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Study: 2 Million U.S. Scientists Identify As Evangelical
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The media often portrays scientists and Christians as incapable of peaceful coexistence. But results from a recent survey suggest the two are not as incompatible as one might think. In fact, 2 million out of nearly 12 million scientists are evangelical Christians. If you were to bring all the evangelical scientists together, they could populate the city of Houston, Texas.

Sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and her colleagues at Rice University and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) reported results from the largest study of American views on science and religion at the association's annual conference in Chicago on Sunday, February 16. More than 10,000 people, including 574 self-identified as scientists, responded to the 75-question survey. Among the scientists, 17 percent said the term "evangelical" describes them "somewhat" or "very well," compared to 23 percent of all respondents.

Religion

% All Respondents

% Scientists

Evangelical Protestants

22.9

17.1

Mainline Protestants

26.9

24.9

Catholics

23.8

19.1

Jews

1.9

3.9

Mormons

1.8

1.7

Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains

2.6

7.2

Atheists/Agnostics/No Religion

15.5

24.4

Something Else

4.7

1.7

Ecklund first became interested in studying religious people's perceptions of science after a conversation one Sunday morning at a church in Upstate New York. She was attending the church as part of a research study she was conducting for her master's thesis on religion and family life. Upon learning Ecklund attended Cornell University, a woman told her she hoped her daughter would not decide to go there.

And why not?

"She said, 'I'm really scared that when she gets onto campus, that she'll take science classes," and the atheist scientists will convince her to abandon her faith, Ecklund recalled.

At that moment, Ecklund decided that at some point in her career, she would conduct a large study to determine if this view is typical of evangelicals—and whether members of other religious groups feel the same way.

This is not her first research study on people's perceptions of science and religion. In her 2010 book Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Believe, Ecklund surveyed 1,700 natural and social scientists at top universities and found that only about two percent identify as evangelical.

This new survey, by contrast, focused on "rank and file" scientists, including those in health care, life sciences, computers, and engineering.

In addition to religious identity, the new survey focused on perceptions people have about science and religion. About the same number of people in the general public perceive hostility by religious people toward science as perceive hostility by scientists toward religion—about 1 in 5. But among evangelical scientists, a strong majority (57 percent) perceive hostility from scientists toward religion, which may suggest Christians in scientific fields have negative experiences with fellow scientists in the workplace regarding their faith.

The survey also found that evangelical scientists are more active in their faith than American evangelicals in general. They are more likely to consider themselves very religious, to attend religious services weekly, and to read religious texts at least every week.

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Study: 2 Million U.S. Scientists Identify As Evangelical