Science and Religion and Other News

Science and religion

Public Attitudes to Science, 2014: Main Report was published on 14 March 2014. The fifth in a series which began in 2000 (but effectively going back to 1988 for some topics), it draws upon face-to-face interviews conducted by Ipsos MORI with 2,064 UK adults aged 16 and over (including a booster sample of 16-24s) between 15 July and 18 November 2013. The research was commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Economic and Social Research Council. The main report can be accessed, alongside a technical report, topline findings, and detailed data tables for all adults and separately for young adults, at:

http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3357/Public-Attitudes-to-Science-2014.aspx

As part of the contextual information gathered from respondents, a number of religion-related science questions were asked, the results of which (at headline level, for all adults) are shown in the following tables:

Q12B: ‘We depend too much on science and not enough on faith’

%   down

1988

1996

2000

2008

2011

2014

Agree

44

41

38

34

29

30

Disagree

34

31

35

38

46

47

Neither

19

25

22

25

23

21

Don’t know

3

3

4

3

1

2

The number agreeing that we depend too much on science and not enough on faith has diminished over time, from 44% in 1988 to 30% today. This either reflects a growing public confidence in science or a decreased attachment to faith, and probably both. In the latest survey the proportion in agreement was highest among the DE social group (42%), Londoners (42%), over-75s (43%), respondents with low scores on a science knowledge quiz (43%), people with no educational qualifications (46%), BMEs (56%), and weekly attenders at religious services (56%).

Q12F: ‘God created the earth and all life in it’

% down

2011

2014

Agree

39

41

Disagree

37

37

Neither

21

20

Don’t know

3

3

The public is fairly evenly divided on this matter, but a small plurality of all adults inclines to creationism. However, among the 16-24s 48% in 2014 disagreed with the proposition. Agreement in the latest survey was strongest among women (47%), the over-75s (58%), the DEs (58%), people with no educational qualifications (59%), respondents with low scores on a science knowledge quiz (60%), Londoners (60%), Northern Irish (79%), BMEs (82%), and weekly attenders at religious services (90%).

Q12H: ‘It is possible to believe in a god and still hold the view that life on earth, including human life, evolved over time as a result of natural selection’

% down

2014

Agree

62

Disagree

19

Neither

16

Don’t know

3

Three-fifths thought evolution compatible with a belief in a god (and, perhaps implicitly, with some kind of divine role in the origins of life). Variations by demographic sub-groups were not pronounced.

QL: ‘Which of the following comes closest to your view about the origin and development of life on earth?’

% down

2014

Humans and other living things were created by God and have always existed in their current form

19

Humans and other living things evolved over time, in a process guided by God

26

Humans and other living things evolved over time by natural selection, in which God played no part

41

I have another view on the origins of species and development of life on earth, which is not included in this list

9

Don’t know/refused

5

Answers to this question are broadly compatible with Q12H, in that about two-thirds of all adults and three-quarters of the 16-24s subscribed to the theory of evolution. However, 26% of the former thought that evolution was guided by God, with a plurality of 45% thus according God some role in the origins of humans and other living things (38% for 16-24s); this is consistent with the replies to Q12F. Just under one-fifth of the full adult sample were pure creationists, disproportionately respondents with low scores on a science knowledge quiz (41%), Northern Irish (43%), BMEs (50%), and weekly attenders at religious services (56%).

Several of the above questions find parallels in other surveys covered by BRIN. Recent examples include:

Special Eurobarometer 401 at:

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2013/end-of-year-round-up/

Wellcome Trust Monitor, Wave 2 at:

http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2013/religious-marriages-and-other-news/

God and morality

Many people around the world continue to think it is necessary to believe in God to be a moral person, but this view is more commonly held in poorer than wealthier countries, and it certainly does not reflect opinion in Britain. This is according to a compilation of data from surveys conducted in 40 countries by the Pew Research Center in Spring 2011, Spring 2013, and Winter 2013-14 and published in a 22-page report on 13 March 2014 at:

http://www.pewglobal.org/files/2014/03/Pew-Research-Center-Global-Attitudes-Project-Belief-in-God-Report-FINAL-March-13-2014.pdf

British statistics are only available for three data points, the most recent being in Spring 2011, when 1,000 adults aged 18 and over were interviewed. The proportion of Britons disagreeing that it is necessary to believe in God in order to be moral and have good values has increased from 73% in Spring 2002 to 75% in Spring 2007 to 78% in Spring 2011. Those thinking that it is necessary to believe in God to be moral have reduced from 25% to 20% over the same period.

Among the 39 other nations surveyed only China (14%), France (15%), and the Czech Republic and Spain (19% each) now subscribe less than Britain to the necessity of belief in God as the basis for morality. Britain also comes bottom of the list of English-speaking western countries; in the United States the figure remains as high as 53% and in Canada 31%, while in Australia it is 23%. In two nations (Indonesia and Ghana) 99% of adults contend that belief in God is a prerequisite for being moral. Twenty other countries also record majorities in favour of this position, consistently so in those with predominantly Muslim populations.

