percentage of religious scientists/professors?

It seems that there is a perception that people with advanced education (especially scientists and professors) are less likely to subscribe to an organized religion than society as a whole. For instance, I have heard it said that Nobel prize winners are much more likely to be atheists than the general population.

But, I’ve never seen any real research about this. Does anyone know of recent polls done in this area? I am specifically interested in knowing what percentages of scientists and/or university faculty claim a religious faith?

I’ve tried Googling on this, but I’m mostly turning up webpages for faculty in religion departments (and rantings from extremists on both sides of the religion issue arguing about who is smarter). There is one older GQ thread about a similar subject here, but it doesn’t contain much data, and none specific to scientists or university faculty. Thank you in advance for anyone who can help!

There’s Edward Larson’s 1997 survey of members of the US National Academy of Science. (The link’s to an atheist site, but the numbers were widely reported and discussed in many places at the time, and Larson’s a respected academic.)

I don’t have any statistics, but I would expect less believers.
Science is about careful observation and a single resulting theory. Religion is a belief without any evidence, plus there are many incompatible faiths.

Depressingly, Newton believed in astrology, despite being one of the greatest scientists ever.

Nitpick -

Not so. Religion (or more appropriately faith) is defined as “belief without proof”, not “belief without evidence”. Evidence can exist without proof, proof cannot exist without evidence.

Thank you bonzer, I need to read it more carefully, but it looks like that link is exactly the type of thing I am looking for. Anyone know of similar studies for university faculty?

Thank you!

He was pretty wacky on several accounts, at least by today’s standards. From Bill Bryson’s “A Short History Of Nearly Everything”:

No, it would be more fair to say that religious belief is based on a different kind of evidence. Different disciplines do rely on different types of evidence: that of an experimental scientist is different from that of a historian or a literary critic, for example. It would be interesting to know if/how the religious beliefs of professors in different disciplines are colored by the approaches they use to those disciplines.

Also worth noting is that scientists and professors like coming up with their own theories about things; in many cases that’s their job! So I wouldn’t be surprised to find that academics hold unconventional religious views rather than accepting traditional dogma.

However, if I recall correctly, astrology was considered a science during Newton’s time, as opposed to the quackery we know it as today.

Er, no.

Isaac Newton and Astrology

Well of course I agree with your last sentence.
I suppose I am being a bit tough on religion, but I don’t know of any religion that has anything better as evidence than some ancient writings or people claiming ‘experiences’. Not a shred of physical evidence (plus the major religions contradict each other anyway.)

I agree that a historian has to largely rely on written sources (though there can be supporting evidence of battles, buildings and cultural changes too.)
But religion makes fantastic claims, so needs far better support than e.g. sources written by believers 30+ years after the events.

Surely literary criticism is artistic, not scientific?

thanks for the cite!

Sorry…I was trying hard not to start a GD thread. I’ve heard many of the reasons why educated types might tend to not hold a religious faith. If anyone has knowledge of any polling data from university faculty, please let me know.