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What Scientists Really Think About Religion 1123

Posted by kdawson
from the two-towers dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post has a book review of Science and Religion: What Scientists Really Think by Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund, who spent four years doing a detailed survey of 1,646 scientists at elite American research universities. The study reveals that scientists often practice a closeted faith, worrying about how their peers would react to learning about their religious views. 'After four years of research, at least one thing became clear: Much of what we believe about the faith lives of elite scientists is wrong. The '"insurmountable hostility" between science and religion is a caricature, a thought-cliche, perhaps useful as a satire on groupthink, but hardly representative of reality,' writes Ecklund. Unsurprisingly, Ecklund found that 64% of scientists are either atheists (34%) or agnostic (30%). But only five of the 275 in-depth interviewees actively oppose religion; and even among the third who are atheists, many consider themselves 'spiritual.' 'According to the scientists I interviewed, the academy seems to have a "strong culture" that suppresses discussion about religion in many areas,' says Ecklund. 'To remove the perceived stigma, we would need to have more scientists talking openly about issues of religion, where such issues are particularly relevant to their discipline.'"
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What Scientists Really Think About Religion

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  • Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pinkj (521155) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:50PM (#32391010)
    Why focus on fervently opposing religion when there are so many more interesting scientific things to do?
    • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:15PM (#32391268)

      Not 'more' interesting. Religion isn't interesting when discussing science. It has no relation.

      Likewise, there will be an equal reluctance to discuss the NBA draft, and politics. Only extremists view this as persecution, by insisting there is a relevance to spiritual matters.

      In other words, were I a religious fellow, I would have no interest in what scientists say about religion. In the same manner, I don't gather political insight from celebrities.

      • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Tanktalus (794810) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:21PM (#32391932) Journal

        You're right. There is no relation. At least, not scientifically. And therein lies the issue: far too many people look to science as a way to deny religion. They are manufacturing a discord when, apparently, even many top scientists don't have a problem doing both. It's pure bologna, and that's the entire point of the study.

        The top scientists don't have a problem with religion. The most unscientific don't have a problem with religion. It's only those in the middle, those who think they know science but probably don't, which have a problem, statistically speaking. In other words, there shouldn't be a relationship. Any discord evidenced in public is purely manufactured.

        Of course, I have to wonder who, or what group, started the manufacture. But that's another topic.

        • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Wain13001 (1119071) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:55PM (#32392190)

          the sword cuts both ways though...if not more strongly in the other direction than you seem to be swinging it.

          Religion is used to fervently oppose science by those uneducated masses who understand neither their own religion or science. Honestly this is where in my experience those who are pro-science and anti-religion get their frustration with religion from.

          The extreme distrust of intellectualism throughout the US in particular is a major block in the advancement of society on a wide variety of fronts, and most often that distrust is manufactured as a form of religious views attacking scientific foundations and research.

          • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Interesting)

            by laddiebuck (868690) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @10:52PM (#32394114)
            Except for a few happy periods in its history, there has always been something of an anti-intellectual trend in the US. Perhaps it has to do with the people who originally came here and the way the revolution is portrayed in its history books, but there is a great deal of reverse snobbery, and that goes against intellectualism too.
        • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:22PM (#32392406) Journal

          And where do the Creationists and other Literalists come into this? The first volleys against science weren't by scientists or by pro-scientific groups, they were by Biblical Literalists who believed (and still believe) that any science that goes against their beliefs is wrong, if not outright evil?

          Where do very organized and well-funded groups like the Discovery Institute and AIG enter your little picture? All I see is you basically blaming the science side of the equation. Seems pretty lop-sided to me.

          • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Rei (128717) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:07PM (#32392808) Homepage

            Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved? -- Carl Sagan, 1996

            In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way." -- Carl Sagan, "Pale Blue Dot", 1994

            In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. -- Carl Sagan, 1987

            The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying... it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity. -- Carl Sagan

            I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking. The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there's little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides. -- Carl Sagan, 1996

            Sounds like not just an atheist, but someone hostile to religion, no? Yet Sagan, the guy who wrote the dragon in my garage [blogspot.com], considered himself an agostic. So in this survey, he'd come across as "agnostic", and possibly even "spiritual".

