But according to Rowan Williams, the former archbishop of Canterbury, efforts to pit science against religion are a “phoney war”. A YouGov poll carried out last year found that only 16% of believers accept the creation myth.
Another survey of 3,000 science, medical, technical, and engineering professionals in the UK, Germany and France, commissioned by the Scientific and Medical Network, found that 25% described themselves as atheists, and 45% as religious or spiritual.
Professor Eric Priest, a mathematician and a former president of the Royal Astronomical Society, said the supposed conflict between science and spirituality was outdated, and many scientists had “a more subtle, nuanced view of the relationship, and recognise that questioning, imagination, creativity, reason, faith and community are common features of both science and religion”.
In the US, a survey of scientists in 2009 found they were roughly half as likely as the general public to believe in God or a higher power. One in three scientists said they believed in God compared with 83% of the general population. Just under half the scientists polled said they had no religious affiliation, compared with only 17% of the public.
Jennifer Wiseman, a Christian astrophysicist and director of Dialogue on Science, Ethics and Religion, a programme of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told ABC News that science was a “wonderful tool for understanding the physical universe” but religious belief provides answers to bigger philosophical questions in life. “We are physically connected to the universe and I think we have a deeper connection as well.”