College students and perceived conflict between religion and science

The latest issue of the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion includes an article by Christopher Scheitle which discusses how U.S. college students perceive the relationship between religious and science: do the two conflict or are they independent/complementary?

Only about 30% of college freshman see the two as conflicting. Interestingly, majors in the humanities and social science fields have the lowest rate of perceived conflict (26.1% and 27%, respectively), while business and education majors have the highest rate of perceived conflict (38.9% and 41.5%, respectively). Amongst these groups who perceive the two as conflicting, the majority report that they “side with religion” instead of “siding with science”. (Although those in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics fields are more likely to side with science when they see the two as conflicting.

Interestingly, by their junior year, 71% of those who “sided with religion” during their freshman year report that they have changed to perceive religion and science as independent or complementary. In contrast, only 46% of those who “sided with science” during their freshman year did the same.

By whatever measure, though, the majority of today’s college students view science and religion either as independent or as complementing one another.

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