Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Donald F. Sacco, PhD

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Lucas Keefer, PhD

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Mark Huff, PhD

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Richard Mohn, PhD

Committee Member 4 School



One prominent factor associated with accepting science as factual includes religiosity, with greater espoused religiosity often associated with less acceptance of scientific facts and greater secularism associated with greater acceptance of science as factual, but often reduced respect of religious beliefs. Such dichotomies exacerbate perceptions that science and religion are mutually exclusive, thereby fostering conflict between individuals with different perspectives and increasing ideological polarization. The current study sought to compare these mutually exclusive articulations of science and religion to a mutualist articulation of science and religion as complementary ways of knowing. Participants were randomly assigned to read one of four condition vignettes: a portrayal of science as superior to religion in terms of generating “true” knowledge, religion as superior to science in terms of generating “true” knowledge, a mutualistic perspective indicating that science and religion complement each other and are valuable ways of learning truth more broadly, or an unrelated control condition. Participants then rated the extent to which they agreed that certain scientific facts were true and their respect for commonly held religious beliefs, followed by a measure assessing their general belief in science versus religion. This was followed by an assessment of their perception of vignette authors’ expertise, their own political orientation, and self-reported religiosity, with the former two variables’ influence accounted for in omnibus models. Consistent with previous research, more religious individuals reported lower endorsement of scientific facts. When testing levels of religious respect, more conservative individuals, as well as those reporting higher levels of religiosity, reported higher levels of respect for religious practices. Consistent with hypotheses, participants low in religiosity within the mutuality condition reported greater respect for religious practices compared to all other conditions. Partially supporting reactance hypotheses, low religiosity individuals exposed to the religion-superiority condition expressed greater belief in science compared to the mutuality condition, reflecting potential defensive reactance. These results highlight mutuality as an effective strategy to increase secular individuals’ respect for religion; however, high religiosity persons were un-swayed by this mutualistic articulation of science and religion.