Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recent Survey Findings on the Compatibility of Science and Religion

A new survey reports people's perspectives on the compatibility of science and religion.  Over 10,000 people were surveyed, including scientists and evangelical Protestants.  The survey has been reported in various places, including this article which also mentions a number of findings:
  • About 50% of evangelicals believe that science and religion support one another, which is higher than the entire American population of 38%, while 27% of American believe there is conflict.
  • The percent of scientists that attend church weekly (18%) is close to the percent of the general American population that attends weekly (20%).
  • Nearly 60% of evangelical Protestants and 38% of all surveyed believe "scientists should be open to considering miracles in their theories or explanations."
  • Of those who feel science and religion are in conflict, 52% sided with religion.
  • 22% of scientists think most religious people are hostile to science, while about 20% of the general population think religious people are hostile to science.
  • About 22% percent of the general population think scientists are hostile to religion.
  • About 36% of scientists have no doubt about God's existence.
  • Evangelical scientists practice their religion at higher levels than evangelicals in the general population.

One important lesson is that the incompatibility between science and religion discussed in the media is often over-stated.  It is the staunchest critics of one or the other that get the most attention, while a larger proportion of people believe the science and religion can go together.

Yet, the article does not discuss some differences.  Although rates of religious practice might be similar, it is often true that scientists have different beliefs about certain religious teachings.  For example, in other studies, scientists, although often believing in God, often believe in a different kind of God than the rest of the population.  A well known example is Albert Einstein who often spoke about God but did not believe that God was a personal being in any way.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Free-riding and Smart Phones

Guest post by TA Jerrod Anderson

We have recently covered the highly important topic of club goods. Here is an article from Lark News (a Christian version of The Onion): http://www.larknews.com/archives/4193. This satirical article brings up many important economic topics: free-riding in religious production, scarcity (especially as it relates to attention), and the opportunity costs of attending a religious function (and what is technology’s role in changing those opportunity costs).

Saints and Religious Competition

Guest post by TA Jerrod Anderson

Most of our discussion of the demand for religion has focused on church attendance (when is church attendance high, when is it low, how do special events affect church attendance, etc.). With our discussion of clubs and religious monopolies later in the class you will get a better idea of how the competitive landscape affects the quality attributes of religious products (some of which you have already seen in God is Back). This Economist article (http://www.economist.com/news/business/21595000-vatican-introduces-price-controls-saint-verifying-business-lords-outsourced-work) highlights the changes the Roman Catholic Church has made in their procedures for declaring someone to be a saint, particularly the practice of putting a price cap on the amount of money that can be spent to promote possible sainthood. Think about how this may be a response to the competition in religious marketplace in developing countries (the introduction to God is Back provides some clues). Just like churches may use special guest speakers to increase attendance, perhaps the Catholic Church uses its choice of saints to increase adherence in various markets.