Polarized Scientists? Exploring Political Differences about Religion and Science among U.S. Biologists and Physicists


From the Texas textbook debate to the March for Science, visible displays of activism illuminate how deeply politicized the science-religion interface has become. However, little is known about the extent to which scientists’ attitudes about science and religion are politicized. Using original survey data from 1,989 U.S. academic biologists and physicists, we examine the degree to which political views shape how scientists perceive the relationship between religion and science, religious authority, their personal religious identity, and views on dominant scientific theories. Findings suggest that, indeed, the science-religion interface holds political meaning for scientists, but in different ways across the political spectrum. Specifically, for politically liberal scientists, atheism and the conflict narrative are particularly politicized belief structures, while politically conservative scientists emphasize religious identity to distinguish themselves from political liberals. Findings point to the critical role of politics in shaping scientists’ attitudes and identities, which may have implications for the scientific enterprise, both at the lab bench and in the political sphere.

Sociological Forum
Sharan Kaur Mehta
Sharan Kaur Mehta
Postdoctoral Fellow

My research interests include Race and Ethnicity, Racism, Religion, Gender, Identity, Activism