What Scientists Really Think About Religion

Most of what we believe scientists think and feel about faith is wrong. That’s the argument Elaine Howard Ecklund makes in her new book, Science vs. Religion. Ecklund is the director of the program on religion and public life at the Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, and she focuses on science public policy at the school’s Baker Institute. From 2005 to 2008, she conducted the first systematic study of American scientists’ religious views, surveying 1,700 of them and interviewing 275 in depth.
As she told us earlier this year:

We already know that not all scientists are atheists, but I found that almost 50 percent identify with a religious label and about one in five is actively involved in a house of worship, attending services more than once a month. While many scientists are completely secular, my survey results show that top scientists are also sitting in the pews of our nation’s churches, temples, and mosques.

Indeed, only five (!) of the atheist or agnostic scientists I had in-depth conversations with were actively working against religion. I discovered many atheist or agnostic scientists who think that key mysteries about the world can be best understood spiritually. Others attend places of worship, completely comfortable with religion as moral training for their children and an alternative form of community.

Ecklund’s book has already gotten praise from Ron Numbers, the Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, and Francisco Ayala.

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3 Responses

  1. Scott F says:

    Only 1 in 5 attend regularly? Only once a month? That is a small enough number to be news worthy considering that the average church attendance is 23 – 28 services a year (http://www.physorg.com/news190295315.html).

    The most interesting figure I saw a while back was the breakdown of religious attitude versus scientific specialty. It seems that that study found more positive religious attitudes among the life sciences than the physical sciences. Is this a gender artifact? Don’t know but it is worth rolling around the ol’ noodle.

  2. Tom Rees says:

    These are scientists in the USA. The proportions in other high-income countries are even lower.

  3. [...] Mooney has an interview with Elaine Howard Ecklund, the researcher who’s been documenting the religious beliefs of academics for several years. One of the things Mooney picks up on is her conclusion that although scientists [...]

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