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February 17, 2014

Another Beautiful Liberal Narrative Slain by "Science"

Aren't these religious folks supposed to be burning scientists at the stake or something?

The supposed rift between science and religion has led to the commonly held view that Christians overtly dismiss the sciences. But a new study released by Rice University actually finds that evangelicals are more likely than the general public to believe that science and faith can work together.

Sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund recently conducted the study, titled, “Religious Understandings of Science,” which found that only 38 percent of the general public believes that “science and religion can work in collaboration.”

That said, the proportion of evangelicals was even higher.

“We found that nearly 50 percent of evangelicals believe that science and religion can work together and support one another,” she said in a press release announcing the results.

This wasn’t the only fascinating find. The results also indicated that scientists aren’t far off from the rest of the public when it comes to attendance at weekly religious services. While 20 percent of the U.S. attends church each week, so do 18 percent of scientists.

Additionally, while 19 percent of the U.S. considers itself very religious, 15 percent of scientists report feeling the same. Similar results were found when it comes to the weekly reading of religious texts (17 percent versus 13.5 percent).

And while 26 percent of the general populace prays several times per day, so do 19 percent of scientists.

Bonus question: does this make Bill Nye a "Science Denier"?

Posted by Cassandra at February 17, 2014 11:01 AM

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To be honest, as a liberal, I'm pretty sure the 'narrative' you are referring to is not that scientists aren't Christians or church goers, but that Christians over other groups tend to view science with skepticism, or as untrustworthy or even mythically-based discipline. There is a slight but crucial difference in those two statements, and I don't believe the latter is actually addressed by that study at all. I am an ex-pat yankee living in the south, and I have noticed a subtle but pervasive streak that colors the beliefs of many people I've interacted with down here. Not that it's exclusively found down here, but is it more prevalent than up north. Also more prevalent down here is the religious fervor without introspective questioning of the religious text. Coincidence, or not? I don't know. Just throwing that out there!

Posted by: Roz at February 17, 2014 02:30 PM

To be honest, as a liberal, I'm pretty sure the 'narrative' you are referring to is not that scientists aren't Christians or church goers, but that Christians over other groups tend to view science with skepticism, or as untrustworthy or even mythically-based discipline.

Well, it's quite possible that my take is colored by personal experience :)

My sister in law is a scientist who is very anti-religion. Her view as I understand it is that science is always based on fact and evidence (never on confirmation bias or emotion) whereas religion is nothing more than ignorant superstition. She doesn't see any good in religion that I've ever been able to discern (not even the well documented good effects on social responsibility that go along with faith). So apparently, she's capable of discounting Science when that position supports her belief that faith is bad and harmful.

My own brother has very similar views about religion - they border on insulting (faith is superstition, religious people are irrational, etc). Actually, now that I think of it, they don't border on insulting - they are insulting, but I love him and aside from this quirk he's a good man, husband, and father. I just happen to think he's got a bit of a blind spot on this one topic.

There is a slight but crucial difference in those two statements, and I don't believe the latter is actually addressed by that study at all.

I'm not sure if it is or isn't. If evangelical Christians view science as untrustworthy or based on mythology, why would they be more likely than the general public to think science and religion can work together?

I wouldn't want to work with a profession whose methods or work I didn't trust or believe in.

Also more prevalent down here is the religious fervor without introspective questioning of the religious text.

I've seen that too, FWIW. My kids have had a hard time with this attitude in some of their friends. But also in fairness, I've seen an almost reflexive, unquestioning "faith" in science from the scientific community (the "DENIERS!" faction of the global warming crowd come to mind - every time I hear that I think, "BLASPHEMERS!!!!" :)

Anyway, you make some good points. Thanks for commenting!

Posted by: Cassandra at February 17, 2014 03:05 PM

As someone who has been "sort of" a scientist for about 33 years, and who has rubbed elbows (at times) with some fairly intelligent people, I would only say that outwardly discussing an aspect of Christian faith with another scientist is like walking into a minefield.
You can be attacked, ridiculed, mocked and on and on. It does not bother too much, but it does bother me when so many so-called scientists take so much of what their fellows say and do "on faith", and so much bad research and so many bad papers are published. Yet, this is "science".

The scientific method, is frequently stood on its head by many clever scientists pursuing their own agenda. It is my experience with people (not just scientists) that their emotions and intuitive notions guide their beliefs, and that the more clever they are, the more clever (but not necessarily true) are their rationalizations for whatever they wish to believe.


