To what extent do pupils perceive science to be inconsistent with religious faith? An exploratory survey of 13-14 year-old English pupils

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Taber, Keith ; Billingsley, Berry ; Riga, Fran ; Newdick, Helen (2011)
  • Publisher: International Council of Associations for Science Education (ICASE)

Scientists hold a wide range of beliefs on matters of religion, although popular media coverage in the UK commonly suggests that atheism is a core commitment for scientists. Considering the relationship between religion and science is a recommended topic in the English National Curriculum for lower secondary pupils (11-14 year-olds), and it is expected that different perspectives will be considered. However it is well established that many pupils may have difficulty accessing sophisticated ideas about the nature of science, and previous research suggests some may identify science with scientism. To explore pupil impressions of the relationship between science and religion, 13-14 year old pupils were surveyed in one class from each of four English secondary schools, by asking them to rate a set of statements about the relationship between science and religion, and scientific and religious perspectives on the origins of the world, and of life on earth, on the value of prayer and on the status of miracles. The survey revealed diverse views on these issues, reflecting the wider society. However it was found that a considerable proportion of the pupils in the sample considered religious beliefs and scientific perspectives to be opposed. The basis and potential consequences of such views are considered, and the need for more attention to this area of student thinking is highlighted.
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