That the United States is at once strongly well disposed to both science and religion has been repeatedly demonstrated, most recently (as of this writing) in a 2009 survey conducted for the American Association for the Advancement of Science by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which is available at http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/528.pdf. The results bear witness to what in this book I call “Protscience”: the customized relationship that various groups have with science and religion. Overall, while most Americans tend to hold more conservative social views than scientists, in the end they mainly fault scientists for failing to offer guidance on how their research should be interpreted and used. It is as if scientists would prefer to limit their own participation in civil society under the rubric of “purity” or “value-freedom” than risk opening up their views to non-specialist scrutiny. Historically this attitude has been tied to scientists' fear of political interference in the conduct of their work. The solution, enshrined 350 years ago in the Charter of the Royal Society of London, is for scientists to agree to stay out of politics, if politicians agree to stay out of science. On the chequered history of this arrangement, see Robert Proctor, Value-Free Science? (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991).
The red thread that most clearly runs through the histories of science and religion in the West is “perfectionism”, the frequently heretical doctrine that humans are destined to become one with God, which is alternatively conceptualized as recovering a lost paradise or completing a divinely inspired project.