Thursday, August 30, 2007

How the Public Resolves Conflicts Between Faith and Science

The Pew Forum just published a web page on How the Public Resolves Conflicts Between Faith and Science
When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll.
I'm not quite sure what to make of this. I doubt that people really believe that if science disproves a religious belief, they would continue to hold that belief. I suspect that what they had in mind is that they would take the scientific evidence as somehow not convincing—in the same way that we take an optical illusion as not representing the truth. I doubt that most people are really capable of believing that a statement is both true and not worthy of belief.


C├ędric Gommes said...

For many people, science is merely what the scientists believe. It is only natural that they compare it with what the priests believe.

I heard a few times an urban legend according to which relativity is such a complex theory that only very few people on Earth can understand it. For the believers in that legend, relativity is some kind of truth revealed to a very few -and very smart- guys. They probably think that most physicists simply trust in these prophet-like scientists.

Another example: almost everybody knows that a star is a huge ball of “burning” gas. I had recently fun asking people why they believed so: very few could answer. So the nature of stars is merely a belief for most people too. Not talking of the existence of DNA, of the fact that the solar system is heliocentric, of the existence and structure of atoms, and of evolution!

I think that the 64% of people who would reject science if it were against their religious beliefs simply don’t know what science is. They don’t know that science is about facts and common sense. They don’t know that the theories result from a consensus between everybody aware of the facts.

Max said...

Which again shows how ignorance and religion (for many people the 'alternative' to complicated science) go hand in hand.