Science in America: Religious Belief and Public Attitudes

  • December 18, 2007
  • By Scott Keeter, David Masci, and Gregory Smith

The United States is the most religious of the advanced industrial democracies. At the same time, American scientists are recognized to be leaders in many areas of scientific research and application. This combination of widespread religious commitment and leadership in science and technology greatly enlarges the potential for conflict between faith and science in the United States.

And indeed, a close reading of survey data shows that while large majorities of Americans respect science and scientists, they are not always willing to accept scientific findings that squarely contradict their religious beliefs. Furthermore, where scientific evidence and long-held religious belief come into direct conflict, many Americans reject science in favor of the teachings of their faith tradition.

At the same time, such conflicts -- where scientists and people of faith explicitly disagree on concrete facts -- are not common in the United States today. Indeed, the theory of evolution as a means to explain the origins and development of life remains the only truly concrete example of such a conflict. To a lesser extent, faith also plays a role in shaping views about the nature of homosexuality and, to a much smaller degree, global warming.

Read the full report Science in America: Religious Belief and Public Attitudes on the Pew Research Center Web site.