The MIT Survey on Science, Religion and Origins: the Belief Gap

Interesting survey on science, religion and origins out of MIT/Boston University over at The MIT Survey on Science, Religion and Origins: the Belief Gap .

The opening paragraph on the web page with the survey (and PDF version of the longer paper) says:

We present a detailed survey of how different US faith communities view origins science, particularly evolution and Big Bang cosmology. We find a striking gap between people’s personal beliefs and the official views of the faiths to which they belong. Whereas Gallup reports that 46% of Americans believe that God created humans in their present form less than 10,000 years ago, we find that only 11% belong to religions openly rejecting evolution. This shows that the main divide in the origins debate is not between science and religion, but between a small fundamentalist minority and mainstream religious communities who embrace science. The fact that the gap between personal and official beliefs is so large suggests that part of the controversy might be defused by people learning more about their own religious doctrine and the science it endorses, thereby bridging this belief gap.

That last part is pertinent – while denominations may sit comfortably with scientific theories of origins, the punters in the pews might have quite a different point of view: Maybe from a sense of disconnection from the denomination (or a distrust of it), a range of views outside of the ‘official’ denominational one, a lack of teaching of core doctrines and their relationships to science etc., or the influence of ‘extra-denominational’ teaching and media.

2 thoughts on “The MIT Survey on Science, Religion and Origins: the Belief Gap

  1. Interesting survey there. My experience has certainly been that most evangelical Christians take their understandings of origins science from sources outside their churches rather than (non-existent) teaching in their own churches.

    Most pastors I have met admit lacking the skills needed to come to a judgement in this area both scientifically and theologically. Many of them also wish to avoid upsetting anyone which they inevitably will do no matter which ‘side’ of the argument they suggest has the most validity.

    What is needed is better theological teaching on how to approach the Scriptures so that individuals can make more informed decisions of their own, rather than the input/output style of exposition we tend to have in our churches these days.

  2. It does appear to be the case that when there is a gap in church teaching – whether around creation, eschatology or Christology – that gap gets filled pretty quickly with whatever view is most attractively packed for easy consumption.

    I’d agree with your sentiments, though good biblical exposition can be used to explore issues such as origins provided the preacher/teacher is willing to put some effort into it (and is prepared to put his or her neck on the block).

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