The Cardus website is featuring a review of the book Science vs Religion: What Do Scientist Really Believe? In this book Elaine Ecklund encourages us “to cross the picket lines separating science and religion” and join in appreciative discussion.
The book presents several findings of Ecklunds research:
1.Despite stereotypes, scientists are not entirely irreligious or unspiritual. Around 50% of elite natural and social scientists identify with a religious tradition.
2.Most scientists made decisions about their spiritual lives before entering science. That means that those without any religious or spiritual commitments may have chosen science because of what they thought; science may not have caused their distance from spiritual practices.
3.Elite scientists who are not at all religious—despite being highly educated, and despite operating in high profile positions—are often very ignorant of even rudimentary aspects of various religious traditions.
4.Scientists are often completely unaware of their colleagues’ religious orientation because it is either not talked about at all (being deemed inappropriate within the halls of science) or disparaged, under the assumption that being a scientist means being an atheist or agnostic.
5.Scientists who reject God and religion have similar reasons as the general population: existence of evil and suffering, bad religion, bad personal experiences, and cognitive dissonance.
6.Younger scientists are more religious than older scientists—the inverse of the general population, where older people tend to be more religious than younger people.
Ecklund argues that science and religious faith need each other.
Accepting only what can be verified scientifically (scientism) is a wholly inadequate and impossible way to live a life, according to most Americans. Similarly, rejecting all of science in favour of only religiously-derived knowledge will leave the American public open to the very real dangers of uncontrolled fundamentalism, superstition, and regressions of the worst kind.
She encourages believing scientists to be courageous in speaking about how they reconcile science and their beliefs for the sake of improvement in the way that science and religion relate. We need scientists who are both credible in their scientific community and understand enough about religion and spirituality to speak knowledgeably. I would add that we also need faithful and courageous Christians who have enough knowledge of science, and the philosophical limits of science, to join the conversation.