Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

What Scientists Really Think About Religion

kdawson posted more than 3 years ago | from the two-towers dept.

Science 1123

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

cancel ×

1123 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Tom Cruise (-1, Troll)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391004)

Come out of the closet..

Re:Tom Cruise (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391026)

But he's not in the closet! He is a fudge packer in Colorado, though. BTW, fuck Jesus.

Re:Tom Cruise (-1, Flamebait)

mlawrence (1094477) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391072)

You realize that by saying that, you can never ever go to heaven, even if you become a born-again. Denial of the holy spirit is the one unforgivable sin. You ok with that?

Re:Tom Cruise (0, Flamebait)

mlawrence (1094477) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391088)

Oh, and fuck Jesus.

Re:Tom Cruise (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391160)

You realize that by saying that, you can never ever go to heaven, even if you become a born-again. Denial of the holy spirit is the one unforgivable sin. You ok with that?

By the way, Jesus is not the Holy Spirit.
But again you should not be afraid of free thought. This is the same terrorism the world is trying to shake off!

Re:Tom Cruise (0, Troll)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391232)

Jesus is not the Holy Spirit

QFT

Fuck the Holy Spirit! And fuck Santa Claus! And the FSM! Fuck them all! There, now I can be sure of going to at least 3 different types of hell, if they exist. Oh, and everyone who reads this is also going to hell, because my god said they were faithless bastards. He's a bit shy though and only talks to me, so I'm the only human ever to actually be going to heaven. Sorry guys!

I deny the holy spirit (-1, Troll)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391220)

I deny the holy spirit. Fuck jesus. fuck your god. fuck all gods.

Spanish Guys (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391144)

But he's not in the closet! He is a fudge packer in Colorado, though. BTW, fuck Jesus.

If it's the Jesus I'm thinking of, yeah, he's a pretty good looking Spanish guy and if i were gay, I'd hit it.

Have you thought of asking him out for a couple of cervezas?

Re:Tom Cruise (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391168)

Offtopic

Well! Obviously somebody didn't get it...

Makes sense (5, Insightful)

pinkj (521155) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391010)

Why focus on fervently opposing religion when there are so many more interesting scientific things to do?

For Integration. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391056)

So that you can reasonably explain to your grandpa whether the scientists are up to evil or something. Or sharpening those same scientists to expose the evils of the world. Take your pick.

Re:Makes sense (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391268)

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

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

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

Re:Makes sense (4, Insightful)

Austerity Empowers (669817) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391300)

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

Re:Makes sense (4, Insightful)

His Shadow (689816) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391382)

That would make sense if too many religionists weren't Hell bent on forcing religion back into aspects of culture we've been successfully removing religion from in the first place.

Re:Makes sense (2, Interesting)

mederbil (1756400) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391302)

Makes sense because many scientists are from foreign countries were religion is perhaps more sacred, like India, for example.

Although an atheist I appreciate some religion. Science can learn from it. I went to a CBC Massey lecture and listened to a great anthropologist, Wade Davis speak, and this was very well explained. If anyone else is interested in science, language, religion, anthropology and how they all come together they should read "The Wayfinders" by Wade Davis.

Re:Makes sense (1, Informative)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391360)

The only reason to do that would be when religion starts to meddle into affairs that they don't belong in. Like, say, science.

Science and religion are, by definition of either, mutually exclusive. Religion is about faith and believing. Science is about questioning and doubting. How should you combine them? When one meddles in the affairs of the other, the result can only be dissatisfactory.

talking more opely about issues of religion... (5, Funny)

arcite (661011) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391012)

To that I say; What does god need with a Starship?

Re:talking more opely about issues of religion... (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391288)

Jim, what are you doing?

An idea (4, Insightful)

JamesP (688957) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391030)

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

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

Re:An idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391256)

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

Don't forget the global warmists!

Particularly relevant (5, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391042)

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

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

Re:Particularly relevant (3, Informative)

pagaboy (1029878) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391274)

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

With a bit less time, for a snack, nibble on the short article Creation and Evolution not Creation or Evolution [cam.ac.uk] by R J Berry (Geneticist) and you should start to have a few ideas for conversation with biscuits.

Re:Particularly relevant (5, Insightful)

smidget2k4 (847334) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391358)

I haven't read the books, but that article is crap. The entire thing just says "evolution is clearly happening, so we should reinterpret the bible to say that God just got he ball rolling." It is an exercise in altering religious views to conform to modern science, not an exercise in scientific thought. It is just arguing that we should modify religion to become a "God of the gaps", which is a silly argument indeed.

