PLEASE NOTE:

MyNews24 is a user-generated section of News24.com. The stories here come from users.

 
Ryan Peter
 
Comments: 242
Article views: 3205
 
 
Latest Badges:


 
View all Ryan Peter's badges.
 

Do real scientists struggle to believe in God?

28 February 2014, 07:16
There's a popular idea that I often see that says that the majority of “real” scientists in the world do not believe in God and scientists who are theists are in the minority. I thought it would be an interesting topic to bring up after seeing some of the conversation going down at the blog entitled How to make Religion and Science Agree Debunked Part 1, where Gmitch takes Xfactor to task for trying to make science and religion 'agree'.

Despite the fact that saying that the majority of scientists do not believe in God is one massive appeal to authority, it's not exactly how things are right now – or, at least according to the info I could find on the net.

In 2009 the respected research organisation the Pew Forum conducted a poll to find out how many scientists in America believed in God, or a higher power, and how many didn't believe in either. It's findings – found here – were that 51% of scientists believed in some form of deity while 41% did not. (The rest either didn't know or refused to answer.) In the details, here's what it looked like:

33% of scientists believe in God
18% don't believe in God but do believe in a universal spirit or higher power
41% don't believe either
7% don't know / refused


(These are obviously rounded-off numbers as there is a missing 1%)

Interestingly, when Pew polled the public it was a very different story. 83% said they believed in God, 12% in a universal spirit and higher power, 4% in neither.

What I found more interesting with regards to the scientists is that it doesn't seem like much has changed. In 1914 another poll found similar results – 42% said they believed in a personal God while the “same number [said] they did not.”

In 1996, a similar poll revealed that 40% of scientists believed in a personal God and 45 percent not. Pew says other similar surveys reveal the same results.

That's 100 years and there isn't too much of a change amongst practicing scientists and their beliefs – except for a new category of 'higher power' in the mix. I'll get to that later.

What scientists?


In the article the scientists polled included those in the disciplines of “Biological and medical”, “Chemistry”, “Geosciences” and “Physics and astronomy”. The highest that said they believed in God were in chemistry, the highest that said they don't believe in either a God or a higher power were in the Geosciences. That also had the most of all the scientists that believed in a “higher power”.

Key take-aways from the data


Here's what I see reading this:

1. Many practicing scientists seem to have no problem correlating some kind of theist belief with their scientific work.

This doesn't prove that theism is true any more than the number of atheist scientists prove that atheism is true. It does go to show, however, that science isn't everything and that theistic beliefs and science can work together in practice (unlike what is popularly thought). Effectively, it means that the popular idea that science and theism are at odds is simply not true in practice.

2. Only slightly more scientists in America believe in some form of a God than those who don't (51%) therefore it's not true that theists are the minority. It's actually about equal.

Admittedly, this is America – maybe it looks different worldwide, I can't say. Note that this doesn't make theism true any more than if the numbers were the other way around it would make atheism true. Using the numbers to prove one belief as true over the other is just an appeal to authority and nothing more. It really is more equal than anything else – 51 percent isn't much. (Let's hope that's all the ANC get in the next elections!)

But it leads to my next point(s):

3. Despite what's going in the academia in America, it seems to be having very little effect.

Interestingly, the biggest age group of scientists to believe in God are the youngsters (18 – 34) – 42% believing in God with 24% believing in a higher power. One would expect that the older scientists would be the stauncher theists, because technically speaking the old academia was (supposedly) filled with more theists. I can't know that for sure, it is a guess. But academia is arguably more atheistic than ever these days, yet those coming through those ranks seem to not be affected by that.

4. This may say more about culture than anything else

Given that in almost 100 years the surveys are showing more or less the same thing it may say more about how culture influences scientists instead of science and 'cold, hard facts'. I think the category that's actually going to grow, if American culture continues to go like it's going right now, is going to be that small category who don't believe in God but believe in some kind of higher power. That's because American culture is still a very spiritual one, but people tend to believe in a personal, non-systematic spirituality. Pop-culture reflects this and the rise of the 'nones' as a religious affiliation. It doesn't mean more people are becoming unbelievers, it means more people are becoming “un-affiliators” of a specific system of belief, choosing to create their own personal, individualistic spirituality.

On the public sphere, while a higher percentage claimed they believed in “God” in the survey, I don't believe that means they believe in a Judeo-Christian God. Oprah, for instance, says she believes in “God” but when it comes down to it she believes in something she calls God that really looks much like her own, personal god, that's a bit of a mix between the Judeo-Christian God and Buddhism and Eckhart Tolle's stuff, plus other ideas.

Therefore, for most people, scientists included, science in itself is not really as big as an influence as they may claim – what influences them is culture, and that culture influences their interpretation of scientific data. Of course I'm making unsubstantiated claims, but this is just my thought on the matter based on casual observation, no one has to agree with it. But this is partly why looking at science in itself, for me, isn't going to get one anywhere in deciding on God's existence – you have to also include what philosophy and theology have to offer.
Disclaimer: All articles and letters published on MyNews24 have been independently written by members of News24's community. The views of users published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24. News24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

 

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
242 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
akaRags
Who cares?

So who will make a difference when it comes to decreasing the high and violent crime rate in this country?Certainly not an angry expat who only posts stories onto Facebook. Read more...

0 comments 8 views
Submitted by
Onthatile Mogotji
Back to colonialization – 39 year...

In 1976 students all over South Africa protested when the government of the time wanted to introduce Afrikaans into black schools. The infamous Soweto uprising and the killing of people as a consequence. Read more...

26 comments 2188 views
Submitted by
Blackie Coco White
Why racism in rugby must fall...

On that fateful day in 1995, when a great black icon - other than Shaka or Dingaan - dared to cross the threshold of a laager, time stood still... And a country held its collective breath.  Read more...

26 comments 980 views
Submitted by
Hubert Khobane
R 19 billion and 36 000 ghost emp...

The Northwest Province has set a record, no not a local record, nor a national record, but for that matter and international record! Read more...

10 comments 1309 views
Submitted by
ohomen171
Memories OF Rats On Okinawa 44 Ye...

Last night Elena made a list of all of the countries that she had visited around the world. Her list came to 22-23 countries. Read more...

6 comments 771 views
Submitted by
Edward Strick
Farewell South Africa

Leaving South Africa is extremely hard no matter how excited you are about your new ventures, the exit stamp at immigration is your first “final boarding call”.  Read more...

22 comments 4206 views
 

services

E-mail Alerts The latest headlines in your inbox

RSS feeds News delivered really simply.

Mobile News24 on your mobile or PDA

E-mail Newsletters You choose what you want

News24 on Android Get the latest from News24 on your Android device.

SMS Alerts Get breaking news stories via SMS.

Blogs Your opinion on you, me and everyone.

TV Get us in your home, on your television.

 
Interactive Advertising Bureau
 
© 2015 24.com. All rights reserved.
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.