Rosenhouse reviews Ecklund

Elaine Howard Ecklund has a new book out, Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think.  It’s been touted in certain dark corners of the blogosphere as showing that scientists aren’t nearly as atheistic as everyone thinks.  Over at EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse, who’s read the book, takes issue with this claim:

Asked about their beliefs in God, 34% chose “I don’t believe in God,” while 30% chose, “I do not know if there is a God, and there is no way to find out.” That’s 64% who are atheist or agnostic, as compared to just 6% of the general public.

An additional 8% opted for, “I believe in a higher power, but it is not God.” That makes 72% of scientists who are explicitly non-theistic in their religious views (compared to 16% of the public generally.) Pretty stark.

From the other side, it is just 9% of scientists (compared to 63% of the public), who chose, “I have no doubts about God’s existence.” An additional 14% of scientists chose, “I have some doubts, but I believe in God.” Thus, it is just 25% of scientists who will confidently assert their belief in God (80% of the general public.)

For completeness, the final option was “I believe in God sometimes.” That was chosen by 5% of scientists and 4% of the public. Make of it what you will.

Now explain to me, please, how anyone can look at that data and write this:

As we journey from the personal to the public religious lives of scientists, we will meet the nearly 50 percent of elite scientists like Margaret who are religious in a traditional sense…. (p. 6)

This claim, that fifty percent of scientists are traditionally religious, is repeated in the jacket copy. The expression, “religious in a traditional sense” is never precisely defined, but I would have thought that a belief in God is a minimal requirement. With 72% of scientists explicitly nontheistic, and an additional five percent professing to believe in God only sometimes, it looks to me like 23% would be the most generous figure for the fraction of scientists who are traditionally religious.

I’ve ordered the book and will read it and report back.  But already I smell trouble. If you look at the book on Amazon, you can read part of Chapter 1, which has a “A Message to Scientists” starting on page 8.  What is it?  That we scientists at “elite universities” must bear the burden of overcoming, through public outreach, the “indifference or outright hostility” that Americans bear toward science.  And to do that, we need to learn a lot more about religion so we can more effectively engage the faithful.  I’ll be curious to see if Ecklund’s data say anything about the effectiveness of this strategy.

It was funded by Templeton, of course.

52 Comments

  1. Sili
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    What about scientists at Podunk universities?

    • Onychomys
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      S’pose she counts UM-Morris as an elite university?

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      What about scientists at Podunk universities?

      That might depend on whether you included the ones with “Bible” in their names.

  2. Chuck O'Connor
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Her methodology is bunk. She states that the sample is not representative of the scientists in general but, is representative of the scientists at the select universities she chose. Her interview on Point of Inquiry should be an embarrassment to any thinking person.

  3. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I positively hate propaganda books.

    Because it took me weeks as a young then idealist (and some hard earned money) to understand that people actually wrote stuff they didn’t believe in or outright twisted facts, to prop up belief that they felt were “unavoidable” or “good”.

    Fool me once …

  4. Ben
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    Her survey response choices are poorly worded to begin with. “I don’t believe in God” and “I do not know if there is a God, and there is no way to find out” are not mutually exclusive. Most of the respondents could probably choose both of those.

    • Chris Slaby
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

      And more importantly, “I do not know if there is a God, and there is no way to find out” is not the same thing as “I do not know if there is a God, and there is no way to find out and therefore I do not believe in (a) God.” You can be unsure about the existence of something, realize there is no way to verify the existence of that thing, and still believe in it’s existence.

      • Chris Slaby
        Posted May 21, 2010 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

        I don’t really see the purpose in doing something like that, nor is it in line with rationalism or logic (the basic methodological frameworks of science), but this very well might be the stance of some scientists.

  5. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    I saw Ecklund give a presentation based on the data in the book. Afterward during the Q&A, she expressed her opinion that in recent battle over science textbooks in Texas that ‘both sides were too arrogant.’ make of that what you will.

