Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

Discussion about scientific issues as they relate to God and Christianity including archaeology, origins of life, the universe, intelligent design, evolution, etc.
Frogsterking
Acquainted Member
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Jan 15, 2012 9:54 am
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Creation Position: Theistic Evolution
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 0

Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#1

Post by Frogsterking » Sat May 12, 2012 1:43 pm

An overwhelming amount of philosophers and scientists are atheists. Why? Doesn't that make Christianity look bad?

narnia4
Senior Member
Posts: 560
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2010 12:44 pm
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Creation Position: Undecided
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 1 time

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#2

Post by narnia4 » Sat May 12, 2012 7:12 pm

People may think it makes Christians look bad if they only take a superficial look at the statistics, but I've looked into this issue after getting sick of hearing about the low number of Christians in academics over and over. For some atheists it seems to become their primary argument, even though its just argumentum ad populum I studied up a bit.

One thing about statistics is that they need to be interpreted. You have to take a lot of precaution to avoid confusing correlation and causation. With skeptics eager to make Christians look bad, however, they throw all that out the window. One word about Christians and low IQ or Christians and lack of science, and secularists jump on it immediately.

I'm going to give a few general ideas about how you could interpret the numbers, and I'd say they are much more valid than "Har har, christians are stoopid!"

1. Those Christians who are interested in philosophical questions may also be interested in theology (in fact I'd say that's probably the case). So rather than go into a field that secularists had "taken control of", Christians feel called to become pastors and theologians. Atheists and agnostics who like to ask "big questions" then go into philosophy.

2. A very high number of those in the medical field are Christians. In fact, I read one study that indicated that a higher number of medical professionals believe in God than the general population (and a lower number are atheists). That is if I remember the numbers rightly (and if it isn't higher than the general population it isn't much lower), I also recall that doctors are more likely to take their families to religious services. So those Christians that are interested in science may feel led to become doctors, nurses, etc. And that is unusual, while the number of professionals who are Christians is still high, they are usually less

3. If you think of it from a practical standpoint, the American church and the secular academic culture have both been saying that Christians don't belong in philosophy or science. So Christians just don't get into those fields, younger Christians just aren't as interested. That's what you'd expect given the propaganda from both sides. Fortunately some of that has changed in more recent years, but a big part of it is just demographics and interest level. Its not that Christians who get into science or philosophy suddenly deconvert.

4. You're overstating the case, especially in the sciences. An article on this very site gives the result of a survey of 21 elite research universities. The survey showed that 37.6 percent of faculty members in biology, physics, and chemistry strongly disbelieved in God. Another survey (if you want links I can try to give them up) showed that at other universities the number of faculty who believe in God is higher. If I remember correctly, the total number of professors overall (across all disciplines and counting agnostics) who don't believe in God is about 20%.

5. For some its just a matter of priorities. Getting a doctorate degree takes a lot of dedication, in fact it pretty much has to be your life. Christians are more likely to get married and have families, obviously a priority shift. With a family you might not devote 100% to, say, joining the National Academy of Sciences. Many Christians do become science teachers and professors, but they are less likely to get to the top level. There might be a little bit of secular bias in there as well, I have heard some scary stories. But for the most part, I think demographics are the big issue.

6. Some have talked about the field of philosophy being desecularized. While the vast majority are still atheists/agnostics, younger philosophers/graduate students ARE more likely to believe in God. What field of philosophy is most likely to deal with the question as to whether God exists or not? I'd say philosophy of religion. And a couple of recent surveys show that over 70% of philosophers of religion are Christian.

7. Finally, you have to differentiate between Christianity and Christians. While an argument from authority can be a weak but valid argument, the argument is only valid if it appeals to the correct authority. I don't see why a biologist or philosopher of mind should be seen as an authority rather than someone who, you know, actually studies theology.

