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What happens in college to shift students from the conflict view to a no-conflict view? Why is there change in both groups, pro-religion and pro-science, but less change in the latter? Interesting question. The author doesn't try to explain, but thinks the data suggests college does not have a secularizing effect--
This finding might be especially surprising since many people, especially religious families, assume that higher education has a secularizing influence on students (Smith and Snell 2009:248), which might be expected to increase perceptions of a conflict.Odd--because my first inclination is to think just the opposite. No, the "conflict-I side with religion" students don't move all the way to the other extreme--"conflict-I side with science." But why are they moving at all? I should think the most likely explanation is that college has (precisely!) a secularizing effect. The religious students are changing their minds about either the content of religion or the nature of religious truth. Where at first they thought religion make straightforward claims like "God created the world in 6 days" (clearly in conflict with science), by their junior year they might think that's a metaphor, or that God is goodness, or that they have faith without dogma...or some such. As a result, religion no longer seems so clearly in conflict with science.
The shift in attitudes among those who start with "conflict-I side with science" might be explained similarly. Their stereotype of religion, as freshman, gradually changes as they encounter religions students with less literal, more nebulous beliefs. Why, then, do they shift to the "no conflict" view in smaller numbers? Because for some, religion means the old time religion. They don't have the same motivation to allow their understanding of religion to evolve--since it's something they happily reject.
Yes, it's all speculative--and just based on my discussions with students about religion over the years, but I think this makes more sense than Scheitle's reading--that no "secularizing" is revealed by the data. An even more implausible story is told by Matt Rossano, in this HuffPo editorial. He thinks the greater amount of change among the "conflict-I side with religion" students shows they are less dogmatic on the whole issue of science-religion conflict. But no--if the religious students are more in flux about religion, it stands to reason that they're going to be more in flux about science-religion conflict.
Scheitle's survey data must reveal whether I'm right or wrong--we would just need to compare the 27% of students who stick with "conflict - I side with religion" to the 70% who shift. Do they differ in their religious beliefs? My bet is they do--but of course it's just a bet. More speculation: possibly another factor is all the stress on interdisciplinariness and "ways of knowing" on college campus. There's also all the diversity training. The "no conflict" view has lots of interpersonal advantages. In any case, the data is surprising and interesting.