Dec. 23, 2014 by Darius
By most accounts, the US is the most religious country in the developed world. But Americans have long had a tough time parsing the difficult relationship between religion and science. Now that is evident in Americans’ beliefs about global climate change in particular.
A poll released by the Public Religion Research Institute examines Americans’ views on science and climate change and how it interacts with their religion. According to the poll, 54% of Americans feel that science and religion are “often” in conflict with one another. When it comes to their own beliefs, though, only 40% of Americans reported a conflict with science.
Although a majority of Americans did not believe that God would intercede to prevent humans from destroying the earth, a rather astonishing 40% do believe that God would intervene. Similarly, more than a third of Americans (35%) believe that God gave humans the right to use animals, plants, and all the planet’s resources solely for the benefit of humanity.
When asked about the causes of natural disasters in multiple questions, 62% of respondents said they believed climate change to be responsible. However, nearly half (49%) also believe that recent natural disasters are a sign of “Biblical end times,” a five-percentage point increase from 2011. Among white Evangelicals (a core constituency of the Republican Party), a whopping 77% believe that recent natural disasters are evidence of Biblical end times. Perhaps not surprisingly, white Evangelicals are also more likely than any other religious group to be climate change deniers, with nearly 40% of Evangelicals saying there is no evidence that the earth’s temperature has been increasing over the last few decades.
Even if the US is finally willing to partner with other countries on global climate change, Americans’ religious attitudes on climate change and environmental stewardship will clearly constrain US policy options, especially to the extent Republicans control the policy agenda.
You can see the full report on the poll at http://publicreligion.org/research/2014/11/believers-sympathizers-skeptics-americans-conflicted-climate-change-environmental-policy-science/.