So long story short- if you look in-depth at the numbers, the picture in all of academia isn't quite as scary as some Christians make it look. For the most part, the numbers have been overstated and can be explained. While I do think its a negative that Christians became detached for some time, most of this can be explained without making Christians look bad.
Young, Restless, Reformed

User avatar
Gman
Old School
Posts: 6081
Joined: Wed May 31, 2006 10:36 pm
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Creation Position: Day-Age
Location: Northern California
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 1 time

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#3

Post by Gman » Sat May 12, 2012 7:56 pm

Frogsterking wrote:An overwhelming amount of philosophers and scientists are atheists. Why? Doesn't that make Christianity look bad?
If you are implying that these scientists are smart I hope not... Because many don't even know how to tie their own shoes.. I mean literally.. It's absolute complete confusion.
The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false - Galileo

We learn from history that we do not learn from history - Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

Ivellious
Esteemed Senior Member
Posts: 1046
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:48 pm
Christian: No
Sex: Male
Creation Position: I don't believe in creation
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 0

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#4

Post by Ivellious » Sat May 12, 2012 10:41 pm

If you are implying that these scientists are smart I hope not... Because many don't even know how to tie their own shoes.. I mean literally.. It's absolute complete confusion.
Care to clarify/justify that statement? Are you saying all non-Christian scientists are stupid? All non-Christians in general? From the sounds of that statement you may want to re-evaluate your own ignorant biases before commenting on the intelligence of scientists everywhere.

User avatar
1over137
Technical Admin
Posts: 5240
Joined: Tue May 10, 2011 6:05 am
Christian: Yes
Sex: Female
Creation Position: Undecided
Location: Slovakia
Has liked: 137 times
Been liked: 297 times

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#5

Post by 1over137 » Sat May 12, 2012 11:21 pm

It's not mission of Christians to flood universities. There are many talented young people who decides to go to seminary and later serve people.
But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
-- 1 Thessalonians 5:21

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
-- Philippians 1:6

#foreverinmyheart

sandy_mcd
Esteemed Senior Member
Posts: 1000
Joined: Mon Feb 14, 2005 3:56 pm
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 0

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#6

Post by sandy_mcd » Sat May 12, 2012 11:23 pm

Gman wrote:Because many don't even know how to tie their own shoes.. I mean literally.
Ivellious wrote: Are you saying all non-Christian scientists are stupid?
Well, let's apply the rules of logic.
These scientist people spend their lives studying science and come to various opinions.
Gman has essentially no scientific training, yet he can clearly see that a lot of what scientists believe can't be true.
Conclusion: scientists are pretty stupid.

or this guy won some prize
James Dewey Watson (1928 - )

Jochen Kumm
James Watson, one of the most influential researchers in the short history of the field of genetics, was born on April 6, 1928, in Chicago. A precocious student, he entered the University of Chicago at the age of 15 and graduated in 1947. Both Harvard and CalTech turned him down for graduate studies, apparently unappreciative of his extensive background in the classics and his passion for bird watching. So Watson ended up at Indiana, where he gathered up his Ph.D. in genetics, setting out on the "search for the gene."

In 1950, Watson joined the Cavendish laboratories at a time when Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, Rosalind Franklin, and Linus Pauling were racing to determine the structure of DNA. The X-ray crystallography experiments of Franklin and Wilkins provided much information about DNA - in particular that DNA was a molecule in which two "strands" formed a tightly linked pair. Crick and Watson made the intuitive leap: in 1953, they proposed that the structure of DNA was a winding helix in which pairs of bases (adenine paired with thymine and guanine paired with cytosine) held the two strands together. The Watson-Crick model of the DNA double helix provided enormous impetus for research in the emerging fields of molecular genetics and biochemistry, and Crick, Watson, and Wilkins were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.

In subsequent decades, Watson taught at Harvard and CalTech, and he became director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York. He has made considerable contributions to the understanding of the genetic code, in which triplets of DNA base pairs identify amino acids and thereby control protein synthesis facilitated by DNA templates.

