Why do so many people who eventually ditch their faith do it at all?
If you read articles by the Creationists at Answers in Genesis, the answer is simple: They’re exposed to science. The group once wrote, “A large percent of young people are leaving the church because of questions about science that lead to doubts about God’s Word.”
But a new research paper published in Sociology of Religion by Professor John H. Evans of the University of California, San Diego suggests that’s not the case at all.
Evans says it’s not science that’s driving college students away from religion; it’s studying subjects where they’re taught to question things instead of simply applying what they learn.
Here’s the gist of what he did: Using available survey data that tracked students from their freshman to senior years of college, Evans compared students who began religious and graduated non-religious along with their courses of study.
The traditional literature on the secularizing effect of the natural sciences assumes that any religious belief is incompatible with science, and therefore all science will be secularizing for all religious students… I find no effect of the distinction between science and non-science disciplines for religious students in general or conservative Protestants in particular. On the other hand, pure fields lead to more secularization than do applied fields, particularly for white conservative Protestants. This suggests that when science, social science or the humanities secularizes, it is the result of inquiry itself, not the content of that inquiry. This new way of looking at the impact of science explains the typical outlier in such studies — engineering — a field that has many of the trappings of physics, but with a much more religious constituency.
To put that another way, it’s not that studying biology makes you more likely to ditch your faith because it contradicts a literal interpretation of the Bible. It’s that studying biology makes you question your assumptions, challenge your hypotheses, and support your findings with evidence… and those things might eventually lead some people away from their religion. By that logic, it’s not just certain fields of science that right-wing Christians need to worry about; history, literature, and even business courses are full of discussions that call on questioning the past, putting forth new theories, and backing them up with proof.
Ken Ham better start shielding young Christians from asking questions, because shielding them from actual science isn’t good enough. He needs new ways to make his lies stick.
(Image via Shutterstock)