Monday, January 6, 2014

Faith, Science and Education

Last week, an Op-Ed in the New York Times reported on a Pew Center study regarding the acceptance of evolution among various political and religious groups in America.  About 2/3 of Democrats and Independents accept the fact that species have evolved (including humans, of course) while only 43% of Republicans agreed.  Among religious groups, evolution is accepted by 78% of white Protestants, 60% of white Catholics, 44% of African American Christians and only 27% of Evangelical Christians.

I suspect that the dramatic discrepancy among these groups is related to the educational experience of those surveyed.  It seems to me that an individual's religious fervor and his/her level of education generally have an inverse relationship; the more one understands about the nature of our Universe, including the nature of his/her fellow man, the less likely he/she is to accept the rigid dogma of an organized religion. While many highly educated individuals profess religious faith, they are (in my experience) less strict in their interpretation of its laws and more reticent to impose their beliefs on the rest of society.

Despite a wealth of scientific evidence supporting evolution, a sizable percentage of American adults (40% overall) reject its principles.  This worrisome statistic highlights both the powerful influence of organized religion in our society and the lack of political will to ensure that scientific education is protected from that influence.  Hopefully, social evolution will alter those dynamics.