There is nothing wrong with being spiritual (1, Insightful)

mlawrence (1094477) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391044)

it's when you start believing that an imaginary being created everything, and when you start brainwashing others to believe it, that I have a problem. All the money that is given to the church could be used to eliminate homelessness or other social problems.

Re:There is nothing wrong with being spiritual (1)

arcite (661011) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391078)

But without all those millions of poor people, all those charity workers would be unemployed.

Re:There is nothing wrong with being spiritual (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391254)

But without all those millions of poor people, all those charity workers would be unemployed.

yes the charity workers will be unemployed and they will be retrained to do much more beneficial work. Think of it as all those farmers who got replaced by machines.

Re:There is nothing wrong with being spiritual (5, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391094)

All the money that is given to the church could be used to eliminate homelessness or other social problems.

Who do you think is running the homeless shelters and tackling social problems in much of the world?

Re:There is nothing wrong with being spiritual (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391128)

won't Obama save us all?

Re:There is nothing wrong with being spiritual (1, Insightful)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391262)

All the money that is given to the church could be used to eliminate homelessness or other social problems.

Who do you think is running the homeless shelters and tackling social problems in much of the world?

The UN [unhcr.org] .

Re:There is nothing wrong with being spiritual (4, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391338)

That's a rather anomalous variety of "running homeless shelters" and "tackling social problems". The UNHCR runs refugee camps, mostly in war zones and former war zones; it doesn't run soup kitchens in Brazil, or generally in any way attempt to improve the lot of poor people in non-warzones.

Re:There is nothing wrong with being spiritual (5, Insightful)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391264)

Dude. Secular organizations tackle the same issues. Religion does not have a monopoly on compassion. At least a secular organization does not try to indoctrinate, which is a form of mental abuse in my book.

Re:There is nothing wrong with being spiritual (5, Insightful)

protektor (63514) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391116)

Wow way to be tolerant. Who gives a rip what other people think, no one is making you believe or think that. So why do you have to rip on people who don't think the same exact way that you do?

Sounds like the makings of a seriously intolerant person who iis just a hop, skip and jump away from being a racist.

Way to be narrow minded. Thinking like that is what expands science...oh wait no it doesn't. It not listen to what anyone else around you says and trying things on your own, and testing new ideas that maybe everyone else doesn't agree with, but doing it anyway. Tolerance should one of the main foundations of science and thought in this day and age.

Re:There is nothing wrong with being spiritual (1, Insightful)

smidget2k4 (847334) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391140)

Free thinking expands science. Indoctrinating people (children) into ways of thinking stifles science. It is hard to break free of 18+ years of having a belief system drilled into your head.

That being said people should be able to believe what they want, but indoctrinating children or others by force is somewhat more iffy.

Re:There is nothing wrong with being spiritual (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391206)

PROTIP: Most claiming to be "freethinkers" are not anything of the sort.

Re:There is nothing wrong with being spiritual (2, Insightful)

His Shadow (689816) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391282)

OTHER TIP: People who routinely attack others for not being free enough in their thinking are doing so because said others are not open to every retarded fuzzy minded piece of nonsense that comes down the pipe.

Proof is part of science too (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391174)

Proof is part of science too. Reproducible experimentation. Heard of it?

Prove there is a god or even a GOD.
Please.

In the closet? Interesting choice of words (3, Interesting)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391052)

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

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

Re:In the closet? Interesting choice of words (4, Insightful)

ceeam (39911) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391124)

> Science is purely objective

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

Re:In the closet? Interesting choice of words (4, Insightful)

smidget2k4 (847334) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391182)

My experience in the community is just that no one cares unless it starts effecting your science or hypotheses. Theist or atheist, if you're good at what you do no one cares. If you go around preaching to other scientists, yeah, you're opening yourself up for ridicule. But I think that is true in any field outside of the more religious areas of the US.

Re:In the closet? Interesting choice of words (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391370)

There does seem to be some imbalance, though, in that the proselytizing atheist scientists who have a huge hardon for Richard Dawkins only sometimes get ridiculed to the same extent (though it's growing, even among atheists/agnostics, as the "reddit atheist" crowd gets insufferably annoying).

