Leading scientists still reject God

By Rosa Rubicondior | 1 February 2023
Rosa Rubicondior Blog

God the Father by Guercino. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain)

Leading scientists still reject God | Nature

I’m grateful to David Edwards whose comment on my blog post, Creationism in Crisis – How the Bible Narrative Misled 19th Century Palaeontologists drew my attention to this correspondence published in Nature a few years ago.

It is yet more bad news for those few dupes who still believe the absurd Creationist lie that the Theory of Evolution is a theory in crisis and about to be replaced by their childish superstition complete with magic and unproven supernatural entities.

In their correspondence, the authors, Edward J. Larson, of the Department of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA and Larry Witham of Burtonsville, Maryland, USA, report on the findings of a survey which shows that disbelief [in a god] is almost total amongst “top natural scientists”.

The authors repeated the survey conducted in 1914 by the eminent psychiatrist, James H. Leuba, in which he found that 58% of 1000 randomly selected scientist expressed doubt or disbelief in the existence of God and that this figure rose to near 70% among the 400 “greater” scientists in his sample.

On repeating his survey 20 years later in 1933 (published in 1934), Leuba found that these percentages had risen to 67 and 85, respectively. He attributed this higher level of disbelief in the “greater” scientists to their “superior knowledge, understanding, and experience”. This view was echoed by Peter Atkins of Oxford University in his comment on Larson’s and Witham’s 1996 paper, in which he said, ““You clearly can be a scientist and have religious beliefs. But I don’t think you can be a real scientist in the deepest sense of the word because they are such alien categories of knowledge.”

It was in response to this and similar comments that Larson & Witham decided to rerun the second phase of Leuba’s study to compare the religious beliefs of “greater” and “lesser” scientists. They defined “greater” scientists as those belonging to the US National Academy of Sciences:

[Their] survey found near universal rejection of the transcendent by NAS natural scientists. Disbelief in God and immortality among NAS biological scientists was 65.2% and 69.0%, respectively, and among NAS physical scientists it was 79.0% and 76.3%. Most of the rest were agnostics on both issues, with few believers. We found the highest percentage of belief among NAS mathematicians (14.3% in God, 15.0% in immortality). Biological scientists had the lowest rate of belief (5.5% in God, 7.1% in immortality), with physicists and astronomers slightly higher (7.5% in God, 7.5% in immortality

Chart of changing beliefs over time

See the above table.

The dfifference between their study and Leuba’s study was that Leuba’s obtained his list of scientists from the then current reference work, American Men of (AMS) in which scientists were designated as “great” by the editor. This designation is no longer used in the current editions, hence Larson & Witham used the NAS membership list.

Interestingly, Larson & Witham believe their method generated a more elite list of “greater” scientists, hence they had an even lower belief in God and human immortality.

This then explains why a major part of the Discovery Institute’s Wedge Strategy is to attack and try to discredit science and the scientific method to undermine public confidence in scientists to present an objective view of reality, and also why they rarely, if ever, try to present objective evidence to support creationism – which would be far more easily discredited.

The strategy is to destroy public confidence in the scientific consensus and just allow parochial ignorance and cultural chauvinism to do the rest, confident that the scientifically illiterate will simply assume that the childish Creationism they were inculcated with as children by parents, peers and authority figures in their culture, defaults to true unless proven otherwise.

The “Wedge Strategy” was launched in secret in 1992 with 5-year and 20-year objectives. The fact that it was launched in secret and it’s authorship was denied by the Discovery Institute for so long, betrays the hidden political agenda that the far-right Christians conservatives behind it want to keep hidden, because it’s actually a political strategy, not a scientific, cultural or educational one.

The 5-year strategy was to insert Creationism in the form of “Intelligent [sic] Design” into mainstream academia; the 20-yer strategy was nothing short of a Christian Dominionist theocracy in America.

That was 31 years ago, during which time, Creationism has declined from the view of a significant proportion of non-scientific Americans to below 40% and acceptance of the TOE as the explanation for human origins has risen from 9% to 19%, most markedly in the young; every court case aimed at overcoming the constitutional bar on teaching Creationism in US public schools has been lost and recent polls have recorded a decline in religious fundamentalism and a rejection of creationism, again, most sharply in the young in the USA.

As I repeatedly show in these blog posts, mainstream research biologists still depend on the TOE to explain their results and to formulate testable hypotheses. It remains as true today as the day Michael Behe admitted it the Kitzmiller case, “There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.”

Intelligent [sic] Design offers nothing by way of explanation or prediction and it remains entirely unfalsifiable because it has the childish notions of magic and unproven supernatural entities at its heart.

Albeit slowly and belatedly, the USA is catching up with the rest of the developed world in accepting the scientific explanations and rejecting religious superstitions.

Rosa Rubicondior (a pseudonym) is a retired data analyst, biologist, blogger, author and atheist.

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