  6. NewEnglandBob
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Jason Rosenhouse appears to have done a great analysis. Elaine Howard Ecklund seems to ignore her own data to fudge the result she wanted. I hope this kills her career and respect from others if all this is true.

    So when Chris Mooney interviewed her he either didn’t read her book, didn’t actually look at the data, or also wanted the outcome to be different than the data. Which is it Chris?

    • tomh
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Most likely, all of the above. The contradictions between the stats and the text were pointed out in the comments to Mooney’s blog post about the interview, but of course he didn’t respond.

      • gillt
        Posted May 21, 2010 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        Mooney’s excuse is that he’s a science communicator and not a scientist, so the facts are subordinate to the message.

        Ecklund on the other hand has no excuse.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted May 21, 2010 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          Ah, yes, farming and the reason it was invented.

          So you are telling me I should hate framing too? Figures.

          • Reginald Selkirk
            Posted May 22, 2010 at 7:26 am | Permalink

            Farming was invented to grow food. I thought that was uncontroversial.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted May 23, 2010 at 7:16 am | Permalink

              And keyboard speed typing was invented to grow lysdexia. Not controversial either.

  7. Sigmund
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I read her paper “Religion among Academic
    Scientists: Distinctions,
    Disciplines, and Demographics” published in the journal Social Problems in 2007, that I think this book is based upon. I’d advise going through that rather than trying to make too much sense of the more waffly parts of her recent book.
    It contains the data to answer one of the major claims she is currently making – that scientists are self selected from non religious backgrounds when results in the profession being less religious than the general population. Her actual data shows that most scientists come from families who are at least nominally religious (catholic, protestant, jewish, etc) suggesting that the notion that atheistic families produce most scientists is incorrect.
    As for the point of most scientists having a traditional religious affiliation I got the impression that she was conflating various different questions to get this result (in her interview with Chris Mooney she gave a figure of 18% of scientists being Jewish – which may be the case in terms of claimed ethnicity but seems a rather wild overestimate the number who are actually believers.)

    • gillt
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      “Her actual data shows that most scientists come from families who are at least nominally religious (catholic, protestant, jewish, etc) suggesting that the notion that atheistic families produce most scientists is incorrect.”

      Why then have Mooney and Nisbett been telling everyone the exact opposite?

      • Sigmund
        Posted May 21, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

        It’s called “framing”.
        The funny thing about this is that the first time I saw that particular claim was on Nisbett’s post to that effect about Ecklunds 2007 paper. I posed the question on the thread whether the question had been asked of the scientists in the survey as to the religion of their family when growing up (a pretty obvious point if you are going to claim atheists are selected for science rather than science tends to turn people into atheists.) Nisbett didn’t answer me on the thread but instead emailed me the paper as a pdf. The question WAS asked in the paper and the answer directly contradicted the “frame” being put on the findings (in other words, yes they tended to come from religious families, just like the rest of the population).

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted May 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

          Ah, so that is the intended framing (that science doesn’t move religious to agnosticism and agnostics to atheism), not the accommodationist “but there are religious scientists too”.

          Hmm. I seem to remember Razib, always good with numbers, quoting easily available PEW statistics to test the above phenomena of healthy skepticism over at Larry Moran’s blog. It should be easy enough to reproduce. In fact, I believe I’ve seen that claim several times. (And I certainly made it myself, based on razib’s comment.)

          In that case, why did Ecklund bother to try to “Templeton” her surveys in the first place? She couldn’t have been trying to get away with framing, to the detriment of her career. Maybe her belief in belief is fooling her mind more than most. (o.O)

          • tomh
            Posted May 21, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

            I like “templeton” as a verb.

          • Reginald Selkirk
            Posted May 22, 2010 at 8:04 am | Permalink

            In that case, why did Ecklund bother to try to “Templeton” her surveys in the first place?