Following what you believe to be the truth, whether in science, faith or anything else, is a road paved with thorns.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at February 17, 2014 08:57 PM

There actually is no logical evidence that science is incompatible with Judea-Christian faiths. The argument is simple. The Old Testament clearly states that God is omniscient and omnipotent. God knows everything and and can do anything. Even atheists agree on those points. Therefore it is impossible to use logic to disprove God's existence, because God is not constrained by logic. For example, human thoughts which question God could be placed there by God. God wants us to be happy, but he never said it would be easy, or simple. He also said He will test us. God is capable of making some people believe in Him, and other people doubt Him.

This leaves plenty of operating room for scientists. Einstein saw no conflict. Science is the exciting enterprise of figuring out how God actually does things.

Socialists are actually at war with science because it is constantly proving them wrong. For example democratic free-enterprise countries are much richer that socialist countries. Almost all the wealth in human history was created by capitalism. Biology has shown that all species pursue self-interest and none are socialist. They all survive by some mixture of cooperation with competition. No species has outlawed all competition and survived.

People in socialist countries still persue self-interest. They use meta-cognition
to 'game' the rules, and circumvent them with massive black markets.

Atheistic socialists point to the Scopes Monkey trials as proof that evolutionary science is right. But an omnipotent God could easily make all life forms in a day, and have time left over to create a massive fossil record. Science cannot dispute this possibility because we don't know what time is. God is not bounded by time anyway.

A bizarre final twist is that Darwin and evolutionary theory disproves socialism. All species cooperate and compete to eat. But socialists insist we're not supposed to compete, and the rich are supposed to feed us. Economic evidence shows that never works.

Posted by: DemocracyRules at February 18, 2014 01:50 AM

@ Cass - that IS interesting that so many evangelicals believe science and religion can work together, and yes, I personally know many scientists who DON'T feel that way...but there are those that do, too. I don't find belief in one precludes belief in the other, for me.

@ Don - Very well said! There are too many unreliable papers/experiments to have a mindless belief in science, too, yet it's true that many do :( It sort of defeats the tenets of science to not fact check, does it not? Yet who has time to replicate every experiment they read about? LOL! It's a sorry state of affairs, indeed. Just reinforces the need to always include the possibility that one's obtained information is, well, wrong. That's discouraging really....

Posted by: Roz at February 18, 2014 08:37 AM

The "Scopes Monkey Trial" had actually little to do with Darwinian evolutionary thought, but a whole lot more to do with eugenics thoughts of the early part of the 20th century. Most of what we think we know about the Scopes Monkey Trial is what H.L. Mencken wrote about it, and a lot of what he wrote were lies. Imagine that, someone in the Media creating a dishonest narrative to advance their own agenda?

As the 20th century unwound, the popularity of eugenics has faded greatly, perhaps largely due to the perceived antics of the Third Reich of Germany. Like many things that have disappeared down the memory hole, "right thinking people" do not talk too much about eugenics these days (although actual knowledge of genetics is bound to bring up this subject again).

Science, like most other realms of human endeavor, is full of human weakness and corruption, because it is human beings that are doing the science and deciding what fits and what doesn't.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at February 18, 2014 03:42 PM

That evangelicals are more likely to believe that science and religion are compatible is not necessarily to say that evangelicals are more likely to trust in science.

It very well could be (to make a point) that 100% of non-evangelicals trust in science but 0% think that science and religion are compatible while 50% of evangelicals trust in science but that only 25% believe they are reconcilable.

So while more evangelicals than non-evangelicals believe the two to be reconcilable they could still be the "science deniers".

What I find somewhat prevalent among Christians isn't that Science is wrong. It just isn't the Truth. That is, that God created the universe 6,000 years ago, but created it to look and act as if it were 14 billion years old. And that He did it for the same reason that Jesus often spoke in parables: so that those who didn't want to hear the truth wouldn't hear it. Thus, they believe, that science is a useful tool and that models that require a 14 billion year old universe to arrive, say, at a cure for cancer are very good things. It just isn't the Truth.

I don't hold to this view myself. And I don't know just how prevalent this veiw is, but it does seem to pop up a lot with the more literal strains of Christian theology.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 18, 2014 04:30 PM

Science, like most other realms of human endeavor, is full of human weakness and corruption,

I trust "Science" a whole lot more than "Scientists". Scientists are just people. No more or less honest, no more or less corruptible.

And when your research says "My results say I should take your money against your will" putting "Scientist" behind your name doesn't turn off my alarm bells.

