Article Review: Ignorance or Culture War?

Ignorance or culture war? Christian nationalism and scientific illiteracy by Perry, Baker, & Grubbs (2021).





The relationship between religion and science has been notoriously strained. A lot of research has been conducted to explore how religious characteristics in the public correlate with the beliefs held towards science. A noted pattern of Americans who were more religious or theologically conservative demonstrated lower scientific literacy when compared with other Americans. Further research within this dynamic noted the religious conservative did not score lower on any uncontested scientific knowledge claims, only on the religiously contested claims. This could mean the overall scientific literacy scores may be more related to a reflection of the subculture than ignorance of science.


The authors of the identified article sought to explore this dynamic further. Their hypotheses for the quasi-experimental quantitative study were the following:

  1. Christian nationalism will be strongly related to scientific literacy outcomes on religiously contentious issues in science.

  2. Chrisitan nationalism will be more strongly related to scientific literacy outcomes son religiously contentious issues in science compared to issues that are not religious contentions.


"To the extent that Americans embrace Christian nationalism as an ideology, they will be more likely to challenge scientific claims that threaten cherished ideological narratives and myths, particularly issues perceived as undermining the ultimate authority of a particularistic and exclusivist biblical worldview (Perry et al., 2021, p. 2)."


The authors utilized the sociology of knowledge systems as the theoretical framework for the study. This framework posits a premise that communities will collectively define what constitutes knowledge within their own group and will be at odds with other groups or mainstream institutions. The sociology of knowledge systems approach is sensitive towards the hierarchical power structure within the system and how this power is used to allow the application of various issues.


The data was obtained through a nationally representative panel survey (Public Discours Ethics Survey) conducted. A total of 4 waves of data collection was completed between Aug 2019 and Aug 2020. The first and fourth wave was selected for the study encompassing a total of 2519 participants for the study.


The measures for the study involved true or false statements around scientific facts and the Likert scale to assess the level of Chrisitan nationalism. Demographics were also obtained and included within the data analysis.


Findings:

The researchers found that Chrisitan nationalism was unrelated to the answers on uncontested science questions; however, it was the strongest predictor on contested science questions.


My Feedback:

  1. It may be helpful to have the scientific fact index questions also be on the Likert scale to provide a more in-depth assessment of the correlation of Chrisitan nationalism on scientific views.

  2. The researchers included questions (i.e., the formation of the world/universe, the evolution of man) within their research questions. Including topics that are historically known to hold polarization between these groups could have skewed the data. Additionally, it is not clear how these questions would be correlated with Chrisitan Nationalism.

  3. The researchers identified a correct and incorrect response to the identified measures. This is a limitation of the study through incorporating personal bias into the findings. The study may have been completed by identifying a pattern between the level of Christian nationalism with the science measure.

The research did highlight subcultural responses to various scientific questions and how there is a pattern within the identified religious groups. Religion does shape how we make meaning and interpret scientific data. Further research into how individuals filter scientific information through the religious paradigm is needed.

Reflection:

  1. How has your evangelical culture affected your view of science? Is your view of science the same now? If not, what made the shift?

  2. Do you see Christian nationalism is a factor in how evangelicals interpret science? Are there other factors?



Reference:

Perry, S. L., Baker, J. O., & Grubbs, J. B. (2021). Ignorance or culture war? Christian nationalism and scientific illiteracy. Public Understanding of Science, 096366252110062. https://doi.org/10.1177/09636625211006271

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