Data suggest that the American public is increasingly polarized, partisan and intolerant of other viewpoints, and this problem may be nowhere more evident than in debates over science and religion. To give just one example, when Dr. Francis Collins, a believing Christian, was named director of the National Institutes of Health, prominent scientists objected to the appointment, one saying 'I don't want American science to be represented by a clown.' Can resistance to free and open dialogue between science and religion be reduced? Are there particular types of information and/or audience characteristics that may provoke, or reduce, a hostile reception? Are there particular mechanisms in the way individuals perceive and evaluate information that provoke defensiveness and a closed mind? Will such factors increase or reduce polarization, influence the desire for discussion or motivate people either to avoid or embrace information that doesn't conform to their own point of view? To address these questions I propose to conduct two field experiments over three years using (1) a broad and balanced sample of American adults and (2) groups of individuals with high levels of involvement and strong opinions in the evolution vs intelligent-design debate. Stimulus material could be drawn from the Templeton Foundation's public dialogue on religion and science (e.g., columns by Elaine Ecklund or NPR interview segments by Steve Paulson). I anticipate producing a number of scholarly papers, but also op-ed articles and an interactive web site that educators could use as a teaching tool for students. These materials will address the science-and-religion debate but with a particular focus on the factors that promote more inclusive and open-minded public discussion. The ultimate vision is to cultivate humility and openness to competing ideas in a much wider audience, especially those deeply involved in conflicts surrounding science and religion.
Templeton.org is in English. Only a few pages are translated into other languages.