Jerry Coyne has just gotten a paper published in the journal Evolution, on the relationship between evolution, religion, and societal health. As anyone who pays attention to American news, politics, or even daily life can tell you, most people who deny evolution do so because it conflicts with their religion. As I have posted before, survey data bears this out.
Coyne uses similar data to demonstrate the relationship between evolution denial and religiosity. He also discusses how societal health influences religious belief. Finally, he offers suggestions for how we can increase acceptance of science and evolution on a national level.
Here is the paper’s abstract:
American resistance to accepting evolution is uniquely high among First World countries. This is due largely to the extreme religiosity of the United States, which is much higher than that of comparably advanced nations, and to the resistance of many religious people to the facts and supposed implications of evolution. The prevalence of religious belief in the United States suggests that outreach by scientists alone will not have a huge effect in increasing the acceptance of evolution, nor will the strategy of trying to convince the faithful that evolution is compatible with their religion. Because creationism is a symptom of religion, another strategy to promote evolution involves loosening the grip of faith on America. This is easier said than done, for recent sociological surveys show that religion is highly correlated with the dysfunctionality of a society, and various measures of societal health show that the United States is one of the most socially dysfunctional First World countries. Widespread acceptance of evolution in America, then, may have to await profound social change.
If you’re interested in these issues, read the whole thing! (PDF)