            I find nothing in this survey surprising. One can be agnostic, spiritual, but a firm disbeliever in a personal god and most organized religion, and the opposition to the scientific process that comes from it. Only people like Dawkins would fit into "Anti-religion atheist" category.

        • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Interesting)

          by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:43PM (#32392568) Homepage

          I think some of the conflict actually has nothing to do with science or God per se, but it's much more about people wanting to argue with each other for one reason or another. I hate to use this terminology, but it's a "culture war".

          It's someone saying, "I don't like they way you live your life. I don't like the way you talk about thinks or think about things, and I feel threatened by the decisions you make, so I'm going to get together with my like-minded friends and argue talk about how you're a horrible person."

          It comes from both camps. Sometimes it's because the one side is genuinely threatening to the other, but often enough, I think it's just because of the nice little ego boost that comes from calling someone else stupid. Plus, it's very upsetting for some people to admit that they might not understand something. For someone to say something you don't understand, to admit that you don't understand, and then to admit that they might not be wrong-- for some people that is in itself a terrifying threat.

          The real deal is that the scientific method can never really disprove the existence of God, so there can be no genuine conflict between science and the belief in God. And none of the major religions actually command you to be petty and ignorant and to disbelieve your experience. All the pettiness on both sides are just people being petty. There is no battle between God and science.

          • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

            by shutdown -p now (807394) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:40PM (#32393040) Journal

            The real deal is that the scientific method can never really disprove the existence of God, so there can be no genuine conflict between science and the belief in God.

            Scientific method can, however, disprove a particular theory about God - the one that involves making assertions about where he is and what he does. Whenever that happens, you get a bunch of people really pissed ouf about their particular image of God. That's why Darwin was attacked so aggressively for his writings, for example.

            • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

              by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:26PM (#32393738) Homepage

              Scientific method can, however, disprove a particular theory about God

              Not entirely. For one thing, the scientific method never really claims to bring about absolute and indisputable truths. It's more like a method for finding sensible and useful theories. The scientific method can build support for one theory or show another theory to be unsupported by a set of knowledge and data. That's about the extent of its power.

              Plus, if there were an all-powerful intelligence controlling the world, it's true that he could make your data say whatever he likes. Of course, if you subscribe to that vision of a god, one who goes around planting fake evidence and deceiving us, then I hardly see the point in trying to understand anything.

    • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:19PM (#32391300)

      Why focus on opposing religion since you can't prove it wrong? The whole topic is a waste of time.

      • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

        by His Shadow (689816) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:25PM (#32391382) Homepage Journal
        That would make sense if too many religionists weren't Hell bent on forcing religion back into aspects of culture we've been successfully removing religion from in the first place.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        While you can't prove that there is no god (or similar esoteric entity), you can still prove that certain forms of religion are wrong and self-contradicting. Like Islam, Christianity and all this creationist stuff...
        • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

          by TeXMaster (593524) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:01PM (#32391744)

          While you can't prove that there is no god (or similar esoteric entity), you can still prove that certain forms of religion are wrong and self-contradicting. Like Islam, Christianity and all this creationist stuff...

          Not really. Although you can show quite simply how much of the factoids contained in their sacred books are inconsistent with what science shows us, this does neither prove the religion wrong, nor it proves them to be self-contradicting.