Opinion formation

What impact does religion have on shaping our personal opinions? Not a lot, apparently, at least relative to other factors, according to recent surveys by Ipsos MORI for the Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland, which were published on 12 March 2014. Interviews were conducted by telephone with representative samples of 1,001 adults in Scotland on 20-25 February 2014 and of 868 in England and Wales on 8-10 March 2014. The question asked was: ‘What impact, if any, would you say each of the following factors has had in explaining why you hold the opinions that you do?’ A press release, topline results, and detailed data tables can be found at:

http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3353/Scots-more-likely-to-think-their-attitudes-are-related-to-where-you-come-from.aspx

In both England and Wales and in Scotland the majority of respondents were clear that religion had no impact at all in shaping their opinions, although 6% more of the Scots than the English and Welsh said it had a big or small influence. The impact (big or small) of religion was greatest (45%) among the over-55s in Scotland but the age effect was not so marked south of the border. The topline figures are:

% down

E&W

Scot

Big impact

12

16

Small impact

16

18

No impact at all

70

65

Don’t know

2

1

A list of the various factors having some impact (aggregate of big and small) on opinions appears below. The table shows that religion was the least decisive influence on opinions in both England and Wales and Scotland, with personal experiences being dominant. With the exception of social class, each of the eight factors had more impact on the Scots than the English and Welsh, and this was especially true of country of residence, the views of parents and friends, and gender.

%

E&W

Scot

Personal experiences

85

90

Age

65

69

Social class

63

64

Country in the UK that you come from

61

75

Parents’ opinions

48

65

Friends’ opinions

47

61

Gender

34

46

Religion

28

34

Papal bestseller

The latest issue of the Catholic Herald (14 March 2014, p. 1) reports that Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel by Pope Francis has become something of a bestseller in Britain. The Catholic Truth Society (CTS), the official publisher to the Holy See, has apparently sold more than 25,000 copies since this apostolic exhortation was published on 4 December 2013, twice as many as any previous papal encyclical, and the most successful Vatican document since Unitatis Redintegratio, the Vatican II decree on ecumenism, which sold 85,000 copies in Britain after its promulgation in 1964. CTS describes the success of Evangelii Gaudium as ‘an ecclesial event’, although its sales must of course be set against the size of the Roman Catholic population of Britain (4,155,000 in England and Wales according to the Pastoral Research Centre and 841,000 in Scotland at the 2011 census). The report in the Catholic Herald is at:

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2014/03/13/publisher-evangelii-gaudium-is-romes-biggest-seller-for-decades/

Catholic converts

The Catholic Church in England and Wales published details on 11 March 2014 of those who participated in the Rite of Election at Catholic cathedrals on 8-9 March 2014. Participants were intending adult converts to Catholicism who will be received into the Church at forthcoming Easter Vigils (some of whom will also be baptised, others already being baptised into another Christian denomination). Although not all converts are able to attend the Rite, the figures give some indication (by diocese) of trends in those joining the Catholic Church in adulthood. Discounting the special factor of the creation of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, designed for ex-Anglicans, it will be seen from the following table that the statistics have been fairly flat in recent years.

Diocese

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Westminster

797

829

734

675

712

Southwark

517

517

481

457

503

Brentwood

306

362

333

282

334

Birmingham

NA

302

255

207

213

All other dioceses

1,830

1,921

1,692

1,459

1,524

Ordinariate

NA

795

200

NA

NA

Total

3,450

4,726

3,695

3,080

3,286

Details for each diocese for all of the above years can be found via the links at:

http://www.catholic-ew.org.uk/Home/News/Rite-of-Election-2014

Anglican church growth

Further to our post of 18 January 2014, concerning the launch event for the overview report on the Church of England’s 18-month research programme into numerical church growth, we may note that the final reports on the individual strands of the programme are all now available for download at:

http://www.churchgrowthresearch.org.uk/progress_findings_reports

They comprise:

  • [1-2] David Voas and Laura Watt, Numerical Change in Church Attendance: National, Local, and Individual Factors, 93pp.
  • [3a] John Holmes and Ben Kautzer, Cathedrals, Greater Churches, and the Growth of the Church, 109pp.
  • [3b] Church Army Research Unit, An Analysis of Fresh Expressions of Church and Church Plants Begun in the Period 1992-2012, 137pp.
  • [3c] David Goodhew with Ben Kautzer and Joe Moffatt, Amalgamations, Team Ministries, and the Growth of the Church, 199pp.
  • [4] David Dadswell and Cathy Ross, Church Planting, 88pp.

Orthodox numbers

The number of members of Orthodox churches in the UK is estimated to have roughly doubled since 2000 and stood at 460,000 in 2013, according to Dr Peter Brierley, writing in his monthly column on church statistics in the Church of England Newspaper, 14 March 2014, p. 14. This growth is mostly attributed to immigration, with, for example, big increases in Bulgarians and Ukrainians resident in this country between 2001 and 2011. Eastern Orthodox currently account for 91% of the membership (including 51% in the Greek Orthodox Church), Oriental Orthodox for 8%, and other Orthodox for 1%. The geographical distribution of the Orthodox is said to be: 86% in England, 9% in Scotland, 3% in Wales, and 2% in Northern Ireland.

 


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