Thursday, May 21, 2015

Correlating faith with science

Blogger Josh Rosenau created this neat graphic, showing a striking correlation between support for environmental regulation (basically, as a proxy for believing in climate change)  and evolution, associated with religious belief.  The size of the circle represents the population associated with that belief group.  Rosenau explains,
I examined two questions. One asked people which of these statements they most agreed with:
Stricter environmental laws and regulations cost too many jobs and hurt the economy; or Stricter environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost
The other question asked people to agree or disagree with the statement:
Evolution is the best explanation for the origins of human life on earth
He goes on,
First, look at all those groups whose members support evolution. There are way more of them than there are of the creationist groups, and those circles are bigger. We need to get more of the pro-evolution religious out of the closet.

Second, look at all those religious groups whose members support climate change action. Catholics fall a bit below the zero line on average, but I have to suspect that the forthcoming papal encyclical on the environment will shake that up.

Chris Mooney in the Washington Post comments,
One possible way of interpreting the figure is that as with political parties themselves, people at least partially self-sort into faiths or denominations that seem more consonant with their own worldviews. And thus, a cluster of issue stances may travel alongside these choices of affiliation. “People are choosing what religion they want to associate with,” suggested Rosenau. “If people feel alienated from a church, they’re switching.”

There may also be a substantive point here that links together the ideas. A view of the world that thinks of human beings as having evolved, as being part of the natural world and having emerged through the same process as other organisms, may also be related to a manner of thinking that puts great overall emphasis on the value of nature and one’s connectedness with it.

In any case, while the pattern above may require more analysis, one clear punchline of the figure is that it really doesn’t make sense to say that religion is at war with science. You can say that for some people, religion is clearly linked to less science acceptance — especially on evolution. But for others, clearly, religion presents no hurdle at all.

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