He’s trying to show that people think there’s a conflict between science and religion:
The facts: many people, and not just scientists, do see a contradiction between science and religion. Look at these data from a recent Pew survey (click to enlarge):
On the left side, when asked if religion and science are often in conflict, 55% overall say yes, and 38% say no. So it would look like that supports Coyne’s point. And clearly, that’s all Coyne ever looks at, because on the right side, when asked if their religious beliefs conflict with science … a mere 36% say yes, and 61% say no.
So, when asked about nebulous religion being in conflict with science, people tend to remember (I submit) the news reports about cases where they conflict and all the press about the people insisting that they do, and then rather lukewarmly agree that, well, yeah, I guess they do often conflict. After all, we keep hearing that they do, so it must be the case, right? And yet, when the rubber meets the road and they’re asked if their specific religious beliefs conflict … they at least as strongly say that they don’t. So, for them science and religion aren’t in conflict. This, then, seems to refute Coyne’s claim that most people do see a contradiction between the two, at least as judged by their own beliefs and not some nebulous and vaguely defined set of “religious beliefs”.
Coyne, however, constantly uses this very image to press his claim about the incompatibility of science and religion, and the conflict between the two. Has he never actually looked at the other half of the image? One would think that by now he’d at least make an attempt to argue for why that side — which to me seems the more indicative of the two questions — doesn’t totally refute his claims …