Watson's successful association with Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was an unexpected development. Known to leave his shoes untied because of his absentmindedness, Watson nevertheless became a brilliant fundraiser and advocate for basic research in science. ...


But there's hope:http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang ... lly_le.php
Ethan Siegel is a theoretical astrophysicist in Portland, OR.
Weekend Diversion: I Finally Learned to Tie My Shoes!
Category: Random Stuff
Posted on: February 26, 2012 5:04 AM, by Ethan Siegel

"Creativity often consists of merely turning up what is already there. Did you know that right and left shoes were thought up only a little more than a century ago?" -Bernice Fitz-Gibbon
Yes, I have a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. Yes, I've spent years as a professional scientist, an award-winning physics teacher and professor, and a professional science communicator. And earlier this month, I learned that all of that hasn't kept me from tying my shoes incorrectly for the past 29 years. Not only that, but if you put as little thought into tying your shoes as I did, you've got a 50-50 shot of tying them wrong yourself! Widespread Panic has their own advice about how you gotta
Tie Your Shoes,
but I'm going to tell you how I got into this mess, and how you can see whether you've fallen into the same trap. We all start out on the same footing, so to speak, with untied shoes on our feet.

User avatar
Byblos
Old School
Posts: 6011
Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2005 12:21 pm
Christian: Yes
Location: NY
Has liked: 100 times
Been liked: 142 times

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#7

Post by Byblos » Sun May 13, 2012 5:04 am

Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

The answer is very simple, because classical philosophy has been all but forgotten by modern philosophy and for good reason, it has no answer for it. And when you can't provide a rational rebuttal, the smart thing to do is to ignore it and build another movement.
Let us proclaim the mystery of our faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.

Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.

User avatar
neo-x
Ultimate Member
Posts: 3560
Joined: Sat Mar 26, 2011 2:13 am
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Has liked: 228 times
Been liked: 106 times
Contact:

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#8

Post by neo-x » Sun May 13, 2012 5:16 am

Frogsterking » Sun May 13, 2012 2:43 am

An overwhelming amount of philosophers and scientists are atheists. Why? Doesn't that make Christianity look bad?
How so? religion is not science. As Hana so rightly pointed out, many smart people go to seminaries, as well. You just don't know about them. I know a few very intelligent people who went into theological studies instead of being doctors. Intelligence overall has no bearing on who's right or wrong. The question itself is a loaded one, for it assumes that the belief of scientists or philosophers validate Christianity, it doesn't.
It would be a blessing if they missed the cairns and got lost on the way back. Or if
the Thing on the ice got them tonight.

I could only turn and stare in horror at the chief surgeon.
Death by starvation is a terrible thing, Goodsir, continued Stanley.
And with that we went below to the flame-flickering Darkness of the lower deck
and to a cold almost the equal of the Dante-esque Ninth Circle Arctic Night
without.


//johnadavid.wordpress.com

User avatar
Gman
Old School
Posts: 6081
Joined: Wed May 31, 2006 10:36 pm
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Creation Position: Day-Age
Location: Northern California
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 1 time

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#9

Post by Gman » Sun May 13, 2012 8:52 am

sandy_mcd wrote:Well, let's apply the rules of logic.
These scientist people spend their lives studying science and come to various opinions.
Gman has essentially no scientific training, yet he can clearly see that a lot of what scientists believe can't be true.
Conclusion: scientists are pretty stupid.
Nice... What I mean is that certain scientists, not all scientists obviously, that think since they have a PHD or something that it gives them the authority to spew crap that their views are somehow elevated to a higher authority than others based on their "so called" scientific observations.

Wasting our time on silly philosophical premises that science somehow dissolves the belief in G-d when their own science can't even prove the existence of their own thoughts..

