pie charts from Pew study
In the late 90s, atheists began making the argument that less than a majority of scientists believe in God. In addition to this they argued that the National Academy of Sciences had only about 5% members who believed in God. All of this was due to the publication of a 1998 article entitled "Leading Scientists Still reject God." In that article, the author got hold of a survey done in 1914 by a guy named James Henry Luba and Nature Magazine noticed that the stats had not changed. So the conclusion that scientists are such great priests of knowledge, if they don't believe in God there must not be one.
Research on this topic began with the eminent US psychologist James H. Leuba and his landmark survey of 1914. He found that 58% of 1,000 randomly selected US scientists expressed disbelief or doubt in the existence of God, and that this figure rose to near 70% among the 400 "greater" scientists within his sample . Leuba repeated his survey in somewhat different form 20 years later, and found that these percentages had increased to 67 and 85, respectively .Atheists made the most of this since Luba echoed the fallacious conclusions they themselves drew from the data. "Leuba attributed the higher level of disbelief and doubt among "greater" scientists to their "superior knowledge, understanding, and experience" (ibid). Of course this is fallacious, scientists don't have any special knowledge that would tell them God doesn't exist or that he does. It was Nature that polled the NAS. One of the things that I argued at the time was that the questions were rigged to slant the discussion toward the fundamentalist concept of God portrayed in a literal understanding of the Bible. I argued that if you factored in a more liberal concept of God belief among scientists would go way up.
In 1996, we repeated Leuba's 1914 survey and reported our results in Nature . We found little change from 1914 for American scientists generally, with 60.7% expressing disbelief or doubt. This year, we closely imitated the second phase of Leuba's 1914 survey to gauge belief among "greater" scientists, and find the rate of belief lower than ever — a mere 7% of respondents. (Nature, ibid)
There are now several studies or surveys that reflect this assumption and a new set of findings changes the ball game. Several studies:
(1) Trow, Martin and Associates. 1969. 35% of scientists do not believe God exists. This is a lot more than the general population but a lot less than the over 50% promised by Luba and Nature. It also raises the question if the Luba and/or Nature weren't confusing the issue by assuming that "un-churched" or "non-affiliated, no religious affiliation" means the same as don't believe in God. It does not. Over and over again that distinction is made clear in the better studies.
(Carnegie Commission National Survey of Higher Education: Faculty Study [computer file]. Berkeley: University of California at Berkeley, Survey Research Center [producer]. Ann Arbor, MI: University Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor].
(2)Elaine Ecklund, and Christopher Scheitle: Disbelief in the existence of God was not correlated with any particular area of expertise:
That contradicts the findings of nature which had most unbelief in hard sciences (physics and biology) and more belief in 'soft' or social sciences. Elaine Ecklund, and Christopher Scheitle" questioned 2,198 faculty members in the disciplines of physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, economics, political science, and psychology from 21 elite U.S. research universities.4 Overall, 75% of professors contacted completed the survey."
Euklund and associates also found that in a sample of 21 major universities only 15% of scientists found that science and religion were always at odds. Euklund's findings show that factors which lead scientists to be unbelieving are not usually related to science but to personal aspects of their lives, such as being emigrants, or being raised in atheist households. It's a cultural thing. Think about it, if a kid is bright he wants to excel in the things to which he is exposed, he going to be more likely to go into a religious vacation if he's exposed to religion and less likely if he's form an unbelieving background. The odds are a bright kid will go into science rather than business if his temperament doesn't lead him/her into liberal arts.
"Instead, particular demographic factors, such as age, marital status, and presence of children in the household, seem to explain some of the religious differences among academic scientists... Most important, respondents who were raised in religious homes, especially those raised in homes where religion was important are most likely to be religious at present."3) Pew Forum on religion in pubic life: (2009) 51% of scientists believe in some form of diety
According to the poll, just over half of scientists (51%) believe in some form of deity or higher power; specifically, 33% of scientists say they believe in God, while 18% believe in a universal spirit or higher power. By contrast, 95% of Americans believe in some form of deity or higher power, according to a survey of the general public conducted by the Pew Research Center in July 2006. Specifically, more than eight-in-ten Americans (83%) say they believe in God and 12% believe in a universal spirit or higher power. Finally, the poll of scientists finds that four-in-ten scientists (41%) say they do not believe in God or a higher power, while the poll of the public finds that only 4% of Americans share this view.The finding here totally contradicts Luba and the atheist argument. They would have it that more than half don't believe. It's much less than the general public but much more than Luba thought.
