Most Believe Science in Conflict with Religion—Except Their Own Religious Beliefs

Scientists, science educators and advocates, and science-loving citizens from across the country will gather in Washington, D.C. this weekend for the March for Science. Organizers say the march aims to show public support for the scientific community and denounce research budget cuts and censorship.

Religious groups have participated in climate change protests in the past, and many are expected to join in this weekend’s march and next weekend’s People’s Climate March. We looked through PRRI’s climate change report to better understand the perceived tension between religion and science—and how it differs when considering one’s own religious beliefs.

Most (54 percent) Americans believe science and religion are often in conflict, while a sizable minority (40 percent) say they are mostly compatible.

Majorities of every religious group—with the exception of white mainline Protestants—believe that science and religion are often in conflict, including religiously unaffiliated Americans (65 percent), black Protestants (62 percent), Jewish Americans (58 percent), white evangelical Protestants (55 percent), and Catholics (51 percent). A slim majority (51 percent) of white mainline Protestants say that science and religion are mostly compatible, while 42 percent of white mainline Protestants say that religion and science are often in conflict.

The public takes a different view, however, when considering their own personal religious beliefs. Nearly six in ten (59 percent) say science does not conflict with their own religious beliefs, while 38 percent disagree, saying that science sometimes conflicts with their religious beliefs.

Majorities of Jewish Americans (77 percent), religiously unaffiliated Americans (73 percent), white mainline Protestants (63 percent), and Catholics (55 percent) say their religious beliefs are not in conflict with science. In contrast, a majority (52 percent) of white evangelical Protestants say their religious beliefs do conflict with science, while 46 percent say they do not. Black Protestants are divided: 50 percent say their religious beliefs conflict with science, while nearly as many (47 percent) disagree.