The belief that science has had a positive effect on society continues to decline in the U.S., according to findings of a new Pew Research Center survey released last month.

Only 57% of Americans say that science plays a positive role in society, which is down 8 percentage points from 2021 and down 16 percentage points since before the start of the pandemic. Roughly a third (34%) told Pew that the impact of science on society has been equally positive as negative and a small number (8%) said it has been mostly negative.

Pew surveyed 8,842 U.S. adults between Sept. 25-Oct. 1, 2023, to find that, despite recent declines in ratings, scientists and medical scientists continue to be held in high regard compared with other prominent groups in society. Smaller shares of Americans express confidence in business leaders, religious leaders, journalists and elected officials to act in the public’s best interests. As with scientists, most of these groups have seen their ratings decline in recent years.

As theologian Ted Peters points out in his newly released book, The Voice of Public Theology: Addressing Politics, Science and Technology, “The enemies of science have in their arsenal a new and portentous weapon, namely, the internet.” He looks at issues regarding evolution and climate change, has been dubbed as “eco-sin” by others.

In 2016, Pew =  found a correlation between Americans who attended church and prayed regularly and this group’s opposition to gene editing and the use of synthetic blood to improve physical ability. More recently, Evangelical Protestants were found to be less likely to express concern over climate change.

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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