Re:In the closet? Interesting choice of words (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391138)

I was often taught that education was an effective remedy for small-mindedness

Hence, 64% of "elite" scientists are atheists or agnostics and the rest just remain quiet on the subject.

Re:In the closet? Interesting choice of words (1)

DriedClexler (814907) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391192)

Why would anyone need to be "in the closet" about anything? This implies discrimination and penalties for the way you think. Scientists should be above such petty things.

No, scientists should be discriminating on exactly this basis, because science is defined by a particular way of thinking -- its reliance on naturalistic, testable hypotheses and empiricism. To the extent that people want to deviate from that while still calling it science, this kind of "discrimination" is justified.

Now, with that said, many people regard their religion as part of their cultural identity and do not endorse any of its purported claims about the universe. To the extent that many "religious" scientists are this way, or keep unscientific epistemology out of their scientific work, they shouldn't be ostracized.

Re:In the closet? Interesting choice of words (2, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391266)

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

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

Would the scientific community be justified in thinking less of the 36% of scientists that believed there was such a teapot, despite there being no evidence for it? Of course they would. Such people would rightly be considered to be cranks, not scientists. Belief in a god without any evidence for one is no different.

(Which you find more praiseworthy of the other two groups is open to debate.)

Re:In the closet? Interesting choice of words (2, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391284)

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

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

Re:In the closet? Interesting choice of words (5, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391312)

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

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

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

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

From the summary:

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

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

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

Re:In the closet? Interesting choice of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391362)

You post on Slashdot and you find it surprising that there's a bias against religion among scientists/intellectuals?

Re:In the closet? Interesting choice of words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391368)

Why would anyone need to be "in the closet" about anything? This implies discrimination and penalties for the way you think.

Let's assume that objectively speaking, a scientist who is also accepting the beliefs of any the mainstream religions I'm aware of probably is not a great scientist. I'm not talking vague "spiritualism", that one is ok, as it doesn't clash with science. You can't disprove or prove a higher purpose in the generic sense.

However, the mainstream religions which puts very concrete and often hilarious rules and characteristics to the supreme being that supposedly made us... those have a huge ball of incompatibilities with science. I'm worried for the mental health of anyone who has to deal with that humongous cognitive dissonance issue their entire lives. Well, not all scientists can be great. That's normal.

But wait. What I said *does* sound like discrimination. Am I discriminating against people whose job is using the scientific method, logic and checking their facts, while also worshiping a fairy tale guy in the sky? Or is that an actual objective criteria for weeding out bad scientists?

Is it discrimination when you won't hire someone who - you just found - secretly believes 2 + 2 = 5, for a math teacher?

I guess some research needs to be done on whether religious scientists are good scientists. But who'd do this research, if it wouldn't be the same potentially "in the closet" scientists, who may be corrupted or biased.

Jeez, what a mess. No wonder it's simpler to simply be "in the closet" about it and support the stereotype.

To make it worse, the chances are the survey cited in TFA is just bad science itself.

Re:In the closet? Interesting choice of words (1)

g4sy (694060) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391386)

there is discrimination, censorship and penalties in the scientific communities. lots of evidence of this out there, start with Ben Stein's "expelled"

other side of the coin (3, Interesting)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391054)

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

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

Re:other side of the coin (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391178)

It is more that the two views apply to things that are perpendicular. Science says "this is what is/what happens," religion says "this is just/what your behavior should be/what happens after you die". The two are not incompatible for the most part. Yes, kosher and views on homosexuality seem silly to those who do not follow the faiths involved, but all science is able to say is that there is no scientific reason for these views. I guess you could argue on circumcision as to whether it is a poor health choice in addition to serving as a covenant, and you do have those who wish to take a literal view of creation, so maybe the two are 80 degrees rather than perpendicular.

Any surprise? Not here (2, Interesting)

Mr Thinly Sliced (73041) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391060)

I mean, if you've already subscribed to the scientific process, it's opening yourself up for ridicule if you confess to the classical theological beliefs. Why?

I'll tell you why - the magical mystical god of the various books is hugely inconsistent and fails the basic logical challenges a scientific analysis demands.

Science and religion are diametrically opposed in one specific thing - religion insists on telling us "it is so", while science will treat us like adults and tell us "we don't know - here is our best guess so far".

If it's any consolation for the "but but" squad - I am unhappy with Dawkins et als representation of science. Scientific laws and theories are not _de facto_ rules of the universe, and portraying them as fact does science a disservice.

