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5 Ways to Bridge the Divide Between Religion and Science

This week Pope Francis will make an historic address to Congress, and no doubt, his words will be carefully listened to, commented on and perhaps move people to action. Among his many talents, the Pope is a powerful communicator about social issues.

At frank, we’re hoping the Pope uses his speech to encourage both policymakers and the American public to do more to address climate change, an issue he previously addressed in this summer’s groundbreaking encyclical.

If nothing else, much could be accomplished if his words simply get people to acknowledge that climate change is caused by human activities. Admittedly, though, combating climate science deniers is no easy task. Once misinformation takes root, especially on science topics, it’s hard to change people’s minds.

So, we thought this would be a good opportunity to round up some of our best posts that answer questions such as  “why do people deny scientific evidence” to “how do you turn skeptics into believers?”

Why do people believe misinformation about climate change?

A lot of it has to do with ideology. A study by scholars Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler showed that ideological biases often prevent people from accepting facts that go against their beliefs.

Who are these climate deniers, anyway? What do we know about them?

This probably won’t shock you if you follow the news, but climate change deniers tend to be conservative white men. A study by researchers Aaron M. McCright and Riley E. Dunlap found that this demographic group is much less likely to accept the science on climate change than other American adults.

Are faith and science always in conflict? Do most people prefer one over the other? 

A study done by Timothy O’Brien and Shiri Noy found that, in general, people do tend to be either scientifically or religiously inclined in terms of their worldview (though there is a small group that favors both). These worldviews can have a big impact on how people feel about social issues as well as the environment.

So how can we message to these skeptical groups? Is there a way to get through to them on climate change?

There is some good news, though. A study done by David Sleeth-Keppler, Robert Perkowitz, and Meighen Speiser found that, for people who are suspicious of “formal” science communicators like scientists and government workers, it’s possible to get the message out by tapping into informal networks like neighborhoods, families, and religious groups.

Alright, so we’ve got people’s attention. Now what? What’s compassion got to do with it?

So you’ve tapped your informal networks. What’s the next step? How do you get people involved? New research suggests that boosting people’s levels of compassion can actually increase their environmentalist tendencies, encouraging them to donate to environmental groups and become more active in conservation.

People of faith and conservationists may not always see eye to eye, but the Pope’s message on climate change shows that we can certainly work together on some of the big things. Check out frank talk on Thursday for a more in-depth analysis of the relationship between conservation and religion!

Posted on September 23, 2015

Lauren Griffin
Lauren Griffin is the Director of External Research for frank and the Journal Manager for the Journal of Public Interest Communications (JPIC). She earned her PhD in Environmental Sociology from the University of Florida. Follow her on Twitter @lngriffin25