Practicing Christians and Clergy Weigh in on the “Conflict” Between Science and Religion
The idea that there is a deep and unresolved conflict between the science of evolution and Christian religious beliefs (at least for Christians in the United States) has become a cultural commonplace; producing a great deal of heated hand-wringing and angry denunciation from vocal minorities on both sides of the issue.
But how real and deep is this alleged “conflict” in the lives and beliefs of actual faith communities. Two recently published studies provide some insight into this question.
The MIT Survey on Science, Religion and Origins, conducted by Eugena Lee and Max Tegmark (Dept. of Physics & Kavli Institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Meia Chita-Tegmark (Dept. of Psychology, Boston University), examined peoples’ personal beliefs and the official views of the faiths to which they belong. According to their results, only 11% of Americans belong to religions that openly reject evolution or the Big Bang theory. This is in stark contrast to the 2012 Gallup Poll, which showed that 46% of Americans hold a creationist view of human origins. Why the difference? The MIT survey concludes, “The main divide in the origins debate is not between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious com-munities who embrace science.”
A second study conducted by the BioLogos Foundation (a group founded by Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, to promote “the search for truth in both the natural and spiritual realms”) and the Barna Group reports on telephone interviews with over 700 pastors in various protestant Christian denominations from across the United States regarding their personal beliefs on creation and evolution. In contrast to the MIT survey, this study finds that over 50% of protestant pastors either strongly believe or lean toward believing that God created life in its present form in 6 days. However, it also finds that the majority of clergy across all viewpoints agreed with the statement “Just as scripture should influence human interpretation of science, science should also inform our understanding of scripture.”