Via The Daily Dish, here is Francis Collins, the head of NIH, on science, religion, and whose voices get heard:
Part of the problem is, I think the extremists have occupied the stage. Those voices are the ones we hear. I think most people are actually kind of comfortable with the idea that science is a reliable way to learn about nature, but it’s not the whole story and there’s a place also for religion, for faith, for theology, for philosophy. But that harmony perspective does not get as much attention, nobody’s as interested in harmony as they are in conflict, I’m afraid.
We would be lucky if what he was saying was true, but I do not think it is. For instance, here is a recent summary of American’s beliefs about evolution published in the journal Science:
Over the past 20 years, the percentage of U.S. adults accepting the idea of evolution has declined from 45% to 40% and the percentage of adults overtly rejecting evolution declined from 48% to 39%. The percentage of adults who were not sure about evolution increased from 7% in 1985 to 21% in 2005. After 20 years of public debate, the public appears to be divided evenly in terms of accepting or rejecting evolution, with about one in five adults still undecided or unaware of the issue. This pattern is consistent with a number of sporadic national newspaper surveys reported in recent years.
I would not describe a public that is evenly divided between accepting and rejecting evolution as “kind of comfortable with the idea that science is a reliable way to learn about nature”. It is not extremists who are occupying the stage; any individual expressing doubt or rejection of evolution is unfortunately well within the mainstream of American beliefs.
UPDATE: I’m adding a table from the linked report that clearly illustrates America’s problem with evolution relative to the rest of the world.