A war between religion and science?

Alex Hern, writing in the New Statesman, has ticked off the Church of England (CofE) for their blatant misrepresentation of the statistics resulting from a survey they sponsored (see Church of England commits sins against statistics).

He subtitled his piece:

“Four out of five British adults believe in the power of prayer.” Really? Really?

and concluded it with:

It’s almost as though the CofE relishes the idea of a war between religion and science almost as much as Dawkins does.

Here is the CofE’s “sin.”

The survey “Prepared on behalf of Church of England by ICM Research” included the question:

“Irrespective of whether you currently pray or not, if you were to pray for something at the moment, What would it be for?”

Well, OK – even an atheist could say they would lump for peace in the world (31%of the respondents did) or an end to poverty in the world (27% did). After all, they had been asked to withhold their attitude to the efficacy of prayer.

But perhaps that was a purposeful trap? Because the CofE reported the results as “Four out of five believe in the power of prayer.” Even though no-one was asked if they believed in prayer. In fact they had, by implication, been asked to assume belief!

The Telegraph went even further claiming in their article Britons still believe in prayer – and young lead the way, poll suggests:

“Research commissioned by the Church of England found that only one in seven people insist they would “never” resort to prayer in the face of problems in their lives, those of their friends or the wider world.”

If you are really interested you can download a pdf with the survey results and see just how the CoE and the Telegraph got such amazing results – which  the Telegraph even acknowledged “contrast sharply with the findings of the most recent census which suggested a significant drop in religious affiliation in Britain over the past decade.”

OK – perhaps we should expect people to lie when it comes to statistics. Perhaps its only natural to cherry pick facts to produce the result your would dearly want, than the one which is more accurate. Perhaps Alex Hern was a bit harsh to write this suggests the CofE relishes “a war between religion and science.”

I wouldn’t worry about this specific distortion – but I can certainly sympathise with Hern’s response. I too react when I see or hear scientific ideas and data being distorted and presented as proof of supernatural ideas or an ideological agenda. But rather than distortion of polls and surveys (which we expect) my list of scientific knowledge and ideas which are commonly misrepresented and distorted by religious apologists, including prominent figures in the CofE, include things like:

  • “Fine-Tuning” of cosmological and physical constants – (Sure we don’t yet understand why some of these constants have the values they do, or even if they could have different values than they do, but that is not “proof” of a god);
  • The “big bang” theory of the beginning of the universe – (again science cannot completely resolve what went on at the beginning but that’s no excuse for introducing gods, goblins or angels – and it’s certainly not proof of them);
  • Human morality – (Yes, it’s a mystery to some even though cognitive science and evolutionary psychology is making progress in its understanding. But, again, mystery or ignorance is not proof).
  • Evolutionary science – (Sure  outright creationists are a minority among believers but in my experience scratch almost any believer and you find someone who willing to distort the science to give their god a guiding role).

It’s these unfortunately common arguments, and ones similar to them, used by the theologically inclined to “prove” their god exists which makes me feel that maybe there is “a war between religion and science.”

I just wish these people would think before they use such silly arguments.

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5 responses to “A war between religion and science?

  1. Because the CofE reported the results as “Four out of five believe in the power of prayer.”

    About as truthful as Bethlehem College reporting on who drove a truck in Kenya


  2. Happy Easter.. the gospel message is not war. It is peace and reconciliation between God and humanity.


  3. Ropata, Hern’s comment was not related to your so-called “gospel message” but to lies told by the CofE. My comments relate to continued misrepresentation of science indulged in by CofE and other religious spokespersons.


  4. “Jesus was not a Zombie. Although he was raisen from the dead he did not crave human flesh or brains.

    Jesus was not a Ghoul or Wight. Although he retained his intellect, he did not have the appearance of a withered or rotting corpse.

    Jesus was not a Vampire. Although he did have powers of flight, and ordered his followers to drink his blood, he did not drink human blood himself.

    Jesus was not a Ghost. Although he did rise from the dead, and still bore the wounds he recieve prior to death, and did levitate, he was solid and not incorporeal.

    Jesus was, in fact, a Lich. A Lich is a powerful shaman, king, or sorcerer who uses magic to keep his immortal soul inside of his body after death. Because of this he still bears the wounds that he received prior to death. Lichs also often have various sorcerous powers that allow them to enthrall followers and also necromancy which gives them the ability to raise others from the dead and cure or inflict various ailments.”


  5. “Lichs also often have various sorcerous powers that allow them to enthrall followers and also necromancy which gives them the ability to raise others from the dead and cure or inflict various ailments.”

    Matthew 27:52-53

    “and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”



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