            I presume you are aware that her research was funded, at least in part, by the Templeton Foundation.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted May 23, 2010 at 7:23 am | Permalink

              Yes, that was in fact what I was alluding to. Maybe Templeton doesn’t care about science, they happily got in bed with the ID movement before being found out and they now know they will survive such ignominy. But Ecklund should care for her own sake.

              (This) one would think.

  8. Chuck O'Connor
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Mooney asks her in the POI interview if her sample is representative of all scientists and her response was something to the effect that it is representative of the scientists at the universities she sampled. He doesn’t really press her on this which made me skeptical of the content of her research.

    • Sigmund
      Posted May 21, 2010 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      I don’t have too much in complaint of her statistics or methodology. Rather its her interpretation (spinning) of results that is the problem and her weird overall conclusions – for instance she thinks that evangelicals needent worry about their children losing their faith of they become scientists because they will most likely simply change to another, more moderate version of christianity. She seems to forget that to the average evangelical that sort of conversion is is akin to becoming a hell-bound satanist.

  9. salon_1928
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    “…we need to learn a lot more about religion so we can more effectively engage the faithful.”

    Some days I just don’t have the energy and just have to drive past them.

  10. Michael Kingsford Gray
    Posted May 21, 2010 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    That last paragraph is *pure* Christ Money.
    Sorry: Chris Mooney.

  11. Posted May 21, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    “And to do that, we need to learn a lot more about religion so we can more effectively engage the faithful. ”

    Why not learn more about dancing, or basketball, or making milkshakes? Those would engage people, too.

  12. MadScientist
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 1:43 am | Permalink

    How can you deal with religion except to refute the nonsense they dredge up? It’s such rank bullshit you simply should not discuss religious things unless they come up first. Otherwise you simply look like an idiot spouting nonsense and refuting it, not to mention you waste all that time in the classroom. If a creatard brings up religious nonsense in a class then tear ‘em a new one, but I cannot imagine any other reason to ever mention religion – just stick to science.

  13. Jonn Mero
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    Read through the pages available on Amazon, and found her writing incredibly boring, and her approach uninteresting.
    And WTF is a spiritual atheist?
    Most fellow atheists seem to share the view that spirituality and theism are equally daft.

  14. oldfuzz
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    The atheist/theist discussion ignores the non-theist position taken by the Ethical Culture movement and others as being “the existence of God is neither affirmed nor denied”; i.e. the question of deity is considered inconsequential. This is not atheism.

    The New York Society for Ethical Culture has been around since 1876 and still asserts its non-theistic (hyphen optional) position. See http://www.nysec.org/

    An interesting note: In his recent book, Jesus for the Non-religious, John Shelby Spong, retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, clearly states that the idea of theism is obsolete.

    One of the challenges in the ongoing atheist/theist debate is dealing with the increasing atheism within formerly theistic religions, especially Christianity.

    The question becomes whether one considers twenty first century science in light of the eighteenth century religion still practiced by some or the twenty first century religious views which continue to evolve informed by contemporary science.

    • tomh
      Posted May 22, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      oldfuzz wrote:
      …twenty first century religious views which continue to evolve informed by contemporary science.

      How does science “inform” religious views, other than to disprove religious claims? And the idea that religion is evolving would be news to just about every follower of every religion out there. Some mindset, for a few former believers, may be evolving, whether you call it Ethical Culture, or spiritualism, or whatever, but it’s certainly not religion as the word is normally defined.

      • oldfuzz
        Posted May 22, 2010 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

        To answer you question about religious claims I need to know what you think they are and who is making them. There are no religious claims I know that conflict with the science of the day.

        Ethical Culture is a religion as Ethical Culture defines it. If your definition of terms is as “the word is normally defined” then evolution can be called “just a theory” by those who normally define theory as a guess.

        One of the problems in this debate is that too many “scientists” consider only the most extreme religions views as the mainstream and religious fundamentalists refuse to investigate what science is about, tagging along behind their “leaders” instead.

