U.S. Scientists’ Religious Views—By the Numbers

From Elaine Howard Ecklund‘s new Science vs. Religion (plucked by Razib Khan):

We’re Giving Away Herman Wouk’s New Book!

In his new book, The Language God Talks, Jewish American author Herman Wouk—who turns 95 next month—draws on conversations with scientists like Richard Feynman, Murray Gall-Mann, Freeman Dyson, and Steven Weinberg, as well as key events of the 20th century, to produce a “grand summation of a lifetime of thought on science and religion.”
Want it? It can be yours, for free. Sign up for our daily news feed (top right side of our homepage)—or get a friend to sign up— then send us your email address, and we’ll enter your name into a drawing (though, unfortunately, we can only ship to U.S. and Canadian residents). The deadline is April 19 at 5 p.m., and we’ll contact the winner by email.

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.

Sam Harris’ Next Book

Sam Harris took to his Twitter to announce his forthcoming book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, scheduled to hit the bookshelves in October. Jerry Coyne has tracked down a description:

Harris proposes that answers to questions of human value can be visualized on a “moral landscape”—a space of real and potential outcomes whose peaks and valleys correspond to states of greater or lesser well being in conscious creatures like ourselves. Different ways of thinking and behaving—different cultural practices, ethical codes, modes of government, etc.—translate into movements across this landscape. Such changes can be analyzed objectively on many levels—ranging from biochemistry to economics—but they have their crucial realization as states and capacities of the human brain.

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