Three business school scholars decided to take a closer look at the reasoning for science denial. What they found was that those who described themselves as less tolerant of other religions also tended to be more likely to deny scientific concepts.

Yu Ding, an assistant professor of marketing at Stanford University, and professors Gita Johar and Michael Morris from Columbia University, offered the hypothesis that religious tolerance could predict a rejection of science. Together they found that countries with higher religious diversity were less likely to see religion as being a better guide to truth than science.

Christians in the U.S., Hindus in India, and Muslims from Pakistan who said they were intolerant of other religions reported higher levels of science denial, according to the team’s study that was published earlier this year in PNAS Nexus.

One of the methods they used was to take cellphone location data, which showed that religiously diverse U.S. counties engaged in more social distancing in April 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, even when controlled for the percentage of religious people in each county. Vaccination uptake followed a similar pattern, they said.

According to the authors, there have always been religious believers at the forefront of science, but usually those from minority faiths who have wide exposure to people of other faiths.

Susan Barreto
Susan Barreto

Susan is an author with a long-time interest in religion and science. She currently edits Covalence, the Lutheran Alliance for Faith, Science and Technology’s online magazine. She has written articles in The Lutheran and the Zygon Center for Religion and Science newsletter. Susan is a board member for the Center for Advanced Study of Religion and Science, the supporting organization for the Zygon Center and the Zygon Journal. She also co-wrote Our Bodies Are Selves with Dr. Philip Hefner and Dr. Ann Pederson.

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