This is almost too good to be true: a case of Chris Mooney telling an obvious lie about social science research on public attitudes towards science and religion. Mooney claims that there is a “silent majority” of Americans that believes science and religion are compatible (and “I am arguing on behalf of the silent majority”) based on the following quote for a Pew report: “These data once again show that, in the minds of most people in the United States, there is no real clash between science and religion.” But if you actually read the report, you realize that the only sense in which there´s no conflict is that people are endlessly willing to jettison science if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. A better way of describing the situation–which is in fact used in the linked write up–is that science doesn´t threaten religion, because religion automatically wins out.
Here are the raw stats: 62% understand that scientists agree on the validity of evolution. 87% think scientific developments make society better. But 42% of Americans reject evolution completely, probably more have ideas about God´s role in the process that´s contradicted by the evidence. How can that be? Because 64% say outright that when science and religion conflict, they will side with religion. People who reject evolution because of Jesus, God, or religion generally outnumber those who cite supposed lack of evidence by more than 3:1.
I´m really baffled about why Mooney would pretend that a majority of Americans support his views, when there´s a more honest way to spin this in his favor: “This shows that if only people didn´t think there´s a conflict between evolution and religion, they´d be more accepting of evolution.” Unfortunately for him, though, it also shows that if people were less religious, they would be more accepting of evolution.
It Mooney can´t get his facts straight about something so simple, it´s time to ignore him. For my own future reference, though, and that of anyone who´s morbidly curious about this mini-fiasco, Jerry Coyne has a nice compilation of relevant posts, which he seems to be continuously updating. Though it doesn´s include this most lovely-titled of posts. Notice how Mooney has nothing of substance to say in reply, saying only that the debate is a waste of time–in which case, why doesn´t he shut up?