          First of all, nothing (not even in the sacred books themselves) says that the sacred books are supposed to be read literally (and no, their claiming of being the Word of God does not automatically imply that they should be read literally). Of course, this does raise the question on who and when and how can go beyond the literal meaning, and the moment religion becomes an instrument of power, rather than more simply a collection of ethical rules and myths and stuff to support it (which is pretty soon in the history of every religion, of course), the powers-to-be claim to hold the only possible key to interpretation (e.g. the Church was strongly opposed to having a Bible in the new languages that formed across Europe, rather than in Latin, because then "everybody could read it", where 'reading' is to be intended not (only) in the literal sense, but more in the deeper sense of trying to understand the deepest meanings of the Book). By the way, except for the literal creationists, creationism by itself is not incompatible with what science tells us about the universe, although compatible approaches (such as intelligent design) are scientifically useless.

          Secondly, when you go look at the substance of the religions, these are not inherently wrong, nor self-contradicting. What is contradicting (or more specifically substantially hypocrite) is most of the time the behavior of many believers.

          • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

            by jesset77 (759149) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:13PM (#32393276)

            when you go look at the substance of the religions, these are not inherently wrong, nor self-contradicting.

            Look, not to be antagonistic or anything, but you've just got done saying "The books are not to be taken literally, the authorities which publish the books are not to be trusted, and a majority of the actions of the believers are contradicting and hypocritical".

            That being understood, when you say "When you go look at the substance of the religions, these are not inherently wrong, nor self-contradicting." then where exactly are you asking us to look? Where should one find the "substance" of a religion if not in the textual doctrine, not in the governing practices, nor in the popular implementation? Saying that the text is better interpreted "figuratively" puts us in the position where the text does not paint a picture for us but instead reflects the image of whatever we read into it [wikipedia.org]. The reason I ask all of this is that I fear what you mean by the "substance" of the religions may be nothing more than what you are personally reading into it. Unfortunately every believer will be tickled by his image in that mirror, so there is no truth to be found there, either.

            Put simply, I will find your interpretation contradictory and you will find my interpretation contradictory because each naturally depends upon our personal contexts. This question devolves into either "Is the text literal and can it be judged that way?" or "Is the text figurative with a trusted interpreter who can render it into something literal we can judge?" or "Is the text figurative and capable of a personal interpretation which forwards more people than it hinders, so that society as a whole nets a benefit?" I see no positive results from any of those three razors, and no other way to judge the doctrines.

            To me, all major religious doctrines appear to have the same mentally anesthetic effect as any superstition and are used by large organisations to pacify and manipulate large masses of people. I know it sounds bleak, but I see greater demonstrable and practical value in learning about the world from interacting with it, instead of reading about or being preached to about best the practices of hundreds of generations back. We should learn lessons from our past and from our ancestors, not mandates.

        • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:03PM (#32391762)
          No, you can't.

          Jesus fucking christ, I'm fucking sick of all this god damn bullshit "science is comparable with religion" nonsense. Science isn't a fucking daycare, we do NOT have to make everyone happy.

          The core principles of science are that you can NEVER PROVE a single thing. You can ONLY DISPROVE hypotheses through experimentation. The "law" of gravity is really just a theory with a lot of support (experiments) to back it up. If gravity does not work like we think it does then it is conceivable that an experiment could be designed to disprove it by demonstrating that it does not hold for some circumstance. We have not explored 100 percent of every possible circumstance. It's possible there's a planet a million billion light years away that doesn't have gravity for some reason. If and when we find that planet then we'll have to reconsider gravity.

          Religion can never be disprove. If there is truly an omnipotent being then that being could change the result of ANY experiment performed. Thus, the results of ANY experiment designed to disprove the existence of god can't be trusted because some omnipotent being could have simply fucked with the results.

          For example, we have carbon dating techniques and other methods of dating that say we've found dinosaur bones that are some number of million years old. This would seem to disprove religions that state the earth is only 6000 years old. However, the RELIGIOUS argument (not scientific argument) is that god could have placed them there 6000 years ago and messed with the concentration of carbon-14 in their bones (or the rock or plants around the bones, or whatever) to make it appear that those bones are older than 6000 years. Furthermore, he could have not fucked with the C-14 and he could simply be messing with the instruments that we use to measure the concentration. Yes, if there is truly an omnipotent being then he could, theoretically, be messing with every carbon dating experiment ever performed.