Now here come the flame mods :-)

Science answers how. (1)

Doug52392 (1094585) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391062)

But there are those questions which are impossible to answer even with cutting edge science, which is where religion comes in: to answer the "why."

Re:Science answers how. (3, Insightful)

smidget2k4 (847334) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391118)

Science can tell you "why" also, such as why the Earth is round. I don't see why can can't just leave questions unanswered and we have to make up an answer for them. Perhaps in thousands of years science will progress to the point where it is possible to answer some questions previously thought impossible. A "God of the gaps" is a silly god.

Re:Science answers how. (1)

Derosian (943622) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391326)

Yes, but this is just your concept of why there is religion to fill in the gaps of why back in the day when there were many why questions. Very convenient for you isn't it.

Re:Science answers how. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391120)

But there are those questions which are impossible to answer even with cutting edge science, which is where religion comes in: to answer the "why."

and "how" exactly do they do that !

The surest path to atheism (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391066)

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

The surest path to atheism is open discussion of religion.

More openly about religion? (1)

smidget2k4 (847334) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391068)

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

How often is religion relevant to a field of science where it needs to be discussed? Really, religion is inappropriate to discuss in scientific terms, as the entire point of religion is blind faith. Science has no place in religion, just as religion has no place in science (as in, "God did it" as a valid hypothesis, not as in the scientist's personal belief structures, which they are more than entitled to and I know many scientists who are also theists).

Re:More openly about religion? (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391126)

Yeah, I have to agree. Its not to say that science inherently disproves religion; if we talk philosophical we know we can't really prove anything beyond the shadow of a doubt, but religion is inherently unscientific. It is a proposed answer, which is to be accepted as a given truth and all other knowledge built upon that foundation. Then, if something comes along and questions one of those beliefs that makes up your moral foundation, you have to actually DEFEND the wrong answer, because otherwise what could the implications be to your life? But on the other hand science is inherently humble (or it should be) and should constantly be correcting, always aware that it has no idea wtf its saying and its just running one test after another, but slowly through the scientific method the truth becomes clear. Religion really has no business being discussed by scientists. Now, if those scientists want to come home after their science and talk openly about religion, go for it! I think the freedom of speech is one of the greatest powers (we used to) have. Everyone should feel comfortable to think about the meaning of life and to talk openly about it with others. But thats an entirely different thing from using religion IN science.

So Few Agnostics? (1)

Myu (823582) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391074)

Should we be concerned that only 30% of scientists adopt a position of agnosticism towards matters of religion? Surely in the absence of reproducible evidence either way, the scientific position is to be non-committal?

Re:So Few Agnostics? (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391190)

Agnosticism is kinda missing the point IMO. I mean, being agnostic is the only absolutely defensible view, you honestly don't know whats up and thats good to admit. But the whole question in religion is what do you BELIEVE. And while I love my empiricism and I used to be all about the agnosticism, when looking at the world and how it functions, I see patterns and I see how the universe could somewhat make sense, and then I see the Christian model and it absolutely does not make sense to me. We could live in the matrix for all I know, or maybe this is all just some child's dream. But then that would mean that most of our actions were meaningless, that most suffering was pointless, so I'd rather not believe in that universe. No, I believe in a universe that makes sense. If I take that as a given, that the universe has a purpose, and then add what science has taught me, I come to the conclusion that there is no God. The existence of any kind of God would be so obtuse and extremely complex and for God to just come about and have such arbitrary goals and demands, it just doesn't follow at all for me. But that we could live in a world where everything has slowly evolved from a very simple thing to a slightly more complex one, well, that MAKES SENSE. You can slowly look around and see how every single thing in this world is part of some gigantic fractal that we can't even imagine the sheer scale of, and it all just fits to me. So I believe there isn't a god. Its not science, I don't claim to KNOW there isn't a god, and I certainly can't prove it. But rather than just say "I don't know whats up in the universe" I'm going to say "I don't know whats up, but I believe there isn't some old God man in the sky, personally". Thats what religion is for. Its just important to remember that your religion is your beliefs, and not some holy perfect law handed down from on high.