Figures don't lie, but liars do figure.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 18, 2014 04:38 PM

Science, like most other realms of human endeavor, is full of human weakness and corruption, because it is human beings that are doing the science and deciding what fits and what doesn't.

I love this comment, Don :)

This is what I have been trying to point out for ages. Think of all the things that can go wrong even when the scientific method is followed:

1. The hypothesis isn't framed correctly.
2. Things that should be controlled for, aren't. (and that's a LOT harder than it looks to outsiders). Not that I"m a scientist. I don't even pretend to be one on the Internet. But I do work with numbers and the interpretation thereunto appertaining.
3. So ... you get a result. What does it mean or prove?

This is where I suspect a lot of studies go wrong. People get attached to their pet theory of "why" X happened. Explaining why it happened (or didn't happen) is where a lot of bias creeps in. I keep thinking of all these studies where college students (a non-representative sample of all adults) or bonobos or cave men (because we have such good historical records of cave man life) or WEIRD societies are used to draw conclusions about human nature.

Of course this is all social science, which some folks would claim isn't science at all :p I might even agree with them.

But you have studies of heart disease that only use male subjects and drug studies that only use male patients even though we've known for decades that women metabolize drugs differently and don't exhibit the same warning signs before a heart attack. "Scientists" design these studies incorrectly, or extrapolate beyond what the study actually shows.

There's the method, and then there's the interpretation after the fact. And then there's the media reporting (which often looks NOTHING like what the study actually concluded).

Posted by: Cassandra at February 18, 2014 05:02 PM

2. Things that should be controlled for, aren't. (and that's a LOT harder than it looks to outsiders). Not that I"m a scientist. I don't even pretend to be one on the Internet. But I do work with numbers and the interpretation thereunto appertaining.

Well, I *am*, and not only is it extremely difficult there's also rarely a "correct" answer. I'm actually in the planning stages of a project right now (it's why I haven't been able to follow up comments near as well as I'd like) and before we even get to the model building phase there are thousands of questions such as:

Why should we start the data sample on *that* date? Why not this other one?
Why did you choose that length of time to observe and not longer/shorter?
Why *that* event and not the more/less serious one?
Why did you exclude/include that segment of people?
Does this group belong as a variable in a single model or should they get their own model?
Wonderful, half our customers live in Zip Code 99999! /sarc
How do we account for the behaviors we didn't observe?
Holy Crap! How did a male have a hysterectomy? Should we exclude this person? Spend money to clean the data? Or just accept it as noise?

The answer to almost all these questions is "It depends". Most are purely judgement calls.

There's a reason we talk of The Arts & Sciences collectively. There's quite a bit of the former in the latter.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 18, 2014 05:46 PM

I should also mention that many of these issues work against each other. If you think a more recent population is more relevant it necessarily means your observation observation period will be shorter. This means you not observe some odd the events your are looking for.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 18, 2014 06:26 PM

I should also mention that many of these issues work against each other. If you think a more recent population is more relevant it necessarily means your observation observation period will be shorter. This means you not observe some odd the events your are looking for. - Yu-Ain Gonnano

In many ways, this statement is the story of Anthropogenic Global Warming ...er... Climate Change Research.
Select you anecdotal information carefully, or you may come to a conclusion that has no conclusion.

The world is 6,000 years old? Rev. Usher and that figgerin' he did with Biblical geneology has done more to heap ridicule on religion than almost anything in the last 500 years. And Galileo Galili was originally encouraged and sponsored by the Catholic Church, but got himself caught up with one faction that fell out of favor, and suffered more for that than any of his heliocentric observations and comments caused.
Truth to Men can be found in certain Biblical truths, but Religion fails when it proclaims alleged scientific truths that it cannot possibly prove.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at February 18, 2014 08:38 PM

Yep, Galileo's sin wasn't in saying the earth revolved around the sun, but in saying that the Bible supported that claim. The Church's position was that the Bible was silent on the matter and that Galileo needed to stick to science and stop trying to teach theology.

Rev. Usher and that figgerin' he did with Biblical geneology has done more to heap ridicule on religion than almost anything in the last 500 years.

Well genealogy or not, the enumerated lineage of Adam to Jesus isn't the couple hundred thousand years that anatomically modern humans have been around and it sure isn't the 4.5 billion years that the earth has been around.

These ages must be reconciled by the believer somehow.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 18, 2014 09:19 PM

Full disclosure, I consider myself a scientist based on a degree in Applied Science, and qualification as a Navy Nuclear Engineer, though I've never worked professionally in scientific research.

