Science v. religion: Understanding historical confrontations (Galileo, Darwin, Scopes) to better solve current conflicts
Becker, Lauren A.
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Despite almost one hundred years of science advocacy, surveys show that many Americans are ignorant of basic scientific facts, skeptical of scientists, fearful of an increasingly scientific society, and threatened by scientific findings, especially Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution. Science advocates continually bemoan this appalling situation and work very hard to change it, but have generally failed to produce any improvement in public attitudes toward science. New strategies are needed and this requires a fresh look at the problem. It is widely assumed that religion and religious beliefs form the biggest barriers between science and the public, a paradigm most often framed as a "war between science and religion." Within this paradigm, a "Science v. Religion" cannon of three archetypal stories are continually used to rally the pro-science troops: Galileo's trial before the Inquisition, the conflict over Darwinian evolution, and the notorious Scopes "Monkey Trial" of 1925. With these stories forming the basis of so much science advocacy--and with science advocacy being so ineffective--it is prudent to revisit the cannon to see what has been missed, and what can be better understood and applied toward new science advocacy strategies. This study reviews recent scholarship about each of these stories and concludes the following: (1) the issue is not about "Science v. Religion," but is instead about "Religion v. Modernity"; (2) for believers the real problem isn't science; it's morality; (3) some of the complaints and fears that believers express about science are reasonable and well-founded, and should be heeded by science advocates; and (4) the Galileo Affair should not be part of the "Science v. Religion" cannon. The implications of these conclusions for science advocacy strategies are explored.