        The issue remains: if scientists are going to ignore contemporary religious scholarship in their criticism they should not be bothered when advocates of the “old time” religion confront them and the modern religious intellectuals–Geering, Spong, Crossan, Matthew Fox and others–refuse to engage in the discussion because their positions are either unknown or misrepresented.

        For example, fundamentalist Christians take the Bible literally. This idea has been dismissed by serious Christian scholars for years, centuries in some cases. The rationalist’s claim that a myth is a lie shows the misunderstanding of myth. A myth is never intended as a literal truth, although it is misinterpreted as such by those who don’t know what it is.

        Many women would respond positively to “George Clooney is a god.” knowing full well it is a myth, but says something important.

        The question is, “Which terminology are we to use? That which has a reference or that which is in common usage.” If we agreed to pursue these disagreements by clarifying our terminology we would find more agreement that when each side is use the same terminology with different meaning.

        Your definition of religion excludes a large portion of those organizations who define themselves as religions. How do we resolve that?

        • tomh
          Posted May 23, 2010 at 12:37 am | Permalink

          oldfuzz wrote:
          One of the problems in this debate is that too many “scientists” consider only the most extreme religions views as the mainstream….

          I see this claim a lot though never with any justification or evidence. To take one example, polls consistently show that a majority of believers reject evolution. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, of those who attend church once a week, only 24% accept evolution. Yet you would place this big majority of evolution deniers outside the mainstream of religious views. It seems an odd way to look at the mainstream, to say the least.

          if scientists are going to ignore contemporary religious scholarship in their criticism

          Perhaps they ignore them because they are busy with the majority of religionists, (the actual mainstream), who oppose science.

          • oldfuzz
            Posted May 23, 2010 at 7:38 am | Permalink

            “…never with any justification or evidence.” Read the opening ten pages of the Oxford Dictionary of World Religions for an exploration of the difficulties in defining religion.

            “…a majority of believers reject evolution.” Who are these believers you reference? Theists? What of other religions? Buddhists? The Dalai Lama embraces evolution fully. Roman Catholics? The Pope embraces evolution. Humanists? Unitarians? Confucians? Taoists? In my experience the majority of religious people embrace science, including evolution. It’s the shrill minority of creationists who are misrepresented as a minority even though their numbers are in the minority of Christians.

            As for polls, they must be read carefully. Too many of them are leading or limited in their structure. Ask me if I am a theist and I will say, “No.” Ask me if I am an atheist, I will say, “No.” I am a non-theist which is one who neither affirms nor denies the existence of deity. Atheists don’t like that answer, but is is well established. The New York Society for Ethical Culture states in their about page “We’ve provided non-theistic services in a congregational setting since 1876.” Ignoring the existence of evidence contrary to one’s views is not proof.

            That creationist Christians are hanging on to the Bible as literal is a fact. That they are in the mainstream of Christian thought is false. They are one shrill voice who are losing their hold and fighting for survival.

            I think science might be better served by considering what was said earlier–by Goethe I think–“Seek not the differences in things similar, but find the similarities in things different.”

            For me, the underlying issue is the relative ease in finding an agreed definition of science and the impossibility of finding a concise definition of religion. For a thoughtful, and scholarly, consideration of this I point you to the opening ten pages of The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Thanks again for your thoughts.

            • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
              Posted May 23, 2010 at 7:59 am | Permalink

              So now the polls that we are supposed to accept as is, are unacceptable?

              Sorry, but statistical surveys are accepted by science as observation. And these surveys on actual belief, not your attempts to adapt the data set to your conclusion, is what we have to discuss.

              [It is elementary that you don't change the populations or survey questions in the analysis after the survey. That invalidates the whole survey.]

            • oldfuzz
              Posted May 23, 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink

              “So now the polls that we are supposed to accept as is, are unacceptable? ”

              No, the polls, surveys of public opinion, are to be read as carefully as any scientific paper. The first question is whether it is well constructed, then whether the results seem valid based on ones experience and knowledge.

