Take the science and religion quiz

Survey results

Jerry Coyne on his blog today advises us to Take the Faraday Institute’s Science vs. Religion quiz! So I did! (Here.)

You may see my result to the left. I ended up in the fourth quadrant, relatively close to the y-axis. The axis labels are to some extent jargon: Functional means that religion is best at social activities, what Dr. Coyne and I would call “tikkun olam,” or “repairing the world.” Substantive, by contrast, means that religion has meaning or content. The terms on the x-axis are reasonably clear, but I consider scientism to be pejorative and wish they had found a better term. (I have more than once been accused of scientism and am somewhat gratified that I did not land farther to the right.)

Here is what the quiz makers said about me, and it is fairly accurate:

“Science is true, but religion has some value”

For you, science is the only (or main) way to the truth and religion is only really a cultural phenomenon, so the two can get on just fine. But you’re likely to add an important caveat to this: the two can get on just as long as religion doesn’t try and make any truth claims and sticks to what it does best – building community and helping others. When it comes to the job of understanding reality, it has nothing important to contribute. If you’re here, your temperature is probably a bit cool.

That’s pretty good, and they are certainly correct that I think religion gets into hot water when it makes truth claims. I have no objection to religious beliefs that do not tread on scientific fact, though I do not hold such religious beliefs myself. I came out a little lower on the thermometer than I expected.

The Faraday Institute also provided an estimate of where the great scientists of history may end up on their graph, shown below.


I suppose you could quibble with some of the placements, but it was interesting that I find myself below Darwin, Heisenberg, and Huxley. Dr. Coyne is a more militant atheist than I am, and he ended up in the first quadrant, about where Bohr appears, and farther than I would have expected from the “New Atheists.”

If you decide to take the quiz, feel free to discuss your results in the Comments.