A recent poll of 1,000 American Protestant pastors is perhaps not surprising, given the well know opposition to evolutionary science amongst the US public. (see Poll: Pastors oppose evolution, split on earth’s age). As the figure below shows over 80% of these pastors believe Adam and Eve were literal people and over 70% oppose evolutionary science. And about half believe the earth is about 6,000 years old!
I think this does identify a problem in the science – religion relationship. There are currently strong attempts to deny any conflict between science and religion. Those making this assertion will insist that opposition to evolutionary science and similar attitudes is restricted to fundamentalists. That most Christians have a more sophisticated attitude to their religion.
But surely this poll indicates that this opposition is actually widespread amongst Christian leaders. The pastors who in many ways do provide an alternative education and ideology to their flock. It indicates that not only are anti-science attitudes common amongst protestants, that actually are very strong amongst protestant leaders and are inevitably taught or communicated to lay church members.
Personally, I don’t think the religion/science conflict is inevitable (except at the epistemological level). But there is no doubt that it exists, especially in the US. And that it is being fed by these dogmatic attitudes of religious leaders.
I suspect that we have a similar situation here – just nowhere as big. In a post over three years ago (see New Zealand supports evolution) I suggested that the 20% of New Zealander opposing evolutionary science mean that about 40% of New Zealand’s Christians oppose evolutionary science.
There are stories of scientifically inclined Christians who feel unable to mention their support for evolution amongst their church community. But perhaps a high proportion of New Zealand’s pastors, or ministers of religion, are happy to promote that attitude.
Maybe they even actively teach (or preach) an anti-science message?