              Accepting popular rhetoric as fact isn’t very scientific.

              For example, the atheist/theist duality ignores the non-theist which is neither. The idea of non-theism may not be understood by the general public, but neither is natural selection. Ignorance of facts does not invalidate them.

            • tomh
              Posted May 23, 2010 at 8:42 am | Permalink

              oldfuzz wrote:
              Who are these believers you reference? Theists? What of other religions? Buddhists? The Dalai Lama embraces evolution fully. Roman Catholics? The Pope embraces evolution. Humanists? Unitarians? Confucians? Taoists?

              I thought we were talking about mainstream religion in America. Buddhists, the Dalai Lama, Humanists, Unitarians, Confucians, and Taoists are a tiny minority of the religious in America, in no way do they represent the mainstream. As for the Pope, he hardly “embraces” evolution, but even if he did, almost half of rank and file Catholics reject evolution, which puts them in alignment with a big majority of church-going Americans. These are not some rare extremists, these are the mainstream religionists in America, “mainstream” being defined in all dictionaries as something like, “The prevailing current of thought, influence, or activity.”

              Because you are more enlightened than the average American religionist, does not mean that your philosophy in any way represents the mainstream of religious thought. The prevailing current of thought in American religion, as every poll, no matter how it is worded, shows, is decidedly anti-evolution and by extension, anti-science.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted May 23, 2010 at 7:53 am | Permalink

          There are no religious claims I know that conflict with the science of the day.

          One would think that this often stated claim, never backed up by actual statistics, but falsified by it as tomh notes, would not be made in a thread about precisely statistics.

          It isn’t merely an inept claim, it is a non-factual claim. Could we please bury it someday soon, it is after all not the only zombie that post-semitic religion parades around as if they were alive (zombie gods, anyone), and it gets boring to have to show how it has been falsified by observation.

          • oldfuzz
            Posted May 23, 2010 at 8:14 am | Permalink

            Oops, you’re right. Sorry. I meant to say, “I make no religious claims that conflict with the science of the day as I understand it.”

            My view of religion is that which guides one in living a meaningful life. It can be found at the core of every religion, but is too often disfigured by religionists.

            • Posted May 23, 2010 at 10:13 am | Permalink

              My view of religion is that which guides one in living a meaningful life.

              Well that’s okay as a personal “view,” perhaps, but it’s terrible as a definition. Lots of different kinds of things can guide “one” in living a meaningful life, so just saying that for you religion is one such kind of thing does nothing to pin down the general public meaning of religion.

        • Posted May 23, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink

          Many women would respond positively to “George Clooney is a god.” knowing full well it is a myth, but says something important.

          Nonsense. In that sentence “a god” is being used purely metaphorically (and with considerable irony at that). Metaphor is quite different from myth.

      • oldfuzz
        Posted May 23, 2010 at 7:58 am | Permalink

        Oops, I forgot to address your excellent question, “How does science “inform” religious views?” There was a time when:

        The world was: flat, then round, even pear shaped with Eden at the stem end physically, once the stationary center of the universe with the sun orbiting it. Science changed this.

        In the Hopi cosmic creation and evolution story they are living in the fourth world. The first being destroyed by fire, the second by ice and the third by water. One scientific view on this has to do with the environmental conditions which caused periodic group migration, but no one knows for sure. This, as with any oral tradition, is easily altered when new evidence is presented. While the Hopi creation myth may date back several thousand years, it now states the reason for the second world being destroyed by ice was that the creator’s nephews kept the earth stable by holding onto the poles and were instructed to release their grip which caused the earth to tumble and become a ball of ice. It is doubtful they knew the earth was round when the myth was created and almost certain they did not know it rotated on an axis, but modified the story to fit the science of the day.

