New book seeks to bridge gap between science, religion
Elaine Howard Ecklund, in her book, “Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think,” acknowledges that Americans are almost evenly divided between those who think science conflicts with religion and those who don’t, according to The Journal Gazette.
Both sides have scientific backers, too, with atheist biologist Richard Dawkins who said faith is unnecessary and irrational and geneticist Francis S. Collins who gathered evangelical scientists to promote a view of harmony between science and faith, The Journal Gazette said.
Ecklund, a Rice University sociologist and director of religion and public life, surveyed 1,700 scientists at elite American research universities with 275 lengthy follow-up interviews, The Journal Gazette said.
Her findings? Half of the top scientists surveyed are religious. Among them, 18 percent attend religious services once a month, seven percent are conservative to moderate Protestants or Catholics, and 17 percent are liberal Protestants or Catholics, according to beliefnet.
Only five of the 275 interviewed actively opposed religion.
Even among the third who are atheists, many consider themselves “spiritual,” The Journal Gazette said.
Ecklund for example cites one biologist who described science as “the skeptical improvement of all knowledge,” but added that “the evidence is never perfect,” according to beliefnet.
The biologist said, “Every fact can be overturned, and we all know this. But when it comes to talking publicly about creationism, suddenly evolution is a fact. Darwin is completely right,” beliefnet reported.
Ecklund also spoke to a neuroscientist who “took his beliefs about science being the only type of knowledge worth pursuing to their logical conclusion. Because science is capable of comprehending the totality of life, human life is no more noble than that of a cockroach,” beliefnet reported.
While noting that the comparison to a cockroach was meant to be a joke, Ecklund cited scientists who objected to this type of thinking. One scientist noted that “science [should] not pretend to solve spiritual or ethical problems and not pronounce on things it has no authority to pronounce on,” beliefnet reported.
Ecklund noted that several biologists felt that to mix purely biological answers concerning mechanism with philosophical and religious questions of ethics is to make science address questions it is incapable of answering, beliefnet reported.
While Ecklund avoided editorializing, she did encourage a genuine dialogue between scientists and the broader public in order to bridge the divide, The Journal Gazette said.
The Journal Gazette also noted that this book is aimed mainly at scientists, but suggested that even non-scientists could benefit from reading it.