Is Charles Darwin the enemy of religion or can God and science work together? That's the question behind a new study that seems to indicate that science and religion can actually collaborate. The preliminary results of the study were presented this past weekend at the annual conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The survey polled more than 10,000 Americans, including scientists and evangelical Protestants, and it revealed some common American misperceptions about religion and science, according to Rice University sociology professor Elaine Howard Ecklund, who conducted the study and presented preliminary results from 3,000 of those respondents at the conference. "We found that nearly 50 percent of evangelicals believe that science and religion can work together and support one another," Ecklund said in a news release. "That's in contrast to the fact that only 38 percent of Americans feel that science and religion can work in collaboration."

Ecklund called the survey "a hopeful message for science policymakers and educators, because the two groups don't have to approach religion with an attitude of combat. Rather, they should approach it with collaboration in mind."

The study comes on the heels of the Bill Nye the Science Guy's debate with Creation Museum founder Ken Ham, which Ecklund referred to in her comments about the study. "Most of what you see in the news are stories about these two groups at odds over the controversial issues, like teaching creationism in the schools." She said this leads to stereotyping rather than commenting about the things these groups are doing for the "common good."

The AAAS panel revealed some choice nuggets from the study:

  • 18 percent of polled scientists attend weekly religious studies, compared to 20 percent of the general U.S. population
  • 27 percent of respondents felt that science and religion are in conflict, and of that group 52 percent sided with religion
  • Meanwhile, 22 percent of scientists said they felt most religious people are hostile toward science. At the same time, 22 percent of respondents from the general population said they thought scientists were hostile to religion.
  • Nearly 60 percent of evangelical Protestants and 38 percent of all surveyed believe "scientists should be open to considering miracles in their theories or explanations"
Ecklund has tackled this topic before in her 2010 book, "Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think," in which she wrote "The 'insurmountable hostility' between science and religion is a caricature, a thought-cliché, perhaps useful as a satire on groupthink, but hardly representative of reality." The book and her most recent research have garnered complaints from some scientists, such as the author of the Why Evolution is True blog, who accuses her of "twisting her survey data to show that science and religion are compatible."

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