        Another bit of evidence is the wide acceptance among the religious that the universe is 13.7 billion years old meaning that the seven days of creation is symbolic. Even the creationists can’t win this as they are forced to accept old earth creationists or see their numbers diminish further.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted May 23, 2010 at 8:21 am | Permalink

          There was a time when: The world was: flat,

          For the actual argument in your comment, see mine on actual statistics; religious populations have largely chosen not to be informed by science.

          But I want to nitpick this. It is an urban myth that the world was originally generally thought of as flat:

          The Flat Earth model is a view that the Earth’s shape is a flat plane or disk. Various cultures have had conceptions of a flat Earth, such as Babylon, Ancient Egypt, pre-Classical Greece, pre-Classical India and pre-17th century China.

          Beginning from ancient Greek astronomy, the paradigm of a round (or more accurately, spherical) earth gradually spread around the world supplanting the older cosmological belief in a flat earth.[1][2][3][4]

          The false belief that medieval Christianity believed in a flat earth has been referred to as The Myth of the Flat Earth.[5] In 1945, it was listed by the Historical Association (of Britain) as the second of 20 in a pamphlet on common errors in history.[6] The myth that people of the Middle Ages believed that the Earth was flat only entered the popular imagination in the 19th century, thanks largely to the publication of Washington Irving’s fantasy The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus in 1828.[5]

          So Greek astronomers noted the inconsistency with the curved earth shadow on the Moon et cetera, and even measured Earth curvature.

          My nitpick is that these astronomers were excellent at observation, but not yet theory-driven scientists. Modern science got its method together much later, and got really going under the Enlightenment with the acceptance of critical thinking and the funding of academies.

  15. DuckPhup
    Posted May 22, 2010 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    One thing that seems to always get overlooked in this sort of kerfluffle is ‘critical thinking’ (which generally causes god-belief to evaporate… poof!) and the distinction between ‘hard’ sciences vs. ‘fuzzy’ sciences (an observation that Heinlein often made).

    Critical thinking is NOT an innate human ability. First, it requires the brain power to do it… but even that’s not enough. Presuming that one has the intellectual ability to perform the trick (critical thinking), one must then LEARN HOW to perform the trick. The fact is that it is possible… common, even… to achieve an advanced ‘scientific’ degree, and never even have HEARD of ‘critical thinking’… much less, learn how to actually do it.

    Another problem with ‘critical thinking’ is that it IS taught in Christian home-schooling, so-called ‘Christian academies, and Christian colleges and universities. But here’s the rub: they DEFINE ‘critical thinking’ as the logical intellectual process of reconciling facts and evidence with scripture, starting with the premise that scripture is the holy, divine, cosmic, God-given ‘Truth’… and where facts and evidence (essentially, reality) cannot be twisted, distorted, misinterpreted or misrepresented to conform to scripture, it is discarded and ignored. (For an example, see Answers In Genesis “Statement of Faith”.) The phrase ‘classical Christian education’ is code for this despicable aberration… and there are a lot of ‘scientists’ with a ‘classical Christian education’.

    Anyway… it is safe to assume that a significant percentage (maybe even MOST) of the ‘scientists’ who are counted in such studies have degrees in one of the ‘fuzzy’ sciences, or are the product of a ‘classical Christian education’. I think that a distinction needs to be made, and I don’t see any reason why ‘fuzzy’ scientists should be categorized apart from the general public.

    As a general rule-of-thumb, the answer to the question “Do you ‘believe’ in God” is a pretty accurate indicator (at least 95%, I think) of whether someone is capable of ‘critical thinking’, or not. The reason I claim only 95% is that there are obvious anomalies (like Ken Miller and Francis Collins), who have advanced degrees in a ‘hard’ science, and are (presumed to be) capable of ‘critical thinking’ in the lab… but they seem to have the strange ability to compartmentalize in such a way that it looks like they are able to check-in their brains at the church door.

    Anyway… if one were to take ‘fuzzy’ scientists out of the equation, along with (alleged) scientists with a ‘classical Christian education’, the percentage of atheist/agnostic scientists would increase dramatically.

