. She surveyed 300 scientists over a three-year period from 2005 - 2008 and found that many of them have some religious belief. Her scientific research will be encapsulated for the public in a book to be released soon entitled, What Scientists Really Think About Religion.
Ecklund’s study reveals that the Richard Dawkins type of scientist is a minority among the academicians. Less than 5% of scientists have no faith at all. 35% claim to be “spiritual atheists” which they define as having a belief in something larger than themselves. This group has rather eclectic views, using a bit of Eastern religious thought integrated with scientific thought as foundation for that belief. 68% of scientists on the whole have some sort of compatibility in their beliefs with science and religion. 50% of them are committed to their religious faith.
For the most part Dr. Ecklund did not find incompatibility between science and religion among academic scientists. 96% believe, however, in evolution and only a miniscule number in Intelligent Design. 5% may believe in evolution but have some problems with the theory.
During the research Dr. Ecklund also found a number of scientists had some sort of evangelical belief but wouldn’t be identified as such because they believe that doing so might get them categorized in some way as anti-science. Only 1% of the scientists actually state they are evangelicals while 8 to 10% practice it.
These findings brought Dr. Ecklund to some interesting conclusions. She said, “The discussion of science and religion has been undertaken well. For the most part there has been silence, and this is sad for the community and for American democracy. The public thinks scientists are against religion, and they are not. Furthermore young people believe they might be discriminated against if they enter the field of science. This is dangerous for the future.”
Science needs to be translated to the religious community, Ecklund declares. The compatibility scientists have with religion needs to be known. Without it, folks will be less trustworthy of science, considering it to be anti-faith.
Another important fact Ecklund the public needs to know is that for the most part declared atheists in the population of scientists are not opposed to religion. They do have a sense of something in the universe that is bigger than themselves. Knowing this might make a big difference in how people of faith regard science and the scientific community. Not to regard science and science as valuable and having compatibility in the arena with religion, Ecklund declares is a very serious matter.
According to Pew Research, the United States is the most religious of any of the industrialized nations of the world while at the same time its scientists are regarded highly for leadership in scientific research and application. Conflicts have occurred because while most Americans respect science they won’t accept scientific findings that aren’t compatible with their religious beliefs. In fact where science isn’t compatible with belief, Americans reject science.
In order to reduce this sort of conflict science needs to flourish in harmony in the community, and without good dialogue it will not. That would be of detriment to the American democracy as well as for the rest of the world. Ecklund’s research, given this information, would seem to be of vital importance at a time when, as she says, there has been silence between the great pillars of thought, to the detriment of us all.