A new study shows that nonreligious individuals tend to view Christian scientists as less intelligent than their peers due to the stereotype that Christianity and science are incompatible.
The analysis, conducted by researchers at Ohio University, featured two separate studies assessing the perceptions of incompatibility between Christianity and science in the U.S. and how it affects nonreligious individuals' stereotypes of Christians in the field.
"[M]anipulating perceived Christianity-science compatibility reduced negative perceptions of Christians' scientific ability and general intellect among nonreligious participants," the study's abstract says.
The first study, which had a sample size of 365 people, showed that 214 nonreligious participants found Christianity and science more incompatible than the 151 Christian participants. The Christian Post reports that the second study included 799 respondents — 520 Christians and 279 nonreligious participants.
This round of questioning also found that nonreligious respondents did not see Christian scientists as more intelligent than their peers. It also found, however, that Christian respondents believe Christian scientists are more intelligent and scientific than secular participants.
The study author Cameron Mackey, a doctoral candidate at Ohio University, told PsyPost that there have been "countless debates over the teaching of evolution in schools and whether Intelligent Design has a place in the classroom."
"Our research demonstrates that perceiving conflict between religion and science can have detrimental effects not only on Christians' performance and interest in science (as prior research has shown) but also on nonreligious people's stereotypes about Christians," he said. "That is, because nonreligious individuals are more likely to believe that Christianity and science can't work together, they are more likely to stereotype Christians as uninterested in or incompetent at science."
Mackey also noted that prominent atheists such as Sam Harris and Steven Prinker opposed Francis Collins, the former head of the National Institutes of Health, because he is a professing Christian.
"We were interested in the consequences of this belief in religion-science conflict for nonreligious people's attitudes toward religious people (in this case, Christians)," Mackey explained. "That is, we wanted to know whether the belief that Christianity and science conflict with each other explains why nonreligious people stereotype Christians as incompetent in science."
In response to the recent study, Canterbury Christianity and Science Interactive founder Perry Enever argued that stereotypes are meant to be challenged.
"I think if you can relate to someone and get to know them, they can get to know you," he told Premier Christian News. "There are all kinds of questions and stereotypes and wrong ideas that people have, and Christians can do the same things as well, sometimes."
"The Christians in this were presuming that, actually, the atheists were less intelligent and less into science. So I think there's a lesson for us as well, to avoid that stereotyping and getting to know the people that are asking the questions."
As Christian Headlines previously reported, the Washington, D.C.-based Museum of the Bible recently opened a new exhibit called "Scripture and Science: Our Universe, Ourselves, Our Place." The exhibit highlights the relationship between faith and science throughout history.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.