Home Christian News Christians in Science Perceived As Less Competent By Non-Religious People: Study

Christians in Science Perceived As Less Competent By Non-Religious People: Study

christians in science
Picture by Julia Koblitz (via Unsplash)

A recent study has revealed that nonreligious people are likely to be biased against Christians who work in scientific fields, believing them to be less competent in those fields due to perceived incompatibility between scientific theory and the Christian faith. 

Published in “Public Understanding of Science,” the research study involved 365 participants, 151 of whom identified as Christian and 214 who identified as nonreligious. 

The study indicated that bias against scientists who hold to Christian convictions seems to center on the assumption that science and Christian beliefs are fundamentally incompatible. Such a bias has been anecdotally illustrated on numerous occasions throughout the years, with suspicion of nonreligious scientists being a constant presence in evangelical circles and vice versa. 

Study author Cameron Mackey, a doctoral candidate at Ohio University, noted one high profile example of such suspicion, saying, “There’s a belief in many Western societies that science and religion are in conflict. For example, many prominent atheists such as Steven Pinker and Sam Harris opposed Francis Collins as the head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) because he was an Evangelical Christian.”

Indeed, acrimony has often been mutually expressed between the scientific and evangelical communities, iconically illustrated a 2014 public debate about evolution between Answers in Genesis founder Ken Ham and Bill Nye of the children’s program “Bill Nye the Science Guy.” 

The debate over evolution and the mechanism by which life sprang forth on earth has been a splinter point between Christians and the scientific world since the publication of Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” in 1859.

This schism over evolution has pushed certain segments of the evangelical movement toward anti-intellectualism, which in many cases has become part and parcel of the tradition itself. 

“The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind,” Christian historian Mark Noll famously wrote in 1994.

It seems that nonreligious individuals tend to agree with Noll’s indictment, though in a decidedly more totalizing fashion, even expressing doubt that evangelicals could prove themselves competent in scientific areas of research. 

Among other things, participants were asked to rate different faith groups, such as atheists, agnostics, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, on different attributes such as intelligence, interest in science, general competence, competence in science, and scientific ability. 

RELATED: Is Belief in God Compatible With Belief in a Multiverse? Ken Ham Answers

Nonreligious participants were far more likely to see science and Christian faith as incompatible and thus rated Christians as less intelligent and competent.