And, while I started addressing them in a previous post, here's really where some of your poll answers come in!
I received a nice number of answers from all over the United States (quite literally "from California to the New York island"), answers from all over the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, and Wales), and Belgium. Respondents ranged from under 18-60+. Every answer was different, and people interjected their beliefs, opinions, experiences, hurt, skepticism, and hopes. 88.5% of these answers were from people who identified as "Christian." But first, I want to respond to some of the thoughts and concerns of the other 11.5%.
Now, there were not a lot of responses in this category, so I don't want to overstate my results-- it should be noted that this was a survey and I am not attempting to scientifically analyze this in any way-- but instead, to draw out some trends for discussion.
The responses of my survey show that 100% of people who did not identify as "Christian" (atheist, agnostic, other) felt that there is actual conflict between faith and science. Only 17% of Christians felt the same way.* This means that based on our experiences and world views, we're starting off approaching this from different angles.
The conflict non-Christians described ranged. One said, "strict interpretation of certain religious texts... create[s] an impossible conflict between creation and evolution," although the respondent felt that a conflict between faith and science did not have to exist and that one could believe in both. Another raised the concern that those with faith may "believe religious teaching over scientific fact," but that s/he also believed that this did not need to cause conflict. Still another that, "faith (belief in something in the absence of evidence) is not compatible with the scientific method (where beliefs should be suspended without good evidence)."
These views in regard to science are something that both those of faith and those of no faith must address.
I believe that the individuals who filled out this survey capture the problem quite nicely, actually. If I were to generalize the problem, I would say there are two main barriers (on the science side) of Christians being accepted in science.
The first is in regard to belief, the noun. The second has to do with believing, the verb.
The responses I mentioned above, talk about how our (noun) beliefs may (but do not have to) conflict with scientific findings. I would also argue that the fact that two of these individuals suggest that there does not need to be a conflict is telling. On the science end, I'd say these individuals don't really care what beliefs (noun) a person holds, as long as they concede or acknowledge the scientific data. This could, probably, mean a number of things. I don't think it will mean we'll agree about everything at the end of the day. But it does mean we can talk. On the part of Christians, I believe this is part of the call to engage in science. To educate ourselves. To look at the data. To decide how you interpret things. Not to argue; to understand. I believe that such an exercise is an exercise in humility. It is to humble ourselves to hear another's point of view instead of shouting that they're wrong and covering our ears. It is humility to look at God and creation and wonder, ponder... instead of assuming we have all the answers. Whether you believe in a very literal or more metaphorical interpretation of the Creation account, one must admit- it's a bit vague. He spoke. It happened. It was good. Christians can all agree on that much. But the details are a bit more open to interpretation. And even if you think they aren't, it is something to consider that God doesn't really tell us how. And a very strict, literal interpretation also makes the assumption that He has told us every detail (which, we don't know, and He certainly didn't have to). I think that kind of humility in discussion with other Christians and people of different or no faith would carry us far in the relationship between science and faith. And in many other areas.
The second problem is more... problematic. It is the opposition to believing (verb)-- as a way of being. It assumes that there are two kinds of people: one which requires evidence and has no faith, the other which does not require evidence because faith has replaced the need for evidence. This is where I'm asking those who don't believe, and particularly, scientists who don't believe, to work with me here.
Let me be clear: I am not arguing for faith to replace the scientific method in the lab. Or for scientists to quote the Bible in academic journals. I do not want to create that kind of a bridge between these two areas. But, as people, we need to recognize that there are all different ways of knowing a thing-- different things that count as evidence. And just as every scientific discipline has a different standard for what counts as evidence, so are these- different standards.
Some people have faith as a result of evidence. A life changed. An addiction conquered. A body healed. A palpable sense of peace in a time of unrest.
And people of science are not immune to believing.
Let me share a bit more of my respondent's thoughts: "I'd have a hard time taking a scientist seriously if they believed in fairies/Zeus/whatever. A certain level of skepticism is needed to be a good scientist. What if a scientist believed in theory X...because it just 'felt right' and that's 'what they were raised to believe'? That'd be preposterous. I think people of faith who want to practice science certainly may contribute to the field, but I'd certainly worry that they might not be as rigorous or may be susceptible to persuasion or confirmation bias."
Again, this response seems to assume that people of faith are just "believing" kinds of people. That's simply just not the case. Christians are not weak-minded and gullible. Or, at least not in any greater ratio than people of other faiths or no faith are weak-minded and gullible.
Yes, being a scientist requires counting evidence. I'm not terribly fond of the word "skepticism," I'll admit-- because scientists seek to explain things-- we seek proposing answers and we seek to support theories as well as to falsify them. But, I assume my respondent is pointing to the fact that being a scientist requires a critical eye. It requires scrutiny. I couldn't agree more.
But to assume that an individual is less intelligent, or would be less critical, or show less scrutiny, or might otherwise be unable or unwilling to perform the duties of their job simply because of their faith... That, my friends, is prejudice. And it has no place in the lab, in academia, or in the workforce more generally.
We must recognize our own prejudices and we must recognize our own bias before we point out that of another. That goes for Christians or other people of faith, too.
The lack of one kind of bias means the presence of another kind. As humans, we cannot be completely unbiased. Christians who study science are constantly bombarded with reminders of their bias. Is it not more dangerous to be unaware of one's own bias? Ignorance may be bliss, but it's time that we all burst our respective bubbles and acknowledge our own biases. And acknowledge that we are much more likely to overcome them and get closer to the truth if we work together, approaching problems from different angles and different underlying assumptions.
I also must add that when I conduct science, I answer to a much higher authority. No institutional review board, no grant committee, no ethics department has anything on the responsibility I feel to uphold that very basic, "Do not lie" command. My integrity before God is far more important than unearthing some finding that defends His existence or my interpretation of the Bible. And, again, He doesn't need any defending.
So, I'll say it again: let's do science together.
*It is also not the case that Christians are simply misled about science and therefore are unaware of potential conflict, assuming scientists agree with the Bible. 75% report perceived conflict (although there is a variety of explanations for this, with some feeling the perceived conflict from the science community and others feeling it from the church).