Scientists Seem To Lean Towards Irreligion For Nonscientific Reasons

Is knowledge of science somehow in conflict with being religious? Childhood religious background, not exposure to scientific education, seems to be the most powerful predictor of future irreligion. Those scientists raised in almost any faith tradition are more likely to currently be religious than those raised without any tradition.<sup>12</sup> In addition, scientists who describe religion as important in their families as children are much more likely to practice faith currently.<sup>13</sup> When compared to the general population, a larger proportion of scientists are raised in non-religious homes.<sup>14</sup> When one considers that many more scientists come from non-religious homes or homes that were nominally religious, the distinctions between the general population and the scientific community make more sense. A large part of the difference between scientists and the general population may be due more to religious upbringing, rather than scientific training or university pressure to be irreligious, although these other possibilities should be further explored. <i>The footnotes are as follows:</i> <sup>12</sup> The exception is among academic scientists raised Jewish, who do not differ substantially in their religiosity from those raised with no religious tradition. <sup>13</sup>Another way to examine the impact of religious upbringing is through predicted probabilities. For instance, consider two sociologists who are male, in the 18-35 range, born in the United States, have no children and are currently married. One was raised in a Protestant denomination and religion was “very important” while growing up. The other was raised as a religious “none” and religion was “not at all important” while growing up. Analyses of the RAAS survey reveals that the former has a predicted probability of 14 percent for saying that he does not believe in God. This compares to a 54 percent chance of the latter saying he does not believe, a striking difference. These differences do not offer conclusive evidence about the causes of disproportionate self-selection of scientists from certain religious backgrounds into the scientific disciplines. They do, however, offer potential for explaining the differences in religiosity between scientists and the general population. <sup>14</sup> In the 2004 GSS, 100% (n=60) of the respondents who were raised Jewish say that they are religious “liberals.”

source: Religion and Spirituality among University Scientists, by Elaine Howard Ecklund, Feb 05, 2007, http://religion.ssrc.org/reforum/Ecklund/ tags: Apologetics, Atheism, Science