Ever since SIL-1's revelation about the necessity of my being an atheist due to my scientific career, I've been thinking about how many other people may think this.* Is this how Americans think of scientists?**
After talking to several people in my department and in my program, I've found that the religion thing is pretty much a 50-50 split. [I should note that my unscientific survey counted all forms of religion, not just Christianity. However, Christianity is what I'm most familiar with so it's the focus of the following.]
In America 55% believe in creationism; that is God created Humans as they are today. This is despite any scientific evidence to the contrary ("Pah! All that anthropology and archeology stuff is nonsense!"). There were (are?) presidential candidates that steadfastly support creationism and there still is controversy over whether or not it should be taught in the science classroom. But I don't want to turn this into a debate over creationism. I'm using this to illustrate how (it appears to me) many Americans separate religion from science; that is they find the two to be mutually exclusive.
I remember that my high school physics teacher was thought by many students and parents (!) to be an atheist.*** That was until some (very nice soul) said that he was seen at Christian Church. Kids at school and church used to tease me that my Dad (an engineer) wasn't a member of the church. At the time he was agnostic. I told some kid that and his mother wouldn't let us play together much anymore.**** Also, there were various terms used to describe famous scientists (Marie Curie was a Godless Heathen. Charles Darwin was a Heretic-- honestly, one of my teacher's said that. And so on). These are rather extreme examples from a rather small sample size. However, I can't help to wonder if there is something to that.
This is what I think may be the problem: the inability to can reconcile scientific data/fact/theory (take your pick as to the word) with their religion. It seems that many people have an all-or-nothing approach to religion. That if the entire thing isn't true, then none of it is true. This approach is completely against how scientists think. Much of science is starting with a hypothesis and devising tests to prove or disprove the hypothesis. Some times the data from such a test results in only partial dis/proof of the hypothesis or some alternative reason for proving the hypothesis in/correct or perhaps a refining of the stated model. Hence scientists are willing to allow for part of the theory to be incorrect without discounting the entire thing.
So we can take evolution, the story of Lazurus, and the Great Flood and put all that information together in one somewhat cohesive unit. Also, we can look at the chemical processes and interactions within the cell and still see wonder in it, not some "soul-less machine." The two (religion and science) do not have to be mutually exclusive.
In the end, religion is a choice. It is something you either chose to believe in or you don't. One that each person makes for him/herself. Out of all the people I talked to who did not profess to believe in a religion, none of them said that Science made the decision entirely.
* I'm adding the usual disclaimer here. I'm not saying that everyone has to believe in a religion. I'm just making the case that religious beliefs do not have to be mutually exclusive with Science.
** I'm American, as is SIL-1. So, I'm not sure how Science and Religion are viewed in other countries. However, I am curious. So, if anyone would be willing to enlighten me, please point me towards a good source.
***Yes, I'm revealing the backwards-ness of HomeTown. The fact that this was any kind of scandal, enough so that I remember it many years later, says something in and of itself.
****This wasn't too much of a tragedy. He was an annoying know-it-all who loved to make himself feel smarter by putting others down. I think he works at his dad's car dealership now (and Devil-Amanda adds a very spiteful snort to the end of that sentence).