Thursday, August 11, 2005

Atheists and Believers in Academia

From Live Science via Milt’s File:
Scientists’ Belief in God Varies Starkly by Discipline

About two-thirds of scientists believe in God, according to a new survey that uncovered stark differences based on the type of research they do.

The study, along with another one released in June, would appear to debunk the oft-held notion that science is incompatible with religion.

Those in the social sciences are more likely to believe in God and attend religious services than researchers in the natural sciences, the study found.

The opposite had been expected.

Nearly 38 percent of natural scientists — people in disciplines like physics, chemistry and biology — said they do not believe in God. Only 31 percent of the social scientists do not believe.

In the new study, Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund surveyed 1,646 faculty members at elite research universities, asking 36 questions about belief and spiritual practices.
First, note that college faculty are more liberal and more secular than the population as a whole.

Second, the reason social scientists were assumed to be more secular than natural scientists is that social scientists are further to the left politically than natural scientists. And leftism is strongly correlated with being secular.

But the natural sciences appear to have their own distinctive ethos. Probably it is rooted in a hubristic belief that science can explain everything, and thus religious notions are just “superstitions” to be avoided.

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