Conflict Between Religion and Science Among Academic Scientists?


Correspondence should be addressed to Elaine Howard Ecklund, Assistant Professor and Associate Director, Center on Race, Religion, and Urban Life (CORRUL), Department of Sociology, Rice University, MS-28, P.O. Box 1892, Houston, TX 77251-1892. E-mail:


Using new survey data (N= 1,646), we examine the attitudes academic scientists at 21 elite U.S. research universities have about the perceived conflict between religion and science. In contrast to public opinion and scholarly discourse, most scientists do not perceive a conflict between science and religion. Different from what other studies would indicate, this belief does not vary between social and natural scientists. We argue that maintaining plausibility frameworks for religion is an important correlate of whether scientists will reject the conflict paradigm, with such frameworks taking surprising forms. When scientists do not attend religious services they are more likely to accept the conflict paradigm. When scientists think their peers have a positive view of religion, they are less likely to agree there is a conflict between science and religion. Religious upbringing is associated with scientists adopting the conflict paradigm. Spirituality is much more important in this population than other research would lead us to believe. Results reformulate widely cited earlier research, offer new insights about how scientists view the connection between religion and science, and expand public discussion about religious challenges to science.