Re:So Few Agnostics? (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391354)

Perhaps god just wanted to create something and watch it unfold like one of us would watch an ant farm? Perhaps the purpose of life is to move on to the next one where we have increased capabilities to be more like god? However, it all seems silly since there has to be an end at some point. Why would you want to continually exist to reach the next level for all eternity? Eternity is a long time, and I suspect that any sentient being would grow tired of always striving to get to the next level when there is no end in sight. Futhermore, if there is a maximum level to be obtained, we would grow bored and want a change be it non-existence or another level. If another level is created and achieved, then the process repeats ultimately ending with the being wanting an end for itself. Yep, agnosticism is the only defensible view but atheism makes sense.

Re:So Few Agnostics? (1)

Kronon (1263422) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391226)

I agree. Logically, agnosticism is the default position in the absence of evidence. I think this low rate is due to childhood indoctrination. This tends to lead to non-rational belief or rejection of the belief.

Re:So Few Agnostics? (1)

bunratty (545641) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391310)

Individual scientists, like ordinary people, have all kinds of beliefs they cannot back up with evidence. If you ask a physicist which of string theory, loop quantum gravity, or other unification theory they think will be demonstrated to be correct, they can likely give you a detailed argument about which one they think is correct, even though there is no empirical evidence yet. What science is about is all these individual scientists arguing for what they think is right, and bringing to the table their best evidence for and against all the various ideas. Even though each individual scientist may be biased one way or another, the group as a whole will not be convinced until there's very good evidence for a specific idea.

This isn't to say that when scientists agree on something that it's necessarily right. It's just that if you want to claim that it's wrong and be taken seriously, you had better provide very good evidence to support your claim.

Re:So Few Agnostics? (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391366)

Should we be concerned that only 30% of scientists adopt a position of agnosticism towards matters of religion? Surely in the absence of reproducible evidence either way, the scientific position is to be non-committal?

I would expect the default position of a scientist - given the utter lack of any evidence demonstrating the existence of god(s) - is to be atheist, based on the principle of Occam's Razor.

I smell... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391076)

I smell the templeton foundation.

Religion versus Spirituality (5, Insightful)

LKM (227954) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391080)

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

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

Re:Religion versus Spirituality (5, Funny)

Mr Thinly Sliced (73041) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391146)

I just want you know your post is deserving of mod points.

I don't get mod points anymore because in this sort of situation previously I'd look for a funny comment involving poo and other body functions and mod that up.

That's why I don't get mod points anymore.

But if I had points and there were no poo posts, you'd get it dude.

Re:Religion versus Spirituality (1)

thoughtsatthemoment (1687848) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391272)

You are confusing spirituality with emotion or passion. Spirituality has to mean something more specific. It's a belief in soul or something else that's supernatural. Spirituality maybe harmless in most cases but it still show a lack of understanding of how the human mind works, or what consciousness is all about.

Well, as long as it's closeted... (0, Flamebait)

hkz (1266066) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391082)

Well, as long as it's closeted, I don't care what safety blanket they need to survive the realities of life. Let them believe in Dog. But never, ever let them get away with fusing it into their science. Religion is at best "outside the realm" of science, which is a polite way of saying it's irrelevant to reality, which is a polite way of saying it's a harmful delusion. Fine with me if you live your life that way, but keep it to yourself.

Yeah I agree. (1)

Singularity42 (1658297) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391156)

Conventional wisdom is that scientists are religious while athletes are not--this study contradicts that!

Congrats... (1)

kikta (200092) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391184)

...on being *exactly* the type of obnoxious jackass they are worried about.

Also, if you're SO worried about them pushing their beliefs, why do you not hesitate to push yours?

Re:Congrats... (1)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391364)

Mod up please!

The anti-religious zealots are just as tedious as the religious zealots. You're convinced your answer is right and that everybody else is an idiot...sound familiar?

Here one angle (1, Interesting)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391084)

Christianity worships love for God is love.
People may say science has nothing to do with love, but they're wrong.
Many people are into science because they want to help humanity, and that is a good form of love.

Re:Here one angle (4, Insightful)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391216)

They don't, though. Thats the thing. God's all about war and violence and punishment and judgement, and Christianity worships fear more than love. Maybe there are still some out there, but the idea of the true Jesus Christian who is a pacifist and loves thy brother is extinct in my part of the US.

Objective? (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391086)

The meeting points of religion and science is one of those areas where more bullshit is printed in books than truth. So, is Elaine Ecklund herself religious or not, and does she have some agenda to push? She may not have, and may be one of those rare independent commentators. But it'd be good to find out before discussing the particular stats claimed.

Satire on groupthink... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391092)

The irony of that in a /. story.