    Generally speaking… and in my opinion… apart from the ‘hard’ sciences, anybody who manages to acquire ‘critical thinking’ skills does so in spite of their schooling… not because of it.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 23, 2010 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      I’ll have to agree with all of the above. … damn you for making my eventual ability for critical thinking sitting idle. :-D

  16. Posted May 22, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Ohhh – I didn’t know it was a Templeton book.

    Did Mooney say that on Point of Inquiry? I can’t bring myself to listen to it – does anybody know if he did?

  17. Posted May 22, 2010 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Hey! I went to read Mooney’s blog post on the interview (cited in a comment above, about his non-answering of relevant questions) – there’s a big honking ad for Templeton at the top of the page!

    God, every time I think he can’t sink any lower…

  18. Posted May 22, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    But he says he made sure to mention Templeton in the interview, so that’s something. Also answers my question.

    But honestly…The Center for Inquiry snuggling up to Templeton. How revolting.

  19. Posted May 22, 2010 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Well of course he said about Templeton in the interview; people had been saying he had to do that for a month.

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2010/04/chris-mooney-vs-atheists-part-xxxiv.html

    See comments. Especially:

    Reginald Selkirk said…
    From Ecklund’s book, page 201: “Full disclosure: Much of the research on which this book is based was funded by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation.”

    Since Mooney also has received Templeton money, and quite recently, shouldn’t he report this as a possible conflict of interest? (I mean, if he has any interest in operating ethically, of course.)
    Thursday, April 15, 2010 8:33:00 PM

    ——–

    Me again. The Templeton ad is at the top and the bottom of Mooney and Kirshenbaum’s blog. His relentless nagging and othering has paid off handsomely.

  20. Posted May 22, 2010 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    I know this has been mentioned, but the 30% answering “I do not know if there is a God, and there is no way to find out.” and the 8% agreeing “I believe in a higher power, but it is not God.” would not equate to a atheistic response (at least not as written). The first is consistent with a agnostic opinion, the second could be wholly theistic and still be answered truthfully.

    I do agree that the numbers seem to indicate that many respondents do not adhere to “traditional religious beliefs”–whatever they are.

    In my opinion, agnosticism belongs on the religious side of the divide.

    There has been an interesting discussion about the difference between atheism and agnosticism on the Atheist group on LinkedIn. If anyone here uses LinkedIn, check it out and join the group. I think the group could use some WEIT readers to liven it up.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted May 23, 2010 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      In my opinion, agnosticism belongs on the religious side of the divide.

      I don’t think that is an opinion but a fact. If one take the predictions out of that and test them it is obvious.

      For example, an agnostic/accomodationist can claim science-religion claim separation. If they are religious they will do so without bothering to test that prediction. (Say, by checking against statistics of rejecting evolution correlated with being religious.) And that is what we can observe.

      Sad fact is that it took me years to figure out. I originally thought agnostics were a subset of atheism.

      [[rant] This is btw the sole starting reason for my probably obvious annoyance with philosophy. (o.O) Agnosticism as “implicit atheism”, indeed!

      Then I started to raze my other education, and found out what a sad mess accepting philosophy and its definitions had made of it. Especially by its trick of conflating facts, which are outcomes of a process with several possible and time dependent states such as “don’t know”, with axiomatic theory static true/false values and the cryptoinductionist not-so-justified belief in “justified true belief”. That is what really can torpedo attempts at understanding nature.

      Perhaps not coincidentally, inductionism was popular among post-semitic theologists at the time evolution started to bother them. For some reason or other it seems to have survived to this day as muddled crypto-inductionism; “justification”, “proof”, “evidence”, “explanation”, “attacking other theories in this paper proves my hypothesis”, et cetera.

      Years wasted on cognitive dissonances like that. Aaargh! [/rant]

      Phew! Glad to have gotten that of my chest. I’ll take my coat and see myself out now.]

