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November 29, 2003

God & the scientists

Chapter of the book, For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery, deals with science and religion. The subject of the religious faith of scientists comes up, and here is some data I gathered. The first table is the from the book, while the second two I cobbled together from internet sources since Nature's website seems to be down.

American Academics, Source: Calculated from the Carnegie Commission Survey of 60,028 American Academics

Religiousness by Scholarly Field, 1969
  % Religious Person % Regular Attend % Never Attend % Relgious Conservative % No Religion
Math/Statistics 60 47 35 40 27
Physical Sciences 55 43 38 34 27
Life Sciences 55 42 36 36 29
Social Sciences 45 31 48 19 36
Economics 50 38 42 26 30
Political Science 51 32 43 18 30
Sociology 49 38 43 16 36
Psychology 33 20 62 12 48
Anthropology 29 15 67 11 57

American Natural Scientists - 1996 Source

Believe in personal God?
Discipline Yes No Not sure  
Math 44.6%      
Physics 22.1%      
Biology        
         
Year        
1914 41.8% 41.5% 16.7%  
1996 39.3% 45.3% 14.5%  
         
         

Prominent American Natural Scientists - N.A.S. members (1998, sample size ~ 250) and "eminent" scientists in 1914 & 1933 Source

Believe in personal God?
Discipline Yes No Not sure  
Math 14.3%      
Physics 7.50% 79.0%    
Biology 5.50% 65.2%    
         
Year        
1914 27.7% 52.7% 20.9%  
1933 15.0% 68.0% 17.0%  
1998 7.00% 72.2% 20.8%  
         

I'll have plenty to say about science and religion soon...but please note something interesting. All the surveys seem to indicate that Mathematicians are the most religious. And as you see, the "softer" and less g loaded fields tend have fewer believers.

Of course this holds for American scientists only. From the European scientists I've met, they are probably more secular. On the other hand, I suspect that Middle Eastern and South Asian scientists tend to be more religious than American scientists....

Posted by razib at 11:44 PM