There is no God or god. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391110)

There is no God. I feel I can say that here, but if I said that where I work, my career would be doomed. People who believe in God would trust anyone from any other religion over an atheist. source: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=1786422&page=1 [go.com]

The idea of a "God" was an invention for week minded people to have something greater than themselves to believe in AND for other people to claim a nearly-direct connection to this entity beyond what everyone else has as a way of control.

How many atheists are known to have started religious wars and tried convert entire countries or kill them if they wouldn't convert?

I'm not saying that religion is bad, just that it is bad for lots of people of different religions.

Re:There is no God or god. (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391180)

How many atheists are known to have started religious wars and tried convert entire countries or kill them if they wouldn't convert?

This is such a bullshit straw man argument that you demean yourself to repeat it. Let's just set aside the obvious circular argument that an atheist is incapable of starting a religious war. If you look at the history of warfare and genocide in the world -- modern or otherwise -- you'll find it has much more to do with money than belief, whether or not religion is cited as a motive.

Re:There is no God or god. (1)

smidget2k4 (847334) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391260)

That is true. It isn't religion that causes wars/genocides, it is religious institutions and the brainwashing that they enforce upon their members (governments who have committed such atrocities also are guilty of the exact same thing). Though I'd argue that power is more the goal than money.

agnostic and atheist not mutually exclusive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391130)

I thought that agnostic and atheist are not mutually exclusive. For example I consider myself an agnostic atheist. Are the agnostics theists, deists or atheist?

There are a lot of problems with this book (5, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391132)

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

Re:There are a lot of problems with this book (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391318)

Moreover, what religions are common if one looks at the theistic breakdown is very different. Evangelical Christianity for example is a much smaller percentage then one would get from a representative sample of theists.

Might that be because most scientists would shy away from the more idiotic branches of religion? Unless, of course, they're a YEC or one of those folks who wrote their thesis on how Jesus rode a dinosaur.

Well of course (4, Insightful)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391134)

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

relevant to their discipline (1)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391136)

I can think of one area of research where religion is relevant to the discipline: The placebo effect.
Faith plays a major role in placebos, it's belief in the healing properties of the treatment which affects the outcome.

I guess research into the transition between life and death also touches on the issue, but in a less relevant way.

Religion vs Reality (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391198)

I do not understand how religion can coexist with science. Religion is a set of rules told to you from a divine being. If you question them or pick and choose the ones you chose to accept then you are not part of that religion. This completely goes against everything science stands for. Can anyone explain why I might be confused about this?

Not real science. (3, Interesting)

GNUALMAFUERTE (697061) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391200)

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

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

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

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

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

Re:Not real science. (2, Insightful)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391352)

there was a penn and teller 'bullshit' tv episode that joked about 'taking a vote' about the sex of some animal (I think it was a rabbit but that's not important). lets 'vote' on whether we think or 'believe' this rabbit is male or female. tally up our votes. how did we do?

WHO CARES! its not a votable thing. no amount of 'we all collectively decided' is going to change facts.

it was a good convincing way to illustrate their point and in an entertaining way.

and again, it does not matter how much of the mass population is collectively deluded by notion of sky daddies. they don't exist and any amount of 'popular concensus' or even duration-based ("its been believed for 2000+ yrs!") is going to change a thing.

if you are a scientist and believe in sky daddies, your thinking processes are suspect. pretty simple. not like rocket science.

US scientists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391202)

Let's be clear, this is about US scientists. I do wonder how results are in the rest of the world.

agnostic atheist not mutually exclusive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32391204)

It is possible to be an agnostic atheist. The %30 agnostics could be agnostic deists or agnostic theist.

Remove the Stigma? (2, Insightful)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391212)

I see nothing wrong with there being a stigma against religion in science. These people have been trained their entire lives to make their positions based on factual evidence and experimental certainty. Believing in a religion, which is by its nature unprovable, flies right in the face of everything science is built upon. What OTHER things do these religious "scientists" take "on faith"?

I'm not calling for a witch hunt of religious scientists, but I do not see any reason that religion should be tolerated, in science of all places. Faith has no place in determining the truth of our universe, because it is by its nature subjective. I would seriously question findings by anyone holding a religion beyond the most basic "there might be some kind of creator," because honestly, buying into dogmatic systems of mass delusion do not show you are of sound mind.

Religion is overly tolerated in our society. We need to move towards questioning and ridiculing it, not "removing stigma" surrounding it.

