The Skeptical Inquirer

Dawkins, Collins, and the Science-Religion Debate: A New Sociological Study

A new study appears to dent zoologist Richard Dawkins's influence as a public intellectual, arguing that he does not persuade new readers that science and religion are in conflict. But the researchers concluded that biologist Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and an evangelical Christian, could persuade audiences that science and faith can be compatible.

The sociological study, published in Public Understanding of Science, surveyed 10,000 Americans to assess in part how scientists who write popular books influence public views of religion. It identified citizens' views about the relationship between science and religion and tested whether these views changed after learning about Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, and Collins, author of The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief

The study, funded by the philanthropic John Templeton Foundation, which promotes dialogue between science and religion, found that more than 21 percent of citizens had heard of Dawkins, while just over 4 percent had heard of Collins. …

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