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Does It Matter That Many Scientists Are Atheists?

Posted by markdohle , 09 July 2013 · 378 views

One fact that concerns some Christians and elates some atheists is that 93 percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences, one of the most elite scientific organizations in the United States, do not believe in God. Atheist Sam Harris says that, “This suggests that there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is.”
Should Christians be concerned that so many of these intelligent people don’t believe in God? I don’t think so, and here’s why.
Check the numbers


First, the National Academy of Sciences represents a small number of scientists. The Academy itself comprises only about 2,000 members, while there are more than 2 million scientists employed in the United States as a whole. This means that the NAS only represents about one-tenth of one percent of all scientists in the nation. Using this statistic alone to prove scientists are overwhelmingly atheists would be inaccurate.
A more accurate description comes from the Pew Research Center, which reported in 2009 that 51 percent of scientists believe that God or some higher power exists, while 41 percent of scientists reject both of those concepts. In addition, while only 2 percent of the general population identifies as atheist, 17 percent of scientists identify themselves with that term.
But now we have to consider another important set of factors: Is it science that turns people into atheists? Or is it atheism that turns people into scientists?
Elaine Ecklund’s recent book Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think shows that scientists are more religious than we realize. In the course of her interviews she found that many scientists reject religion for personal reasons prior to becoming scientists (as opposed to rejecting religion solely on scientific grounds).
It is unfortunate that secular people feel more compelled to study the natural sciences than religious people, because some of our greatest scientific discoveries have come from people of faith (Gregor Mendel and Fr. Georges Lemaitre instantly come to mind).
Indeed, I have the pleasure of having a father-in-law who is a devout Catholic and a literal rocket scientist.


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