The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Questionnaire from the Clergy Letter Project

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 16, 2011

Many of you have already heard about the Clergy Letter Project, an effort to show that when it comes to the issue of accepting evolutionary science one doesn’t necessarily have to be an atheist.  Just as there is nothing wrong with being an atheist (I’m one), by the same token I don’t see any inherent problem to being religious while also accepting evolutionary science.  As I’ve said before many times, I don’t have a problem with religion, I have a problem with anti-science; and those are different things (though sometimes they do overlap).

As an update, the Clergy Letter Project started back in late 2004 when the latest variant of creationism, so-called “intelligent design”, was coming onto the national scene and causing lots of problems across the country for science education.  To date, the letter (which was originally geared towards Christian clergy but now includes Rabbinical, Islamic and Unitarian versions) has gathered nearly 13,500 signatories!🙂

Now the Clergy Letter Project is taking part in another kind of outreach: developing a grant proposal designed to help foster discussion and improve understanding between faith communities and scientists.  They want to do this by sending out the following questionnaire to clergy members, so if you are a member of the clergy or know someone who is, please give it a look:

**Send all responses to Michael Zimmerman at mz@theclergyletterproject.org

1.        The vast majority of biologists agree that evolution is overwhelmingly supported by scientific evidence.  How would you characterize your faith community’s view on evolution:

____virtually all agree with the view of biologists
____most agree with the view of biologists
____the community is pretty evenly divided in its views
____some agree with the view of biologists
____few agree with the view of biologists
____virtually none agree with the view of biologists
____I don’t know what my faith community’s views are on this issue

2.        The vast majority of astronomers agree that the Universe is approximately 13.75 billion years old and the Earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old.  How would you characterize your faith community’s view on this issue:

____virtually all agree with the view of astronomers
____most agree with the view of astronomers
____the community is pretty evenly divided in its views
____some agree with the view of astronomers
____few agree with the view of astronomers
____virtually none agree with the view of astronomers
____I don’t know what my faith community’s views are on this issue

3.        The vast majority of climatologists agree that changes in climate are due more to human activity than other types of activity that affect climate.  How would you characterize your faith community’s view on this issue:

____virtually all agree with the view of climatologists
____most agree with the view of climatologists
____the community is pretty evenly divided in its views
____some agree with the view of climatologists
____few agree with the view of climatologists
____virtually none agree with the view of climatologists
____I don’t know what my faith community’s views are on this issue

4.        How well do you think your congregants understand the science underlying the issues addressed in the previous three questions?

____most understand the science well
____most have a rudimentary knowledge of the science
____most have little if any understanding of the science
____I don’t know

5.        Are your personal views on evolution congruent with those held by members of your faith community?

____most share my views
____my views are shared by about half of the members
____most disagree with my views
____I don’t know

6.        For those congregants who reject any of the views held by scientists and outlined above, what do you surmise are their reasons for rejecting these views?

____the scientific views contradict their political opinions
____the scientific views contradict their religious beliefs
____the scientific views are counter-intuitive
____other (please specify) _________________________________________________
____I don’t know

7.        How would you characterize the level of trust members of your faith community have in scientists in general?

____most trust that scientists are working to improve our understanding of the natural world
____many are conflicted on this issue
____most believe that scientists permit their personal biases to significantly color their findings
____most have likely never thought of this issue
____I don’t know

8.        How would you personally characterize the perspective most scientists have on religion?

____most are hostile toward religion
____most are neutral toward religion
____most are supportive toward religion

9.        How would you characterize the opinions of members of your faith community about the perspective most scientists have toward religion?

____most believe that scientists are hostile toward religion
____most believe that scientists are neutral toward religion
____most believe that scientists are positive toward religion

10.         How much time (if any) do you, or others in your faith community, spend addressing religion/science issues with your congregation?

____a great deal
____a moderate amount
____very little
____none

If you, or others, do address the issue, in which venues do discussions take place (choose as many as applicable)

_____sermons
_____adult programs
_____youth programs
_____special (one-off) programs
_____other (please specify)_________________________________________________

If you, or others, do not address the issue, what are the reasons (choose as many as applicable)

_____not relevant to congregants
_____too controversial
_____I don’t feel I have the appropriate expertise
_____other (please specify)_________________________________________________

11.        Which, if any, scientific issues are most difficult to discuss with members of your faith community (choose as many as applicable)?

_____origin of life
_____evolution of life
_____human origin and evolution
_____origin and evolution of the universe
_____end of the universe
_____age of the Earth
_____climate change and global warming
_____life elsewhere in the universe
_____intelligent life elsewhere in the universe
_____other (please specify)_______________________________________________
_____none

12.         Can you imagine encountering any new scientific knowledge that would cause you to reassess your religious beliefs?

____yes (please elaborate) ________________________________________________
____no

13.        Would you be interested in having your congregation work in partnership with a scientist and an education specialist to explore the relationship between religion and science?  _____yes     _____no

14.        Please specify your religion and/or denomination.________________

15.        Please approximate the size of your congregation.________________

16.        In which environment is your congregation located?

____large city
____small city
____suburban
____rural

17.        In which state/country do you live? ____________________________

18.        Please add any comments that you think might be helpful.

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