Just my two cents.

Re:Remove the Stigma? (1)

Zaphod The 42nd (1205578) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391322)

Yeah, I absolutely agree. I don't want to hear that my president gets his combat orders from "God", and I don't want to hear that my scientists are all devout born again Christians. They're not, (Christians don't always make good scientists xD) but yeah, if we did have a crazy devout evangelical who was a reputable scientist, I'd want to know. It would honestly call into question every call or decision they've ever made.

Maybe another religion, one more tolerant of free thought and coming up with your own answers and one more aware of its own chance to be wrong, maybe then I'd be okay with it. But Christianity is so very much about blind faith, its ridiculous. It seems complete anathema to the scientific method and learning.

There is no relevance (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391214)

"we would need to have more scientists talking openly about issues of religion, where such issues are particularly relevant to their discipline" I dont understand why religion needs to be an issue at all. Either you believe in it or you dont, and either way you have your reasons. Religion should not be injected an any scientific discourse simply because it is not a useful means of accomplishing anything scientific. This being so, I dont see any discipline where religion is relevant accept for Sociology and Psychology both of which are very soft sciences.

Spirituality and science (5, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391278)

I think there are two kinds of spiritual people:

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

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

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

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

More data, Data, DATA, seems the most logical view (1)

Vesuvias (584893) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391286)

I honestly never understood the opposition to religion as concept. The organizations and leaders that commonly claim association with religion certainly but why the broad hatred towards all things religious. The most logical answer always seemed "we can't say for sure". Those that show extreme hatred for the religious view always struck me expressing emotional backlash against being forced to sit through a Sunday sermon full of contradiction and no scientific foundation.

Every reasonable conversation I have ever tried to have on the subject seemed to spoiled by some previous unreasonable argument that someone had to endure in the past. It always struck me as odd that reasonable people who both likely agreed with the concept of "Do unto others..." often ended up with complete disdain for each other because of the specifics of dogma and prejudicial generalizations about the people associated with either side.

Yet another religous apologist? (1)

gunne (14408) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391324)

So, what's Elaine Ecklund's religion?

Religion has absolutely no place in science. When religion gets the chance, as has been shown again and again, it tries to tell us unscientific facts about the world.
To say that religion doesn't make any claims about the physical world is either false, or produces a religion with nothing in it.

Can't we just outgrow fairy tales as a way to explain the world already?

If you're a scientist.. (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391328)

...then isn't discussing religion automatically outside of your domain?

Applying scientific rigor to religious faith generally doesn't work. But a scientist's job is to apply the scientific method to help us learn more about the world. It seems intuitive to me that scientists aren't discussing religion on a regular basis.

Science and spirituality are compatible (1)

topcoder (1662257) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391340)

I think most people have religion because emotional/psychological reasons. If the reason of the belief were 100% logical, i think there would be a more big number of atheist people, because obviously some of the claims made by religion sound completely illogical if you give some thought.

But when comfronted with such questions such as: What happens when i die? How can i be sure that what i am doing is right? How do i face tragedy? Does my life have a purpose? These are big questions that if you give some thought are handled in certain ways by religions and give (although maybe not very thoughtful) answers, and even when science may have some insights regarding these questions, these answers come a little dry and not having too much perspective about human nature.

I, for example, being a very logical person and atheist, have sometimes strugled having something to "replace" the insights and comforts given by most religions. I sometimes have felt very insecure regarding my future, and see that this is sometimes handled by the term of faith in some religions, to give you an example.

I think that if we start to think of spirituality as the wisdom to answer these kind of questions and also as an awareness of the beautifulness of life and the world, quitting all the nonsense and baggage of most religions, we could see that these two terms are not ultimately fought.

Religion =/= Christianity (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391378)

Religious can be equated as any form of spirituality, depending on how you want to interpret the numbers. Most scientists that I know have a certain level of spirituality, but this in no way equates to any organized religion.

The important issue... (0, Flamebait)

TooTechy (191509) | more than 3 years ago | (#32391384)

is, whether someone who can jump to any conclusion can be trusted not to conclude on a scientific issue where there is insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion.

Almost by definition, a scientist should not believe. If s/he does believe then they are only practicing science, they are not a scientist.

Perhaps, if we have less believers and more scientists then the facts of 'global warming/oil disaster/insert issue here' would be more obvious and less disguised behind various dogma.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>