          There simply isn't any way to disprove god and because of that, the existence of god is not something science will ever explore. Any scientist telling you different is a quack.

          Religion is not science and science is not religion. There's no link between the two, people need to stop trying to "reconcile" them.
          • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

            by IICV (652597) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:46PM (#32392122)

            Religion can never be disprove. If there is truly an omnipotent being then that being could change the result of ANY experiment performed. Thus, the results of ANY experiment designed to disprove the existence of god can't be trusted because some omnipotent being could have simply fucked with the results.

            Even though in theory a generic omnipotent deity could affect the outcome of any given scientific study and create a false null result, in practice most religions make specific claims about their deities. For instance, a common one is that God listens to prayer and will heal the sick if we pray for them. However, when we actually studied [nytimes.com] whether or not this happens, we found a null result. This means that either:

            1. God doesn't heal the sick, or
            2. God only heals the sick if they are not currently part of a study to determine if He heals the sick.

            Those are the only two options. There's no way omnipotence can get you out of that observed result. Either God doesn't heal the sick in the first place, or He's a douchewidget who will refuse to heal the sick if they're part of a study.

            It's these sorts of specific truth-value claims that science can verify, and every single time we've tried it we've come up with a null result, or the result that it's got nothing to do with God.

            • 3. (Score:5, Insightful)

              by weston (16146) <westonsd&canncentral,org> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @07:16PM (#32392878) Homepage

              Either God doesn't heal the sick in the first place, or He's a douchewidget who will refuse to heal the sick if they're part of a study.

              At least, assuming a strong/strict reading of "God listens to prayer and will heal the sick if we pray for them."

              In practice, I suspect the experiment you're describing isn't testing actual religious claims. Most religious adults won't claim that God heals any sick person every time any person prays for them, but will instead state there may be number of factors involved, including the faith and/or conduct of the person praying, the faith/conduct of the person being prayed for, and some larger ineffable plan or "God's will." It isn't as if there no believers who've ever noticed that even well-prayed-over adherents suffer misfortune, injury, and death.

              Now, you can say that their justifications are non-falsifiable, and speculate that they're post-hoc, and that's true, and people who tend towards rationalist epistemologies will probably take that route. But it remains the case good rationalist can't say that the experiment you're describing really thoroughly examines hypotheses other than the strict one.

              In other words, possibility 3 -- that God sometimes heals individuals according to criteria unaccounted for by the study -- is outside the bounds of the experiment.

          • by chrb (1083577) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:05PM (#32392250)

            you can still prove that certain forms of religion are wrong and self-contradicting

            The core principles of science are that you can NEVER PROVE a single thing.

            Why do you assume the poster meant he would use science to prove "that certain forms of religion are wrong and self-contradicting", rather than mathematics? If a religious book makes factual statements, then those statements can be mapped onto the symbols of a predicate logic system. By manipulating those symbols, you could probably prove that at least some really are contradictory.

        • Not really (Score:4, Interesting)

          by renoX (11677) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:57PM (#32392198)

          >While you can't prove that there is no god (or similar esoteric entity), you can still prove that certain forms of religion are wrong and self-contradicting.

          Not really, you can show inconsistency in religions but does this mean that the religious people will accept these inconsistencies as proof?
          No! They will most likely reject the 'proof'..
          Given that religions don't follow rationality, how could a rational argument be considered as a proof by religious people??

      • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:44PM (#32391586)

        Why focus on opposing religion since you can't prove it wrong? The whole topic is a waste of time.

        While the existence of an all-powerful deity or deities is not falsifiable - a hell of a lot of conclusions that people come to based on that premise are. When the actions they take because of those conclusions are destructive then they do need to be opposed.

        • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Dragonslicer (991472) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:09PM (#32391820)

          While the existence of an all-powerful deity or deities is not falsifiable - a hell of a lot of conclusions that people come to based on that premise are. When the actions they take because of those conclusions are destructive then they do need to be opposed.

          Which isn't really opposing religion, but opposing assholes, and that's something that should be done regardless of religion.

          • Re:Makes sense (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Requiem18th (742389) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @09:47PM (#32393844)

            Except it is not really just "assholes" we are also talking about old ladies that none the less vote against the rights of gay people to live together and teach their grandsons that God created every animal separated and that evolution is a lie made by the devil, supported by Satanists.

            What are you suggesting we do? Shall we punch the grannies or let them do as they please unopposed?

            The alternative is an education campaign, winning mind share among kids by illustrating holes in their claims and the key evidence, as well as debating and debunking people in power who push religion pacifically.

      • Re:Makes sense (Score:5, Insightful)

        by xZgf6xHx2uhoAj9D (1160707) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:54PM (#32391696)
        That's not true. You can't disprove the existence of God, but there's a lot of religious beliefs that you can prove wrong. You can prove astrology and fortune-telling wrong, or parts of the Book of Genesis, for instance.
        • That makes no sense (Score:3, Informative)

          by SuperKendall (25149)

          That's not true. You can't disprove the existence of God, but there's a lot of religious beliefs that you can prove wrong. You can prove astrology and fortune-telling wrong

          What does one have to do with the other?

          Astrology and fortune-telling are not religions.

          Furthermore, you CANNOT prove them wrong. You can point out historically they have not worked, but by the very nature of how they are supposed to work you cannot prove FUTURE results are incorrect. You are foolishly attempting to apply some kind of

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Why focus on fervently opposing religion, when it is unscientific to spout rhetoric either way?

      The existence/non-existence of God is a moot point as far as science is concerned, because no experiment can prove either side right. Thus, it is not scientific to make any such assertions. What a scientist chooses to believe behind closed doors is their business, as long as it does not interfere with their scientific objectivity.

      (related, on religion bashing)

      Really, Atheists believe that a person's purpose is spe

  • by arcite (661011) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:50PM (#32391012)
    To that I say; What does god need with a Starship?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Zordak (123132)
      Interesting quote. The reference to a "Starship" makes it sound like it might be from Star Trek, but the Star Trek universe is demonstrably free of any movie with that line.
  • An idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JamesP (688957) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:52PM (#32391030)

    This shouldn't absolutely be a 'don't ask don't tell' thing, but if the guy does his job properly leave him be...

    Also, several nutcases in science have nothing to do with religion, like the MMR "controversy", HIV denialists, etc, etc

  • by PCM2 (4486) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:53PM (#32391042) Homepage

    'To remove the perceived stigma, we would need to have more scientists talking openly about issues of religion, where such issues are particularly relevant to their discipline.'"

    Which is where, exactly? Just because a scientist is studying the Big Bang theory, which has implications for the creation of the universe, doesn't make a nice, frank discussion about the Book of Genesis over tea "particularly relevant to the discipline."

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by pagaboy (1029878)
      If you've got a full meal ahead of you, have a read of The Mind of God by Paul Davies [asu.edu] or Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship by John Polkinghorne [polkinghorne.net] (Physics).

      With a bit less time, for a snack, nibble on the short article Creation and Evolution not Creation or Evolution [cam.ac.uk] by R J Berry (Geneticist) and you should start to have a few ideas for conversation with biscuits.
      • by smidget2k4 (847334) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:24PM (#32391358)
        I haven't read the books, but that article is crap. The entire thing just says "evolution is clearly happening, so we should reinterpret the bible to say that God just got he ball rolling." It is an exercise in altering religious views to conform to modern science, not an exercise in scientific thought. It is just arguing that we should modify religion to become a "God of the gaps", which is a silly argument indeed.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by pagaboy (1029878)

          So, in other words, updating science to better correspond with reality is good science. Updating theology to better correspond with reality is bad theology.