      • DuckPhup
        Posted May 24, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

        Torbjörn Larsson wrote: “I originally thought agnostics were a subset of atheism.”

        Actually… they are.

        Consider the following ‘defining statements’. For clarity, they will include words that are usually omitted, since they are ‘understood':

        1) I DO believe that God DOES exist.
        2) I DO NOT believe that God DOES exist.
        3) I DO believe that God DOES NOT exist.

        1) Theist… essentially, an assertion that the ‘truth value’ of the logical proposition “God DOES exist” equals TRUE.

        2) Atheist… makes no assertions about the ‘truth value’ of anything. The ‘atheist’ is simply unconvinced by the arguments that are presented in support of the ‘theist’ proposition. Put another way… theists tell ‘god-stories’. There is a distressingly small percentage of people who are not stupid and gullible enough to ‘believe’ those god-stories. That absence of stupidity and gullibility earns them a label: ‘atheist’. That is IT… that is ALL.

        3) Strong Atheist… essentially, an assertion that the ‘truth value’ of the logical proposition “God DOES NOT exist” equals TRUE. This can be pretty-much be labeled as ‘stupid’, for a very simple reason… in order to have the ability to ‘prove’ that God does not exist, one would have to possess the attributes of a god; i.e., one would have to BE God in order to ‘prove’ that God does not exist… which creates a bit of a paradox.

        Here’s where it starts to get interesting, though. As a LOGICAL CONSEQUENCE of ‘believing’ that God DOES NOT exist, the defining statement for ‘atheist’ ALSO happens to be ‘true’… “I DO NOT believe that God DOES exist.” So… all ‘strong atheists’ are ‘atheists’… but NOT all ‘atheists’ are ‘strong atheists’. In fact, only about 20% of atheists are ‘strong atheists’… and they are NOT the intelligent, well-educated, critically-thinking ‘atheists’.

        Now… agnostics. The main problem with agnosticism is that hardly anybody… even agnostics… understands what it means. For most people, ‘agnostic’ is synonymous with ‘fence-sitter’… or, perhaps, the Stephen Colbert definition:…

        “Basically, an agnostic is an atheist without any balls.” ~ Stephen Colbert

        But here’s what an agnostic REALLY is. For the ‘agnostic’, the concept of ‘belief’ is stupid and irrelevant, and is not even to be considered; you either KNOW something, or you don’t. If you DON’T know something, then you do not have the ability to make any justifiable assertions pertaining to the ‘truth value’ of any related logical propositions… so you DON’T. You simply say “I don’t KNOW whether that is ‘true’… or not.”

        So… just like the ‘strong atheist’ (above)… this is where it gets interesting. Since the ‘agnostic’ does not KNOW whether Gods DO exist, or not… and since the ‘agnostic’ eschews the concept of ‘belief’ in this context… as a LOGICAL CONSEQUENCE of the ‘agnostic’ position, the defining statement for ‘atheist’ is precisely ‘true': “I DO NOT ‘believe’ that God DOES exist.” It does not matter in the least that the ‘agnostic’ considers the concept of ‘belief’ to be irrelevant, or that the ‘agnostic’ is loathe to describe his/her mental state in terms of ‘belief’… the defining ‘atheist’ statement is STILL ‘true’, nonetheless. It’s still ‘true’, whether the agnostic likes it, or not… and most agnostics DON’T like it, because they don’t WANT to BE an ‘atheist’. Tough. They are.

        So… ALL agnostics are atheists, but NOT ALL atheists are agnostics… because NOT ALL atheists go through the requisite mental gymnastics pertaining to ‘knowledge'; they are simply unconvinced by the toxically, droolingly stupid arguments of theists.

        Both the atheist and the agnostic arrive at the same mental state with respect to not ‘believing’ that God DOES exist… they just take a SUPERFICIALLY different intellectual path to get there… even if they don’t know it, or refuse to acknowledge it.


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