Whereas studies have suggested that disbelief among scientists is higher than that of the general population there is still a large portion of scientists who believe in God, or in some form of transcendent being. One atheist scientist, Lawrence Krauss, conceded that “Science does not make it impossible to believe in God. We should recognize that fact and live with it and stop being so pompous about it” (1). In one study in 1969 the Carnegie Commission National Survey of Higher Education: Faculty Study data suggested that approximately 35% of scientists did not believe in the existence of God.
In another major study Elaine Ecklund and Christopher Scheitle questioned 2198 faculty members from a variety of academic disciples – these included that of physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, economics, political science, and psychology from 21 elite American research universities (2). Overall, 75% of professors contacted by the pair of researchers completed the survey, and it was found that among the different disciplines, disbelief in the existence of God was not correlated with any particular area of expertise. The study suggested the following (the percentages represent atheist numbers):
- Physics: 40.8%
- Chemistry: 26.6%
- Biology: 41%
Total = 37.6%
- Sociology: 34%
- Economics: 31.7%
- Political science: 27%
- Psychology: 33%
Total = 31.2%
This figures suggest that no particular field is associated with disbelief in God’s existence. However, there are several other factors that do play a role in disbelief, for example, the study found that those scientists who were immigrants disbelieved in God to a greater degree than those who were born and raised in America. The study also found that scientists come disproportionately from non-religious or religiously liberal backgrounds compared to the general population – that suggests that at least some part of the difference in religiosity between scientists and the general population is probably due to religious upbringing rather than scientific training or institutional pressure to be irreligious. In another study conducted by the Pew Research Center we find:
- 33% of scientists believe in a personal God.
- 18% believe in a higher power.
- 41% don’t believe in God or a higher power.
- 7% don’t know.
This would suggest that 51% of scientists believe in some form of a divine being or higher power whereas 41% do not, which would indicate that atheists do not command the majority of scientists. For the atheist to suggest otherwise it would come over, to the religious believer, as somewhat dishonest. Historian Jeffrey Russell concludes:
“If it were true that Christianity and science were incompatible, there would be no Christians who were respected scientists. If fact, about forty percent of professional natural scientists are practicing Christians, and many others are theists of other kinds” (3).
1. Lawrence Krauss quoted by George Johnson in A Free-for-All on Science and Religion (2006). Available.
2. Ecklund, E. 2007. Religion among Academic Scientists: Distinctions, Disciplines, and Demographics. Available.
2. Jeffrey Russell quoted by Quotes Codex. Available.