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Scientists and Religion

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1 Scientists and Religion
This resource is designed to introduce students and faculty to the diverse religious backgrounds of scientists and to challenge students to think about how religious diversity might impact and enrich science. Most importantly, this resource seeks to debunk the myth that all (or most) scientists are atheist. As is described in the notes section of Slide 10, we welcome the expansion of this resource by other CST cohorts, students and faculty. Image source: An Introduction to the Religious Diversity of Scientists Vimla Bisht, Alvaro Baeza Garcia & Elizabeth Morse

2 Intended Audience Faculty members at both religiously-affiliated and secular institutions Students in science courses as well as interdisciplinary courses involving religion and/or science

3 Learning Goals Students will become aware of the current religious demographics among scientists and how it impacts the progress of science Students will identify resources to learn about prominent scientists’ views of science through various religious lenses

4 The Current Scientific Religious Demographic
Take a moment to consider the following question: What percentage of scientists are atheist?

5 The Current Scientific Religious Demographic
The answer? Despite prominent claims that the majority of scientists are atheist, recent surveys have found that the majority of scientists believe in a higher power.

6 In the United States, at least 51% of scientists believe in God or a higher power.
Source: Pew Research Center, 2009

7 Thus, the religious are still relatively underrepresented in science.
In contrast, 95% of the general public believes in God or a higher power. Thus, the religious are still relatively underrepresented in science. Source: Pew Research Center, 2009

8 However, not all religious affiliations are underrepresented in science.
Interestingly, in the U.S., a number of minority religious groups have increased prevalence in science compared to the general population. Source: Ecklund & Scheitle, 2007 Source: Religion among Academic Scientists: Distinctions, Disciplines, and Demographics Elaine Howard Ecklund, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York Christopher P. Scheitle, The Pennsylvania State University 2007

9 The Current Scientific Religious Demographic
How does this impact our science? Ethics - Religious backgrounds inform our ethics in science & technology: Just because we can do it, should we? Scientific Communication– If 95% of the general public believes in a higher power, how might this impact how some scientific findings might need to be communicated in the media? Funding – If some view religious and scientific ideals to be in conflict, how might this impact the election of government officials who support science? The ultimate allocated funding to scientific institutions?

10 Scientists & Religion Profiles
Over the years, a number of prominent scientists from varying religious, agnostic and atheist backgrounds have commented on the relationship between science and religion. Included here are profiles of a few of these scientists, their religious affiliations, selected quotes and additional reading/resources regarding their viewpoints. The following are just a handful of potential profiles of scientists and their religious affiliations (or lack thereof). In the future, we might encourage other CST students to add additional profiles to this resource. Similarly, instructors who use this resource might ask their students to add a profile of their own that matches their interests or curiosities. In this way, the resource could grow each class in size and diversity.

11 A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Aerospace Engineer
Born: October 15, 1931 Country: India Science: Indian scientist (DRDO, ISRO) and administrator who served as the 11th President of India. He is known as Missile Man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology. He played a pivotal in making India a nuclear power. Religion: Muslim Recommended Reading: Wings of Fire: An Autobiography “I wonder why some people tend to see science as something which takes man away from God. As I look at it, the path of science can always wind through the heart. For me, science has always been the path to spiritual enrichment and self-realization. “ – A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Wings of Fire: An Autobiography “I have always been a religious person in the sense that I maintain a working partnership with God. I was aware that the best work required more ability than I possessed and therefore I needed help that only God could give me.”

12 Francis Collins, Physician
Born: April 14, 1950 Country: United States Science: Physician, Current director of the NIH, Former director of the Human Genome Project, Founder of BioLogos Religion: Christian - considered himself an atheist in graduate school & explored religions as a physician after experiences with dying patients Recommended Reading: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Francis Collins, New York Times Best Seller), BioLogos (www.biologos.org) “Will we turn our backs on science because it is perceived as a threat to God, abandoning all the promise of advancing our understanding of nature and applying that to the alleviation of suffering and the betterment of humankind? Alternatively, will we turn our backs on faith, concluding that science has rendered the spiritual life no longer necessary, and that traditional religious symbols can now be replaced by engravings of the double helix on our alters? Both of these choices are profoundly dangerous. Both deny truth. Both will diminish the nobility of humankind. Both will be devastating to our future. And both are unnecessary. The God of the Bible is also the God of the genome. He can be worshipped in the cathedral or in the laboratory. His creation is majestic, awesome, intricate and beautiful - and it cannot be at war with itself. Only we imperfect humans can start such battles. And only we can end them.” – Francis Collins, The Language of God

13 Albert Einstein, Theoretical Physicist
Life: March 14, 1879 –April 18, 1955 Country: Germany Science: Theoretical physicist, formulated the theory of relativity, professor at the University of Berlin and University of Princeton Religion: Raised in a secular Jewish family, self-described agnostic, dissociated himself from the label “atheist” Recommended Reading: Ideas and Opinions, a compilation of Einstein’s most popular writings selected by Einstein himself “Scientific research can reduce superstition by encouraging people to think and view things in terms of cause and effect. Certain it is that a conviction, akin to religious feeling, of the rationality or intelligibility of the world lies behind all scientific work of a higher order.” - Albert Einstein, Gelegentliches “Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind.” - Albert Einstein, Science, Philosophy and Religion, A Symposium

14 Jane Goodall, Primatologist
Born: April 3, 1934 Country: Britain Science: Primatologist, world’s leading expert on chimpanzees, conservationist & animal rights activist Religion: Christian Recommended Reading: American Academy of Achievement Interview "I don't have any idea of who or what God is. But I do believe in some great spiritual power. I feel it particularly when I’m out in nature. It’s just something that's bigger and stronger than what I am or what anybody is. I feel it. And it's enough for me.“ – Jane Goodall, Reader’s Digest Interview We didn't really talk about religion that much, but the idea of God was just part of our life and I never thought much about it… the wind and the birds and the tree and the leaves and God were all intermingled as I was growing up. It was all kind of one, and I didn't really question it. - Jane Goodall, American Academy of Achievement interview

15 Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Structural Biologist
Born: 1952 Country: India, Britain Science: 2009 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry (Structure & function of ribosome), Scientist at MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology, Cambridge, England Religion: Hindu Recommended Reading: “I don't think it's the job of scientists to comment on religion and it is not the job of religion to comment on scientific methods.” – Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, The Hindu Interview 2009 “We who practice science are susceptible to the same fallacies, flaws in logic and superstitions as everybody else. It comes as part and parcel of being a human being. But, the (scientific) system doesn't allow us to be weak in our beliefs and adopt falsehoods. In other words, scientists are fallible while science is self-correcting.” – Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, The Hindu Interview 2009

16 Additional Resources Berkeley Diversity Resource: - “The Scientific Community: Diversity Makes the Difference” Pew Research Science & Religion Resources 2009 Study: 2006 Study: Ecklund & Scheitle Primary Research Article – “Religion Among Academic Scientists: Distinctions, Disciplines, and Demographics” (2007) Robert Lamb Discovery Article – “Are Scientists Atheists?” (2010) Guardian (UK) Sylvia McLain Commentary – “It's a big, fat myth that all scientists are religion-hating atheists”


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