Observations:
1. Einstein had no problem with God.
2. IMO, much of the Bible is either allegorical, or perhaps an attempt to present grand ideas in a way that us 'ordinary' humans could understand.
Therefore the putative 6,000 year history of the universe is just silly; exactly which of our human ancestors would have understood a presentation of our current understanding of cosmic history (which has been rewritten several times in just the last couple generations!)?
. . . and more to the point, why does anyone think that what we observe as physical laws could not have originally been established by God?
'Intelligent Design' is widely mocked by liberal scientists, yet quite difficult to refute with data.
Ask a physicist what came before the big bang, or why it occurred when it did . . . some questions simply cannot be answered by Science alone.
3. Much of the first part of the Old Testament was probably originally an oral history, or even an epic poem.
4. At one time in my life I went through a period of profound religious doubt, to the point of actually investigating the issue from an intellectual / scientific point of view, and read several apologist works. I recommend C.S. Lewis.
My conclusion was that the existence of God can neither be proven, nor disproven by 'ordinary' means . . . it really is an act of faith.


Hi YAG,
With respect the Social 'Sciences' rely on surveys and inferential statistics are very far removed from the Physical Sciences.
Perhaps *the cardinal* error of 'Climatologists' is applying tools of the social sciences to an issue that is inherently a physical science issue (Geophysics).


Best Regards,

Posted by: CAPT Mike at February 18, 2014 10:29 PM

I would disagree with that statement about using social science techniques for AGW. They really do try to model air currents with fluid dynamics and thermodynamics. Influential stats also isn't a social science technique. Physicists and chemists use them just the same.

The biggest problem is that since there can be no experimentation with a control group our one with multiple levels of treatment controlling for all other factors it's *all* influential statistics. And I say that as an inferential statistician. It doesn't make it wrong, but when you build models on top of models on top of models on top of other models it's real easy for honest people to make major mistakes. Including thinking your confidence intervals are a lot narrower than they really are. Throw in some bad actors who throw out 95% off their collected data to ensure a result because they already know the right answer* and honest mistakes get reinforced.

*Notice I didn't put 'right' in quotes. If you measured the acceleration of gravity as 8.4m/s/s instead of 9.8 are you more likely to think everyone else is wrong or that your data is bad?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 18, 2014 11:07 PM

*Influential stats* was supposed the be inferential stats.

Auto correct is not my friend. :-)

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 18, 2014 11:16 PM

I take the necessity of God to have been demonstrated logically by Avicenna, though his argument is not well known in the West. It's a very long and complex form, in the 13th book of a longer work, and Medieval as well as Persian, so it doesn't garner much interest today. But there's nothing wrong with the Neoplatonic argument he fields (as opposed to the Aristotelian aspects of his argument, which are demonstrably wrong). In fact, not only can I see no reason why he could be wrong about the necessity of what he calls "the Necessary Existent," he also seems to be right about its qualities insofar as he is reasoning to them instead of taking them as read from Aristotle. When contemporary theoretical physicists talk about how the multiple dimensions come to be, the kind of entity they are describing is very similar in qualities to the one Avicenna reasoned to a thousand years ago.

But this is to the side. The question is whether science and religion are compatible. They are not, if both are held to be fundamental. They are, if one is to be interpreted in light of the other. The Medieval position -- the Medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides says this explicitly -- is that religion is to be understood in terms of science and logic. That doesn't make it less true. It's like one of those teacher's editions of the High School math texts: the answers are in the back. Revelation provides the answers, and the answers are reliable. But how do you get there from the problem in front of you? That's really the whole work.

Posted by: Grim at February 18, 2014 11:59 PM

IMO, much of the Bible is either allegorical, or perhaps an attempt to present grand ideas in a way that us 'ordinary' humans could understand.
Therefore the putative 6,000 year history of the universe is just silly; exactly which of our human ancestors would have understood a presentation of our current understanding of cosmic history (which has been rewritten several times in just the last couple generations!)? . . . and more to the point, why does anyone think that what we observe as physical laws could not have originally been established by God? 'Intelligent Design' is widely mocked by liberal scientists, yet quite difficult to refute with data.

A while back I heard a segment on NPR about the scientific community's open persecution of scientists who wanted to explore the idea of intelligent design.

The really funny thing about it was that these scientists behaved EXACTLY the way they claim religious people do (close minded, presuming the conclusion before any serious attempt to study the problem, etc.). They essentially treated the current scientific consensus as irrefutable and not to be questioned :p

Posted by: Cass at February 19, 2014 08:08 AM

perhaps an attempt to present grand ideas in a way that us 'ordinary' humans could understand [snip] exactly which of our human ancestors would have understood a presentation of our current understanding of cosmic history (which has been rewritten several times in just the last couple generations!)?