          Kind of "heads I win, tails you lose" situation.

        • by hedwards (940851) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:12PM (#32391860)
          It's not a silly argument at all. It's the difference between delusion and a sunny disposition. Choosing to believe what a religion says even when there's clear incontrovertible evidence to the contrary is more or less mental illness, not a legitimate religious belief. One can legitimately claim that there's a god for the simple reason that we can't prove that there isn't to any reasonable certainty.

          It's that viewpoint which tends to cause scientists to clam up about religion rather than necessarily any reason to hide it. I went to a very liberal school and a significant number of my professors were practicing Catholics. Perhaps it's a biased sample, but I can't imagine them saying they were at such a liberal institution if they were feeling it would damage their careers.
  • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:54PM (#32391052) Homepage

    Why would anyone need to be "in the closet" about anything? This implies discrimination and penalties for the way you think. Scientists should be above such petty things. Science is purely objective, why do the personalities of those who practice it matter? Reproducible results are all that matter.

    If there is a discrimination problem, what should be done about it? The usual answer is education, but scientists are already educated. I was often taught that education was an effective remedy for small-mindedness, and the uneducated are far more inclined to be closed-minded. Come to think of it, it was educated people who told me that.

    • by ceeam (39911) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:01PM (#32391124)

      > Science is purely objective

      But scientific community is far from. And you need publications and grants.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BasilBrush (643681)

      Open mindedness is only a virtue when it comes to being open to examining evidence for a proposition. It's not a virtue if it means accepting a proposition without evidence.

      What if 36% of scientists said they believed there was a teapot in orbit around mars? 30% said they didn't know? And 34% said there couldn't be one?

      Would the scientific community be justified in thinking less of the 36% of scientists that believed there was such a teapot, despite there being no evidence for it? Of course they would. Suc

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Russell's teapot is an analogy that only reaches so far. The difference to religion is that it has no meaning, no meaningful interpretation, no teaching. Don't get me wrong, I am an atheist myself, but most major religions differ from that. They tell a story, they have a message. The worth of that message is debatable - it can reach from inciting to hate of everything different to the simple message of "be nice to each other". Still, this is a significant difference between belief in a god and belief in Rus
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive (622387)

      If there is a discrimination problem, what should be done about it? The usual answer is education, but scientists are already educated. I was often taught that education was an effective remedy for small-mindedness, and the uneducated are far more inclined to be closed-minded.

      Fortunately, the article suggests that it is more of a perception of discrimination than actual discrimination. There are a few, talkative scientists who make it seem like it is horrible to be a religious scientist, but most scientists just don't talk about it at all, leaving the talkative ones to do all the talking. So it is mostly a matter of people who want to talk about it gaining more confidence to be themselves.

    • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:20PM (#32391312)

      Science is purely objective, why do the personalities of those who practice it matter?

      Because scientists don't live in a societal vacuum. Personalities DO matter.

      People haven't advanced much. 700 years ago, you either believed in the bible or you were burned at the stake. 70 years ago in Germany or the Soviet Union, you "believed" in Hitler or Stalin respectively, or you were sent to the concentration camp. 7 years ago, you went "hoo-rah!" with invading Iraq, or you were person non grata some places.

      Even today there are these cherished beliefs you CANNOT question. They are all over society. Not just in third world, in first worlds you get ostracized all the time from these little factions or even jailed for voicing the wrong thing. People love their fucking little beliefs and love even more making sure that you believe the same thing they do or at the least you STFU if you don't. Hell, it happens at places like /. or Digg if you go against groupthink - it's one of the fundamental truths about humanity.

