During the Fall Term 2020, the Regent Interface team carried out a campus-wide survey of attitudes towards science. This survey was answered by 163 members of the Regent College community in November 2020.
Similar surveys had been conducted in Winter 2018 and Spring 2019 in relation to previous stages of the project. Relevant comparison between past and current results can therefore be established, even though the surveys are not fully identical.
The following are the main goals of this recent survey and of the report that we are now making available:
- to track major shifts of attitudes towards science among the Regent College community;
- to assess the positions of the community on relevant present-day issues and to encourage further debate concerning those issues;
- to extract relevant information in order to improve the current stage of the Interface project.
The following remarks summarise our main conclusions after studying the survey results:
(1) The members of the Regent College community tend to be significantly more emphatic when affirming theological views compared to when they affirm scientific, ethical or social views.
(2) Perceptions of conflict between science and religious faith have increased slightly in comparison to previous surveys. This might be the consequence of a new cohort (which did not benefit from past Interface initiatives) and also from changes in the way questions were phrased. Further data is needed to study whether this shift corresponds to a higher level of acceptance of the conflict model.
(3) In comparison with past results, there is a higher appreciation of the work of science, scientific careers, and the individual benefits brought by science. This is, however, combined with an ongoing and increasing concern regarding the social and environmental effects of science. We posit that these shifts might be correlated with changes of perception caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but further inquiry into such changes is necessary for stronger conclusions.
(4) The Regent community tends to have strong views on the environmental crisis in comparison to other ethical issues (ex. gene modification). Levels of agreement concerning ecological themes are roughly stable in comparison to previous surveys, with the notable exception being a significantly stronger opposition to the use of fossil fuels.
(5) The Regent community tends to agree strongly with the view that proper knowledge and use of the sciences can empower church ministries. The level of agreement decreases slightly regarding the explicit incorporation of scientific areas/themes in ministry education.
(6) Views on the origins of life and evolution are quite distributed across the spectrum with respondents expressing both strong agreement and disagreement. Such distribution is unlike any other topic assessed in this survey. As explained in the preceding analysis, the data suggests a level of inconsistency among these views.
(7) The Regent community shows a very high level of approval for the work of scientific and medical communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The optimism decreases slightly in terms of vaccine production.
(8) Results show significant and somewhat surprising differences (according to conventional expectations) between the two sexes in several instances. For example, while men have generally a more positive view of science and technology (including in what regards the production of vaccines to COVID-19 and the use of technology to solve the environmental crisis), women show consistently higher levels of concern with the ethical and environmental dimensions of science and technology. Moreover, perception of conflict between science and religion and reluctance concerning evolutionary theory are stronger among women. Finally, both women and men tend to agree with the existence of systemic barriers to women and people of colour participating in the sciences but the level of agreement is significantly stronger among women.
(9) Generally speaking, results filtered by sex showed more significant discrepancies than results filtered by past training/work experience in the sciences. Still, there were two instances in which the latter disclosed important differences: individuals with past experience in the sciences are consistently more strongly in favor of the use of science in church ministry and its incorporation in ministry education; moreover, these individuals show higher levels of disagreement when asked if religious faith is irrelevant to science.