Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Previously Published Works bannerUC San Diego

Inquiry, Not Science, as the Source of Secularization in Higher Education


The traditional claim in the literature on religion and science is that exposure to science leads to secularity because the claims about the natural world in the two systems are incompatible. More recently, research has narrowed this claim and shown that conflict over knowledge in the USA is primarily limited to one religion-conservative Protestantism- A nd only to a few fact claims. In this paper, I test this claim using longitudinal data from matched surveys taken in students' first and fourth year of university. I find no evidence that the science is more secularizing than nonscience. I then turn to a distinction in university majors long used by sociologists of education-between majors focused on inquiry versus those focused on applying knowledge- A nd find that majors focused on inquiry are more likely to secularize than those focused on application. I interpret this to mean that learning to inquire secularizes.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View