Science, religion go hand-in-hand in US

A Book of Common Prayer at a church, on December 12, 2013 in New York City

Science and religion can mix easily in the United States, a relatively religious country, a survey released Sunday found.

The study by Rice University, in Texas, polled more than 10,000 Americans, including scientists and evangelical Protestants.

"We found that nearly 50 percent of evangelical (Christians) believe that science and religion can work together and support one another," sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund said.

Ecklund presented the results at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Chicago. The United States is highly diverse, but also majority Christian.

"That's in contrast to the fact that only 38 percent of Americans feel that science and religion can work in collaboration," Ecklund explained.

The survey found that 27 percent of Americans believe that science and religion are at odds, and that among those who feel that way, 52 percent side with religion.

The Rice study found that scientists and the population at large are similarly active in their religious lives.

It found 18 percent of scientists attended weekly religious services, compared with 20 percent of the general population.

The poll also showed 15 percent of scientists see themselves as very religious, versus 19 percent of the general population.

Meanwhile, 13.5 percent of scientists read religious texts weekly, compared with 17 percent of the US population. Nineteen percent pray several times a day, versus 26 percent of the population as a whole.

In addition, almost 36 percent of scientists said they had no doubt about God's existence.

"Most of what you see in the news are stories about these two groups at odds over the controversial issues, like teaching creationism in the schools," Ecklund said.

So "this is a hopeful message for science policymakers and educators, because the two groups don't have to approach religion with an attitude of combat," Ecklund said.

"Rather, they should approach it with collaboration in mind."