What Scientists Really Think About Religion

Posted: June 1, 2010 in Faith

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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