This gave me the idea to start the MIT Survey on Science, Religion and Origins,.... We found that only 11 percent of Americans belong to religions openly rejecting evolution or our Big Bang. So if someone you know has the same stressful predicament as my student, chances are that they can relax as well....In a followup, Max describes how he was prepared for an angry response to his news that most faith groups are actually pretty okay with evolution.
So is there a conflict between science and religion? The religious organizations representing most Americans clearly don't think so. Interestingly, the science organizations representing most American scientists don't think so either: For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science states that science and religion "live together quite comfortably, including in the minds of many scientists." This shows that the main divide in the U.S. origins debate isn't between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious communities who embrace science.
The vitriolic responses poured in as predicted. But to my amazement, most of them didn't come from religious people, but from angry atheists!...I have three criticisms of these angry atheists:
1) They help religious fundamentalists:
A key point I wanted to make with our survey is that there are two interesting science-religion controversies: a) Between religion & atheism b) Between religious groups who do & don't attack science.
Some forces pushing for creationism in US schools try to conflate the two so that they can pretend to represent the majority, and taunting religious groups that don't attack science can play into their hands. In contrast, I think that drawing attention to b) is the most effective way to weaken the anti-scientific fringe and improve the prospects for future generations.…
2) They could use more modesty:
If I've learned anything as a physicist, it's how little we know with certainty. ...
3) They should practice what they preach:You think? I'm not surprised, there is considerable anti-religion antipathy in some of more-rabid atheists. But frankly most of us are happy to live and let live, and don't really care what you believe as long as you don't inflict your beliefs upon us.
Most atheists advocate for replacing fundamentalism, superstition and intolerance by careful and thoughtful scientific discourse. Yet after we posted our survey report, ad hominem attacks abounded, and most of the caustic comments I got (including one from a fellow physics professor) revealed that their authors hadn't even bothered reading the report they were criticizing.
Just as it would be unfair to blame all religious people for what some fundamentalists do, I'm obviously not implying that all anti-religious people are mean-spirited or intolerant. However, I can't help being struck by how some people on both the religious and anti-religious extremes of the spectrum share disturbing similarities in debating style.
And then there's the angry Christian fundamentalists. When erstwhile religious dating site e-Harmony were sued and so put together a same-sex site, says their founder,Neil Clark Warren
we literally had to hire guards to protect our lives because the people were so hurt and angry with us, were Christian people, who feel that it's a violation to scripture.Yup, nothing says Jesus-follower like death threats.
Fundamentalism is by its nature intolerant. We see this lack of tolerance and respect throughout society, ranging from anti-gay to anti-Islam....to anti religion. But the step beyond that into threats of violence, is deeply, deeply disturbing. And it boggles the mind that followers of the "prince of peace" ever resort to violent rhetoric (previous examples here here and here ), when confronted by anyone different.