There are lots of reasons why Josh Rosenau is one of the few writers blogging about science-and-religion issues that I still read. This morning’s post on what you ought to do to determine effective approaches is an outstanding example:
Rather than looking at national polls, which are crude instruments and can miss shifts within small subpopulations, I’d think that it would be more useful to do lab work, and to look at the broader literature on communications. Daniel Loxton did a nice roundup of a few useful studies in this realm, and Mike McRae looked at a wider sampling in the context of the “don’t be a dick” discussion.
Someone grounded in that body of research could develop some testable hypotheses about how folks might respond to NAs. Then you could do lab work, bringing in a large and representative sample of folks with views across the c/e spectrum. Do a pretest, then have some of them read a selection from Dawkins’ The God Delusion, others read from Ken Miller’s Finding Darwin’s God, and a control reading something unrelated to creationism and evolution and theism. Then do a post-test. Follow up a month later, and see how their views on science generally, evolution specifically, and on the relationship between science and religion have changed. Follow up a year later. What sticks, and what doesn’t? What do people remember? What do they convey to their friends? Then follow up the study with treatments that vary the extent of contact with New Atheist writings, to see whether people who read all of TGD, or watch a 2 hour talk by Dawkins, react differently than those with more fleeting contact with NA ideas.
That’s science, and I’d be interested in the results.
Really, this seems obvious enough that I’d be a little surprised if somebody out there wasn’t working on this sort of study (the books in question are recent enough that I doubt anybody would have had time to finish such a study yet). On the off chance, though, that this isn’t in progress, let me add my voice to Josh’s: Please, somebody, do this study.