Monday, June 18, 2007

Science and Religion in America

I found an interesting post over at Marginal Utility last week, dissecting data from the General Social Survey about belief in science among Americans. In the post, scientific knowledge is broken down by religion, on a range of "controversial" (in the sense that deniers don't want to believe the evidence) scientific subjects. For example, here's the one on evolution:What it clearly shows is that as religious belief become less fundamentalist, scientific understanding grows. Much of this may be due to the lower schooling standards in the parts of the country where fundamentalist protestantism is ascendant, and it points up the growing divide in the U.S. regarding science and reason on one hand, and religion on the other.
As an aside, I recently saw a review of an interesting new book "Deer Hunting with Jesus" by Joe Bageant:

From the Amazon review:

After thirty years spent scratching together a middle-class life out of a “dirt-poor” childhood, Joe Bageant moved back to his hometown of Winchester, Virginia, where he realized that his family and neighbors were the very people who carried George W. Bush to victory. That was ironic, because Winchester, like countless American small towns, is fast becoming the bedrock of a permanent underclass. Two in five of the people in his old neighborhood do not have high school diplomas. Nearly everyone over fifty has serious health problems, and many have no health care. Credit ratings are low or nonexistent, and alcohol, overeating, and Jesus are the preferred avenues of escape.
I think that description applies here - poor families with no education and no future are the backbone of the fundamentalist faith, so it's no surprise to see results like these.

Even more astounding, only 40% of fundamentalist protestants believe the Earth orbits the sun in one year. That's less than half. Frankly, I think this may invalidate most of the rest of the data, because even for those with no religious affiliation, the numbers are only around 60%, which clearly indicates to me that most Americans are unqualified to answer questions on any scientific topic. It does however seem to me that on the whole, those people categorized as having no religious affiliation, or those who are jewish or catholic, are more highly educated and open to scientific reason than fundamentalist protestants.

13 comments:

themaiden said...

Wow! That is horrible. The 'evolution' chart doesn't surprise me, but 'the sun around the earth' question? Amazing. How can you get through fifth grade and miss that?

insight said...

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