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Sci Tech    H2'ed 6/12/15

A Few Facts Regarding Religion and Scientists

By       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   39 comments, In Series: Spirituality
Author 501593
Message James Quandy

In a thread of comments on an article recently posted on OEN, the subject of the personal religious beliefs (or lack thereof) of scientists arose. I would just like to share with OENers, in general, a couple of facts I unearthed with regard to this question. This is hardly an exhaustive treatise on the subject. But, I thought it might be useful to finally put to bed (at least on this site) some assumptions many people (the world over), have relating to the matter.

For one: many (and perhaps most) of the truly greatest scientists in history were also devoutly religious: Michael Faraday, Nicolaus Copernicus, Gregor Mendel, Francis Bacon, Blaise Pascal, Sir Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, Johannes Kepler, Max Planck, Renes Descartes and Werner Karl Heisenberg, to name just a few.
In addition, according to Wikipedia: "In 1916, 1,000 leading American scientists were randomly chosen from American Men of Science and 41.8% believed God existed, 41.5% disbelieved, and 16.7% had doubts/did not know; however when the study was replicated 80 years later using American Men and Women of Science in 1996, results were very much the same with 39.3% believing God exists, 45.3% disbelieved, and 14.5% had doubts/did not know. However, the NAS study and the AM&WS studies have been criticized for leaving room for ambiguity in the questions. [But a 2009 Pew Research poll click here put the percentage of scientists who believe in some form of deity or higher power at 51% (which technically, as any scientist will tell you, is "most".]*
Indeed, included in that Pew study: "... the poll of scientists finds that four-in-ten scientists (41%) say they do not believe in God or a higher power..."
Which is actually another way of saying that nearly 60% of scientists, in fact, do not reject the idea of religion, out-of-hand. This (unless I'm missing something...) would have to be regarded as a distinct majority of the scientific community.
But back to Wikipedia:

"Statistical data on Nobel prize winners in science between 1901 and 2000 revealed that atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers have won 7.1% of the prizes in chemistry, 8.9% in medicine, and 4.7% in physics; while Christians have won a total of 72.5% of the prizes in chemistry, 65.3% in physics, 62% in medicine and Jews have won 17.3% of the prizes in chemistry, 26.2% in medicine, and 25.9% in physics."

One is naturally led to wonder just how much greater would be the percentage of winners of the Nobel Prize in the sciences who were believers, if Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc had also been included. Furthermore, judging from the data, it would seem that a case might be made that religious conviction among scientists actually increases in direct proportion to the significance of their accomplishments in their particular field...

Finally, a few telling quotes from noted scientists:

"The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms - this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness."

Albert Einstein

"In the history of science, ever since the famous trial of Galileo, it has repeatedly been claimed that scientific truth cannot be reconciled with the religious interpretation of the world. Although I am now convinced that scientific truth is unassailable in its own field, I have never found it possible to dismiss the content of religious thinking as simply part of an outmoded phase in the consciousness of mankind, a part we shall have to give up from now on. Thus in the course of my life I have repeatedly been compelled to ponder on the relationship of these two regions of thought, for I have never been able to doubt the reality of that to which they point."

Werner Heisenberg

"A little philosophy inclinith man's mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion."

Francis Bacon

"Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the conditions required to permit life, and one which has an underlying (one might say 'supernatural') plan."

Arno Penzias (Winner of Nobel Prize in Physics)

"An atheist is someone who is certain that God does not exist, someone who has compelling evidence against the existence of God. I know of no such compelling evidence."

Carl Sagan (an agnostic)

And so on...

I do hope, that even with this little snippet, those who frequent this particular site, might now be somewhat more reticent and circumscribed in disseminating their own personal assumptions regarding this intriguing topic to the members as a whole.

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Former small business owner now retired.

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