Evidence? Evidence of what? There is NO evidence...
The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false - Galileo

We learn from history that we do not learn from history - Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

User avatar
Canuckster1127
Old School
Posts: 5306
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2006 11:31 am
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Creation Position: Day-Age
Location: Tulsa, OK
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 2 times

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#10

Post by Canuckster1127 » Sun May 13, 2012 9:52 am

Frogsterking wrote:An overwhelming amount of philosophers and scientists are atheists. Why? Doesn't that make Christianity look bad?
First off, I'd like to see the numbers that substantiate that claim. I have seen numbers from within the last decade that show that there's a fairly significant difference between scientists who identify themelves as atheists with theree being practically no difference between the general population in the physical sciences with a significiantly higher number in the life sciences. I haven't seen numbers for philosophers.

Part of the reason in my mind, in the narrow area of the life sciences being significantly different, in my opinion, is that there is a significant portion of evangelical and fundamentalist Christians over the past century who have effectively been anti-intellectual and have reliquished the historical role of Christianity in the past that encouraged science and discovery of how the natural world works. There was a significant portion of American Christiainity for instance that invested emotionally in the Scopes Monkey trial of the 1920's and even though, "legally" the case was won by anti-evolutionary supporters, the press coverage that resulted left public opinion believing that many christians were backwoods anti-intellectual simpletons (and in all honesty, some were).

It hasn't been until the past 40 years beginning in the 1970s with the advent of the Moral Majority that many of these underground evangelicals reentered first the political world and to a lesser extent now, although I think it's growing, the intellectual world and addressing things like science. That's sad to me, because I think part of the recoil is that some outside of Christianity who don't consider it are under the impression that this faction of anti-intellectual christians is representative of the whole of Christiainity and that simply isn't true. There has always been and remains still cutting edge scientists and philosophers who are intellectually astute and are willing to consider what natural evidence tells us about our universe who aren't threatened by it's impact upon their faith.
Dogmatism is the comfortable intellectual framework of self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is more decadent than the worst sexual sin. ~ Dan Allender

//bartsbarometer.com/

Lux Aeterna
Acquainted Member
Posts: 23
Joined: Sun Aug 14, 2011 8:00 am
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Creation Position: Framework
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 0

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#11

Post by Lux Aeterna » Sun May 13, 2012 10:01 am

Higher education is generally biased against religion. It's not a surprise that products of that system will generally be less religious.

User avatar
jlay
Ultimate Member
Posts: 3616
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2009 2:47 pm
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Creation Position: Young-Earth Creationist
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 9 times

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#12

Post by jlay » Sun May 13, 2012 12:54 pm

I have three PhD scientists in my imediate family. Wildlife biology, vet research science, and forrestry. In their respective fields they are brilliant. They are all Christians.
-“The Bible treated allegorically becomes putty in the hands of the exegete.” John Walvoord

"I'm not saying scientists don't overstate their results. They do. And it's understandable, too...If you spend years working toward a certain goal and make no progress, of course you are going to spin your results in a positive light." Ivellious

narnia4
Senior Member
Posts: 560
Joined: Tue Jul 06, 2010 12:44 pm
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Creation Position: Undecided
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 1 time

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#13

Post by narnia4 » Sun May 13, 2012 12:56 pm

Ok, here's a study from 2009.

http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org/conten ... rp026.full

Just under 10% of college and university professors say they don't believe in God. You can notice the difference between the fields, a lot of very smart people overall but a lot of variation within the specific fields. That backs up my point, its more how they were raised than just "intelligence". Under 2% of those in Nursing said they don't believe in God, for example. In health, only 1.2% say they don't believe in God. Read a recent gallup poll that showed that those with college degrees are at least as likely as those without to believe in God, 88% of postgraduates still believe in God. There's more as well.

So again, this whole thing has been overstated. There are fewer who claim to be Christian, but there are different reasons for that. I have a few more theories (like the uneducated being more likely to accept the label Christian nominally when they may not really be more religious at all).

