When it comes to the debate over life's origins, a majority of religious Americans are "not strongly wedded" to either evolution or Creation, according to recently released research.
Sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund, Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences and director of The Religion and Public Life Program at Rice University in Houston, Texas, co-authored a book detailing the opinions of about 10,000 American religious believers on science.
In an interview on National Association of Evangelicals President Leith Anderson's podcast on Thursday, Ecklund explained that responses in the survey on belief in Creation or evolution were more complex than expected.
Her survey asked respondents their opinion on a wide range of origins theories, from Young Earth Creationism to naturalistic evolutionism, as well as their certainty in their response.
"People are not actually strongly wedded to any particular narrative. As we see in the data, people will even say that more than one narrative could be true and many people aren't willing to commit to any of the narratives," said Ecklund.
"We think that what might be going on here is that for most religious individuals, it doesn't actually matter that much how old the Earth is or some other technical detail."
The biggest issue for most respondents, according to Ecklund, was whether the narrative had "a role for God" and for human beings to have a "sacred status" of some kind.
Ecklund also noted that the vast majority of people of faith, including evangelicals, are "science-friendly," with perceptions of conflict between faith and science being largely overblown because "conflict sells."
"People who write popular books — people who are likely to be quoted who are especially angry — make the rest of the world believe that the group of people who think there's a conflict is much larger than it really is," continued Ecklund.
"For me as a researcher and those of us who work in pastoral ministry or have other kinds of public roles, I think that makes our job especially more challenging, but there is a lot of potential there when we see this data that people are ready to receive a different story and a truer story."
In December, Ecklund wrote a book with sociologist Christopher Scheitle of West Virginia University analyzing how religious Americans view science.
Titled Religion vs. Science: What Religious People Really Think, the researchers stated that the religion and science dichotomy is "more nuanced and complex than the media and pundits would lead us to believe."
"Ecklund and Scheitle interrogate the widespread myths that religious people dislike science and scientists and deny scientific theories," read the book's description on Amazon.
"Rather than a highly conceptual approach to historical debates, philosophies, or personal opinions, Ecklund and Scheitle give readers a facts-on-the-ground, empirical look at what religious Americans really understand and think about science."