A surprising finding is that medical doctors tend to be very religious.
The first study of physician religious beliefs has found that 76 percent of doctors believe in God and 59 percent believe in some sort of afterlife. The survey, performed by researchers at the University and published in the July issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that 90 percent of doctors in the United States attend religious services at least occasionally, compared to 81 percent of all adults. Fifty-five percent of doctors say their religious beliefs influence how they practice medicine.
These results were not anticipated. Religious belief tends to decrease as education and income levels increase, yet doctors are highly educated and, on average, well compensated. The finding also differs radically from 90 years of studies showing that only a minority of scientists (excluding physicians) believes in God or an afterlife.
“We did not think physicians were nearly this religious,” said study author Farr Curlin, Instructor in Medicine and a member of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University. “We suspect that people who combine an aptitude for science with an interest in religion and an affinity for public service are particularly attracted to medicine. The responsibility to care for those who are suffering and the rewards of helping those in need resonate throughout most religious traditions.”
In the general popularization belief my decline with increases in education but this is not so among the most educated. Professors across the board (all subjects) reflect belief in God similar to that of the General Population. My own explanation is that people who get degrees and go into non-acadmeic jobs know just enough to be dangerous, they don't continue the life of thought they know the old image of atheism was an intellectual image but they don't keep up with learning and thinking as professors do.
Tim Radford writes an article for the Guardian (sept 2003) on how science doesn't have all the answers, give several examples of scientists who have religious beliefs:
Colin Humphreys is a dyed-in-the-wool materialist. That is, he is professor of materials science at Cambridge. He believes in the power of science to explain the nature of matter. He believes that humans - like all other living things - evolved through the action of natural selection upon random mutation. He is also a Baptist. He believes in the story of Moses, as recounted in the biblical book of Exodus. He believes in it enough to have explored Egypt and the Holy Land in search of natural or scientific explanations for the story of the burning bush, the 10 plagues of Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea and the manna that fell in the wilderness -and then written a book about it.Radford expresses surprise that so many scientists believe in God, even with the old figures that gave atheists such solace. The figure he uses is the outdated 4 in 10. We have to keep in mind atheism is not a rational choice made by thinking machines who feel nothing. It's an emotional choice made by people with low self esteem. They need to put themselves up by putting Christians down. They can't say they hate God, even though they hate themselves and thus they must hate at least the idea of a creator, so the next best thing is to hate those who believe in God. It's very important for them emotionally to believe that they are smarter and that all intelligent people validate their world view. The atheist ideology suggests that science is a priesthood of knowledge and scientists are the only people who know anything. These are not rational analysis based upon empirical data from studies, but articles of faith.
"I believe that the scientific world view can explain almost anything," he says. "But I just think there is another world view as well."
Tom McLeish is professor of polymer physics at Leeds. Supermarket plastic bags are polymers, but so are spider's silk, sheep's wool, sinew and flesh and bone. His is the intricate world of what is, and how it works, down to the molecular level. He delights in the clarity and power of science, precisely because it is questioning rather than dogmatic. "But the questions that arise, and the methods we use to ask them, can be traced back to the religious tradition in which I find myself. Doing science is part of what it means in that tradition to be human. Because we find ourselves in this puzzling, extraordinary universe of pain and beauty, we will also find ourselves able to explore it, by adopting the very successful methods of science," he says.
Russell Stannard is now emeritus professor of physics at the Open University. He is one of the atom-smashers, picking apart the properties of matter, energy, space and time, and the author of a delightful series of children's books about tough concepts such as relativity theory. He believes in the power of science. He not only believes in God, he believes in the Church of England. He, like Tom McLeish, is a lay reader. He has con tributed Thoughts for the Day to Radio 4, those morning homilies on the mysteries of existence. Does it worry him that science - his science - could be about to explain the whole story of space, time matter and energy without any need for a Creator? "No, because a starting point you can have is: why is there something rather than nothing? Why is there a world? Now I cannot see how science could ever provide an answer," he says.