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Does Ph.D. –> Atheism? (RJS)

posted by Jesus Creed Admin

Yesterday afternoon a fellow using the name of “joe” left an interesting comment on one of posts:

“Read the God Delusion you ignorant fools.”

The idea, it seems, is that anyone who thinks, who cares to look at the evidence, will realize that the notion of God is untenable. There is a common perception that higher education draws people away from faith and that the intelligence and atheism, or at least agnosticism, go hand in hand. Certainly Dawkins in The God Delusion pushes this idea with a long
discussion of the negative correlation between education or intelligence
and belief in God (pp. 97-103). Michael Shermer in How We Believe makes the same
general argument. 

Elaine Howard Ecklund (Science
vs Religion: What Scientists Really Think
) looked at correlation between childhood religion and adult faith among science professors at 21 “elite” universities. In Ecklund’s survey we see the following trends:

In the general population there is little change in  childhood religious affiliation and adult affiliation. Among scientists – all with Ph.D. in hand – there is a clear decrease in religious affiliation for both protestants and catholics. So far so good … are Dawkins, Shermer, and “joe” on to something?

Is the correlation cause and effect? Does education cause a loss of faith?

We shouldn’t be quick to conclude that Ph.D. leads to loss of faith. There are a number of possible reasons for the trends shown in the graph above. (You can find additional discussion at Point of Inquiry.)

Education removes the reason for God. If God is simply an explanation for gaps in understanding this is a plausible explanation.

Education introduces a dissonance, a conflict, between the evidence and the faith. Young earth, evolution, and old testament studies are all places where this comes into play.

The University environment may be hostile to faith. There can be pressure, both overt and subtle leave the faith. To lose the respect of one’s peers is a severe and real possibility.

The group may be self-selected. Education itself doesn’t cause loss of faith – rather people of faith
tend to pursue other career paths.

Ecklund finds that many of those who came from a religious tradition noted that religion was not very important in their families as children.  Those from families where religion was important are much more likely to retain faith as adults. For one specific sample group of young scientists Eckland notes that it appears that ~85% retain faith. This is a substantial percentage. But the sample group, those who came from childhood homes with a strong faith tradition, is a small group and the percentage who retained faith is smaller among older cohorts.

Education doesn’t cause loss of faith – rather loss of faith precedes the Ph.D. Ekclund relates stories by several scientists who comment on bad experiences growing up in the church.

About one chemist:

She grew up in what she describes as a “Christian fundamentalist family.” As with many scientists, Evelyn was naturally inquisitive as a child. When she asked questions about the faith, however, she was rebuffed by her religious leaders and told to just believe. … She had been told simply “You just make a decision to believe.” (p. 21)

A physicist:

He was part of a tradition “where you go to church every Sunday, you go out and proselytize, and try to save souls, …you accept Christ as your personal Lord and Savior” The people in his families church were often afraid of any challenges to their faith and provided no forum for asking difficult questions. Worse, their personal ethics seemed inconsistent with living life as Christ lived it. (p. 23)

Another physicist:

He was raised in the Missouri Synod Lutheran church which is “not just any Lutheran church,” … He vividly recalls the minister making him “stand up in front of the church [in confirmation] and say things [he] knew weren’t true,” such as the age of the earth is only a few thousand years. He now thinks the minister forced him to lie because [his] interest in science made him [the minister] nervous. (p. 71)

No place for honest, inquisitive, hard questions and a real or perceived hypocrisy led to loss of faith for all three here – science was involved only peripherally. It was not the facts, it was the attitude.

Much food for thought here. I have two questions I would like to consider today:

Why do we perceive education as antagonistic to faith?

Should people of faith pursue a career path in science – and aim for positions of influence? Is it worth the cost?

Is there something the church can or should do to change the trend?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net



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Jon Bartlett

posted May 20, 2010 at 6:33 am


As an engineer (almost a scientist) in the UK, I find these statistics surprising. At work in a water engineering consultancy I know of numerous Christians around me. At university, albeit 30-odd years ago, it was the ‘artists’ who rejected Christ – I thought it was becasue the scientists could handle the ‘history’ of the Gospels better, and were less concerned about their personal worldview.
Has the USA created a greater divide between science and faith?



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derek leman

posted May 20, 2010 at 7:38 am


RJS:
I think evangelical clergy need to take the intelligence level up a few notches and this would help. My observation is that evangelical leaders go to seminary and learn BIblical languages, read good theologians and commentators, and then preach to the level of the average cable viewer. And five years out of seminary, these same clergy are not reading these books anymore. They do not use their research or continue it. They think no one wants well-researched and well-written messages. Not true.
Derek Leman



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RJS

posted May 20, 2010 at 7:48 am


Derek,
I have been told (not by my current pastor) that I am in a demographic so small that it isn’t worth the effort to engage someone like me in the local church – or even in a campus ministry. “Bang for the buck” is not high enough.
While it is not true that “no one wants a well-researched and well-written message” the demand isn’t large enough to warrant the effort. Not only this – it may turn of the “ordinary” church goer and be a net negative.
Is this a valid argument in the effort to grow the church?



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Jason Lee

posted May 20, 2010 at 8:05 am


A couple things:
1. It’s important to keep in mind that the “None” category in the chart above may include many religiously active people who for whatever reason do not officially affiliate with any religious tradition. They are by no means necessarily all atheists … some may be unchurched believers. (See this recent work on the complexity of religious nones: http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/123201890/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0 ). This is not to say that actual atheists aren’t highly overrepresented among elite scientists. I’m sure Ecklund specifically documents this also.
2. There is major forthcoming research indicating that a huge selection process takes for those who become professors. In other words, the correlation between being a PhD and being less religious is likely spurious and caused by a third factor. It could be that political liberalism is the causal factor for both PhD and irreligion. (Link to this work: http://www.soci.ubc.ca/fileadmin/template/main/images/departments/soci/faculty/gross/why_are_professors_liberal.pdf ).
Of course an environment full of people who are less religious might also dampen a devout person’s belief. But it may not be this simple. It might not erode faith if there are peer religious support networks in place and a church that affirms belief and science. It’s also possible that the surrounding irreligious or anti-religious might provide negative reference groups for the devout person, enlivening his or her faith because it’s embattled (see Christian Smith’s classic work “American Evangelicalism: Embattled and Thriving” for more on this possibility).



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Jason Lee

posted May 20, 2010 at 8:19 am

RJS

posted May 20, 2010 at 8:46 am


Jason,
On an earlier post (here: What do scientists really think) I included a graph comparing Ecklund’s result with the more general survey of Gross and Simmons.
Even in the Simmons and Gross study the numbers who claim atheist or agnostic are much higher for “elite” scientists. Both Dawkins and Shermer also note these differences (and use it to dismiss the larger percent of believers among the less “elite”).
I think you are right about the complexity of cause and effect – and that is the point of this post. We should think about this.



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David P Himes

posted May 20, 2010 at 8:58 am


It’s possible that people without a strong faith are drawn to intensely academic pursuits, in an subconscious effort to find confidence in their beliefs. Even atheists have faith in somethings, because ultimately, science cannot explain everything — so at some point they must accept something on faith.
The question is faith in what?
If my faith depended upon agreeing with the stupid things I hear Christians say, I might be skeptical as well.
My faith is in spite of most other Christians, not because of …



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Kyle

posted May 20, 2010 at 9:01 am


There is a lot of pressure. Even in biblical studies, there is an ethos that having a Christian commitment hinders your work. The guild will give ear to the latest research from Joe Blow agnostic over those of us who are openly Christian, simply due to our faith. Guys like Scot, Craig Evans and the like had to overcome initial biases I’m sure. I know plenty who try to hide their faith for this reason, or even attend more liberal/mainline churches despite their evangelical convictions. I’m sure that such pressures are evident in other fields as well and that the desire for acceptance has led some to abandon their faith altogether.



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Kyle

posted May 20, 2010 at 9:14 am


And I definitely think Christians should aim for the highest positions in science. Think of all the good that Collins and Alexander have done for the church because of their faith! Not to mention all of the up and comers like Ard Louis who are passionately evangelical and passionate about real science. I pray that Biologos, Faraday and the like may increase in their influence both among the church and academia.



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Michael Todd

posted May 20, 2010 at 9:15 am


I wonder what the same studies reveals about advanced degrees in health care, like physicians and advanced practice nurses. I am in both health care and in academia, and it is my opinion that academicians have created a neat little world for themselves, where they mostly deal with healthy 18-25 year old young adults, and do very little, except orbit the earth, observe the earth, and make sentences about the earth, which are only intelligible to other academics, typically those in their specific field of study. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You are Israel’s teacher, and do you not understand these things?”



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T

posted May 20, 2010 at 9:18 am


RJS,
I think you are right to point out some other factors, like self-selection and the typical process of church that sees more than the first level of questions as a problem (and quickly the questioner). But I do think we have a both/and here. Churches, as institutions “want” to lead people to certain answers and ideas, and so do universities. Unfortunately many churches over-reach, try to defend too much historical turf (like young earth creationism, etc.) while hopefully trying to lead people to, essentially Christian Theism. I think it’s fair for churches to affirm and lead toward that goal, even if they could do much better at doing it. (I’m thinking of more discussion and questioning formats like Alpha, and more support/transformation group formats for various types of orthopraxy like AA rather than just “studies” for more orthodoxy)
But I also think it’s fair to say that theism is exactly what the culture of the university attempts to move away from. The university culture says if there is a God, that God isn’t an acceptable, rational explanation for much of anything on earth; we need to look elsewhere; we need to give our attention elsewhere; the God idea–not just in origin questions, but everywhere–is a gap-theory, nothing more than ignorance celebrated with ceremony, which is the antithesis of the university endeavor. That’s what most relationships with folks leading universities and their classes are going to pull toward. The longer one is there, the longer and perhaps more deeply one feels the pull.



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Rick Presley

posted May 20, 2010 at 9:19 am


Ah, what a succinct post for such a complex question.
First of all, I would be interested in seeing a comparison between the Ph.D. scientists and the M.D. scientists with regard to their religious affiliation. Also, I’m inclined to think that the group of Ph.D. scientists self-selects. Dawkins, Dennett, & Co. make it abundantly clear that certain segments of the Ph.D. community are openly and unabashedly hostile to any with a religious bent of any sort. And they are the tip of the Academia iceberg. In many respects they are more fundamentalistic than the most die-hard fundie in their intolerance for honest inquiry and skepticism.
However, as to the questions:
Why do we perceive education as antagonistic to faith?
Your article’s comments allude to at least two reasons – hostility and mistrust among the faith traditions against open, honest, sincere inquiry (for a variety of reasons) that elevates “uneducation” as a virtue and the internal conflict between faith and reason and how we balance those in our own lives.
Should people of faith pursue a career path in science – and aim for positions of influence? Is it worth the cost?
I’m conflicted about this question. As a former science teacher, lab technician, and now employee in the biomedical field, I see the importance of science. I could go into a very long soliloquy on the topic, but will forebear. The reservation I have is the “aim for positions of influence” part. Real influence in science (as opposed to popular influence that has no lasting mark) is found in generating work that answers questions and solves problems. As long as we do that, we can listen to the blowhards shout all they want about the ignorance of Christians while letting the results of our work do the preaching for us. I’m not saying we need to back down from controversy, but I don’t believe the power of the Gospel is found in grandstanding. Instead it is located in the quiet, almost imperceptible transformation from within, like yeast in three measures of dough, or like a field that grows day by day and the farmer doesn’t know how.
Is there something the church can or should do to change the trend?
Easy answer: Don’t freak out when someone asks a question; don’t feel like you have to have the answer every time. Encourage youngsters to pursue inquiry wherever that may lead them. All truth is God’s truth. Any minister that discourages an honest pursuit of the truth is doing a disservice to both the Truth and the Truth-seeker. Anyone who is truly and honestly pursuing Truth cannot help but eventually come face to face with God.



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Larry

posted May 20, 2010 at 9:25 am


While it is not true that “no one wants a well-researched and well-written message” the demand isn’t large enough to warrant the effort. Not only this – it may turn of the “ordinary” church goer and be a net negative.
Is this a valid argument in the effort to grow the church?

Only if you have bought in to the idea that church growth is just about the number of attendees at a service. I always thought that church growth should be about quality more than quantity, about growth of the parishioners you have rather than just growing the number of parishioners. J.P. Moreland once recommended that preachers occasionally “aim” their sermon at the upper quartile or so of their congregation, both to keep these people interested in church but also to help the others in the congregation grow, to give them something so that they would have to exert some effort in order to understand.
And, “joe”, reading The God Delusion is not going to convince anybody of the truth of atheism who has even the slightest knowledge of Christian theology, philosophy and church history. Dawkins’ understanding of religion seems to be stuck at the junior high level, which I believe was his age when he left the church, strangely enough.



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Robin

posted May 20, 2010 at 9:39 am


I think you have two issues here (1) A clear selection bias. There is a real danger that a disproportionate number of Ph.D.’s were opposed or at least agnostic to faith when they decided to pursue a Ph.D. and the results are hardly shocking. (2) I think there is evidence of an indoctrination bias (?) study after study has revealed that academia is extremely left leaning, probably more so than any other ‘institution’ in America, so if you have a bunch of left leaning professors, with a high percentage of atheists, teaching a bunch of Ph.D. aspirants who are shaky at best in their faith to begin with, it would be astounding to me to have any results besides the ones you arrived at.
I attended a secular Ph.D. program in KY in a field that is traditionally one of the more conservative (economics and public policy) and every single professor in my department was either a registered democrat or committed atheist (there was 1 guy I’m not sure about) and I’m not saying that left=atheist, just that even in a relatively ideologically conservative department there was very clear political and religious bias.
I think the key issue here is my perception that Christians tend to care more about families and making money for families than higher academci pursuits so they pursue degrees that provide them a comfortable life fairly quickly (Engineering, Law, Education, etc.) and they aren’t willing to invest 10 years in poverty for the hope of a tenure track position and 5 more years of mind-numbing stress.



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Scott F

posted May 20, 2010 at 9:57 am


Isn’t the real story here that religious faith as an adult is so closely correlated with religious upbringing: The persistence of a particular religion is possibly determined socially, not via some outside, supernatural force.



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Laura Flanders

posted May 20, 2010 at 10:01 am


I’d like to answer the question posed — Is there something the church can or should do to change the trend?
The church should combat dualism. I get so tired of dualism — it is especially in the evangelical church. The language we use drips of it and as such leads people in the church with the notion that one can separate your faith from other aspects of life. It’s maddening.



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Rick

posted May 20, 2010 at 10:10 am


Michael Todd #10-
I have seen a study within the past 10 years (I don’t recall the source off-hand) in which they asked similar questions to scientists and broke it down in fields of study, including physicians. The physicians were more religious.
Robin #14-
Good points. Some of the discrepancy is by the choice of Christians, while some is due to the mindset within the university.
I think discouragement is a large factor, from within some churches and (as has been pointed out) by the university culture (brings to mind Dan Wallace’s recent post). I think if we encourage Christians to pursue such careers, and not frame science discussions in terms of warfare, that it would help.
It reminds me of the stats showing females as less likely to go into math and science fields. Much of that is due to a culture of discouragement, and is not due to an “intellectual” issue. As people work to encourage females to enter such fields, Christians should do the same.



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Karl

posted May 20, 2010 at 10:22 am


RJS, I was really struck by this:
“I have been told (not by my current pastor) that I am in a demographic so small that it isn’t worth the effort to engage someone like me in the local church – or even in a campus ministry. “Bang for the buck” is not high enough.
“While it is not true that “no one wants a well-researched and well-written message” the demand isn’t large enough to warrant the effort. Not only this – it may turn of the “ordinary” church goer and be a net negative.”
I think this sub-topic is worthy of a whole series of posts – although in some ways it gets discussed often in the context of many posts here. It’s certainly something I myself have wrestled with. I can think of several excellent examples of pastor/shepherd/teachers who were able to simultaneously reach and engage the small demographic that most of us here on Jesus Creed represent, while also inspiring and touching the minds and hearts of less intellectually inclined folks. The pastor I was fortunate enough to grow up under was one. A couple of my college professors (who also preach/teach/shepherd) also come to mind, as does a college professor/ordained priest friend of mine here locally, some of whose books Scot has reviewed on this site. Or on the emerge-ish side of things, you have someone like Rob Bell. But those leaders are the exception, rather than the rule. They have a somewhat Lewisean ability to bridge the gap between very different demographic groups, without leaving either group feeling turned off and like “there’s nothing here for me.”
But few people have those gifts of communication. Most will leave either one demographic or the other feeling bored or alienated. And there is no question which demographic is the larger, by far. For example, I look around our 300+ member church and realize I could probably count on one hand the number of people who would have any interest in reading a blog like Jesus Creed. What to do?



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Bryan Catherman

posted May 20, 2010 at 10:39 am


This is only looking at Ph.D holding scientists. It might be interesting to take a look at all scientists, be it those with only a BS, those with an MS, and those with Ph.D. There might be even more value if these numbers were contrasted against all Ph.D holders to determine if it is the Ph.D or the filed of science that sees such a drop in faith.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 20, 2010 at 10:45 am


Should people of faith pursue a career path in science – and aim for positions of influence? Is it worth the cost?

What ‘costs’? Hanging out with people who don’t believe as you do?
(I thought that was what Christians were supposed to do…)



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Jennifer Ulesoo

posted May 20, 2010 at 10:58 am


I recently read a study that said that people who had higher IQ’s as children were more likely to be atheists as adults and the author claimed there was a correlation between intelligence and atheism. What wasn’t addressed was the possibility that as “smart” kids these people had a vested interest in knowing more than everyone around them and in having all the answers. Perhaps a person whose self-worth revolves around being smarter than everyone else would have a harder time accepting the possiblity of God because that would entail acknowledging a being with infinitely greater intelligence than oneself.



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AHH

posted May 20, 2010 at 11:17 am


Wish I wasn’t traveling today and had more time to interact with this interesting post. As RJS points, lots of factors and correlation does not imply causation.
I think the self-selection and loss of faith along the way are both big factors.
On self-selection:
Why would Christians pursue a PhD in science when those people are often demonized in Evangelical churches?
There is also the factor that such careers are devalued in the church; the brightest young Christians are encouraged to become pastors or to become doctors.
On loss of faith along the way:
Most of those of us who end up getting scientific PhD’s tend to have certain traits, like intellectual curiosity, unwillingness to blindly accept pat answers or to be told that questions are off limits, suspicion of simple black/white ways of looking at things, ability to see and respect multiple positions. Most Evangelical churches are not very welcoming to those with such traits. After the umpteenth time of hearing simplistic nonsense from the pulpit about Noah’s Ark or creationism, or of having one’s questions or doubts stifled, or of being bombarded with things like the Truth Project, it becomes tempting to walk away from the church and the faith. This might happen to people with such traits at any time starting in High School, on through grad school and beyond.
The question of how churches can become less unfriendly places for such people (without becoming unfriendly to those of a non-PhD mindset) is a really important one. Seems like at least a few people (Tim Keller) are trying.



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Joshua

posted May 20, 2010 at 11:22 am


Jon at #1,
I’m an American, but I spent some time in the UK, being introduced to the religious scene in contrast to how things are in the U.S. In short, yes there is a greater religious divide between science and faith. Historically, since around the 1850s with the rise of German higher criticism, the university model, coinciding with Darwin’s books, Evangelicals especially have been hostile to higher education in general, and the sciences in particular. Although, I imagine there is much hostility towards the humanities and social sciences as well- especially philosophy, psychology and sociology. When I told a friend that I was studying philosophy and theology, he wondered why I chose two conflicting academic disciplines. What? Why would somebody think that? Well, I think the answer goes back quite a ways, but that’s besides the point. In general, I certainly see a divide between education and faith. However, I am not so sure this is absent in the UK- Hitchens and Dawkins are native-Englishman, after all, and they would say there is a divide between education and faith, and they aren’t the only ones. So, in fact, there is hostility everywhere, but I think it is more hostile here than there.



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Steve Elder

posted May 20, 2010 at 11:30 am


I am an atheist & a physicist. The anti-intellectual and VERY insular behavior of Christians is the primary reason that education and religiosity do not correlate. Even as a child, it was made very clear to me that I was not accepted into the Christian community because I am intelligent.
Towards intellectuals, the Christian population is rude, condescending, intolerant and pretentious. Then you are aghast at the demography statistics. What do you expect? Do you expect us to come be a part of the ?flock? when you behave in such a poor manner? You have chased us away. Act like adults: Live with the consequences of your behaviors.



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Joshua

posted May 20, 2010 at 11:47 am


Ray
“What ‘costs’? Hanging out with people who don’t believe as you do? (I thought that was what Christians were supposed to do…)”
Well, it’s not like you need to get a Ph.D. to hang out with people who don’t believe as you do. I don’t think the ‘costs’ of getting a Ph.D. include being in dialogue with people who disagree. In fact, I think that would really be a benefit. After all, it is what Christians are ‘supposed to do’. However, as the previous post by RJS demonstrated, it doesn’t seem like much dialogue between Christians and Atheists is happening or would happen. I think we’ve discussed this before, Ray (and it was one of the few things we agreed on, too). This dialogue needs to happen- most definitely at the highest echelons of academia, but it isn’t. Christians go toe private schools where they can openly practice their faith, and Christians who go to secular schools keep it on the down-low, knowing that colleagues will disregard them, and even ridicule them. One philosophy professor at a college nearby was teaching a course that my friend was taking for GE. The purpose of the course, in his eyes (and he wasn’t even religious) was to indoctrinate the students with atheism, and prove to them how silly it is to claim that believing in God is true. On the first day, he singled out Christians, bombarding them with ideas that they had never heard of before and, hence, were unprepared. Now you tell me- if you had a Ph.D. and were religious (make believe for a second here), would you believe that such a dialogue, though needed, is possible?



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Alan K

posted May 20, 2010 at 11:48 am


The problem stems from the fact that the way we learn the world is not the same as the way the world really is. As children, we are all little scientists as we get to know our environment. As students, especially in the sciences, we are trained in observation, in hypothesizing, in testing, in judging. We pretty much learn the world as “earth”. But the true cosmology of the world is “heaven and earth”. This is not a cosmology that can be observed or hypothesized or tested or judged. It is revealed. The antagonism comes when the recognition of heaven is understood by the world of education as projection.
The acceptance of “heaven and earth” is not a denial of “earth” but does affirm the priority of theology over all other ologies. It is this statement of authority that is at odds with how we learned the world. To affirm that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” is to also affirm that worldviews and scientific knowledge are provisional in their very nature.
What can the church do about this so that we won’t feel threatened by science and once again have the freedom to vigorously pursue scientific knowledge? Reaffirm the authority of Jesus Christ. Take seriously words like “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Believe that the very nature of who God is and what God is like has been revealed in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.
Recognizing and confessing the ontology of heaven does not mean shutting our eyes to what is in front of us or under the microscope. If anything it should open our eyes.



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AnotherJoe

posted May 20, 2010 at 11:53 am


I don’t think you can ignore the political aspects, either.
Academics are more liberal than the general population, and I’ve seen studies that say it’s not that academia turns people liberal, it’s that people with that frame of mind are simply attracted to that field.
Contrast this with the popular view of Christians as right-wing conservatives, thumping the tub for war, opposing health care reform and equal rights for gays, etc. The Moral Majority. Glenn Beck telling people to leave any church with “social justice” on its website.
Academics have issues with not only the anti-intellectualism of Christianity but also the politics.



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Joshua

posted May 20, 2010 at 11:56 am


“Towards intellectuals, the Christian population is rude, condescending, intolerant and pretentious.”
Towards Christians, the intellectual community is rude, condescending, intolerant and pretentious. Even in your post you accused Christians of being “anti-intellectual” (which I agree with, in part). But don’t accuse a group of being “anti-intellectual” and then draw attention to the fact that they are also “insular.” 160 years ago, Christians in the United States (even in academia) were far from insular. In fact, it wasn’t really until the early 1900′s that they began to turn inward and treat the universities with hostility. But Christians aren’t all anti-intellectual. Many just don’t see what the alternatives are. With comments by professors that people who believe in God are ignorant (or anything to that affect), it has to be asked how Christians would find such an alternative in the university system?



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Justin Topp

posted May 20, 2010 at 11:56 am


BioLogos just started a series by a pastor who is attempting to reach out to intellectuals… check it out: http://bit.ly/cRgGa4
I think RJS has had some interesting ideas here. I don’t think the “selecting out” early on leads to athiests though, I think that just keeps those that are more fundamental. A friend once shared this thought with me. His soon to be father-in-law was concerned because my friend was an “intellectual”. He said that intellectuals tend to get more liberal as the years go on. In this he was referring to beliefs and faith, not politics. I think it’s quite true and know it has occurred within me. Perhaps we lean too much on describing God in God-of-the-Gap ways? We all know what science tends to do to that. I also think scientists (biologists especially, me included) spend just about all their waking moments reducing problems to those that are soluble/solvable in the lab. As one who does this, it us difficult if not impossible to not also do that in matters of faith. Well, the reduction model in these matters can unfortunately do just that… reduce a faith to nothing.
Twitter: JustinTopp



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RJS

posted May 20, 2010 at 12:02 pm


Justin,
Back in January both David Opderbeck and I posted on Ken Wilson’s article. I am glad to see it getting some discussion on BioLogos.
You can see our posts here: Science and the Evangelical Mission



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DanPack

posted May 20, 2010 at 12:05 pm


I have a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Caltech and am in academia now running my own research group of ~7-10 grad students. I’m also (actually first and foremost) a committed Christian. So there are some of us in science, but we are the minority.
As for why/how science education correlates with lack of faith/religion, I offer this.
Science is a process that investigates only natural phenomena. Advanced science education often leads–subtly and imperceptibly–to a philosophical naturalism/materialism. It happens without even realizing it. I would be willing to bet that the vast majority of scientists who are essentially naturalists/materialists don’t even understand their position and, even if pointed out to them, do not understand that it is a fundamental philosophical assumption about the world. Many would argue that their naturalistic/materialistic world view is more reasoned, rational, and or grounded in evidence than a theistic world view. I have certainly had these discussions many times, and that is my consistent experience.



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Joshua

posted May 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm


DanPack: interesting comment. Do you think that there is a need to teach Philosophy of Science before actually teaching science to anybody who is interested in pursuing a career in that field?



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Gary Bell

posted May 20, 2010 at 12:16 pm


Why do we perceive education as antagonistic to faith?
There is an association between education level and loss of faith.
It?s seen here in the data you?ve provided. Many Christians have reported attending classes where antagonism toward their faith was prevalent.
Should people of faith pursue a career path in science – and aim for positions of influence? Is it worth the cost?
This is a tough question. A career path in science is going to lead to conflict with powerful atheist people at some point. Positions of influence may be beyond your grasp. An exception to this idea may be teaching within Christian colleges. Is it worth the cost to pursue science and lose your faith? I would say no, but I wonder why some challenging of one?s faith would cause such a change. One?s faith must have been weak in the first place to cause a loss of faith. We are told from the ?get go? that our belief will be challenged.
Is there something the church can or should do to change the trend?
Churches (there is no??the church?)should enter a season of powerful prayer and go back to the basics. Such a course of action might produce a move of God. People who experience a move of God will learn to see God. If Paul could be changed, a Ph.D. can be changed.



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DanPack

posted May 20, 2010 at 12:20 pm


@Joshua #32
I think you would have a hard time convincing those in science that there is a “need” to teach philosophy of science. But it’s certainly not a bad idea!



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Barb

posted May 20, 2010 at 12:24 pm


What can the church do?
1. start teaching your older children to think, study, discern–instead of just memorize.
2. teach your teens how to read the whole Bible and understand it.–the childish faith that most go off to college with is too easily shot down.
3. don’t let your adults become mentally flabby but give them meat that they must chew. I keep telling my Sunday School students–this isn’t hambuger helper–this is a prime steak.
4. make learning and teaching appealing–not dry and boring.



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phil_style

posted May 20, 2010 at 12:25 pm


Just to add some of my own anecdotal evidence to the pie.
I grew up in very secular New Zealand. The proportion of the population that identifies as practicing Christian is approximated at 10%.
Now, in my youth, the Christians I hung out with at church and the like were all (as a group) as smart as the general populations of my secular school. Many of them ended up with Dux honors and were head students in their schools’ cohort years. However, of the 50 or so group that I was a part of during my youth, I am the ONLY one who went into the sciences (earth science/ environment).
All the rest who went to university studied law, medicine or accounting/economics.
There is a definite trend away from studying the sciences;
1. Science is perceived (rightly or wrongly) as less socially/politically “influential”. Christians think they can “do more good” in law, politics, health care etc.
2. Science is (rightly or wrongly) as potentially detrimental to faith, in so far as it is viewed as a vehicle for naturalistic individuals to ridicule religion, under the guise of academia.
3. Science is a bit geeky. Christians already have the stigma of faith in a secular environment. Why exacerbate things by becoming a scientist! :)
the last one is a bit tongue in cheek… but I think it plays a small role.



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Joshua

posted May 20, 2010 at 12:25 pm


DanPack, I only ask because I study philosophy and theology, and it seems to me that many scientists are great when it comes to research, but have a very poor philosophical base that informs how they interpret what they see. This seems lacking especially in the state schools where research, rather than teaching, is the focus.



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AHH

posted May 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm


To put part of my wordy comment #22 more succinctly …
A person with the traits that tend to produce PhD scientists will be really, really, really alienated by a church where lots of cars in the parking lot have the (in)famous bumper sticker:
The Bible says it.
I believe it.
That settles it.
Captcha “understanding dithers” — yes, the church needs to better understand those of us who might dither rather than always jumping to simple black/white answers.



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DebWest

posted May 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm


Interesting theories. As a “scientist” and a Christian, I have no problems mixing the hard realities of physical science with the belief’s of my Faith. My husband and I are both in the science field, he a Veterinarian and me a Clinical Scientist. We both have advanced educational degrees and we met in college. Our attendance in chruch was put on hold during and after college for a bout 6 years, but our Faith was never placed on hold. I personally believe that the realities of hard science establish physical evidence of the existence of God. Perhaps some of these overly-educated individuals with their PhD’s never took a course in Quantum Physics. You may be able to mathematically derive a solution to a number of problems presented, but you have to take a Leap of Faith in order to understand.



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William

posted May 20, 2010 at 1:02 pm


Should people of faith pursue a career path in science – and aim for positions of influence? Is it worth the cost?
Only if they have really good, solid spiritual direction from someone who has walked both the paths and found balance and the truth in that their is no real conflict between science and faith.
I have been a psychotherapist for twenty years and have found that my “faith” as a Christian has created difficulty in my self and my professional life as well as with those in the field. it has been difficult to comfortably hold to my faith while in the profession due to the undercurrent of animosity and an attitude that if one wants social acceptance in this field that one cannot have faith and reason at the same time.(at least Christian faith – Buddhism is “ok my most standards in the field but then again it is a pseudo Buddhism that see Buddhism as a psychological techniques and not a faith belief)
In April I went to a conference in Santa Fe and saw this in action. Bradshaw was there and though he gave some notice to his life as a monk and Roman Catholic he was pretty hostile to his faith. Another PhD Clinical psychologist who is famous for his work in brain science recently had a “born again experience” which he would speak of in private but in public he tried to wrap it in Physics and various Hindu an Buddhist terminologies. A friend of his told me that he would not speak openly of his faith in conferences for fear of loosing speaking engagements. In the end he simply sounded very confused.
Psychology has long held a somewhat schizophrenic view of faith. As a therapist I saw the new age movement dominate my field for a long time. I have also been aware that we, as therapists, are the priests of a secular religion called humanism in which man is the creator of all things and a large percentage of therapist give lip service to the need for a spiritual life. The problem is an unresolved hostility to a confused and uninformed Christian childhood for most therapists I know. They had much the same experience that the scientist you cites had. Many many of my clients have as well.
I do not believe that there is a conflict between well informed Christian faith and Science. Some of the best scientist I know are Jesuits and though it is a hard road for them once they break through some of the struggles of faith versus reason they are not only stronger scientist but are deeply compassionate Christians.
I myself have pretty much given up on working for now as a psychotherapist and am pursuing a place in the Episcopal Priesthood, needing a better balance in my faith life, my life of reason and a grounding in a clear spiritual doctrine. I am finding that I am no longer looking like the PhD I mentioned above -confused and feel better for it. It has required that I let go of anger at the fear of those in my own childhood and those in my profession and find a center of solid ground to stand upon.
To pursue a career in science and hold one’s faith requires good spiritual direction from others who have lived and walked that path – it is a much tougher road than following one or the other – but in the end creates a stronger more balance person.



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Scott

posted May 20, 2010 at 1:02 pm


Something we should do?
Make every church a place where NO question is off-limits. Actively create times when church members come together to think “outside the box” about themselves, the Bible, their world, their faith and anything else that seems to be bound with an “orthodoxy” that keep it blurry and keeps us mouthing the right words.
Church should be a place for questioning as well as affirmation.
I speak from experience as a person of faith (still) who has been denied tenure, fired, and rejected by a local church– not for having faith, but for asking questions that made people uncomfortable. Certainly, it’s possible to simply play devil’s advocate all the time as a way of gaining attention or just to be contrary. But my questions have always been genuine, and I’ve found that it’s now very difficult for me to worship among people with whom I must highly filter all curiosity or lines of discussion.
I suppose that means I usually feel more comfortable among scientists, artists, poets and hippies (as opposed to most Christians) because any question is fair game. I can be myself.
Perhaps in some scientific circles the same thing happens– you can ask any question EXCEPT ones that fall outside of the scientific orthodoxy. Questions of faith… questions of spirituality… questions about mystery or the ineffable…



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Ray Ingles

posted May 20, 2010 at 1:05 pm


I don’t think the ‘costs’ of getting a Ph.D. include being in dialogue with people who disagree. In fact, I think that would really be a benefit… I think we’ve discussed this before, Ray (and it was one of the few things we agreed on, too).

Oh, I’m totally cool with the dialog. I guess I’m still just not clear on what the “costs” are supposed to be.



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Scott

posted May 20, 2010 at 1:08 pm


One more thing:
Joe’s comment, “Read the God Delusion you ignorant fools,” was clearly intended as a show-stopper. This is not the kind of thing you say if you want to continue dialogue, only if you want to be clear that there is nothing left to learn on this subject. Shame your opponent into silence… this is the type of “scientific orthodoxy” that may push many scientists of faith into compliant agnosticism…



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Justin Topp

posted May 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm


In my experience, scientists confuse the “philosophy” of science with the “methodology” of science. They are quite unaware of the philosophy of science… of course, I tried to add that to our introductory course sequence and was shot down. Even Christians in science downplay the importance of it, I think.



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scienceDoc

posted May 20, 2010 at 1:19 pm


after reading the reviews already posted is seems that the commentors simply do not get it. it’s not an insult so don’t take it as such. it is simply a different mindset.
i am a scientist and as such i am also surrounded by scientists. i can comfortably say that the reason we are atheist or @ least less faith based is that faith is a complete contradiction to our work. science is chemistry and physics. our minds (all humans) have a difficult time comprehending the vast numbers that are involved in our work. for example heaven and hell are concepts related to earth. a physicists’ work transends the whole universe.
our work as physicists’ deals with really LARGE numbers. as an example our galaxy is composed of billions of stars, and our gallaxy is smaller than alot of others. the closet gallaxy to ours is 2.5 million lights years away. that is 14696563432959020000 Miles, the Earth is only approx. 24000 miles circumference around the equator.
scientist like to “prove” their work, that is very difficult based on a 2000 year old book.
other cultures are not allowed to have advanced study in the sciences because it conflicts with religious beliefs. so those cultures are forced only beleive the regional bible or qu’ran, etc.
i personally feel that it is foolish to believe that we are the only life forms ever created. there are billions of planets and the odds of our planet being the only one with life is close to statistically impossible. what religion would the “aliens” believe in? why is the universe so vast with only one planet containing life? these are the types of questions why try to answer.
before too many people get mad @ my comments think about the nice day to day creature comforts science has given you: TV, the Internet, all of the medicine you take, food recipes, clothing, plastics, etc.
unless you live in a cave (and therefore would not be reading this) you use items created by people that have the scientist mindset. the radicial muslim extremists believe in living without creature comforts provided my science (except bombs and guns, go figure). that is partly responsible for the tension between the religions.
just food for thought.



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RJS

posted May 20, 2010 at 1:27 pm


Ray (#20,42)
In the post I was considering the “cost” as the single-minded focus, time commitment, travel, etc. that is required to be successful at “elite” (and even some not so “elite”) institutions, laboratories, etc.
Scot has posted often and pastors have commented on the need for balance in life – the danger of over commitment and such. Fact is – if I had followed Scot’s advice or listened to this kind of preaching years ago – as a post doc and assistant professor, I would not be in this position today. I was at scientific meetings as an assistant professor for my daughter’s first day of kindergarten and first day of first grade. She was taken by others (husband or grandmother). I have missed more games, meets, and concerts than I would care to admit. Is it worth the cost? You cannot have everything.
Some of the commenters have brought out other real costs. It is hard to commit to the idea that one will not “belong” – find community perhaps – in either work or church.



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Dave Leigh

posted May 20, 2010 at 1:28 pm


I think there are two other factors you may be overlooking: Pride and idolatry.
Many people who are nursed in an anti-god academic environment tend to swell with each new morsal they find to use against God. And they may have entered that arena in search of these morsals to begin with.
In pursuit of the high honor of a Ph.D. many people have a tendency to sell themselves out completely (sell their souls?) in order to win that carrot–so much so that they have no time or interest for anything else, like relationships outside their academic community. Their god is not science but acceptance by the scientific community and accolades from their peers. Some areas of academia require an almost cultlike devotion not just to the field but to the idealogies of those dispensing the honors.
In my opinion it’s a miracle when anyone survives such an indoctrination with any faith intact at all.



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RJS

posted May 20, 2010 at 1:34 pm


scienceDoc,
Your comments are nothing to “get mad at.” But before you go too far, at least five of the commenters positive on Christianity have Ph.D.’s from top institutions and several are at top places as scientists. We are speaking from what we know.



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Joshua

posted May 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm


Ray, fair enough. By “cost” it seems that many with Ph.D.s in sciences as well as others field (some of which have posted on this blog) experience a very real alienation. Alienation from the academic elites who do not feel that science and faith can in any way be reconciled (some of which are openly hostile to Christianity), and alienation in churches where many Christians (including pastors in some instances) believe the same thing. They deal with anti-religiosity on the one hand, and anti-intellectualism on the other. They must constantly walk a tight-rope in their public and personal life. Some experience a loss in respectability and credibility in their respected fields as well as in church. There are Christian scientists who genuinely believe in evolution, and do not believe this contradicts the Bible (I don’t think it does either). They are likely to experience rejection and alienation. They shouldn’t but they do. These are some very high costs: community, acceptance, credibility, respectability.



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Joshua

posted May 20, 2010 at 1:51 pm


I just saw that RJS already commented with something else in mind, but I do think that the “costs” that I mentioned are still things to be considered. And not only in the sciences, for that matter. I study theology- many in church would be surprised at what you learn, think, hear, etc. while studying.



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Justin Topp

posted May 20, 2010 at 2:01 pm


scienceDoc,
RJS put it nicely, probably more so than I would have. As a Christian in science, it is the scientist in me that is offended by what you wrote, not the Christian. I don’t feel that you represented scientists (and perhaps, athiest scientists specifically) very well. But I get it, it is often very hard to explain to a fraction of Christians exactly “why” there is a disconnect between scientists and them.



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RJS

posted May 20, 2010 at 2:05 pm


Joshua,
The costs you mentioned are also very real and add to the mix. No question about it.



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BPRjam

posted May 20, 2010 at 2:28 pm


I consider myself a scientist (I have a B.S.), and I work closely everyday with scientists and MDs at all levels (from technicians to PhD/MD). I’m also a committed Christian. That being said, I’ve greatly enjoyed this conversation so far.
It is surprising to me that no one has yet mentioned the Salem Hypothesis. (You can find it on wikipedia here)
Essentially, the conclusions I take away from the hypothesis is that Engineers (who hold B.S., M.S., and scientific Ph.Ds, usually from the same schools and professors that hand out PhDs in physics, chemistry, or biology) are the most religious group of academics.
For me, parsing the difference between the two groups (engineers and not engineers) has been an interesting exercise.



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DRT

posted May 20, 2010 at 3:08 pm


Some thoughts.
I myself am not a PhD, but have managed many science and engineering PhD’s directly and indirectly. I currently work with a few.
I also grew up in a very blue collar Catholic neighborhood where the other kids made fun of me for being smart and their parents made fun of my dad because he wore a suit to work.
I find that most churches are dominated by the lowest common denominator and preach to the 6th grader. Given the chance to a ?higher? calling in science many smart people make the choice and don?t look back. Smart does not equal introspective. In many ways it gets in the way of introspection.
However, to get beyond those people who ridicule people for being smart you can do it on your own, or have a mentor, or do it through the grace of God. Doing it on your own is most likely difficult because of the inherent lack of introspection (please, I don?t mean to offend some of you but this is most likely not you). Many who have become a Christian have a mentor that showed them that there can be a way that makes sense. Some just get blasted by the grace of God and know.
I believe society and mentorship have a big influence on religious affiliation. The sciences have got into a vicious circle of not having people in faith and therefore not having mentors to show how faith works. With some of the theology of the past 10 years I am finding that there is a rational way to be Christian and still think. That did not exist for me for many years.
Dave



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DRT

posted May 20, 2010 at 3:14 pm


Just looking at my last post, does mentorship=evangelism in non-religious society?
catpch – skirted into :)



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Truthseeker #16498126

posted May 20, 2010 at 3:45 pm


Rick Presley:
“Anyone who is truly and honestly pursuing Truth cannot help but eventually come face to face with God.”
This contains is a pretty bad typo. It should read:
Anyone who is truly and honestly pursuing the truth cannot help but eventually come face to face with the absurd God that humans have concocted.



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R Hampton

posted May 20, 2010 at 4:00 pm


I’m curious if there is much difference between scientists employed at Jesuit colleges and universities versus secular schools.
It seems reasonable that the tolerance and support of faith would be highly valued at the Jesuit institutions of higher education. If so, and if (liberal) politics really is a significant suppressive factor, then there should be a clear statistical distinction amongst these particular science faculties. However if there is little to no difference, then some other factor(s) must be driving the issue.



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norm

posted May 20, 2010 at 4:46 pm


Has anyone asked the question about why some science PhD types continued in faith when about 50% didn?t? Could it be that those that remained faithful developed the personal skill sets to remain while those who left simply didn?t or chose not to possess the needed breath of interactive political skills to handle the challenge? Maybe the highly intelligent have a preponderance toward single mindedness which is often a benefit but also at times a weakness. There are many ways to look at this issue.



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Joshua

posted May 20, 2010 at 4:52 pm


“Anyone who is truly and honestly pursuing the truth cannot help but eventually come face to face with the absurd God that humans have concocted.”
It may help if you were a little more clear about what exactly you are implying here. Are you saying that all religion is bogus? Christianity in particular? Or the fact that when we truly set out to know God, many or our presuppositions are proven false?
I ask because that statement can be taken to mean many things.



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A voice

posted May 20, 2010 at 5:10 pm


One of the problems our church is facing is that although the Alpha course is very successful, many that are involved in that with our church don’t stay within our community. One of the main reasons behind that is that although the Alpha course creates a safe place for any question to be asked, the general church does not provide that kind of haven where questioning is welcomed or well-answered.
Also, as a recent college graduate, I don’t see a place within our church community for a “real” intellectual conversation to occur about major issues in our world.
I appreciate what other commenter’s have noted about asking questions. I think that is key.
What if a science minded teen could walk into church and ask the question of “how was the earth created?” and instead of being handed Genesis 1 and 2, he would be presented with every side of the argument, given correct theology along with scientific evidence, and then was given the chance to continue to dig and ask questions and make his own decision?
What if we challenged the minds of our youth and challenged the opinions of adults that have grown up without questioning anything?
And what if we made sure that people knew their salvation didn’t rest upon these issues? That they are important to wrestle with, but DO NOT determine salvation, and are NOT more important than the commission to Love God and Love Others.
It’s a hard place to sit, to challenge minds but emphasize what are the most important truths within our faith. But I think that’s the direction our churches must move if we are to turn these statistics around.



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Ken

posted May 20, 2010 at 6:45 pm


“Belief in God is properly basic”. This was one of the conclusions of Alvin Plantinga’s thinking that has been meaningful to me. It says that there are perfectly rational reasons to believe in God that are not the end of a set of logical positivist arguments. It has been published repeatedly that following the “death of God” movement in the ’60′s that a group of Christian philosophers made arguments for the existence of God and other philosophy of religion issues very respectable in the philosophy departments of “elite” universities. As has been noted above, some basic learning in philosophy of science and philosophy of religion for scientists who are Christians might help toward productive discussions with colleagues.



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pam w

posted May 20, 2010 at 7:34 pm


RJS – your work is REALLY important here. 30 years ago I was starting my ungergrad work in environmental engineering. I had to have different sets of friends who were passionate about the environment, and went to church. Some in the former category were passionate about the call of Jesus, but they had to leave the church to be at all consistent. I have stayed in the chaotic split for 30 years – worship in the intellectually dead space, and another form of worship outside the Church where we seek a fuller understanding of the creator and HIS design of our intelligence. I believe we have abdicate the difficult job of learning and growing as a Church.
Your questions:
1. We’re intelellectually lazy. We can’t blame the academic institutions for being hostile to the silly things the church says. We have put up walls around our cultural understanding of special revelation, and like many generations before us refuse to change with the growth of our understanding of HIS general revelation.
2. I’m not sure that is the right question. It still sees science as ‘other’ to be conquered when it is in fact the study of the Created world. It is a significant part of theology. I want to ask a question of how we get learning in the system going both ways. Your questions, Biologos, Collins should be part of theological training, and that would create the space for people to be educated and not have to leave the church. I don’t think it’s ‘them’ we have to change, but us.
3. YOU are doing it! And this will spur me to be thinking further into this question. I’m planning a large systemic gathering on faith, sustainability and a regenerative economy. It will bring together economists, scientists, theologians ….it will be in San Francisco in February. I’ll be in touch with you. I’ve been hosting dialogues around the country the last 4 years, and it is building to an exciting space, and these questions are at the center.
Thank you!!!



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pagansister

posted May 20, 2010 at 10:18 pm


My father was a PhD. He was certainly NOT an atheist. He was a quietly religious man, who enjoyed going to church, and along with my mother, raising me and my 2 sisters in the Methodist church. I left at 17, but my 2 sisters have stayed very religious. (No, I do not have a PhD…just a BS in ED.)



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Kyle

posted May 20, 2010 at 10:35 pm


RJS,
I’m sorry you missed those opportunities with your children. It’s a catch-22. You have this opportunity to minister because of your constant dedication to science and the gospel, which has ministered to me and countless others over the years in an immense way. Yet you also have had to sacrifice certain aspects of being a mother. That’s hard and your comment really stopped me in my tracks. Thanks for honestly sharing that.



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mick

posted May 20, 2010 at 11:02 pm


Please forgive if this has been said but I’m too tired tonight to read the comments.
“How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”. I’ve wondered whether this passage can be true of things other than wealth that we treasure – like knowledge. If so, I wonder if it’s not the education level but their love of it. If it’s their tendency toward reliance on money (or knowledge) that can obscure or reject their need for Christ?



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RJS

posted May 20, 2010 at 11:05 pm


Kyle,
Thanks. It isn’t everything of course – I spent yesterday evening at a baseball game and this evening at a band concert as a matter of fact. But there are still always choices. It is something to keep in mind.
(Captcha: problem case)



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pam w

posted May 21, 2010 at 1:09 am


RJS – I will add to my comment about your 2nd question: I should have said ‘yes, and…’. The work you have done being engaged in science has given you an important voice there, and here with people in ministry.
When I said ‘worship in intellectually dead space’, I should have clarified that refers to intellectual rigor around science. There are many places where intellectual rigor is encouraged in the church, but some is off limits. : )
I am really thankful for the space you can create for this conversation and your leadership in theology and science!!



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Ted M. Gossard

posted May 21, 2010 at 1:43 am


I really appreciate your posts, RJS. This one is one that hits closer to where I live.
I am part of a church of many intelligent, thoughtful people. But the bias against mainstream science is probably just as strong there (or nearly so) than evangelicalism at large. Even one who is of high, unusual intellect along with his wife, reject evolution.
The difference though is that they accept me and don’t question my faith or person at all even though they know I’ve come to accept evolution.
I do appreciate the stand RBC Ministries (where I work) has taken with a booklet Dean Ohlman (himself an intellectual, naturalist, and just a good guy with accumulated years of wisdom) wrote insisting that Christians need to accept each other and each other’s faith when differing on origins, and he explicitly included those who hold to Theistic evolution.
There just needs to be an openness for discussion. But willingness to take some heat, because in our culture, including evangelical Christian culture, one most definitely will.



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Ray Ingles

posted May 21, 2010 at 10:51 am


RJS, Joshua – That does clarify things. RJS wasn’t speaking of special costs that attach to being a Christian in the academic science field, just the costs anyone faces in that field.
Joshua added the ‘cost’ of having a minority opinion, something common to a lot of different environments, and indeed comes from the religious end at times, too.
Let me know if I’ve misunderstood.



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DRT

posted May 21, 2010 at 11:41 am


Here is VA the universities are now under attack.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/21/AR2010052101777.html
I like this paragraph as it relates to our discussion.
Cuccinelli (R), in office since January, has already twice taken stands bound to enrage the fiercely independent and largely liberal universities by first challenging university policies that bar discrimination against gays and lesbians and then using a civil subpoena to demand documents from a former University of Virginia professor known his scientific work on global warming. Cuccinelli says he’s investigating the possible fraudulent use of public funds.
In so doing, the attorney general has turned his feisty attentions to a target that has long vexed conservatives. For many, college campuses are the home of liberal elites, places that claim to value academic freedom but instead demand allegiance to left-wing views and pass them on to students.
Dave



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RJS

posted May 21, 2010 at 12:15 pm


Ray (#69),
These are the kinds of costs that I was thinking of when I wrote the post. They play into self selection through a difference in value rather than a fundamental inconsistency between science and religion. And they are costs, as you said, anyone in the field faces. In fact it is a topic of much conversation. I have worked with a number of grad students who have opted for easier career paths to (as they said) “have a life.” This also plays a role in the male/female balance (or lack thereof) at various levels in the academy (and other competitive endeavors).
The ‘cost’ of having a minority position adds to the mix.



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Mike

posted May 21, 2010 at 7:16 pm


I have a PhD in molecular evolution and I believe in God. My friends in science make fun of church people and church people make fun of scientists. Ignorance on both sides as I try to close the chasm between them.



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Anom

posted August 8, 2010 at 8:31 am


The teaching of religious beliefs to a child, starting at age 0, is brainwash. Most children succumb nicely; some don’t. The material I was required to memorize as a child was so bizarre, I had difficulty regurgitating it. My brainwashing didn’t take and I didn’t become a believer. That was long before I received my Ph.D. at age 37.
Christians have little trouble believing that “cults” and their followers brainwash their new subjects into believing what the cult leaders would have them. How is that any different than Christian churches and their followers brainwashing their new subjects into believing what the Church leaders would have them? None at all.
So why might a greater percentage of people with higher education break the bonds of brainwash? Maybe those people on average have higher IQ’s. Maybe their line of education and research took them into more situations that gave cause for doubt. Maybe they use their minds more intensely than the less educated person. Or maybe a significant percentage of Ph.D. recipients are not of European descendancy, so many will not have been brought up in a Christian environment. And in this country, if you are not a Christian, what are you? Maybe the answer lies here. http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_othe.htm



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Anom

posted August 8, 2010 at 9:21 am


Jennifer Ulesoo said, “…Perhaps a person whose self-worth revolves around being smarter than everyone else would have a harder time accepting the possiblity of God because that would entail acknowledging a being with infinitely greater intelligence than oneself.”
I was brought up in a Christian environment and always have been an Atheist. I struggled to obtain a Ph.D., and at no time did I ever consider myself smarter than everyone else. I wasn’t smart enough to avoid the draft during the Vietnam War. I wasn’t smart enough to get scholarships. In a sea of highly trained and dedicated foreign students, I generally stood near the bottom and feel very fortunate to have graduated.
Perhaps I would have done much better if I had believed and had asked God to give me the answers as I struggled through all those exams. I assume, as Jennifer alluded to, that He, with infinitely greater intelligence, would have known the answer to every question. How stupid of me, now that I think back about it.
Woe is me.



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Tom

posted March 3, 2011 at 4:34 am


I am a lawyer, with undergraduate degrees in Political Science and Philosophy in 1989. I have always believed that my education had a negative effect on my faith, which prior to college was very strong. I can remember being aware of the process of the decay of my faith as my education progressed. Whereas before my college years my faith felt secure and effortless, maintaning my faith became a struggle during my college years. I lament that since college, I have never regained the easy faith I once had; a faith that had provided me with much comfort and confidence. Although I would like to have it back the way it was, it seems to be unrecoverable. In short, the more I learned about secular subjects, the more my faith suffered. In my opinion, at least for me, there is a negative association between education and faith.



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