Interpreting data regarding scientists and religion

In looking at some data regarding what scientists think about religion, a commentator offers this regarding interpreting sociological data:

The point about asking such questions is not because we know the answers but to emphasise that the interpretation of sociological data is a tricky business. From the perspective of science, ants and humans are far more complex than stars and rocks. A discussion of atheism and science in the US context leads us straight to a discussion of the structure of the American educational system, the role of elites, the present polarisation of the political electorate along religious faultlines, and much else besides…

The challenge then is to think hard about the complex data and not be too dogmatic about the interpretations.

When the phrase “tricky business” is used, it sounds like it is referring to the complex nature of the social world. In order to understand the relationship between science and religion, one must account for a variety of possible factors. It is one thing to say that there are multiple possible interpretations of the same data, another to say that some twist data to support their personal interpretations, and another to suggest that we can get to a correct or right interpretation if we properly account for complexity.

While this commentary is ultimately about using caution when interpreting statistics regarding the religious beliefs of scientists, it also is a little summary of social science research regarding the religious beliefs of scientists. The 2010 study Science vs. Religion is discussed as well as a few other works.

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