      From the summary:

      But only five of the 275 in-depth interviewees actively oppose religion

      And you know why this is? Because there is nothing to be gain and a lot to be lost in actively opposing religion. Just go to someplace relatively mainstream like the Hannity forum and look at some of the extreme nutters on there. There are people in this country that will kill you because you think abortion is okay, fundamentalism isn't a purely middle east thing. Maybe the repercussions aren't as bad, but a scientist who actively opposes religion in this country where the money still says "In God We Trust" and after every speech the President has to say "God Bless America" still has some balls.

      It's not at a level of going "**** Allah" in Afghanistan to be sure, but I'm sure real obstacles would be put in that person's path by someone with both faith and power.

  • by tverbeek (457094) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:54PM (#32391054) Homepage

    And in other news, studies show that many people who are members of organized religion, also accept the scientific method and its conclusions.

    Never underestimate the ability of the human mind to hedge its bets.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:55PM (#32391066)

    To remove the perceived stigma, we would need to have more scientists talking openly about issues of religion, where such issues are particularly relevant to their discipline.

    The surest path to atheism is open discussion of religion.

  • by LKM (227954) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:56PM (#32391080) Homepage

    "and even among the third who are atheists, many consider themselves 'spiritual.'"

    What does the word "even" mean in this sentence? Spirituality is a part of the human psyche. Although we often connect the two, spirituality has little to do with faith. In fact, science is a great source of awe and wonder, feelings that we might call "spiritual" feelings.

  • by JoshuaZ (1134087) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:03PM (#32391132) Homepage
    Ecklund is spinning the data, possibly to fit her pet hypothesis. For example, she claims that about half of scientists are "traditionally religious" but by her own data, 34% are atheists, 30% are strong agnostics, and 8% are believe in a higher power which they explicitly don't believe is "God." Given that, it is very hard to claim that half the scientific population is traditionally religious when three quarters aren't even theists. There are also some odd choices she makes in her definition of scientists. So for example, she includes all the social sciences but not mathematicians (something which I philosophically agree with but find sociologically suspect). There's an excellent analysis of her data by Jason Rosenhouse of her data at http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2010/05/scientists_and_religion.php [scienceblogs.com]. The most striking thing about the data, regardless of how Ecklund wants to spin it as showing scientists are religious, is how much less religious scientists are than the general population. Atheism is much more common among scientists than among the general population, as is agnosticism. Moreover, what religions are common if one looks at the theistic breakdown is very different. Evangelical Christianity for example is a much smaller percentage then one would get from a representative sample of theists.
    • by Saeed al-Sahaf (665390) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:49PM (#32392150) Homepage

      Atheism is much more common among scientists than among the general population, as is agnosticism.

      Or maybe "scientists" are more honest about it?

      The truth is that most people that claim to be Christians are not able to discuss any particular point of the primary source document, and probably haven't been to a church service in years. So while many people claim to be Christians, in a factual sense it really isn't true since in a very real way they can not describe any of the things that define Christianity.

      I can say I'm a brain surgeon all day long (hey, I took a biology class once), yet I know nothing at all about brain surgery.

  • Well of course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wisnoskij (1206448) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:03PM (#32391134) Homepage

    scientists, in general, do not have strong views against religion. Scientists are used to politely disagreeing with people that do not share their views, and having their views challenged and proven wrong.
    it is the uneducated that have complete certainty in their opinions want to kill everyone that disagrees with them.

  • Not real science. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) <almafuerte@NospaM.gmail.com> on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:09PM (#32391200)

    Please check the domain names of both articles linked. "beliefnet" and "scienceandreligion". Check some articles in each. All bullshit.

    This is obviously biased. What kind of "scientists" did they interview? Mathematicians? Chemists? Physics? Biologists?

    I'm sure you'll find more Atheists among Biologists and Quantum Physicists than among Mathematicians.

    But, regardless of their findings, and differently from religion, truth is not a poll, and that's not how science works. It doesn't matter what many people "think" or "believe" about it. There is no compelling evidence in favor of the existence of god, and lots of evidence against it. The mere idea violates many fundamental laws of physics. It defies logic. Therefore, There are NO gods. The scientific method leads us to understand that there are no gods. Many different areas of science confirm the same finding (for example, History explains how gods where invented, Psychology explains why, Physics explains why god isn't possible, Biology, Archeology and Quantum Physics explains what really happened).

