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Science Education and Religion in America in the 21st Century: Holding the Center

Science Education and Religion in America in the 21st Century: Holding the Center



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Science Education and Religion in America
in the 21st Century: Holding the Center

Author: Jon D. Miller and Robert T. Pennock
Science Education and Religion in America
in the 21st Century: Holding the Center

Author: Jon D. Miller and Robert T. Pennock

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The Evolution-Creation Confict
Science Education and Religion in Americain the 21st Century: Holding the Center
 Jon D. Miller & Robert T. Pennock 
or most o the 1th and 20th centuries, there has been an uneasy trucebetween science and religion in the United States. During the 60 years sincethe end o the Second World War, the United States has been viewed as themost scientic nation on the planet. American universities and laboratorieshave developed an extraordinary array o technologies, and are responsible ora substantial portion o our modern scientic understanding o nature. More Americans have been early adopters o new technologies—rom automobilesand airplanes to antibiotics and new medical technologies—than adults in any other country. Nine out o ten Americans think that science and technology havemade their lives “healthier, easier, and more comortable.” And yet, on particularissues such as evolution and stem cell research, there has been active politicalresistance to scientic advancement rom at least some religious quarters. Suchreligious opposition has led to a low-level but ongoing struggle over the contento science education.Studies o public attitudes toward science and technology reveal that many  Americans eel conficted about science and religion. The baseline measurementin this eld is a 157 study conducted by the University o Michigan just twomonths beore the launch o Sputnik I. It was a comprehensive study o publicunderstanding o science and technology and attitudes toward selected policy areas. Miller
and others have repeated these questions over the last 50 years.The results show that a substantial majority o Americans think that scienceand technology have improved the quality o their lives and are increasingopportunities or the next generation (see
Figure 1-1
). However, the answerto another question reveals the simultaneous presence o a continuing levelo religious discomort with science. The survey item asks respondents tostrongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with the statement: “We
& S
depend too much on science and not enough on aith.” Hal o American adultsagreed with that statement in 157 and in 2005. Although that percentage hasvaried over the last ve decades, it is clear that this issue remains a point o concern or many adults.These two sets o views illustrate the continuing tension between scienceand religion in the United States. When American adults are asked to balancethese two views, the results show that they tend to avor the promise o scienceand technology over their reservations. Asked the direct question “Is the worldbetter o or worse o because o science?”—88% o adults thought that the world was better o because o science in 157, on the eve o Sputnik, and 2%expressed the same view in 2005. These results might suggest that the currentcontroversies over evolution and stem cell research refect the concerns o only asmall proportion o American adults and that the post-war American embrace o science and technology is unchallenged. A more careul analysis, however, revealsthat while there is strong support or science and technology, there are strongly held religious views that confict with modern science. Moreover, these latterviews have become amplied in recent decades as Christian undamentalistsestablished themselves as a powerul orce in American politics, seeking to insert
Figure 1-1
Attitudes Toward Science and Technology, 1957-2005
56 58 60 62 64 66 68 70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 98 00 02 04 06
World better o Healthier and easier More opportunitiesChange too ast Depend on aith
     P    e    r    c    e    n    t

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