More Scientists Believe In God Than Atheists Want to Think

In the late 90s atheists began making the argument that less than a majority of scientists believe in God. In addition to this they argued that National Academy of Sciences had only about 5% members who believed in God. All of this was due to the publication of a 1998 an article “Leading Scientists Still reject God.” In that article got hold of a survey done in 1914 by a guy named James Henry Luba and Nature Magazine noticed that the stats had not changed. So the conclusion that scientists are such great priests of knowledge, if they don’t believe in God there must not be one.

Research on this topic began with the eminent US psychologist James H. Leuba and his landmark survey of 1914. He found that 58% of 1,000 randomly selected US scientists expressed disbelief or doubt in the existence of God, and that this figure rose to near 70% among the 400 “greater” scientists within his sample [1]. Leuba repeated his survey in somewhat different form 20 years later, and found that these percentages had increased to 67 and 85, respectively [2].

In 1996, we repeated Leuba’s 1914 survey and reported our results in Nature [3]. We found little change from 1914 for American scientists generally, with 60.7% expressing disbelief or doubt. This year, we closely imitated the second phase of Leuba’s 1914 survey to gauge belief among “greater” scientists, and find the rate of belief lower than ever — a mere 7% of respondents. (Nature,ibid)

Atheists made the most of this since Luba echoed the fallacious conclusions they themselves drew from the data. “Leuba attributed the higher level of disbelief and doubt among “greater” scientists to their “superior knowledge, understanding, and experience” (ibid). Of course this is fallacious, scientists don’t have any special knowledge that would tell them God doesn’t exist, or that he does. It was Nature that polled the NAS. One of the things that I argued at the time was that the questions were rigged to slant the discussion toward the fundamentalist concept of God portrayed in a literal understanding of the Bible. I argued that if you factored in a more liberal concept of God belief among scientists would go way up.

There are now several studies or surveys that reflect this assumption and anew set of findings changes the ball game. Several studies:

(1) Trow, Martin and Associates. 1969. 35% of scientists do not believe God exists. This is a lot more than the general population but a lot less than the over 50% promised by Luba and Nature. It also raises the question if the Luba and/or nature weren’t confusing the issue by assuming that “un-churched” or “non-affiliated, no religious affiliation” means the same as don’t believe in God. It does not. Over and over again that distinction is made clear in the better studies…

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