This is pretty much my take. Trying to explain the Big Bang, gravitational collapse and how all elements larger than hydrogen are formed in stars which then exploded and collapsed again to form new stars and planets, genetics, DNA and evolution, etc to people whose knowledge of math was just enough to maintain inventory of their sheep and whose knowlege of the microscopic was non-existant would lose the forest for the trees. God created the universe, created the Earth, created Mankind with free will and with it we have been mucking things up ever since. :-)

A while back I heard a segment on NPR about the scientific community's open persecution of scientists who wanted to explore the idea of intelligent design.

I gotta say, I've never understood this argument. Especially since I envision that at some point in the future some of these scientists will themselves become intelligent designers. Will the life they create and plant on Mars (should it already be or evolve to become intelligent) be allowed to seek the truth of their intelligently designed origin? Or would that still be anti-science heresy?

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 19, 2014 09:32 AM

I would disagree with that statement about using social science techniques for AGW. They really do try to model air currents with fluid dynamics and thermodynamics. Influential stats also isn't a social science technique. Physicists and chemists use them just the same. - Yu-ain Gonnano

My apologies, if you were responding to my comment about conclusions about AGW and your research.
My problem with AGW research is that they pick and choose data that fits their conclusions, so it is as much about anecdotal data as it is about applying all the data out there.

Modeling fluid dynamics has a lot of inherent problems in open, 3-dimensional systems. My understanding of the differential equations involved (limited) is that generally only work WELL in 2-dimensions. And there is the further problem of doing numerical methods to solve differential fluid dynamic equations without controlling boundary conditions (limitations on solutions), which is part of the reason that their models always seem to "run away" with global warming.

My oldest son is now a Psychology-sociology double major, and we have talked about research and gathering data to write papers, etc. To me, the biggest problem with that kind of social research is that you almost have to choose to use a logical reason to exclude some data, or else the research is not do-able, and nothing can be concluded. With people, there are just too many variables in play, and people are not lab rats that can be run in mazes.
That is related to one of the most misunderstood aspects of the research social science/medical research that was done many years ago on black men in the South that had syphyllis. There was no cure at the time (1930's - penicillin did not exist), and the research was meant to study their contacts and social behavior to track the ways the disease could spread.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at February 19, 2014 11:31 AM

My apologies, if you were responding to my comment about conclusions about AGW and your research.

No apologies needed. I was responding to the Capt's comment and no apology would be needed from him either.

My work isn't in climate, but inferential statistics doesn't really care what the topic is. It's all dependent and response variables to me. :-)

That said, I think climate scientists should get credit when they do perform the work of "hard sciences" and yes, inferential statistics does count as a "hard science".

My problem with AGW research is that they pick and choose data that fits their conclusions, so it is as much about anecdotal data as it is about applying all the data out there.

Yes and no. We all "pick and choose" our data. There is a ton of ways to do that poorly and not all of them are due to bad faith. And even the correct way is not always clear.

Let's say that you are forecasting home prices (also not my day job) picking data from prior to the housing crash is probably not very useful. You have a crapton of data, but it's underlying fundamentals are very different than that of today. So you probably need to pick and choose homes sold after 2008 only. But then, that leaves you only 6 years of data. Most people stay in their home for more than 6 years so you don't have many repeat sales, and in that sales are down anyway and you have even fewer repeat sales. So the data that's relevant is thin and the thick data isn't relevant. What do you do?

Well, including the older data, but carefully excluding homes that don't match a current profile of home sales (investor flipping, mass speculative home starts, and even entire cities/MSAs, or possibly the time window of the bubble) could be an entirely appropriate and proper "picking and choosing" of data. But it is not at all clear that any one or combination of sample selections are slam-dunk obviously correct choices.

So this leaves a lot of room for both bad actors *and* simple honest mistakes.

The only way to know you are actually right is a process called backtesting. You make a prediction and see if it comes true.

For AGW, 10-15 year predictions haven't worked out so well. First it was Global Cooling. Oops. The it was Global Warming. Oops. Now it's Global Climate Change so no matter what happens they can't be wrong! #Winning!

But 10-15 years isn't really "Climate" anyway. It's still "weather".
Climate is probably closer to 100-200 years, but we can't possibly wait that long for results. Our attention spans aren't that long and besides Global Cooling/Warming/Change will kill us all before then.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at February 19, 2014 12:09 PM

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