A new study by Rice University has found that only a minority of scientists at major research universities view religion and science as always in conflict, while a majority of them consider both topics as “valid avenues of knowledge”.
“When it comes to questions about the meaning of life, ways of understanding reality, origins of Earth and how life developed on it, many have seen religion and science as being at odds and even in irreconcilable conflict,” said Rice sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund.
But a majority of scientists interviewed by Ecklund and colleagues viewed both religion and science as “valid avenues of knowledge” that can bring broader understanding to important questions, she said.
They interviewed a scientifically selected sample of 275 participants, pulled from a survey of 2,198 tenured and tenure-track faculty in the natural and social sciences at 21 elite U.S. research universities.
Only 15 percent of those surveyed view religion and science as always in conflict.
Another 15 percent say the two are never in conflict, and 70 percent believe religion and science are only sometimes in conflict.
The study identified three strategies of action used by these scientists to manage the religion-science boundaries and the circumstances that the two could overlap.
Redefining categories – Scientists manage the science-religion relationship by changing the definition of religion, broadening it to include non-institutionalised forms of spirituality.
Integration models – Scientists deliberately use the views of influential scientists who they believe have successfully integrated their religious and scientific beliefs.
Intentional talk – Scientists actively engage in discussions about the boundaries between science and religion.