    I can't stress this enough. The scientific method doesn't take polls into account. It doesn't matter if 99% of the people believe the earth is flat. Evidence shows otherwise, and that's all that matters. /In one of the linked sites, there is an article titled "How old do you think the world is?" //Who cares what you think about it? It is ~4.5 billion years old. What you believe doesn't matter, and doesn't change the truth. ///Also, regarding aggression against religion, it is NOT a bad thing. We need to be more aggressive against them, as aggressive as they are against reason.

  • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @04:16PM (#32391278) Homepage

    I think there are two kinds of spiritual people:

    1) Those that believe in religion in addition to science
    2) Those that believe in religion instead of science

    I mean, science does not prove or disprove whether there is a soul or if there's an afterlife or any of those things that means we're more than flesh and blood who doesn't have any other purpose than our own. These people may call themselves spiritual but they're not threatened by scientific discovery because the divine exists outside time and space and the realm of science.

    Then there are the people who care very much about worldly "facts" or perhaps "axioms" are the word since they exist without proof only by Holy Scripture, like that the world is 6000 years old, all men come from Adam shaped of mud and Eve shaped from a rib, the earth is the center of the universe and so on. They are hostile to science because science is dangerous to their religion, every time evidence builds that these facts are wrong it threatens their religion as a whole. To them the Bible or Qur'an can't be wrong, where science and religion clash science must yield.

    I think a very nice follow-up question to that study would be: "If something that is established religious doctrine in your belief was contradicted by observational evidence, what would you be more inclined to believe?" That is where I think scientists and many religious folks would go their separate ways.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by BasilBrush (643681)

      I mean, science does not prove or disprove whether there is a soul

      "Proof" is only applicable to maths, not science.

      If someone is prepared to define what specifically they mean by a soul, then it'll be perfectly easy to provide evidence against it. Religionists don't tend to say exactly what form this thing they call "soul" takes. But it appears to be what they attribute a sense of identity and personality to. Yet there is ample evidence that these experiences of identity and personality are results of the

  • Which fields? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GreatDrok (684119) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:03PM (#32391760) Journal

    I would be more interested in the percentages per field. You can't classify all scientists under one banner as some fields are 'softer' than others so people with religious views are able to function. Other fields are strongly incompatible with religious views. Also, there will likely be a strong impact from the population in general so in a country like the US where almost everyone is religious, this will mean that there will be a significant population of scientists who hold religious views albeit lower than the population in general. In other countries where religion is less strongly entrenched the percentages are likely to be significantly lower.

  • Fascinating! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dirtside (91468) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @05:04PM (#32391768) Journal

    This one single study is quite fascinating! I can't wait to see other, corroborating studies. Until then, of course, I'm going to withhold acceptance of any conclusions claimed by the study.

  • Einstein on Religion (Score:5, Informative)

    by bezenek (958723) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @06:02PM (#32392236) Journal

    Some past scientists were in a position where they could speak about religion without fear. Unfortunately, I am not certain that is the case today. Examples from Einstein:

    I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. (Albert Einstein, 1954)

    I think this one is of interest given our religious-values/anti-socialist Republican party:

    One strength of the Communist system ... is that it has some of the characteristics of a religion and inspires the emotions of a religion.
    (Albert Einstein, Out Of My Later Years, 1950)

    -Todd

  • Breakdown per field (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tylersoze (789256) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @08:05PM (#32393218)

    I'd be more interested to see the percentages by scientific field. I'll wager that theoretical physics, you know the people that actually understand how the universe works on a deep level, and evolutionary biologists, the ones that understand how life works, are much less religious as a whole.

"A mind is a terrible thing to have leaking out your ears." -- The League of Sadistic Telepaths

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