And just to add one more little point because I can't help myself, the whole thing about Christians being stupid really falls apart once you just do a little bit of reasoning and get out into the real world and interact with real people. Heck, just look at the people at this website. We have some pretty smart people right here, Hana with her PhD (whether she has it yet or not I don't recall) and people with Master degrees and teachers and engineers and all of that. This younger pastor I know who reads more books in a year than some arrogant skeptics read in their lifetime, I'd like to see them try to tell these mutli-language-speaking multiple-degree-holding people I know personally that they're ignorant and stupid. Its ridiculous.
Young, Restless, Reformed

Ivellious
Esteemed Senior Member
Posts: 1046
Joined: Wed Dec 07, 2011 8:48 pm
Christian: No
Sex: Male
Creation Position: I don't believe in creation
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 0

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#14

Post by Ivellious » Sun May 13, 2012 1:29 pm

Personally, I think the idea that most professors are atheists is silly. It probably is more prevalent in the hard sciences than elsewhere, but I don't see it as being almost universal or anything close. Of course there are militant atheists that become biology professors, but at the same time I know of Christian, Hindu, and a handful of other faiths in the sciences where I go to school.

A couple quick points about the essay Narnia posted:

The survey comes from a group of a little over 1,000 professors in the US. My university has more than that number alone...So I wouldn't say that it is a particularly diverse or all-encompassing survey. I don't know if the sample size is adequate to be totally accurate. They also don't say where the data comes from (for instance, whether the data was taken from a public research institution or a few small Catholic schools would clearly change the results).

Also, the essay does not distinguish between Christians and other faiths. The responses relating to "God" do not mean only a Christian God, but that also has to include Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and so on, so you can't just count all the non-atheist and non-agnostic responses as being Christians.
Higher education is generally biased against religion. It's not a surprise that products of that system will generally be less religious.
I hear this argument a ton, but this seems to contradict the argument brought up by a few members that say "well, actually there are lots of Christians that are professors". You can't claim bias in the system AND having a large number of people in the system. That just doesn't make sense.
What I mean is that certain scientists, not all scientists obviously, that think since they have a PHD or something that it gives them the authority to spew crap that their views are somehow elevated to a higher authority than others based on their "so called" scientific observations.

Wasting our time on silly philosophical premises that science somehow dissolves the belief in G-d when their own science can't even prove the existence of their own thoughts..
I'll give you that point, if you'll concede that all groups of people have individuals like this. Also, most scientists who are atheists really don't bother with trying to "prove" or "disprove" religious things. Just like you wouldn't accept the idea that all Christians are as militant and ignorant and insulting as Kent Hovind, it's not even kind of accurate to say all scientists are like Richard Dawkins.

User avatar
Gman
Old School
Posts: 6081
Joined: Wed May 31, 2006 10:36 pm
Christian: Yes
Sex: Male
Creation Position: Day-Age
Location: Northern California
Has liked: 0
Been liked: 1 time

Re: Why are so many philosophers and scientists atheists?

#15

Post by Gman » Sun May 13, 2012 4:47 pm

Ivellious wrote:
I'll give you that point, if you'll concede that all groups of people have individuals like this. Also, most scientists who are atheists really don't bother with trying to "prove" or "disprove" religious things. Just like you wouldn't accept the idea that all Christians are as militant and ignorant and insulting as Kent Hovind, it's not even kind of accurate to say all scientists are like Richard Dawkins.
Of course the claim by many evolutionists is that Darwinism does not interfere with God’s existence. Probably a more accurate way natualists say it is that if God does exist, existing is probably the “only” thing God has ever done. God is permanently unemployed and has never found useful employment in the entire history of life because impersonal material forces were capable of doing the whole job by itself and did do it. So essentially if one was believe that God does exist, that existence would fade away into unreality. It’s essentially the premise that nature is all that there is. Any other belief is automatically ruled out.
The heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects as false - Galileo

We learn from history that we do not learn from history - Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. -Philippians 4:8

Post Reply