Campus Reform | Christians face discrimination in biology field, new study finds

Christians face discrimination in biology field, new study finds

A study revealed that both Christians and non-Christians perceive significant discrimination against Christians in the biological sciences.

Professing Christians of all denominations may experience their faith as a “concealable stigmatized identity” (CSI) — especially for those who could be labeled as “evangelical” or “fundamentalist.”

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A group of researchers found that Christians perceive significant discrimination in the biological sciences.

The four researchers — Samantha Maas, Julie Roberts, and Sara Brownell of Arizona State University, along with Elizabeth Barnes of Middle Tennessee State University — interviewed nearly three dozen Christian graduate students enrolled in biology programs. They found that “many Christian graduate students believe the biology community holds strong negative stereotypes against Christians and worry those negative stereotypes will be applied to them as individuals.”

Noting that professing Christians compose 65 percent of the American population but only 25 percent of biologists, the researchers stated that Christians are a “severely underrepresented group in biology.” 

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The researchers cite several studies indicating that academics — Christian and non-Christian alike — recognize a pervasive stigma against Christians. 

Biology faculty members rank evangelical Christians as “less hirable, less competent, and less likable than an identical applicant who does not signal an evangelical identity.” Additionally, undergraduate Christians “perceive that Christians are seen as less competent in science.”

For many Christians in the sciences, their faith functions as a “concealable stigmatized identity” (CSI) — especially for those who may be labeled as “evangelical” or “fundamentalist.” Christianity can function as an “inconspicuous identity” in the sense that Christians can mask adherence to biblical teachings, church attendance, and prayer.

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The study confirmed that “most students perceived that the biology community broadly has negative attitudes toward Christians” — indeed, “many students said that the culture of biology tends to stereotype Christians as unintelligent.” 

“I think there are several tropes of how people [in the biology community] see Christians,” said one student interviewed for the study. “Some see Christians as… poor critical thinkers, that they don’t take evidence and facts seriously, or that they are weak-willed people who need some sort of moral spiritual crutch… I would even say that’s the most common perception… I would say that the most hostile reactions towards Christians apply to Protestants and Evangelicals in particular.”

Accordingly, students described different levels of “outness” about their Christianity. Some elected to be consistently open about their faith, while others are consciously “not outspoken” about it.

The researchers suggest that biologists “avoid holding and expressing negative stereotypes about Christian students, who hold diverse beliefs and perspectives.”

Campus Reform reached out to Barnes, Maas, Roberts, and Brownell for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft