Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Science vs. Religion: What do scientists say?

posted by Rod Dreher

I dropped by a colleague’s office today carrying a copy of a new Oxford University Press book, “Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think,” by Elaine Howard Ecklund. “Have you seen this?” I asked her. “It’s really great.”
“You know,” she said. “We funded her research.” Sure enough, Ecklund, a Rice University sociologist, credits the Templeton Foundation with primary support for her data collection. I tell you this up front so you won’t think I’m praising this book as some sort of professional obligation. It’s truly an enlightening book, one that promises to change for the better the way we see the science-religion dialogue.
Sociologist Ecklund surveyed 1,700 scientists, and conducted personal interviews with 275 of them at elite American universities, seeking to find out what their views on religion were. She writes:

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.

She says that it’s important that we understand the true complexity of the science vs. religion debate, so that we don’t “cede ground to hotheads” on either side, who are interested in ramping up conflict when it doesn’t really exist.
Unsurprisingly, Ecklund found that 64 percent of scientists are either atheists (34%) or agnostic (30%) — about 10 times their number in the general U.S. population. Only nine percent of scientists say they have no doubt about God’s existence (vs. 63% of the general public), but a surprising 27 percent of scientists have some belief in God, ranging from having some doubts, but affirming belief (9%), believing in God “sometimes” (5%), or believing in a higher power that’s not God (8%). I don’t know about you, but I am startled to read that so many scientists are open to religious belief of any sort.
Why is that? In part it’s because religious scientists tend to live closeted lives, fearing backlash from their professional colleagues. One social scientist interview, called “Joel,” said “in a discouraged tone that “the main battle you find in academia is simply getting people to take [religious questions like] the question of whether there might be a God or not, seriously.”

Joel seems to be right. I talked with a chemist at a Big Ten university who said that questions about why we are here and the purpose of the universe are simply uninteresting to him. (To his mind, these are the kinds of questions about which religion is generally concerned.) What did matter to him was what could be tested by scientific experiment. If the answer to a question could not be found through science, then why ask it at all?
…Over and over, from school to school, I discovered sentiments similar to those raised by [atheist scientists]. These scientists found questions addressed by religion so utterly insignificant that they did not want to waste time thinking about them. For them, science had superseded religion. It was not restricted to doing experiments in their labs but offered a pervasive worldview, a way of conceptualizing and talking about life.

Ecklund reports that most non-believing scientists she interviewed saw religion as a waste of time, but a small proportion of them saw it as an active threat to science. She writes, “They often have a narrow definition of religion, seeing all religion as (indistinguishable from) fundamentalist Protestantism.” They also have a similarly Manichaean view of science, and are committed to what she calls a “conflict paradigm.” Ecklund — who is herself, remember, a social scientist — laments that so many scientists, despite being the most educated people in our society, remain largely ignorant of religion and religious people, and thus have no idea how to talk about science and religion.

To work toward dialogue, nonbelieving scientists would need to understand that while over 50 percent of scientists do not have a religious tradition, nearly 50 percent do. There are believers in their midst. But the scientists who renounced or never embraced faith might also have a difficult time understanding the perspective of their religious colleagues. If there is a way to foster dialogue, scientists without faith might view scientists with faith as allies in better translating science to the general public.

Among Ecklund’s other fascinating findings:


+ in the general population, older people are more likely to have religious faith than younger people — but among scientists, it’s younger scientists who are more likely to believe in God and go to religious services.
+ Evangelicals are vastly underrepresented among the elite scientist population, relative to their size in the general population, while Jews, Buddhists and Hindus are heavily overrepresented. (Caveat: 75 percent of Jewish scientists call themselves atheists, and see their Jewishness as a cultural and ethnic category). Interestingly, Ecklund found that even when scientists fit the traditional description of an Evangelical, there was “considerable reluctance” among them to use that term as a self-descriptor. That Evangelical scientists don’t want to be called Evangelical strikes me as significant.
+ Religious scientists tend to say their religion affects the way they do science not in the way they do science itself, but in the way they think about the moral and ethical implications of their science on the wider world. And they say their religion affects the way they treat their colleagues. Writes Ecklund, “[One] biologist contrasted himself with some of his nonbelieving colleagues who “don’t like to see success in other people, because they think it makes them look bad.”
+ Scientists who do have faith generally identify themselves as religious liberals.
One of the big issues Ecklund identifies is the way religious scientists feel that they have to live in the closet about their faith, or suffer professionally. Writes Ecklund:

[R]eligious scientists generally tried to keep their faith to themselves because of the perception that other faculty in their departments think poorly of religious people and religious ideas. Whether or not this perception is true, it perpetuates a closeted faith and a strong culture of suppression surrounding discussions of religion within departments. Although Jack thought there were no other Christians in his department, I found through my research that there were some. They were practicing a closeted faith, but they were interested in the same kinds of issues surrounding faith in the academy as Jack was.

She writes about a physicist at an elite East Coast university who feels trapped by a climate of anti-religious discrimination. “Janice” is a Christian who says she has not experienced discrimination, but only because most of her colleagues have no idea about her faith. The climate surrounding discussion of religion in her school is so hostile that she’s afraid she would suffer professionally if colleagues knew she was a believer. This is doubly frustrating to Janice because she sees so many religious people devaluing and undervaluing science, and believing that they have to do so for the sake of religious orthodoxy. Ecklund again:

Janice would like to see more done to translate science to the broader public but feels stuck within her closeted faith. Because of what she sees as threats to her career, she’s in no position to serve the religious American public as a spokesperson for the science that she so dearly values. When religious scientists feel suppressed, science loses its most fluent translators to the broader American society.

But what about somebody like Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, who speaks openly about his Evangelicalism? Ecklund finds it “very telling” that both religious and nonreligious scientists went on about how much they dislike Evangelicals, but not one had a bad thing to say about Collins. Ecklund suspects that the fact that Collins’ faith didn’t become public until after he had become one of the nation’s top scientists explains this, and raises questions about whether or not a junior scientist who outed himself as a religious believer would have the same chances to succeed.
On the other hand, Ecklund finds that religious scientists — perhaps because of the fear they have of suffering professionally if their faith were public — don’t realize how many of their nonbelieving colleagues are genuinely open to a respectful dialogue about religion. This has led to a situation in which the door stays firmly shut on the faith closet among scientists.
Ecklund writes that her research findings lead her to conclude that scientists who want to advance the cause of science should work harder to talk to a more diverse cross-section of people, not just scientists. They need to open their eyes to the fact that religion is not going to go away, and that religious diversity is real; it’s simply untrue that all religious people are fundamentalists, or are even alike (scientists’ stereotypes about Evangelicals cannot be sustained by the evidence either). Scientists should recognize the limits of science (i.e., what science can and cannot do), and scientists who are religious believers need to find the courage to come out of the closet and talk publicly about their faith, and how it plays into their work in science.
Conversely, the public needs to recognize that atheists are not always hostile to religion. It should also recognize that just because a scientist is not traditionally religious, that doesn’t mean he is uninterested in spirituality. And science is not the main reason people of faith lose their belief.
In the end, “Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think” is a refreshing and hopeful book. Its findings deserve wide notice — and discussion. With this book, Prof. Ecklund has done a great service to science, to religion, and to the common good.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(90)
post a comment
sdf

posted April 30, 2010 at 4:51 pm


“scientists, despite being the most educated people in our society”
What?! They’re nearly all specialists. Outside the bubble of their field most scientists are some of the most ignorant, least-educated people in the country.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted April 30, 2010 at 5:03 pm


“Most educated” simply means they have had more formal education than most people, a fact that’s indisputable. You can be highly educated but still ignorant — that’s Prof. Eklund’s point!



report abuse
 

anonymouse

posted April 30, 2010 at 5:11 pm


You say Ecklund writes that scientist keep quiet about faith for fear of what others would think and that this perpetuates “a closeted faith”.
My personal experience (PhD in Physics and 20+ years in academic circles, lifelong weekly Catholic mass attendance) is that people keep quiet about it because it doesn’t come up. I talked about work with people at work. I never hid my religious practices, but they basically never came up. I found out if someone else was Catholic if I saw them at mass.
Only once in 20+ years did I work with someone who wanted to talk about religious ideas at work.
Only once in 20+ years did I work with someone who actively disdained religion.
Funny, I bet many religious folks who are worried about closeted faith are o.k. accepting homosexuality in society (hate the sin, not the sinner) as long as it doesn’t doesn’t get flaunted in their face (stays in the closet).



report abuse
 

TTT

posted April 30, 2010 at 5:21 pm


Interesting post.
Evangelicals are vastly underrepresented among the elite scientist population, relative to their size in the general population, while Jews, Buddhists and Hindus are heavily overrepresented.
I can’t say that’s a surprise. To work that hard to become an expert scientist means having to come face-to-face with pretty firm evidence from biology, cosmology, geology, and anthropology that directly challenge many common core evangelical beliefs.
Even the members of other faiths who believe, in their hearts, that God created the universe, directed evolution, etc., are probably a lot better than many evangelicals at the practice of not expecting their religious teachings to be matched by the world around them. It’s just different when you’re a minority. Jews don’t want America to be a Jewish country, nor Hindus in that fashion, but a good splinter of evangelicals vocally want it to be a Christian one. The more you want self-affirmation and self-promotion at every turn, the less the hard sciences have to offer you. There isn’t much self-affirmation in evolution (as was discussed in the numerous “nihilist” threads here a few days ago).
Ecklund finds that religious scientists — perhaps because of the fear they have of suffering professionally if their faith were public — don’t realize how many of their nonbelieving colleagues are genuinely open to a respectful dialogue about religion. This has led to a situation in which the door stays firmly shut on the faith closet among scientists.
Good to hear her acknowledge this, to keep it from becoming just another allegation of how scientists try to harass other people for their religious beliefs.
Scientists need to open their eyes to the fact that religion is not going to go away, and that religious diversity is real; it’s simply untrue that all religious people are fundamentalists, or are even alike (scientists’ stereotypes about Evangelicals cannot be sustained by the evidence either).
What does Ecklund imagine as the typical interaction between a scientist and a self-described religious person (as in, that’s THE factor separating them from the scientist–it’s not like one is a Ford driver and the other prefers Chevys)? How much support and encouragement and respect for their work does she imagine scientists get from those encounters? Does she think a lot of very religious people contact science researchers to say “I’m so glad you decided to study this, and I have these 4 honest, good-faith questions to ask you about it!”, only to have scientists slam down the gates in their faces? I understand what Ecklund is saying, but… it doesn’t seem like she understands what happened to her colleagues to make them as they are. She’s astounded by what they think about evangelicals, but it’s not a very hard blank to fill in.
Scientists should recognize the limits of science (i.e., what science can and cannot do)
The religiously-minded should recognize that not all of the limits they suppose for science, the things they suppose it cannot do, are actually there. If Ecklund is going to try to give the usual platitudes about how “science doesn’t give you meaning or ‘the why’”, etc etc., we need only look back at her observations of scientists who quite happily find it to answer every life question that they care about to see that, yes, it truly can give all those things, to those with the necessary temperament.



report abuse
 

razib

posted April 30, 2010 at 6:20 pm


In part it’s because religious scientists tend to live closeted lives, fearing backlash from their professional colleagues.
this is the same paranoia which atheists have in other domains of life. both groups need to grow some. though there is an anti-religious conservative tinge to the academy, for sure. it is far more problematic to say that you oppose gay marriage, than to say that you accept transubstantian.



report abuse
 

Lindsey Abelard

posted April 30, 2010 at 6:24 pm


There is Frank Tipler’s Omega Point concept of god. There is also the intelligent universe concept.
http://www.intelligentuniverse.org/



report abuse
 

llbj

posted April 30, 2010 at 6:25 pm


I have heard other Christians make comments equating evidence supporting global warming or any aspect of evolution as being Anti-Christian. Although I am not a scientist I would be very careful as to whom I expressed that I am open to those possibilities for fear of being pegged as non-Christian. Hom much more careful must Christians in the scientific community have to be? You might check out this blog “an evangelical dialogue on evolution”. http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/



report abuse
 

Alicia

posted April 30, 2010 at 6:28 pm


I found this part very interesting, Rod:
“These scientists found questions addressed by religion so utterly insignificant that they did not want to waste time thinking about them. For them, science had superseded religion. It was not restricted to doing experiments in their labs but offered a pervasive worldview, a way of conceptualizing and talking about life.”
It does seem that for some of these scientists, science has become their substitute religion. I just finished reading Richard Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion” and he certainly seems to derive both comfort and inspiration from evolutionary biology, and from scientific explanations of life. In a way this seems like an overly optimistic and sanguine view of the universe.
I am reminded of the Woody Allen interview you linked to, and the discussion that followed. Allen’s attitude that the universe is a terrible place seems in many ways to be a much more “realistic” and religious attitude than Dawkins’ rather naive boosterism. However, I did actually like Dawkins’ book.



report abuse
 

Random Nickname

posted April 30, 2010 at 6:35 pm


I remember being taught in church in the 80s (a pretty sedate Presbyterian church where I also attended school) that men had one less rib than women and that this was proof for a literal interpretation of Genesis. I actually believed this until high school and my first encounter with real human skeletons. Frankly, you can hug a thin person and use your fingers to disprove this myth, yet it is widely believed by many.
Isn’t this whole issue like wondering why more NASCAR drivers don’t race sailboats? I don’t really care if my doctor is an athiest, a Catholic, a Protestant, or whatever. I’m most concerned about his grasp of hard facts and science, even if that science and the methods by which it was learned could have gotten him killed or excommunicated by religious authorities in centuries past (cf. studies of cadavers).
Frankly, I don’t lose any sleep at night worrying about geologists and whether or not they are sufficiently tolerant of colleagues who believe the world is only 6,000 years old.



report abuse
 

Peter Clark

posted April 30, 2010 at 6:59 pm


It’s telling how the problem is getting atheists to tolerate religious people more than the other way around. I find that to be the case not only in the sciences, but also more generally. And I think the way most of the threads here proceed would tend to bear me out. It’s rare to have someone condemned simply for being an atheist, as opposed to being condemned for having *attacked* religious people. Whereas it’s all to common for atheists to attack religious people here simply for being religious. I hope that the kind of toleration by atheists of religious people that this book suggests really is a living possibility. If not, I wonder more and more why we don’t just dissolve this society — divorce ourselves from one another — and all go our separate ways.



report abuse
 

robert elmasian

posted April 30, 2010 at 7:25 pm


I am surprised at the number of scientists who say they are atheists (34%) and that more are not agnostic (only 30%). Science has a history of overturning or redoing scientific theories. Scientists are taught to retain a little skepticism for even the most well founded theories. This is prudent because theories are always evolving and changing. Perhaps the most famous modification is Einstein’s Theory of Relativity which broke the rules of Newtonian physics. Quantum Theory did likewise. And, it is still not possible to reconcile Relativity with Quantum Theory.
At the present moment, the best science sees the Universe as a finite extent spanning about 13.5 billion light years and also having a finite existence of about 13.5 billion years. Science does not know what happens beyond this finite extent nor what came before or will come after in time. Science does know that the Universe is expanding. The rate of expansion decelerated, as expected, after the Big Bang. However, after about 6 or 7 billion years, the rate of expansion reversed, began to increase, and is increasing now. Science postulates a little understood, dark energy is causing the accelerated expansion which, along with dark matter, is calculated to consist of about 90% of the stuff in our universe. This is not a firmament about which firm conclusions should be drawn.
We now know that a beam of light can be stopped and restarted in a laboratory, and that there are even real possibilities that the speed of light in a vacuum can be exceeded. The best current theories now hold our universe may have eleven dimensions and that multiple universes are real possibilities. Some persons even think black holes can be wormholes to other universes. Standing on the platform of science today, it is very difficult to know whether there is or is not a god. At best scientists should be agnostic, waiting for the results of further investigation.



report abuse
 

Turmarion

posted April 30, 2010 at 8:05 pm


Ecklund as quoted by Rod: If the answer to a question could not be found through science, then why ask it at all?
My sister is a microbiologist and from her descriptions of her colleagues this seems to ring true. It also brings to mind Tom Lehrer’s classic line, “The rockets go up, who cares where they come down?/That’s not my department, says Wehrner von Braun!”
TTT: [W]e need only look back at her observations of scientists who quite happily find it to answer every life question that they care about to see that, yes, it truly can give all those things, to those with the necessary temperament. (emphasis added)
This, along with the previous quote, neatly encapsulates what I’ve said many times and what I tried to get across on the Woody Allen and Nietzsche threads. Some people are just dandy with no transcendent meaning, or without anything outside their field, for some. Some aren’t. When I tried to explain my felt need for a transcendent realm (theistic or otherwise) on the aforementioned threads, I got a distinct sense of pique from some of the non-believers. Sort of a combination of “Gee, what’s wrong with you that you need some transcendent hooey?” and “I don’t need that kind of stuff–obviously this world is enough, nothing else needed.” Now, some believers probably do deride non-believers for not “needing” any meaning, transcendence, God, etc.; but the derision runs both ways.
Anyway, my point was that these views (that a transcendent meaning is or is not necessary) are in fact not at all obvious, although a lot on both sides seem to think they are (or at least that their views are obvious). As I said several times, and as TTT here seems to agree, it’s largely a matter of temperament, not amenable to logical argumentation or discourse. You either think the need for transcendent meaning is obvious, or that the lack of need for it is obvious.
Perhaps the whole thing should be restated thus: People with religiously-oriented temperaments and non-religiously oriented temperaments need to recognize that there are natural, maybe even hard-wired, differences in how we view faith and such, and be tolerant and accepting of each other, rather than deriding each other or trying to argue about which side treats its opposite numbers better. We all need to get along and realize it takes all types.
The religiously-minded should recognize that not all of the limits they suppose for science, the things they suppose it cannot do, are actually there.
The technocracy movement had the idea that science could pretty much do anything, or that it could at least solve pretty much all the world’s problems, environmental, social, and political. The 20th Century and the current one, too, show how well that worked out, huh? Once again, see “Wehrner von Braun”!



report abuse
 

BobSF

posted April 30, 2010 at 8:21 pm


religious scientists tend to live closeted lives, fearing backlash from their professional colleagues
Nonsense. My partner was a PhD student at one of the nation’s top science universities in a department with half a dozen Nobel laureates. People weren’t “in the closet” about their religion. We’ve attended or heard about dozens of marriages in churches, synagogues, and even a mosque or two over the years. We have friends who openly sent their kids to Catholic school (gasp!).
You’re confusing not talking about it all the time with never mentioning it. That’s not what “in the closet” means. If this is how being “in the closet” worked for gay people, we could have huge weddings with all our friends and just not talk about our lives at the water cooler.



report abuse
 

Peter Clark

posted April 30, 2010 at 8:30 pm


You are very naive, BobSF, very naive — either that or epistemically closed.



report abuse
 

John E. - Agn Stoic

posted April 30, 2010 at 8:35 pm


I hope that the kind of toleration by atheists of religious people that this book suggests really is a living possibility. If not, I wonder more and more why we don’t just dissolve this society — divorce ourselves from one another — and all go our separate ways.
There’s plenty of examples of religious folk feeling strongly enough to do just that. Some FLDS folks here in Texas made the news recently, Koresh in Waco, and Jim Jones of course. Lots of examples to emulate.
The rest of us manage to get along okay.
Sort of a combination of “Gee, what’s wrong with you that you need some transcendent hooey?” and “I don’t need that kind of stuff–obviously this world is enough, nothing else needed.” Now, some believers probably do deride non-believers for not “needing” any meaning, transcendence, God, etc.; but the derision runs both ways.
My dear Tumarion, I hope you didn’t mistake my honest incomprehension for derision. I still find it strange to imagine that even in a universe devoid of transcendent meaning, the prospect of a good breakfast might not be enough to entice one out of bed.



report abuse
 

Random Nickname

posted April 30, 2010 at 8:54 pm


Re: Peter Clark
It’s telling how the problem is getting atheists to tolerate religious people more than the other way around.
The problem for many scientists, whether they be faithful, agnostic, or atheist, is when specific issues come up where science rubs against religion. To apply logic, the scientific method, and rigorous testing, you’ll have to evaluate every different religion that diverts from observable facts. Continental drift and a world older than 6000 years are established science now, but I don’t think scientists should be considered intolerant for starting over from scratch every time we have an earthquake, volcano, or draw a map that clearly shows that the continents used to be connected together.
Likewise, with issues like evolution, there are conflicting beliefs just within the Christian faith, much less among the thousands of other religion creation myths out there. I don’t think every paleontologist needs to go through and make each of these groups feel good before publishing a paper on the development of hip bones in sauropods.
As I’ve said before on this blog, I really don’t care what anybody believes, but it does become a problem when a government enforces a narrow and incorrect scientific view , be it the orbit of the earth around the sun, the number of ribs on a human male, or the value of pi. Also note that nobody cares about the beliefs of mathematicians–it’s on the subjects of biology, geology, and astronomy where people get hounded for doing good science, and sometimes end up in jail or burned at the stake for stating the truth.
And before anyone thinks I’m exaggerating, on February 17, 1600, Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for his scientific views and “heretical” opinions that were viewed as a threat to the Catholic Church. The Vatican has apologized for forcing Galileo into house imprisonment for his unholy, atheistic, Catholic-hating, and just plain evil concept that the earth might move around the sun, but I fail to see why an apology centuries later should make scientists any more eager to defer to one of thousands of contradictory religious traditions, rather than… observable facts.



report abuse
 

Ruggy

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:05 pm


Makes sense to me. I believe evolution is one of God’s chosen methods of creating.
In Charles Darwin’s time, creation and evolution were considered to be mutually exclusive. Anyone who today still thinks that creation and evolution contradict each other is agreeing with Darwin on that premise. However that is precisely where Darwin was wrong.



report abuse
 

Mark in Houston

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:16 pm


I saw Dr. Ecklund speak at the Baker Institute at Rice on this topic, and picked up the book (haven’t had time to read it yet). She was an engaging speaker and the book looks very interesting. One thing – I recall in her talk she said (if I remember correctly) she focused more on scientists working in more theoretical work, versus applied sciences (like engineers, for example), and she thought that those working in applied sciences might have more levels of religiosity than theoreticians, but she didn’t have data on that. Also, the generational issue was an interesting one discussed. Anyway, I guess I need to pull that one off the bookshelf.



report abuse
 

hlvanburen

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:32 pm


“It’s rare to have someone condemned simply for being an atheist, …”
On this I call bull$hit, and I apologize for the use of that term, but there can be no other way to describe it.
godlessliberal.xanga.com/717911718/atheist-elected-to-office-cannot-legally-serve/
http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3329
These were just two sites that popped up on the first page when I googled “atheist politics”.
I think your dishonesty, Mr. Clark, belies the faith you claim to have. But I would ask you this, just to prove my point.
Assuming that s/he agreed with you politically, would you support a candidate for President who was an acknowledged atheist?
I think the odds are with me that you would not support such a candidate, based on this poll.
richarddawkins.net/articles/662



report abuse
 

hlvanburen

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:41 pm


Let’s continue to deflate this facade that Mr. Clark puts forward regarding atheism.
atheism.about.com/b/2006/03/30/atheists-discriminated-against-in-child-custody-cases.htm
From the article:
” I am an ex-Christian. I was also married to a Southern Baptist man who abused me throughout our entire marriage. I finally divorced him 4 years ago and left my religion, which I do not regret. However the divorce has been hard enough on the children and now my ex-husband is raising them in a church which is a cult to me.
I fear my children are growing up unhealthy in his religion. These are just some of things they have come home and told me daddy has told, “Mommy is your mom in hell because she was a Jew when she died?”
“Mommy Daddy said its against God’s law to live someone before your married but it isn’t against the law to hit a woman.” “Daddy said he is the leader of the household and wives are supposed to be submissive.” “If you don’t get saved you will burn in hell and the demons will get you.”
It truly breaks my heart just repeating this stuff. I do not currently follow any religion nor does my fiancee although he practices Buddhist philosophy. We both simply believe to each his own but for us we believe in love and living a good life. Anyway we are trying to teach beyond what my ex-husband is teaching them; however I’m finding it harder and harder because the church brainwashes them with fear. Does anyone have any advice or know of any good books that might help me in this endeavor with my children?
I am truly afraid of my children growing up in this religion. My son already has this idea that mommy is below daddy and that woman are less than men. What can I do?
The other thing that I wanted to interject is that my ex-husband threatened to take me to court for custody. Upon talking with my attorney, these were his exact words to me; “I think you and your fiancee should get married as soon as possible because the judge is Christian and will not look lightly on the fact that you two are living together and aren’t married. It just wouldn’t be good at all no matter how much your fiancee loves those kids.” Isn’t that biased and illegal? I suppose it doesn’t matter that my ex-husband has various police reports against him and is an abuser of women right? It just matters that I am not living up to the Christian dogma of the southern thinking?”
Her lawyer is right — though merely getting married may not be enough. The fact that she is an atheist may be enough to deny her custody. A few days after the above email was received, Andrew Sullivan posted a link to a law article by Eugene Volokh detailing many cases where atheists are discriminated against in child custody — and these were just the cases which were appealed, so the actual numbers are likely much higher. A sampling:
Carson v. Carson, 401 N.W.2d 632, 635–36
(Mich. Ct. App. 1986) (quoting trial court as opining that it “was a little bit distraught in finding that there was no particular affiliation [held by either parent] with a church,” because “[p]robably 95 percent of the criminals that I see before me come from homes where there’s no . . . established religious affiliation,”
Sharrow v. Davis, Nos. 244043, 245117, 2003 WL 21699876, at *3
(Mich. Ct. App. July 22, 2003) (noting that “[father] never attended church and his older children were not baptized,” that “[father] felt [the children] should experience many religions and choose one when they were older,” and that though “[mother] did not attend church regularly, she attended periodically and would take all of the children with her”);
Goodrich v. Jex, No. 243455, 2003 WL 21362971, at *1
(Mich. Ct. App. June 12, 2003) (noting “that [father] has a greater capacity and willingness to continue to take the parties’ daughters to church and related activities,” and that trial court had been “concerned with [mother’s] belief that her minor daughters are capable of making their own decisions whether to attend church”);
Sims v. Stanfield, No. CA98-1040, 1999 WL 239888, at *3–*4 (Ark. Ct. App. Apr. 21, 1999)
(noting that lower court based award of custody to father partly on father’s having “‘rekindled’ a relationship with his church,” “regularly attend[ing] services,” and providing “a Christian home,” but declining on procedural grounds to review this);
Tweedel v. Tweedel, 484 So. 2d 260, 262 (La. Ct. App. 1986)
(noting that “The child attends church regularly with the mother and receives religious instruction. The father testified that he has not brought the child to church because the child did not want to go and that he would not force the child to go to church.”);
Staggs v. Staggs, No. 2004-CA-00443-COA, 2005 WL 1384525, at *6
(Miss. Ct. App. May 24, 2005) (noting that “[w]hile [father] is an agnostic and testified that religion is not important to him, [mother] testified that religion is very important to her”);
Weigand v. Houghton, 730 So. 2d 581, 587 (Miss. 1999)
(noting chancellor’s “weighing heavily” as factor in mother’s favor that “mother has seen that [the son] is taken to church and undergone religious training, along with the entire family” and that “[the son’s] best interest would be served by providing religious training”).
Gancas v. Schultz, 683 A.2d 1207, 1213–14 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1996)
(reversing lower court’s transfer of custody from mother to father, based partly on lower court’s “fail[ure] to consider ‘all factors which legitimately have an effect upon the child’s physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual well-being,’” and in particular that while “[m]other . . . takes [daughter] to church whenever [daughter] is with her,” “[f]ather, an admitted agnostic, does not attend church”).
Myers v. Myers, 14 Phila. 224, 256–57 (Com. Pl. 1986)
(“Although the issue of religion is not controlling in a custody case, the religious training of children is a matter of serious concern and is a factor that should be considered in rendering a custody decision. ‘A proper religious atmosphere is an attribute of a good home and it contributes significantly to the ultimate welfare of a child.’ Where it appears that the religious training of the children will cease upon placement in a given custodial setting, courts lean in favor of the religious-minded contestant.”), aff’d without op., 520 A.2d 68 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1986);
Scheeler v. Rudy, 2 Pa. D. & C.3d 772, 780 (Com. Pl. 1977)
(awarding custody to mother, noting as factor in her favor that she often took children to church, while father rarely did, that “[t]his court has often noted the absence of any regular church attendance in the pre- sentence reports of those who have been convicted of some crime, which appear on our desk,” and that “a religious education and upbringing can have a substantial effect upon the outlook and attitudes of a child, and in turn upon the life of the adult he or she will become.”)
Pountain v. Pountain, 503 S.E.2d 757, 761 (S.C. Ct. App. 1998)
(upholding denial of custody to father whom court described as “agnostic,” and stating that “Although the religious beliefs of parents are not dispositive in a child custody dispute, they are a factor relevant to determining the best interest of a child”);
In re F.J.K., 608 S.W.2d 301 (Tex. App. 1980)
(noting “the mother’s neglect of the children’s religious upbringing,” and “[a]n atheistic philosophy [being] . . . discussed by the new husband to some extent with the daughter, prompting her to advise her nursery school teacher that she was ‘not a Christian or a Jew but an atheist’”).
It is my contention that people like Mr. Clark are the kind who will be most likely to discriminate against someone who holds to non-theistic beliefs. Yet they are the last ones to admit such bias, and will instead insist that it is their Christianity that attracts the most discrimination.
The facts speak otherwise.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:45 pm


Stop it, both of you, hlvanburen and Peter Clark. Do not ruin this thread with your obsessive fighting. I’m going to unpublish both your stuff henceforth if you keep trolling this thread. I would like to see an actual conversation, not a culture-war pissing match.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:47 pm


BobSF, thanks for sharing your anecdote, but do keep in mind that Ecklund is a sociologist who draws her conclusions from an extensive survey, followed by nearly 300 personal interviews. I would suppose she has a clearer view of the broader situation than you do.



report abuse
 

Turmarion

posted April 30, 2010 at 9:57 pm


John E.: My dear Tumarion, I hope you didn’t mistake my honest incomprehension for derision. I still find it strange to imagine that even in a universe devoid of transcendent meaning, the prospect of a good breakfast might not be enough to entice one out of bed.
I wasn’t referring to you actually–I thought we had a real dialogue with a true attempt at a meeting of the minds. This blog is one of the few places where such a thing is possible, IMO. I was speaking in general. And I still find it strange to imagine that even in a universe devoid of transcendent meaning, the prospect of a good breakfast would somehow make it all OK!
Random Nickname: Also note that nobody cares about the beliefs of mathematicians….
Probably true, alas, and that’s what’s wrong with the world! Not that I, as a mathematician, am biased….



report abuse
 

John E. - Agn Stoic

posted April 30, 2010 at 10:33 pm


And I still find it strange to imagine that even in a universe devoid of transcendent meaning, the prospect of a good breakfast would somehow make it all OK!
Well, for me it is the simple pleasures that make life worthwhile…



report abuse
 

Charles Cosimano

posted April 30, 2010 at 10:34 pm


There is no question in my mind that if we only look at this argument from the historic perspective religious believers come across as unmitigated evil incarnate determined to keep humanity living in hovels subsisting upon turnips.
But the argument is not about history, but about how individuals perceive their relationship to their universe. There is nothing to prevent a scientist from being a committed religious believer and unless that belief structure puts him in conflict with observable data it really does not matter very much. If it does and he picks the religious belief he must not be surprised if he is viewed as less than competant because science is about data, not about God, not about ethics. The job of the scientist is assemble knowledge. How that knowledge is used is, in truth, not his responsibility nor should it even be a concern.



report abuse
 

hlvanburen

posted April 30, 2010 at 11:08 pm


Mr. Dreher, I apologize for my outburst, both to you and to Peter Clark. Rather than allowing his comments to get under my skin I should have taken encouragement from these words in your post:
“Conversely, the public needs to recognize that atheists are not always hostile to religion. It should also recognize that just because a scientist is not traditionally religious, that doesn’t mean he is uninterested in spirituality. And science is not the main reason people of faith lose their belief.”



report abuse
 

Jan Hus

posted April 30, 2010 at 11:16 pm


Turmarion wrote:
“Anyway, my point was that these views (that a transcendent meaning is or is not necessary) are in fact not at all obvious…”
I think it’s more obvious than you realize.  I agree with a lot of what you wrote. But, human life; all human life from its beginnings till now is soaked in transcendent meaning.  Read history.
 
I have no idea of the accurate number of those who’ve gotten beyond the transcendent, who greet a meaningless day in a meaningless universe with a shrug.  My guess would be that it’s quite small; maybe 13. The fact that there may be a few such people here or there, who due to temperment, genes, insensitivity, or whatever, doesn’t mean much.  In fact, it means nothing in a meaningless universe.  For the rest of us, from the first guy to trace his hand in paint in some cave in France, to the producer of “Piss Christ”, to the schlubb looking for love around the bar at Chili’s, it matters a lot.  It’s the backdrop to all history, culture and art and science.  So, the claim that somehow somebody somewhere claims they’ve  transcended the transcendent…well…I am not going to argue or condemn… but I doubt it.           



report abuse
 

Jan Hus

posted April 30, 2010 at 11:24 pm


“There is no question in my mind that if we only look at this argument from the historic perspective religious believers come across as unmitigated evil incarnate determined to keep humanity living in hovels subsisting upon turnips.”
This made me laugh!!  
Why turnips?  Why not Brussels sprouts, or catnip?



report abuse
 

Siarlys Jenkins

posted April 30, 2010 at 11:47 pm


I’m surprised that the number of scientists with firm religious beliefs is so low — although it may be true that the numbers are much higher among applied scientists. I know a geologist who belongs to an LCMS church, and an orthodox rabbi who is very conversant in quantum mechanics. The intense conflict is an unfortunate accident of history — somehow, people got the idea that Darwin and Wallace’s observations were in direct contradiction with Genesis. Darwin did also, which is why he sat on it for fourteen years, because he was afraid of that implication. Certainly the RC church can claim a number of prominent scientists among its communicants, and only a tiny fraction of them were threatened with either torture or excommunication.
Whatever data science can identify, whatever theories are developed to explain that data, merely fills in a few details in the broad sweep of Genesis. The problem is not with science, nor with faith. The problem is that people encrusted their understanding of the Bible with what little they knew of the world, then feared to consider the pastel picture in their own mind.
A Sunday School teacher I know at a WELS Lutheran church showed me a book by Ken Hamm of AIG fame, which lamented that when children raised in good Christian homes went to college and took biology courses, they learned evolution and lost their faith. There is an obvious reason for that. IF a child has been taught that their faith is inconsistent with evolution, then learns that evolution in fact is well documented and has so much evidence in its favor that it is very very probable that it is an accurate explanation… naturally they abandon their faith. If all this is true, my faith must be wrong. IF, instead, they had been taught from the beginning, this is our faith, this is our scripture, and this is how revealed truth encapsulates the observations of evolutionary biology, then taking a biology class would not have affected their faith at all.



report abuse
 

Nathan

posted May 1, 2010 at 1:05 am


There has been some debate in the science community about whether or not money from the Templeton Foundation should be considered ‘dirty money’. Nobel prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg was quoted in a recent issue of ‘Science’ with this to say:
“””
Even those who are put off by Templeton’s mission agree that the foundation does not attempt to influence the outcomes of the research and discussions it sponsors. “I am not enthusiastic about the message they seem to be selling to the public—that science and religion are not incompatible; I think there is real tension between the two,” says Steven Weinberg, …, who has been an outspoken critic of religion. “But for an organization with a message, they are pretty good at not being intrusive in the activities they fund. I don’t wish them well, but I don’t think they are particularly insidious or dangerous.”
“””
To say that Weinberg is a Nobel prize winner is not really to do his credentials justice. He’s one of the greatest physicists since Richard Feynman (who also should be mentioned in this debate because, while he was not a believer of any kind, he wrote charitably of people of faith, and reasonably about the relationship between faith and science).
My guess would be that while scientists with the faith + credentials of Francis Collins are quite rare, the openly hostile Steven Weinberg’s of the world are just as rare — and equally rare (unfortunately) are the Richard Feynman’s. These are the names that get press in these sorts of debates, so it is interesting to see data about about the beliefs of work-a-day scientists who are competent but not brilliant — even if that data, from my perspective ‘inside the bubble’, is not too surprising.



report abuse
 

Steve

posted May 1, 2010 at 1:21 am


My understanding is that Elaine Howard Ecklund’s study is only on U.S. scientists. And the U.S. has only 310 million people. The world’s population is 6.8 billion. The U.S. population is only about 4.5 percent of the world’s population. And there are lots of scientists that live in countries other than the U.S. So, it is important not to extrapolate too much from the views of U.S. scientists on the issue of whether God exists to those of scientists all over the world.
On a different note, the most prestigious organization of scientists in the U.S. is the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). According to a study done in 1998, 93 percent of the scientists in NAS are atheists or agnostics. Here is a link:
http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html



report abuse
 

Erik

posted May 1, 2010 at 1:56 am


The notion that religion and science are mutually exclusive just shows ignorance and arrogance. Many scientific discoveries and theories dovetail very nicely into biblical accounts, and after years of searching and studying, many of the historical accounts in the Bible are being shown accurate. In order to have an intelligent conversation about this, one must have a reasonably good understanding of both camps point of view. If we would stop focusing on the differences, I believe we would see how similar we are.(the ignorance component) The debate has become focused on “I’m right, you’re wrong” rather than trying to understand the world around us. (This is the arrogance component.)
If God is intelligent enough to create man (arguably the most complex organism on earth), wouldn’t it make sense that S/He would also be intelligent enough to create evolution so that these organisms could adapt to a changing environment. This is not mutually exclusive, but rather very INCLUSIVE of both, and much better explains some of the large gaps we have in our understanding.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted May 1, 2010 at 7:23 am


Thank you, HLV. Peter, before you post something, consider whether or not it’s likely to add understanding to the conversation, or simply bait people. Personally, I probably agree with you more often than not, but there’s a way to say things that invites conversation, and a way to say them that strikes other people as a poke in the eye. For this forum to work as a place where people of diverse and opposing views can exchange them, we all have to work at how we state our opinions.



report abuse
 

Don Altobello

posted May 1, 2010 at 9:23 am


“I’m surprised that the number of scientists with firm religious beliefs is so low — although it may be true that the numbers are much higher among applied scientists.”
I think the study was confined to scientists in academic institutions. Frankly, I’d expect that the percentage of religious believers across most disciplines in academia is fairly low.



report abuse
 

MH

posted May 1, 2010 at 9:37 am


I’ll need to catch up this thread later, but I wanted to toss this in here.
It would be interesting to see if she broke her research down by department. My guess is that the biology department would contain more scientists hostile to religion, chemistry and physics neutral to indifferent, and mathematics more of the believers. This based upon my personal experience (obviously a small sample) and the inherited evolution conflict.
At my school back in the 80′s the science department was more indifference to religion than hostile. The only classes it was discussed in were humanities electives. Around the dorm the topic mostly didn’t come up. There were services on campus so it wasn’t completely absent either.
Turmarion and John E, when pondering the meaning of breakfast I find a good Irish eggs Benedict (hash instead of ham), with good coffee, and orange juice can really make everything seem fine.
reCaptcha add zealous



report abuse
 

naturalmom

posted May 1, 2010 at 9:37 am


Ecklund reports that most non-believing scientists she interviewed saw religion as a waste of time, but a small proportion of them saw it as an active threat to science.
This isn’t entirely surprising to me. Someone earlier commented on the temperament factor — some fields are naturally more attractive to people of a certain brain-wiring.
My daughter is the kind of person I could see being a scientist. Even as a preschooler, she was not very interested in fantasy worlds. No fairies or princesses for her! I had some friends who were into Waldorf theory (there are no Waldorf schools in my area, but they were implementing some ideas at home.) I wondered why my daughter was so unlike the children who loved Waldorf-style stuff. Then I realized that it was because she loved the world around her so much, and found real phenomenon so interesting, that she felt little need for make-believe. (She did some imaginative play, of course, but it tended to be reality-based, such as pretending to be a fire-fighter.) She loves Bible stories, but she is always commenting on which ones are more likely to be true than others. (She’s 9 now.) She’s already big on the metaphorical meaning of the more fantastic elements of the Bible.
More to say, but no time to say it! Busy family day…



report abuse
 

Turmarion

posted May 1, 2010 at 10:28 am


MH, your breakdown of belief by department/specialty rings true to me. It follows my experience, such as it is, as well.
The Irish hash sounds interesting. It still wouldn’t make up for no transcendent meaning, but it might make a Saturday morning better. ;)



report abuse
 

Peter Clark

posted May 1, 2010 at 11:50 am


Rod,
Umm … I don’t even know what to say … I hadn’t even said anything to start with … and I didn’t even read what I have no doubt were hlvanburen’s excessively aggrieved replies.
It’s simply been my observation that atheists in general are less tolerant of religious people in general than religious people in general are tolerant of atheists in general, both on this website and elsewhere.
All I did was say so, all I did was put that out that for whatever it was worth.
I just called like I’ve seen it, I just tried to tell what to me has seemed to be the truth.
I’ve got no desire to pick a fight with hlvanburen, and please note that not only have I not snapped back at him, I haven’t even read whatever it was that he snapped back at me.
I’m living and letting live.
Enjoy your Saturday.



report abuse
 

Hitch

posted May 1, 2010 at 12:12 pm


I think the whole notion of “hostility” towards religion is misframed.
Being critical of religion or pointing out that it’s in conflict with observation or some theory is not hostility. It’s inquiry.
So biology departments are not more hostile, they are more likely to ask those questions.
I have been in meetings at a psych department at one of the top schools in the country debating how to study if there is a beneficial effects of prayer. One of the grad students at the meeting wore religious garment and multiple people expressed that they expected the outcome to be affirmative. Noone was in any way stifled in their opinion. The only thing that counted in the end was if the study was well designed and had all the needed controls.
But there is an attempt to frame universities as places of anti-religious bigotry. It’s just not true. Any university I know well is a model for pluralistic and tolerant coexistence. But it works with folks who don’t know that culture is and creates a misplaced debate and ground for such misguided things as “Academic Bill of Rights”.
The efforts of the christian coalition of the 80s are showing effect just about now. Why are we not debating that the people who are on the texas board of education promoting historic revisionism are graduates of Pat Robertson’s university and how we a group of people trying to establish a culture of religious indoctrination rather than evidence-based inquiry? So my kid is supposed to learn that William Blackstone is more noteworthy than Thomas Jefferson in framing the emergence of US democracy?
But instead we get the narrative that real and reputable Universities and their most outstanding faculty are bigoted, when if you actually go there and spend time does not hold up at all.



report abuse
 

Hitch

posted May 1, 2010 at 12:58 pm


P.S. This really wasn’t a response to Ecklund’s book but rather to the discourse in the comment section here.
On Ecklund, so far I only have access to the pages on Amazon. I have to say I dislike her “A message to scientists”. She basically says: Follow what your social surroundings mandage with respect to how you frame the position of science and religion. I disagree with this and it goes into a persistent narrative that tries to make it as if religion is an alternative model and approach to deal with reality.
She frames it as if public indifference and hostility towards science is solely the scientists mandate. I find this odd. Science actually works hard at a positive image, at curiosity and all that.
I do not believe as she seems to indicate that the reason why science has a better standing in Europe or third world countries is due to american scientists doing such a bad job at conveying a positive image of science.
But her starting ground is of course that a scientist should not criticize notions of personal spirituality or belief for this very program of image.
I’m disappointed that this statement of position is frames as a study of the personal attitudes of scientists towards religion. Her view here is entirely opinion driven and not supported by evidence at all.
On the conflict culture, she claims that it’s because scientists see religion and science in conflict. I think this view is biased.
In fact science is repeatedly been frames as in conflict with religion. The creationist vs evolution debate is not one that scientists keep alive through a “teach the controversy” doctrine within science. No the controversy is brought in by religious groups.
I see no evidence so far that Ecklund actually studied the origins of the conflict, she asserts it. And from this assertion she derives her conclusions in the sections I can read.
But let me rest here. I’ll read the rest of the book and give a fully informed review once I read it all.



report abuse
 

Hitch

posted May 1, 2010 at 1:39 pm


Source: http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Ecklund.pdf
I do have issues with this on purely scholarly grounds.
In the book she notes that 5% were in her words “extremely hostile towards religion”, yet her introductory narrative is:
“While some university scholars historically viewed scientific knowledge as incompatible with religion,1 students are increasingly
interested in religion as well as less traditional forms of spirituality.”
So in the introduction she does not quantify how many scholars thing this compatibility. She also does not quantify but just assert that students have an increased religion without supporting it through citation. She does not provide the evidence that atheism and reduced religiosity is in fact a growing trend in the US.
Later in the article she writes:
“For example, during the summer of 2005 the New York Times published a series of articles on religion and science, largely in response to the cases about intelligent design in Kansas and Pennsylvania.19 Although I did not mention these cases during the interviews, the scientists consistently talked about them. We could imagine that these events would make scientists, especially natural scientists, respond negatively to religion. Rather, such events outside the
university often serve to push scientists into the realm of religion, even those who have no personal interest in religion. A respondent mentioned, for example, that she generally does not think much about religion. She also explains that the cases about intelligent design mean students are bringing religion into the science courses she teaches at her university. To remain an effective teacher she is actively searching religiously-based websites to find any resources that deal with the connection between religion and science in what she views as insightful ways. This respondent asked me if I knew of any such resources and went on to explain that although she hasn’t thought much about religion, “what is going on now is forcing [her] to think about religion and its relationship to science.”
My summary of this paragraph from an evangelical perspective is: “Teaching the controversy works”. From a scientific perspectives I’d say, people are distracted from their core topic by introducing controversy. Ecklund does not take a position.
She writes:
“Scientists often rightly lament the scientific illiteracy among the U.S. population.21 Findings from this research also reveal, however, that a portion of academic scientists may be religiously illiterate.”
This creates a false symmetry. It’s unreasonable to expect a buddhist to be a christian apologist for example. Or to expect a Krishna to care for christian intelligent design arguments. Scientific literacy is about ability to evaluate evidence and recognize a real versus a rhetorical argument. These are not symmetric concerns.
She again writes:
“In the wake of recent events about teaching intelligent design in public schools, increasing communication between academics in various scientific fields and the general public (some of whom are the students in their classes) may become a very important goal indeed.”
Which repeates the implied “teaching the controversy works”.
Ecklund is evangelical. That’s fine, but this is not an unbiased study or perspective. In evaluating how discussion of intelligent design impacts science teaching she only picks one position, and that one is favorable towards keep teaching scientifically ill-founded but religiously motivated things to get scientists to engage with religion.
An equal position would be that debates about phony theories actually detract scientists time and confuse students and one should call for religious leaders to step in and seek less confrontational and more science compatible ways to find coexistence. This argument is nowhere to be found in Ecklund.
But the agenda here is to say that teaching the controvery works and that one will find scientists who respond to this strategy.
And this is marketed as follows:
“That the longstanding antagonism between science and religion is irreconcilable has been taken for granted. And in the wake of recent controversies over teaching intelligent design and the ethics of stem-cell research, the divide seems as unbridgeable as ever.
In Science vs. Religion, Elaine Howard Ecklund investigates this unexamined assumption in the first systematic study of what scientists actually think and feel about religion. In the course of her research, Ecklund surveyed nearly 1,700 scientists and interviewed 275 of them. She finds that most of what we believe about the faith lives of elite scientists is wrong. Nearly 50 percent of them are religious. Many others are what she calls “spiritual entrepreneurs,” seeking creative ways to work with the tensions between science and faith outside the constraints of traditional religion. The book centers around vivid portraits of 10 representative men and women working in the natural and social sciences at top American research universities. Ecklund’s respondents run the gamut from Margaret, a chemist who teaches a Sunday-school class, to Arik, a physicist who chose not to believe in God well before he decided to become a scientist. Only a small minority are actively hostile to religion. Ecklund reveals how scientists-believers and skeptics alike-are struggling to engage the increasing number of religious students in their classrooms and argues that many scientists are searching for “boundary pioneers” to cross the picket lines separating science and religion.
With broad implications for education, science funding, and the thorny ethical questions surrounding stem-cell research, cloning, and other cutting-edge scientific endeavors, Science vs. Religion brings a welcome dose of reality to the science and religion debates.”
This is full of tendetious statements. Her own study shows that over 60% are a-religious, yet the blurb claims over 50% are. Her text doesn’t show at all that “are struggling to engage the increasing number of religious students in their classrooms”
At least it reveals it’s own biases, which is simply put that “spirituality is good” and people who promote that position are good also. Teaching controversies that create that narrative are good.
Clearly personal bias and scientific inquiry are poorly separated in this work. One could be disappointed how this speaks to the scientific and scholarly standards of Rice University and the grant giving standards of Templeton.
Here an uncredited blurb line from Amazon:
“Surely Science vs. Religion will be the gold standard of such surveys for decades to come.”
I hope not.



report abuse
 

Kevin F.

posted May 1, 2010 at 1:52 pm


I work at one of the top research universities, and this has certainly made me want to pick up a copy of the book. I’m particularly interested in seeing if she broke down her results by disciplines. My experience is that, for instance, there are far more theologically orthodox believers in engineering and the natural sciences than in the social sciences.
One of the comments speculated Collins was unique because there were so few evangelicals who were at the top of their field. I would dispute that–I know a fair number myself.
One thing I have also noted is that moving into the administrative side of the university has an effect. Scientists who are open about their faith often go low profile when they become university presidents and other high positions–they are afraid that identifying publicly with one faith will create suspicion from other groups.



report abuse
 

Michael C

posted May 1, 2010 at 2:12 pm


Once I had rejected theism, I quickly learned to keep quite about it at work and in social settings. Religious people feel they are under attack, when in reality they are the 85% majority, so I don’t know why that is.
Maybe they don’t have a good answer for the militant atheists?
I don’t think it is an issue up here in Canada, but I well remember my shock at Bush 41 saying that he did not consider atheists citizens.



report abuse
 

BobSF

posted May 1, 2010 at 3:18 pm


I would suppose she has a clearer view of the broader situation than you do.
My quibble is not with the author, as I have not read her work, though I am skeptical. My point was in reference to your characterization of believers being “in the closet”. And, anecdote or not, when one of the top chemistry department in the country has folks getting married in church, going to Sunday services and putting their kids in religious schools, believers are not “in the closet”.



report abuse
 

Dubliner

posted May 1, 2010 at 4:33 pm


I find Ecklund assumption that religiously inclined scientists are in the closet because they are unaware of the religious beliefs of colleagues somewhat bizarre. I imagine most of my colleagues throughout my working life were religious to varying degrees as with my country as a whole but it was not a topic that ever arose in a work environment. Work is for work and polite chitchat over coffee about family and plans for the weekend or where you are going for the summer holidays. Not potentially controversial topics like religion.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted May 1, 2010 at 4:58 pm


Hitch: The efforts of the christian coalition of the 80s are showing effect just about now. Why are we not debating that the people who are on the texas board of education promoting historic revisionism are graduates of Pat Robertson’s university and how we a group of people trying to establish a culture of religious indoctrination rather than evidence-based inquiry? So my kid is supposed to learn that William Blackstone is more noteworthy than Thomas Jefferson in framing the emergence of US democracy?
But instead we get the narrative that real and reputable Universities and their most outstanding faculty are bigoted, when if you actually go there and spend time does not hold up at all.
Huh? I made it clear in my post that Eklund’s findings show that those who are most hostile to religion among scientists have a caricatured view of religion, thinking that all believers are like Christian fundamentalists. That is not so. Those scientists who are religious tend to be liberals, according to her findings. I don’t know if you are a scientist, Hitch, but you are exemplifying her findings about those most hostile to religion. Secondly, you are creating a straw man by distorting her findings. She reports that a) there is anti-religious feeling among science faculties at elite American universities, and b) that it comes from both secularist fundamentalism and a misunderstanding of religious diversity, and c) adding to the misunderstanding is the fact that despite real hostility, there are more people within faculties who may not believe, but who are open to tolerating believers — if only the believers would identify themselves. IOW, it may not be as bad as believers think in some places.
Michael C.: Religious people feel they are under attack, when in reality they are the 85% majority, so I don’t know why that is.
Ecklund’s study was not of the general population, but of scientists at elite US universities. Religious people are in the minority in those environments, according to her findings.
Dubliner: Work is for work and polite chitchat over coffee about family and plans for the weekend or where you are going for the summer holidays. Not potentially controversial topics like religion.
Post a Comment
By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the “agreements”). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.
Hitch: The efforts of the christian coalition of the 80s are showing effect just about now. Why are we not debating that the people who are on the texas board of education promoting historic revisionism are graduates of Pat Robertson’s university and how we a group of people trying to establish a culture of religious indoctrination rather than evidence-based inquiry? So my kid is supposed to learn that William Blackstone is more noteworthy than Thomas Jefferson in framing the emergence of US democracy?
But instead we get the narrative that real and reputable Universities and their most outstanding faculty are bigoted, when if you actually go there and spend time does not hold up at all.
Huh? I made it clear in my post that Eklund’s findings show that those who are most hostile to religion among scientists have a caricatured view of religion, thinking that all believers are like Christian fundamentalists. That is not so. Those scientists who are religious tend to be liberals, according to her findings. I don’t know if you are a scientist, Hitch, but you are exemplifying her findings about those most hostile to religion. Secondly, you are creating a straw man by distorting her findings. She reports that a) there is anti-religious feeling among science faculties at elite American universities, and b) that it comes from both secularist fundamentalism and a misunderstanding of religious diversity, and c) adding to the misunderstanding is the fact that despite real hostility, there are more people within faculties who may not believe, but who are open to tolerating believers — if only the believers would identify themselves. IOW, it may not be as bad as believers think in some places.
Michael C.: Religious people feel they are under attack, when in reality they are the 85% majority, so I don’t know why that is.
Ecklund’s study was not of the general population, but of scientists at elite US universities. Religious people are in the minority in those environments, according to her findings.
Dubliner: Work is for work and polite chitchat over coffee about family and plans for the weekend or where you are going for the summer holidays. Not potentially controversial topics like religion.
We’re not talking about hosting a debate about religion, which would not be appropriate in most workplaces, but saying things like, “At my church this weekend, we did…” and so forth. Church, synagogue, mosque are a normal part of life for very many Americans. There’s a big difference between just mentioning your faith activities in normal conversation, and wanting to debate religion. You are asking for a separation of church and life, and that is neither just nor natural. The scholars interviewed by Ecklund are in many cases afraid for their colleagues to know that they are religiously observant *at all.*



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted May 1, 2010 at 5:02 pm


BobSF: My point was in reference to your characterization of believers being “in the closet”. And, anecdote or not, when one of the top chemistry department in the country has folks getting married in church, going to Sunday services and putting their kids in religious schools, believers are not “in the closet”.
Do you understand the definition of “anecdotal,” Bob? You are taking a single example and making a general statement. This, compared to the Rice University study, which was based on 1,700 survey answers, and nearly 300 face to face interviews at about 16 top US universities. I can understand why you would have an emotional investment in the belief that no Christian can ever legitimately feel as if he or she has to live in the closet in professional circles re: their religion. But the truth is otherwise. Anyway, it is odd that a gay man such as you would be quick to tell someone who felt unable to be fully present in the workplace out of fear of discrimination that they don’t know what they’re talking about.



report abuse
 

Max Schadenfreude

posted May 1, 2010 at 5:25 pm


“The Vatican has apologized for forcing Galileo into house imprisonment for his unholy, atheistic, Catholic-hating, and just plain evil concept that the earth might move around the sun, but I fail to see why an apology centuries later should make scientists any more eager to defer to one of thousands of contradictory religious traditions, rather than… observable facts.”
I don’t think it is correct to say that Galileo suffered from “Catholic-hating”.
Additionally, my understanding of his case is that his house arrest was not a function of any concept, evil or otherwise, but rather because he taught heliocentrism as having been demonstrably proven fact, when in fact it had not been at that time (not to put too fine a point on it, but strictly speaking heliocentrism is NOT true).
For all you billiard tournament aficionados out there: Captcha = Balkine gatekeepers.



report abuse
 

Pat

posted May 1, 2010 at 5:53 pm


In my science department, we have everything from nuns to atheists to pagans. None of us are in the closet. I was dean for a while and got to do yearly evaluations, and we all felt free to list religious activities under the ‘service’ heading of our evaluations, and to talk about them around the department.
I’m not saying that refutes the book, just that things are not as fraught as some might infer from the snippets we’ve been discussing. But this kind of research is just not going to go anywhere, IMO, until the people doing it distinguish christian fundamentalism from other kinds of religion. When I read this kind of stuff, it looks about as useless as all the articles that blame soda pop for obesity because of its sugar content, without trying to identify how many of the soda drinkers are drinking diet soda.
The most useful stuff I saw in your snippets was the data on scientists’ reactions to the term ‘evangelical.’ I absolutely share this prejudice. When I discovered that a church I was attending was ‘evangelical,’ it made me feel awful. Yet they were liberal evangelicals, who I didn’t disagree with at all — but the term has become synonymous with fundamentaism to a point that there is just no point being a liberal evangelical. It makes about as much sense as a free-market communist or a socialist republican. Liberals should stop trying to recliam this term, get themselves a new one, and let ‘evangelical’ mean what everybody already thinks it means.



report abuse
 

Hitch

posted May 1, 2010 at 7:21 pm


@Rod: I said that the paragraph you quoted is not in response to findings by Ecklund so this isn’t a strawman at all as you claim. You have no grounds to judge how religiously tolerant I am.
But to the point of my paragraph on the texas board of education, virtually all of my friends, whether devoutly religious or not are concerned about this. Stating this is by no means a hostile or radical position. It’s a concerns that members of boards of other states have expressed (Virginia for example).
Back to the claims you made: “She reports that a) there is anti-religious feeling among science faculties at elite American universities, and b) that it comes from both secularist fundamentalism and a misunderstanding of religious diversity, and c) adding to the misunderstanding is the fact that despite real hostility, there are more people within faculties who may not believe, but who are open to tolerating believers — if only the believers would identify themselves”
I quoted a passage of hers where she says that 5% are hostile. How do you justify your generalized claims that the faculties in general are hostile? What is Ecklund’s standard for defining “secularist fundamentalism”? How is it measured? What is the standard to assess “misunderstanding of religious diversity”? How is this assessed?



report abuse
 

BobSF

posted May 1, 2010 at 10:12 pm


Do you understand the definition of “anecdotal,” Bob?
Sigh. I repeat myself. “In the closet” means utterly and totally SECRET about some aspect of yourself.
Now, is it possible that in American science departments there are individuals who are religious, see their fellow colleagues being open about being religious, yet choose to remain silent about their own religiosity, to the point of lying about where they were married, or not inviting colleagues to weddings, or sending their kids to religious school but lying about that to their co-workers. I suppose it’s possible, but — relying on my own experience of having been in the closet — it is exceedingly unlikely that they would experience sufficient fear, shame, and self-loathing to keep up that act for years on end.
It is one thing to be reticent to discuss your beliefs, it’s another thing entirely to keep from every person you work with or you might work with or who might know someone you work with any indication whatsoever that you are a believer.



report abuse
 

hlvanburen

posted May 2, 2010 at 8:39 am


It would seem that this article hinges on what the of the term “in the closet” is to the author. Does it mean that the individual fears that any mention at all of their religious views will have a negative effect on their career, up to and possibly including dismissal from their position? Does it mean that any mention of their religion might bring open taunting, public humiliation, or even verbal/physical threats against them or their family? If so then this does indeed need to be resisted with as much energy as we can muster.
However, if it means that Christians feel somehow discouraged from “evangelizing” their peers, or taking their usual stance that their religion happens to be “superior” to that of their peers, then that really isn’t being closeted. It may well be a hostile work atmosphere, and may well contribute to a feeling of discomfort for the Christian that has to endure it, but it is not closeting.
Homosexuals, especially those older than say 40, know exactly what closeting means. It is a term that brings back fears of immediate job dismissal if anyone even suspected the truth about them. It is a term that brings back fears of being recognized by a co-worker as you happen to walk into or out of a known “gay bar” in the town. And, for far too many, it brings back memories of finding yourself blackmailed or threatened by people who don’t want “your kind” living among them.
The term “closeted” has a very specific meaning, Mr. Dreher, for those who have experienced it and for those who watched their loved ones suffer through it. Perhaps that explains, in part, the reaction of some here on the boards. Are these Christian scientists really living in fear that any mention at all of their beliefs will put some aspect of their career or life in jeopardy? If so, that is what a closeted individual feels, and the definition is correct.
If they are simply feeling constrained from sharing the Roman Road or Four Spiritual Laws with their peers because someone might laugh at such silliness, I’m sorry, but that is hardly the definition of being closeted. It’s darn poor behavior on the part of the non-theist scientists, immature, and smacks of the same self-righteousness that so many Christians exhibit towards non-theists, and therefore is something that really should not happen in a workplace.
But to use the term “closeted” to define the Christians facing this reaction? That might be a bit over the top.



report abuse
 

Peter Clark

posted May 2, 2010 at 10:14 am


To repeat: The OED should include the term “epistemic closure,” and, when it does, it should illustrate the term with BobSF’s posts from this thread.



report abuse
 

Franklin Evans

posted May 2, 2010 at 12:59 pm


Mr. Clark’s latest post puts the lie to his claim of just “putting it out there”, but clearly corroborates that he not only doesn’t read other posts, but those he does read he refuses to comprehend as the author intended. Rod, I suspect I am not the only one who would be glad to see all of his posts and all those answering them removed.
Tolerance is a badly-understood term, even in academia. I, for one, am not surprised, since self-promotion by any means is clear evidence that it is not paranoid to hide some aspect of oneself.
HL, please join me in ignoring Clark’s posts from now on.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted May 2, 2010 at 1:55 pm


BobSF: Sigh. I repeat myself. “In the closet” means utterly and totally SECRET about some aspect of yourself.
Sigh back at you. I repeat myself: this is exactly what religiously believing scientists report. I can’t read your mind, Bob, but judging by your comments on this thread, you seem to find it inconceivable that there can ever be an environment in which a religious person could feel every bit as afraid to disclose that part of herself as a homosexual would be about her sexuality in another environment. Are you really incapable of imagining that? If I posted something here saying that at my workplace, gay co-workers are out of the closet and invite people to their weddings/commitment ceremonies, therefore it’s impossible to speak of gays being in the closet, you would call me delusional, and you’d be right to say so. You are equally wrong here.
HLVanburen, please read the whole entry I put up. It’s clear that religious scientists are overwhelmingly religious liberals, by their own self-description — not the sort of people likely to buttonhole co-workers to hear their testimony. Moreover, they are not describing work environments in which they feel unable to evangelize; they are describing work environments in which they are afraid that others will find out that they’re religious, because it stands to hurt them professionally.
[Captcha: "the queerest"]



report abuse
 

hlvanburen

posted May 2, 2010 at 2:53 pm


Mr. Dreher, I have read the article, and have the book on reserve at the local library. And, as I said in my earlier post:
“Are these Christian scientists really living in fear that any mention at all of their beliefs will put some aspect of their career or life in jeopardy? If so, that is what a closeted individual feels, and the definition is correct.”
I find it interesting, however, what Ecklund has to say about Francis Collins, a prominent scientist who is also an outspoken evangelical Christian.
“Ecklund finds it “very telling” that both religious and nonreligious scientists went on about how much they dislike Evangelicals, but not one had a bad thing to say about Collins. Ecklund suspects that the fact that Collins’ faith didn’t become public until after he had become one of the nation’s top scientists explains this, and raises questions about whether or not a junior scientist who outed himself as a religious believer would have the same chances to succeed.”
Could it not also be the case that Collins is a Christian who has also been very public about his personal work in harmonizing his faith with his career in science? Could it be that he is not among those Christians who consistently call science a “religion” and who misrepresent scientific terms such as “theory” and “hypothesis” to support their socio-political agenda?
You post: “If I posted something here saying that at my workplace, gay co-workers are out of the closet and invite people to their weddings/commitment ceremonies, therefore it’s impossible to speak of gays being in the closet, you would call me delusional, and you’d be right to say so.”
Actually, with respect to your workplace, if gays were indeed doing that they would, by definition, not be in the closet. This is where I think you misunderstand the definition of the term “closeted”. It means that NOBODY, absolutely NOBODY outside a few trusted friends knows the truth about you.
Take it back to the early days of the Church, after the ascension of Christ but before Pentecost. Where did Christians meet? They met in secret, hiding their ways from the people around them. They were fearful of being discovered, fearful of being punished. They did not tell anyone about their faith, nor did they publicize their meetings.
They were closeted.
The scenario where you describe gays and lesbians being open about their families, their weddings, their celebrations, just as the heterosexual workers in their company are doing…that is NOT the behavior of someone who is closeted, at least within the workplace. They may not be so public outside of the safety of their workplace, but within that environment they are OUT, they are not CLOSETED.
It is this confusion on your part that is the problem. I am ready to agree with you that Christian scientists may meet ridicule of their faith from some of their peers (P.Z. Myers might be a good example of this). I am also ready to agree with you that the problem deserves addressing, and that the universities and companies where this is happening should step in and deal with it from a HR standpoint as a hostile workplace issue.
But to call these folks “closeted”…from what you have posted here I am thinking that is a stretch.



report abuse
 

hlvanburen

posted May 2, 2010 at 2:59 pm


From the original post:
“She writes about a physicist at an elite East Coast university who feels trapped by a climate of anti-religious discrimination. “Janice” is a Christian who says she has not experienced discrimination, but only because most of her colleagues have no idea about her faith. The climate surrounding discussion of religion in her school is so hostile that she’s afraid she would suffer professionally if colleagues knew she was a believer.”
Having read through this for another few times, I will retract my earlier statement and agree with you, Mr. Dreher. “Janice” in this case probably is living a closeted life…and that is indeed a shame. And it may well be that others face the same issue at their workplace. I look forward to reading more in the book. However, I find interesting the following statement.
“This is doubly frustrating to Janice because she sees so many religious people devaluing and undervaluing science, and believing that they have to do so for the sake of religious orthodoxy.”
It would seem that “Janice” is not closeted only at work.



report abuse
 

BobSF

posted May 2, 2010 at 4:31 pm


this is exactly what religiously believing scientists report
Then have the courtesy to quote some part of her book that discusses people who live in fear of discovery and hide their religion from everyone.
Look at your own statement:
Why is that? In part it’s because religious scientists tend to live closeted lives, fearing backlash from their professional colleagues. One social scientist interview, called “Joel,” said “in a discouraged tone that “the main battle you find in academia is simply getting people to take [religious questions like] the question of whether there might be a God or not, seriously.”
Sounds like Joel, rather than hiding his beliefs, is looking for someone to “witness” to or chat with about his beliefs. THAT is not what being in the closet is like.
And, if I may, I’m going to reverse the order of something else you said:
If I posted something here saying that at my workplace, gay co-workers are out of the closet and invite people to their weddings/commitment ceremonies, therefore it’s impossible to speak of gays being in the closet, you would call me delusional, and you’d be right to say so. You are equally wrong here.
Your point here seems to be about the anecdotal nature of my comment, as in one can’t take your newsroom as an example of what it’s like in other newsrooms, so I can’t use my partner’s chem lab as proof of what it’s like at all chem labs.
Well, two points. 1) At the very top of the academic world, the “elites” (as you would all them), all know each other, they move around from university to university giving lectures, they attend the same conferences, they trade postgrads, they cooperate on research, they found companies together, the COMPETE like you wouldn’t believe, and they gossip. A lot.
More importantly, the “survey” you cite says that almost a third of scientists report being “out of the closet”. Now, unless there’s some extraordinary segregation by institution, that means that there are believers all over the place. That there is any institution where believers must stay “in the closet” about their beliefs is something quite unlikely and could easily be proven if the author or you or Peter Clark wants to provide evidence of an institution wherein people are fired for being believers. Now, could there be some individuals who, despite having openly religious colleagues around them, choose to remain mum about their own religiosity? As I mentioned above, yes.
I can’t read your mind, Bob, but judging by your comments on this thread, you seem to find it inconceivable that there can ever be an environment in which a religious person could feel every bit as afraid to disclose that part of herself as a homosexual would be about her sexuality in another environment. Are you really incapable of imagining that?
Well, I certainly can’t disagree with your first assertion. You really don’t read my mind very well. I don’t think you read my words very well, either. As to what you imagine my opinions to be on this issue, you are entirely wrong. I can not only conceive of a level of fear and intimidation equivalent to that of a closeted homosexual, I can give you a few examples.
1) In recent news about the earthquake in the far NW of China, near Tibet, the widespread destruction of homes revealed that many homes hid Tibetan Buddhist shrines. Despite decades of anti-religious suppression by the authorities, people maintained their faith.
2) In the same vein, though a far more remarkable story, there are Japanese Catholics who kept their faith from generation to generation over almost 400 years. THAT is being in the closet.
3) And I can’t resist more anecdotes! We used to hire a lot of legal immigrants in one of our businesses. The jobs required a solid education with an emphasis on library skills, and an ability to read English. We didn’t much care about an ability to speak English. As a result, we had quite a few well educated women who were very recent immigrants from China, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East and were still acquiring good enough speaking skills to get jobs more in line with their abilities. Among them wes a retired department head from the National Library in Beijing who had risen to her position while hiding her Christianity from childhood until her arrival in the U.S. We also hired an Iranian non-Muslim believer who had walked with her extended family out of Iran, through Afghanistan, and into Pakistan during the Iran/Iraq war in order to escape religious persecution and save their 14yo son from conscription, a walk of several months.
When I complain that you discuss the reports from the folks in this survey as “being in the closet”, it is because you diminish the real suffering of people who really are “in the closet”, whether it’s a gay closet or a religious closet.



report abuse
 

Franklin Evans

posted May 2, 2010 at 5:23 pm


BobSF: That would be me, by the way. As a Pagan, I find myself in situations where divulging my personal faith would (as in, has to others in the recent past) put me in some form of jeopardy, from personally physical to professionally.
To be honest, it is not a static situation. There are a very few people I encounter in those circumstances who become aware of my faith, and I have not yet, so far, been adversely affected by it. That’s a reverse anecdote, meaning that other Pagans of my acquaintance were not so lucky.
Ecklund has, from my POV, plenty of evidence outside of the scientific/academic community, should she wish to gather it.



report abuse
 

BobSF

posted May 2, 2010 at 5:33 pm


That would be me, by the way.
Franklin, I have no doubt that you would qualify as someone who has to keep his religion “in the closet”, not because you hold religious beliefs but because of the particular religious beliefs you hold. I have a feeling your disclosure be far more welcome at an Ivy League chemistry department soire than at Regent University university department potluck. (Elites have soires, regular folk have potlucks.)
Ecklund, and Rod, are putting forth a claim that adherents to the dominant religion in this country, Christianity, are hiding for their safety in the nation’s “elite” academic institutions because of anti-religious and, in particular, anti-Christian bigotry. There is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted May 2, 2010 at 8:19 pm


BobSF: There is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Why, yes! Bob doesn’t see intimidation, therefore the large number of scientists in the academies who told Ecklund, a university-based social scientist, that they felt intimidated must be lying. It’s as simple as that. Of course, if someone here said that no gay people (or pagan people, or what have you) could possibly be intimidated into silence about this aspect of themselves in the workplace, because that person doesn’t see it in their daily rounds, BobSF would be the first one to jump down their throats. From Bob’s comments, I can only conclude that in BobWorld, Christians can only be persecuters and intimidators, they can never be persecuted or intimidated.



report abuse
 

meh

posted May 2, 2010 at 8:29 pm


Outed
“As some commenters already know, Gawker outed the HBD-aware Harvard Law School 3L. She’s surprisingly cute.”
In this day and age, that’s real outing. Makes christians and gays look like pikers. In this day and age.



report abuse
 

Otter

posted May 2, 2010 at 8:40 pm


In my experience it’s a problem of discourses, not discrimination.
As an academic I think there’s a difference between one’s “closetedness” as a matter of personal faith and what can claim as part of one’s professional disciplinary discourse.
To believe in God is surely “reasonable” at some level as a way of accounting for things one has no other language for. But this “reasonableness” does not necessarily extend to discussions in science, or even the humanities.
It’s not really a matter of prejudice in these latter cases. It’s a problem of communicating theological intuitions to people (and disciplines) whose experiences and methodologies don’t admit them. Theological intuitions _do_ threaten such discourses, when those discourses are professionally obligated to take place in naturalistic terms.
So I suppose I’m not really surprised that a good number of scientists “believe.” But neither am I surprised or scandalized that they feel some shyness about saying so professionally. To uncover what the obligations are to be so reticent would be the same as uncovering what the obligations of his professional conversations are.
It’s less like being gay, maybe, than it is like believing that texts are quanta or whatever are made and motivated by fairy giraffes with butterfly wings. It might be so: but it’s a tremendous wrench in a scientific conversation.



report abuse
 

meh

posted May 2, 2010 at 8:55 pm


Otter: “Theological intuitions _do_ threaten such discourses, when those discourses are professionally obligated to take place in naturalistic terms”
Unless those discourses deal with racial average differences in intelligence. Then naturalistic terms fly out the window, and liberal theological intuitions are the order of the day.



report abuse
 

Otter

posted May 2, 2010 at 9:37 pm


Thus Meh: Unless those discourses deal with racial average differences in intelligence. Then naturalistic terms fly out the window, and liberal theological intuitions are the order of the day.
Heh. Yeah.
And at that point, it’s time to crack open the research, shelve the theology, and see what crops up. Sure, science should be held to its own rules of discourse.
I think there’s no point in denying that biases exist in science, but that’s sort of the point. Relatively dispassionate evaluation of evidence, evaluated by people who care _less_, tends to survive.
But I notice that the story about Stephanie Grace, the Harvard student who fell on her sword for racial difference, was a law student, _not_ a scientist.
Well, okay, she had an undergraduate degree in sociology, but do we really want to go there…?



report abuse
 

meh

posted May 2, 2010 at 9:46 pm


“Well, okay, she had an undergraduate degree in sociology, but do we really want to go there…?”
Well said. Fr’instance, if she thought Creationism wasn’t all that, well, who gives a f*ck?



report abuse
 

BobSF

posted May 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm


From Bob’s comments, I can only conclude that in BobWorld, Christians can only be persecuters and intimidators, they can never be persecuted or intimidated.
Oh, for the love of god!
I gave you several examples of Christians being persecuteD and intimidateD.
In BobWorld, being “intimidated” in social occasions is not the same as holding a personal secret from everyone.
You think some fringe-evangelical’s reticence about discussing her new-earth theories at the Geology potluck with a bunch of church-attending Catholics and Mormons or sharing stories about being “seized by the spirit” and talking in tongues is like being “in the closet”. Here’s a hint: if her coworkers know she’s a Pentecostal, she’s not “in the closet”.
Think of it this way. I was out of the closet at work just after college, more than three decades ago. Some coworkers did NOT approve. Being out didn’t mean that I regaled them with stories about all the orgies I attended* and all the men I bedded*. No need to share details with them. But I was OUT. Similarly, co-workers may not care if Janice is a Whatever, but they may stay clear of her if she talks about speaking in tongues and being seized by the spirit.
If you want to prove that what Christians are enduring at the nation’s top schools is like a gay person being in the closet, please provide one of the following:
1) a list of suicides by believers who could not longer live the lie
2) a list of university departments where there are NO believers on staff and anyone who admits to religious belief is fired
* which were, respectively, none and two (not simultaneously). Just messin’ with you.



report abuse
 

John Calvert

posted May 3, 2010 at 5:01 pm


Ecklund’s views on the science vs. religion debate are substantively incoherent in one major respect. The incoherence flows from the fact that she incorrectly defines the word “religion,” and therefore, the word “science.”
An incorrect definition of “religion” will result in an incorrect definition of science, as science excludes religion. Hence, if you have not defined religion correctly, then your exclusion will not be correct.
How can one write on the “science vs. religion” debate if religion, and therefor science, is not correctly defined?
Ecklund implicitly defines religion as faith in God. For Ecklund, if you don’t have that faith, then you are not religious.
Thus she finds that 64% of scientists are not religious as they are atheists and agnostics.
In fact, and in substance, atheists and agnostics are just as religious as those who do have faith in mind as the cause of life. Their faith is that life come from matter, not mind. Either response determines the answer to the next ultimate question: what should we do with it – how should we live it?
Ecklund does properly recognize that “whether their might be a God or not” is a “religious question.” It is religious because it addresses a matter of ultimate concern. Unlike the Supreme Court and the EEOC, she just puts those who answer the question one way in the religious class and those who answer it the other way in the science class. The Supreme Court puts them both in the same class. Atheism is a religion.
In fact, both responses to this “religious question” are faith based and inherently religious. The only truly scientific response is “we don’t know.” That kind of open minded response is the kind that encourages exploration and discovery.
When religion is defined inclusively and functionally, then the 64% who Ecklund classifies as not religious, are religious. Indeed, all scientists are religious. They just have differing religious views, 64% of which are materialistic.
The reason for the conflict between science and religion is that Ecklund and others have simply misdefined religion, and therefore, science.
If institutions of science were to embrace the inclusive definition of religion used by the courts, dictionaries and many philosophers and theologians, then they could not embrace atheistic dogmas like methodological naturalism and scientific materialism. That kind of bias makes science religious rather than open-minded and objective with respect to ultimate questions like the cause, nature and purpose of life.
John Calvert
May 3, 2010



report abuse
 

John Calvert

posted May 3, 2010 at 5:03 pm


Ecklund’s views on the science vs. religion debate are substantively incoherent in one major respect. The incoherence flows from the fact that she incorrectly defines the word “religion,” and therefore, the word “science.”
An incorrect definition of “religion” will result in an incorrect definition of science, as science excludes religion. Hence, if you have not defined religion correctly, then your exclusion will not be correct.
How can one write on the “science vs. religion” debate if religion, and therefor science, is not correctly defined?
Ecklund implicitly defines religion as faith in God. For Ecklund, if you don’t have that faith, then you are not religious.
Thus she finds that 64% of scientists are not religious as they are atheists and agnostics.
In fact, and in substance, atheists and agnostics are just as religious as those who do have faith in mind as the cause of life. Their faith is that life come from matter, not mind. Either response determines the answer to the next ultimate question: what should we do with it – how should we live it?
Ecklund does properly recognize that “whether their might be a God or not” is a “religious question.” It is religious because it addresses a matter of ultimate concern. Unlike the Supreme Court and the EEOC, she just puts those who answer the question one way in the religious class and those who answer it the other way in the science class. The Supreme Court puts them both in the same class. Atheism is a religion.
In fact, both responses to this “religious question” are faith based and inherently religious. The only truly scientific response is “we don’t know.” That kind of open minded response is the kind that encourages exploration and discovery.
When religion is defined inclusively and functionally, then the 64% who Ecklund classifies as not religious, are religious. Indeed, all scientists are religious. They just have differing religious views, 64% of which are materialistic.
The reason for the conflict between science and religion is that Ecklund and others have simply misdefined religion, and therefore, science.
If institutions of science were to embrace the inclusive definition of religion used by the courts, dictionaries and many philosophers and theologians, then they could not embrace atheistic dogmas like methodological naturalism and scientific materialism. That kind of bias makes science religious rather than open-minded and objective with respect to ultimate questions like the cause, nature and purpose of life.
John Calvert
May 3, 2010



report abuse
 

Franklin Evans

posted May 3, 2010 at 7:56 pm


BobSF… may I suggest Rod’s bit of hyperbole be excused? I was thinking of responding rather just like that, myself. Please, allow me to restate the point in a manner with which you might find some agreement.
1) The boundaries between work life and social life are pretty much gone at this point. Frequent mobility has made where one lives very difficult as the social milieu of choice. I am one of the very few people I know who has lived in one place for 25 years (heh, more than 10 years for the vast majority of them), and most of my neighbors have “turned over” about every 3 years or so.
2) We begin to feel about work as we feel about our homes. I have cubicle neighbors whose cubicles look very much like I’d imagine their living rooms look, and those I’ve found a polite way to ask have corroborated that. I further notice two things: A significant minority of unmarried coworkers socialize with coworkers, and a majority of them date those coworkers; second, my company has a strict policy that a married couple cannot work in the same department, and couples who agree that they are in a committed relationship are encouraged to separate at work even if they have not announced an engagement.
My average work week is 40 hours; but, I have a 30-mile commute, which adds 2.5 to 3 hours each day (round-trip), which means that 10.5 to 11 hours every weekday is spent doing something other than socializing. I offer that as a comparison point, not as evidence or proof.
So, while it grieves me to know that there are some coworkers who would become hostile towards me from the simple knowledge that I am a Pagan, I consider the overall satisfaction I have in my work life more important than being able to be openly Pagan at work. I certainly don’t think I’d be fired for it, not even if it were a manager who became hostile, and I’ve been there long enough to know how to play certain games.
In my case, and from my POV, my anecdotal story is the right starting point. I know that it is worse for some Pagans in some places. I know that only high-profile cases get the media attention, and sometimes there’s a catch-22 involved, where the reason one is being discriminated against is the same reason one hesitates to complain about the discrimination.
There remains a valid criticism of paranoia, but there is also sufficient proof — for some Pagans — that the paranoia is justified. Where do we draw the line, and for this Pagan when do we decide to turn off our sympathy? When those who are the usual oppressors feel the same sting? Or maybe we need to pay attention to those anecdotes, because our measurement for taking notice just might be one story. One becomes two, two becomes four, and when the count is in the dozens or hundreds it might be too late to take polite action. There are fellow Pagans who are quite ready to take impolite action, and I’m very sure I can’t deny them good reasons for it.



report abuse
 

Otter

posted May 3, 2010 at 8:35 pm


John Calvert,
You’re equivocating.
Religion is not so malleable as you make it out to be. It’s not “faith in anything.” That’s a convenient way of dropping an intellectual nuclear holocaust on a debate, but it’s just not so.
Religion refers to the practices that come from faith in something that isn’t open for anybody and everybody to confirm.
There’s not a person on the planet still living who disbelieves in the most basic premises of science: that material reality is reliable, that regularity of natural laws can be inferred from a limited number of cases, that observation and induction are formidable tools for surviving.
Those who truly don’t believe in them are shuffled quickly under the bus and learn that (as Darwin wrote) dead guys don’t get laid and they pass not on their seed nor their ghost.



report abuse
 

MH

posted May 3, 2010 at 8:42 pm


John Calvert, methodological naturalism is not the same thing as metaphysical naturalism. The former is a position of convenience as the supernatural isn’t amenable to inquiry. The later is a position on the existence of the supernatural itself.



report abuse
 

Franklin Evans

posted May 3, 2010 at 11:35 pm


Actually, our Mr. Calvert’s final statement is a complete fallacy:
If institutions of science were to embrace the inclusive definition of religion used by the courts, dictionaries and many philosophers and theologians, then they could not embrace atheistic dogmas like methodological naturalism and scientific materialism. That kind of bias makes science religious rather than open-minded and objective with respect to ultimate questions like the cause, nature and purpose of life.
One can define a dog with a limited list of characteristics. One can then blame the dog for not being a cat. That summarizes the above logic.
I apologize for being harsh, but this fallacy is at the heart of the anti-science attitudes in the US (and, I suspect, all over the world). Exclusion of a concept from science that by definition cannot be called science is not a bias. It is an act of integrity unmatched in the history of human endeavors. As much as anti-science wants it, saying — as science does say — that it has nothing to say on a matter is not the same as denying it. In fact, it is nothing more than silence on it, reiterating the basic statement of science on anything it attempts to describe: This is what we know, today, and it is subject to change tomorrow if how we arrived at what we know today can be demonstrated to be false, inadequate or incomplete.



report abuse
 

Siarlys Jenkins

posted May 15, 2010 at 8:27 pm


I have to suggest that Franklin Evans is missing a crucial perspective.
He is correct that it is erroneous to expect science to incorporate material which is by nature non-scientific. In this limited sense, science is by nature agnostic, although not atheistic. The methods of science, the date that can be scientifically collected and established, the theories science can reasonably and rationally develop from that data, do not speak to the existence, or nonexistence, of God, or gods. Thus, there is no reason that a high school biology class should teach Six-Day Creation according to Genesis. Its not science, even if it is absolutely true.
However, this does not provide a sound basis for denying the existence of God, or gods, in the name of science. The fact that God lies outside the province of science only proves the absence of God IF it can be shown that science is inclusive of all that is, seen and unseen. That assumption is without proof.
When a scientist asserts an a-theistic perspective, he is asserting a religious proposition, not a scientific one. That doesn’t make science a religion, but atheism is a religious proposition, whether or not it is wrapped in the mantle of science.



report abuse
 

RUSSELL HAIRSTON

posted May 28, 2010 at 12:58 pm


I have a six-page essay that is too long for a blog comment, but I would like for you to read it. As a former science teacher and a long-term amateur theologian, I have had published two books on religious subjects. My essay demonstrates my interest in creating a better dialog between scientists and Christians, especially fundamental Christians. The essay shows many areas where conflict between what Science believes and what religious leaders believe could be reconciled. I say many things you will never find in print before. You can see more about my books if you Google my name.
It you will give me your email and permission to send it, I will send it for your perusal. My email address is businesshelpers@wildblue.net
Sincerely,
Russell H. Hairston



report abuse
 

John Harlow

posted May 29, 2010 at 6:48 pm


Although I am an engineer, not a scientist, I suspect that much of the concern among the atheist scientists is how the religious scientists can accept as fact, things that are at best, theories.
In the scientific world there is a significant difference in a ‘theory’ and a fact. Facts are quantifiable, researched, measurable and (repeatedly) provable. While a scientist may believe that a theory is correct, he/she will never treat it as a fact until it is proven.
OTOH, most of the liturgies, ceremonies, activities related to religion treat it not as a theory, but as a fact. These are facts to be fully believed and have faith in.
While many people can probably ‘partition’ their acceptance of religion as a fact from their scientific life, the fact that such dichotomy exists opens the door to some suspicions about ‘rigor’ by some of their colleagues.



report abuse
 

Karl Eklund

posted May 30, 2010 at 9:21 am


Physicists commonly use a kind of religious notion when they argue from a gedankenexperiment, e,g., when they talk about an observer of something happening in a hilbert space. They either require that observer to have the same sensory limitations that we do (leading to a Schrodinger’s cat type of paradox) or they, like Einstein, implicitly expect the observer to be supernatural (God may be a rascal but He is not a gambler). If you approach this carefully (as I do in http://uniso.karleklund.net/) it is easy to get an observer that is both consistent with science and religion, but (and it is a big but) under that scheme you can’t expect to threaten or bribe God into changing the history of the universe, so prayer and ritual are irrelevant.



report abuse
 

Renato

posted May 30, 2010 at 9:10 pm


Forgive me, but I do not find this “research” to have much clout. Anything that has funding from Templeton is as objective as research funded by Philip Morris.
Also, There are many Christian scientists out there. Even Richard Dawkins has said that he has worked with and respects several Christian Scientists. As an Undergraduate Research Assistant I worked under a Christian professor whom had the professional courtesy to keep his Christianity to himself. You know, where it belongs. Science has never bothered to “draw any battle lines”. It has been the preachers who deny Evolution and substitute Creationism and Intelligent design trying to call it “Science” when no actual proof has even been found.



report abuse
 

kroey

posted May 31, 2010 at 12:12 am


The statistical results seem to mirror western society quite well (IMHO). Siarlys Jenkins (first comment) was spot on, “science” does not seek (and hasn’t the capability) to determine whether or not a faith is valid. It is a shame that one cannot be open about their religious beliefs (whatever they may be). For the record, I’m one of those “evangelicals”, and proud of it.



report abuse
 

george cunningham gc94112@yahoo.com

posted June 22, 2010 at 5:50 pm


ECKLUND DIDN’T LOOK VERY HARD TO FIND A SCIENTIST WHO DISAGREES WITH FRANCIS COLLINS. MY BOOK “DECODING THE LANGUAGE OF GOD – CAN A SCIENTIST REALLY BE A BELIEVER?” IS A POINT BY POINT REBUTALL OF COLLINS BOOK. SAM HARRIS ATTACKED HIM IN A OPINION PIECE IN THE NEW YORK TIMES AND A LONGER PIECE ON HIS BLOG “THE STRANGE CASE OF FRANCIS COLLINS”. SCIENCE IS CONCERNED WITH DETERMINING THE BEST APPROXIMATION OF TRUTH AND THE SUPERNATURAL IS EITHER TRUE OR FALSE, AFTERLIFE IS EITHER TRUE OR FALSE. BOTH ALLAH AND THE CHRISTIAN TRINITY CANNOT BOTH BE TRUE. THE PROBLEM WITH ECKLUNDS BOOK IS HER DATA COLLECTION LEFT TERMS LIKE RELIGION GOD AND SPIRITUALITY UNDEFINED AND OBSCURE. THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HUMAN MANUFACTURED MEANING, MORALS AND SPIRITUALITY AND A SUPERNATUAL COSMIC MEANING AND MORAL CODE GERENATED BY A DEVINE ALL POWERFUL AND ALL GOOD BEING.



report abuse
 

Andrew Cort

posted July 24, 2010 at 6:37 pm


I find it tragic that so many of us, whether scientists or non-scientists, feel we have to ‘choose’ between accepting the scientific view or the religious view. The purpose of science is to unravel mysteries within the physical world. Science deals with the level of existence that can be seen, touched, weighed. It’s not the purpose of science to discover a sacred meaning behind the physical world or to pretend to ‘prove’ that no such meaning exists. And the purpose of religion is not to explain material phenomena or to tell us what ‘really’ happened in history. The purpose of religion is to help us perfect our souls and to discover life’s meaning for ourselves. Religion deals with invisible subjective ‘experience’, a level of life outside the realm of science: a thought, a feeling, a wish, cannot be taken out of the soul and placed inside a test tube to be observed and experimented upon.
As human beings, we can pursue both of these endeavors.



report abuse
 

Jason

posted June 16, 2011 at 8:10 pm


There is only one animal stupid enough to doubt it’s own existence so much it needs some kind of “god” to make all the bad things seem bearable.
There is so much more we can offer each other than religion, or even science… Yet going backwards seems to be the norm lately.

Someone plopped a steamer in the gene pool
Now angry mob mentality’s no longer the exception
It’s the rule and I’m starting to feel a lot like,
Charlton Heston.

Stranded on a primate planet.
Apes and orangutans that ran it to the ground
With the generals and the armies that obeyed them
Followers following fables
Philosophies that enable them to rule without regard

There’s no point for democracy when
ignorance is celebrated
Political scientists get the same one-vote as some Arkansas inbred
Majority rule, don’t work in mental institutions.



report abuse
 

Pingback: Why are people different from chimps?? | Eveloce

Pingback: Sceince vs Religion « My Sister Marilyn Monroe

John

posted February 6, 2012 at 6:48 am


Why does there need to be a “dialogue” between religion and science? Religious literalists and scientists have mutually irreconcilable views on the nature of reality. No amount of a dialogue is going to change that. As for religious liberals, religious liberals generally accept new science without much disagreement because they tend to view their own religious texts and creation myths as allegorical. Though I have to ask if most smart Christians see the bible as just an allegory and not a literal account of real events, are they really believers at all?



report abuse
 

Pingback: "Can a scientist be religious?" - Page 3 - Stormfront

Pingback: Atheism Among Scientists: Dissecting the Data

Pingback: Holy Bible condemns homosexuality? YES! - Page 15

Pingback: Relationship between religion and science : Christian Social News – BiblePress – The Christian Social News Guide

Pingback: Science vs. Religion: What do scientists say? – dot.WordPress

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

Another blog to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Rod Dreher. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy: Most Recent Scientology Story on Beliefnet! Happy Reading!!!

posted 3:25:02pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Mommy explains her plastic surgery
In Dallas (naturally), a parenting magazine discusses how easy it is for mommies who don't like their post-child bodies to get surgery -- and to have it financed! -- to reverse the effects of time and childbirth. Don't like what nursing has done to your na-nas? Doc has just the solution: Doctors say

posted 10:00:56pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Why I became Orthodox
Wrapping up my four Beliefnet years, I was thinking about the posts that attracted the most attention and comment in that time. Without a doubt the most popular (in terms of attracting attention, not all of it admiring, to be sure) was the October 12, 2006, entry in which I revealed and explained wh

posted 9:46:58pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Modern Calvinists
Wow, they don't make Presbyterians like they used to!

posted 8:47:01pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

'Rape by deception'? Huh?
The BBC this morning reported on a bizarre case in Israel of an Arab man convicted of "rape by deception," because he'd led the Jewish woman with whom he'd had consensual sex to believe he was Jewish. Ha'aretz has the story here. Plainly it's a racist verdict, and a bizarre one -- but there's more t

posted 7:51:28pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.