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Perceptions: Science and Religious Communities

Cross-community dialogue of all types can be challenging. When
it comes to communication between scientists and religious
communities, numerous polls of the American public indicate that this
interface can be among the most difficult.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion (DoSER) launched the
Perceptions Project in 2012 to dig deep into the roots of the perceptions
and misunderstandings that can hinder interactions between these
communities. Using comprehensive survey data and professionally
facilitated dialogue, the project helped to dismantle stereotypes and
build the kinds of human relationships that have the potential to
reframe national discourse around a variety of scientific topics.

After three years of strategic work, DoSER has uncovered some
encouraging findings. For one, both scientists and religious
communities seem eager to improve dialogue, interactions, and mutual
understanding, even when there is not always agreement. Furthermore,
by spending meaningful time together, scientists and religious leaders
begin to understand and appreciate one another. More is achieved in
this way than by simply contemplating the relationship of “science”
and “religion” in the abstract.

This report describes the purposes and processes that led to these
and other insights from the Perceptions Project. It also outlines some
of the resulting recommendations and outcomes. A full archive of data,
program reports, and videos can be found at perceptionsproject.org.
May these efforts and findings spawn more fruitful dialogue across
society, promoting the AAAS goal of “advancing science for the benefit
of all people.”