The following table shows differences in responses, by frequency of church attendance (for whites only), to the science module of items deployed by the GSS during 2004 and 2006 (except for the last 3 questions, which were asked in 1993, 1994, and 2000). Attendance is broken up into four groupings: 1) Those who never attend (19.7%), 2) those who attend less than once a month (32.6%), 3) those who attend at least once a month but not every week (21.1%), and 4) those who attend at least weekly and sometimes more frequently than that (26.7%). Some of the questions are inverted from the GSS for viewer ease so that in all cases, the higher the percentage, the more knowledgeable the group is. Green indicates the best performance on the question at hand, black the second best, orange the third best, and red the worst:
|Astrology is not scientific||65.2||65.6||71.2||81.3|
|The benefits of science exceed the harms||77.4||79.4||73.8||80.4|
|Understands the need for control groups in testing||82.4||84.1||85.8||79.7|
|Demonstrates a basic understanding of probability||93.7||93.2||91.6||93.0|
|The earth's core is very hot||95.6||94.8||96.6||94.8|
|Not all radioactivity is man-made||84.7||85.8||88.3||84.3|
|Father, not mother, determines a child's sex||70.1||76.8||80.3||80.7|
|Lasers are not made by condensing sound waves||78.4||76.2||72.6||69.2|
|Electrons are smaller than atoms||76.3||73.4||72.1||76.0|
|Antibiotics do not kill viruses||60.6||66.0||65.3||71.5|
|Continental drift has and continues to occur||96.1||94.7||92.8||80.4|
|Humans evolved from other animals||76.0||62.6||46.0||25.1|
|The earth revolves around the sun||79.7||80.6||81.8||82.5|
|It takes the earth one year to rotate around the sun||77.6||83.2||75.8||78.2|
|Respondent will eat genetically modified foods||73.5||78.8||61.0||69.7|
|The north pole is on a sheet of ice||66.4||66.2||66.1||59.9|
|Not all man-made chemicals cause cancer when eaten||48.9||52.1||50.2||53.6|
|Exposure to radioactivity doesn't necessarily lead to death||74.5||76.8||72.8||77.8|
|Exposure to pesticides doesn't necessarily cause cancer||65.1||67.5||60.1||63.3|
Unlike when political party affiliation, race, sex, or belief are considered, no clear trend emerges here. To help facilitate in comprehending the table, I assigned three points to the group that scored highest on a question, two points to second, one point to third, and nothing to last for each of the 19 questions considered. Here's how the totals shake out:
Less than monthly -- 36
Never -- 29
Weekly or more -- 28
Less than weekly -- 21
Among those who are presumably serious in their beliefs (attend at least monthly), those who make it a point to attend at least weekly appear to be more knowledgeable (and probably also more conscientious) than their less disciplined believers. As the commenting impetus to this post suggested, among believers, those who attend are distinct from those who express theism but stay home on Sunday mornings.
Astrology is a pretty conspicuous enemy of (and threat to?) Western religious institutions. Unsurprisingly, people who spend the most time at those institutions are the most skeptical of astrology.
Again the large disparity in responses on the issue of evolution appears. If someone professes that humans did not evolve from primates, it's a better indication of his religious beliefs than it is of his scientific literacy or his level of general intelligence.
The question on continental drift follows the same pattern as the one on evolution, albeit less pronounced. The same thing showed up when theistic confidence was considered. I've never really thought about it, but I suppose young earth creationist types believe the continents were configured at creation just as they are now. Or maybe they've undergone a bit of microdrifting, but not any macrodrifting!
GSS variables used: ATTEND(0)(1-3)(4-6)(7-8), RACECEN1(1), RACE(1), ASTROSCI, SCIBNFTS, EXPDESGN, ODDS1, HOTCORE, RADIOACT, BOYORGRL, LASERS, ELECTRON, VIRUSES, CONDRIFT, EVOLVED, EARTHSUN, SOLARREV, EATGM, ICESHEET, SCITEST5, GRNTEST1, GRNTEST5