Religiosity in the Liberal Republic of Science: a subversive disposition or just another manifestation of the pluralism that makes scientific knowledge possible?
A thoughtful correspondent writes in connection with the "religiosity/science comprehension interaction" post:
you are on the verge of unearthing something very important with this religion inquiry, in my mind.
i bet the key thing you are missing here is a "trust in science" measure, which would tie it all together.
could be ... can you think of a good test for that? It would have to be something, of course, that doesn't treat "belief" in evolution or even "climate change" as evidence of "trust in science" as an analytical matter--since what we are actually trying to figure out is whether the effect of religiosity on positions on evolution and climate change is a reflection of the association between religiosity and "distrust" in science or something else.
I can think of two competing hypotheses here (a single hypothesis is like a single hand clapping!)
The first is the one that might be animating your surmise: the classic "secular/sectarian conflict thesis," which asserts a deep antagonism between religiosity & science that manifests itself in a kind of immunity to assent to core science insights, as manifested by the failure to become convinced of them even as "ordinary science intelligence" (let's call the latent nonexpert competence in, and facility with, scientific knowledge that a valid measure of "science literacy/comprehension" would measure that) increases.
The second is the "identity expression thesis." Religiosity and acceptance of science's way of knowing are completely compatible in fact (& have achieved a happy co-existence in the Liberal Republic of Science). But rejection of some "positions" -- e.g., naturalistic evolution -- that involve core scientific claims are understood to signify a certain identity that features religiosity; and so when someone w/ that identity is asked whether he or she "believes" in that position they say "no." That answer, though, signifies their identity; it doesn't signify any genuine resistance or hostility to science. Indeed, it isn't a valid measure of either ordinary science intelligence or assent to the authority of science as a way of knowing at all. It is a huge mistake -- psychometrically but also conceptually & philosophically, morally & politically -- to think otherwise!
I am inclined to believe the 2nd. But I think the state of the evidence is very unsatisfactory, in large part b/c the measures of both ordinary science intelligence and assent to the "authority" of science's way of knowing are so crude.
But consider: In the Liberal Republic of Science, do relatively religious folks distrust GPS systems because they depend on general relativity theory? Do they think the transit of Venus was a "hoax"? Do they refuse to take antibiotics? View childhood vaccines as ineffective or risky?
Some people do indeed believe those things & likely are relying on anti-science mystical views (religions of one sort or another, including "new age" beliefs)-- but they are a fringe -- even highly religious people shun them as weird outliers....
What's more, just like everyone else, they love Mythbusters! How much fun to watch curious people answer a question ("would a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State Building really penetrate someone's skull?") through disciplined observation & valid causal inference .... Creeping "anti-science" sentiment in our society? C'mon!