Science Education vs. Belief in God January 17, 2010

Science Education vs. Belief in God

I love it:

Yet another in a series of graphs I can never show my math students.

(via SMBC)

"The way republican politics are going these days, that means the winner is worse than ..."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."
"It would have been more convincing if he used then rather than than."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Do da day

    I disagree. You’d just have to reword higher power to something like ‘That’s impossible!’

  • For a second, I thought that was XKCD, but SMBC is still acceptable.

  • Hilary

    As an engineer, I’m often baffled at how many of my colleagues have such strong religious beliefs. I know one engineer who is actually a young earth creationist. HOW?
    At a Six Sigma class, one of the teachers made the comment “Faith in God, but for all else, evidence.” I SO BADLY wanted to raise my hand and ask “Why make the exception?” I held back, though.

  • Chas

    Any meaning to the bump on top of the curve where belief increases with an increase of science education?

  • Greg

    Chas said:

    Any meaning to the bump on top of the curve where belief increases with an increase of science education?

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing?

  • Richard Wade

    Any meaning to the bump on top of the curve where belief increases with an increase of science education?

    Keeping in mind that we’re talking about somebody’s drawing instead of actual data, I would say that I have seen people become a little more believing in a higher power when they first get a little science education. I think it’s because they are exposed to things that are beautiful, amazing and impressive, but they don’t yet have sophisticated critical thinking skills.

    That amazement might also account for the little bumps over on the highly educated end of the curve. Surprises in science trigger our feelings of awe, and in a culture steeped in supernaturalism, the old childhood stories bubble up briefly.

  • The “god of the gap” regress!

  • muggle

    Hemant, you’re to be complimented for restraining. So are all the Christian (or other theist) teachers that do. It ain’t the place.

    Now, if only we could just stop those who do feel it’s their job to push their religious beliefs on the capitive audience in their classroom and if only schools would be as vigilant in stopping them as we know they would be for anyone pushing an Atheist, Wiccan, Muslim, Pagan, etc., etc., etc., world view.

  • Chas

    @Greg, @Wade,

    Yeah that makes sense. So that initial upward trend and subsequent bumps are a preliminary awe effects of learning a new fact before understanding the rationale behind it.

    Happens to me “awe” the time 😉

  • While I think the sense of “awe” has a part of it, I also think there is a sense of “fear” as well.

    The more you learn about the world, and the way it really works, the less you’re able to hold on to the superstitious ideals you’ve been brought up with. This leads a person to overcompensate by becoming even more faithful.

    Only after you’ve reached the point in the line where your “faith” no longer stands up to the overwhelming evidence acquired is your conscious mind able to give up on your “fear”. For many they won’t be able to accept the answers they’d been learning about, seeing them as a contradiction to their “faith”, before then.

    I can imagine this is very scary for many of the faithful. I think it would be a good explanation of why we get so many of those pseudo-scientific preachers who keep putting out the science denial books. They know enough to have a basic grasp of the subject but, because they had never got past the “fear” of having their worldview shattered, they don’t really understand it and see it as a threat that must be stamped out.

  • So Francis Collins and his ilk are an anomaly?

  • I think the “God of the Gaps” should be shot. I don’t think science and repetition necessarily remove God from the picture – logically, for the Christian – this repetition should simply confirm the way God operates.

    The Bible is not a scientific textbook. It predates the scientific method. This is what you atheists should be saying to stupid Christians who build dinosaur museums and peddle pseudo science.

  • No Collision Between Science and Faith

    The graph makes a valid statistical point. In 1998 the National Academy of Science surveyed its members about their religious belief or lack thereof. Of the half who responded to the survey 93% said they don’t believe in a higher power. 72.2 % were overtly atheistic, 20.8 % agnostic, and only 7.0 % believed in a personal God. While that is a welcome survey result for atheists, most will admit that it doesn’t clinch their case. 7% of scientists in the Academy do believe in a higher power, so advanced scientific knowledge – and high intelligence — are compatible with religious faith.

    The University of Chicago Chronicle carried this report on July 14, 2005: “The first study of physician religious beliefs has found that 76 percent of doctors believe in God and 59 percent believe in some sort of afterlife. The survey, performed by researchers at the University and published in the July issue of the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that 90 percent of doctors in the United States attend religious services at least occasionally, compared to 81 percent of all adults.”

    Francis S. Collins, who directs the National Human Genome Research Institute, is a professing Christian. Stephen Jay Gould (d. 2002), per Wikipedia, “was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation. Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.” Richard Dawkins quotes him, in The God Delusion: “To say it all for the umpteenth millionth time (from college bull sessions to learned treatises): science simply cannot (by its legitimate methods) adjudicate the issue of God’s possible superintendence of nature. We neither affirm nor deny it; we simply can’t comment on it as scientists.”

    The following three paragraphs are from an essay entitled AN AGNOSTIC ARGUES FOR FAITH:

    “I am a Christian. And I am an agnostic. I hold as true what cannot yet be verified. An agnostic is one who says we can’t KNOW whether there is a God or not. His existence can’t be proven, and it can’t be disproven. Thomas Aquinas gave reasons to believe in God, but they don’t compel belief; they are not (as he claimed) ‘proofs.’ Bertrand Russell, a great exponent of atheism, admitted he couldn’t be absolutely sure God doesn’t exist. Chapter 4 of Dawkins’ book is entitled ‘Why There Is Almost Certainly No God.’ ALMOST certainly. Dawkins isn’t sure either.

    “Since none of us can KNOW, the great human decision isn’t ‘to be or not to be,’ but to believe or not believe. I believe. Atheists choose not to believe. I can’t tell them they’re wrong, and they can’t tell me I’m wrong. We all grope in existential darkness. I use religious faith as a compass. They think it’s worthless….

    “To some rational minds the theistic view is no more unlikely than the atheistic – arguably less so. Did the Big Bang ultimately produce Plato, or did a cause more like Plato produce him? Did cosmic dust evolve into a great mind, or did a Great Mind produce the cosmos?”

    The full essay those passages were excerpted from can be found on my blog, THE BELIEVING AGNOSTIC – Hope you’ll visit mine as often as I visit this one.

    Shane Hayes

  • Bob

    It looks a bit like a Bessel function.

  • The graph indicates a high probability that one highly educated in science does not believe in God. May I raise a related issue of probability? Many atheists, especially the New Atheists, characterize faith in a personal God as delusion with zero credibility. The more radical among them think all the evidence, and all the odds of being right, are on their side. They equate belief in God with belief in Santa Clause or “fairies at the bottom of the garden,” to use a Richard Dawkins phrase from The God Delusion. Even more moderate atheists, who admit they can’t be sure they’re right, claim the odds of a personal God existing are so infinitesimal that no serious thinker would opt to believe it.

    Are the odds that small? Does a rational assessment of probability clearly favor the atheist? And should probability be the decisive factor in answering the most fateful question of all? I explore these issues and give my answers to them a new posting on my blog. It will be Chapter 4 of the book I’m writing, The Believing Agnostic: A Creed for Restless Atheists, and is titled:

    Is God’s Existence Improbable?
    Does Probability Matter?

    If interested here’s the URL:

    Shane Hayes

  • Does Atheism Break Down Here?

    The graph implies that science rebuts the existence of God. The Pontiff of the New Atheism, Richard Dawkins, of course agrees. A reader on my blog The Believing Agnostic made Dawkins-derived arguments contra my essay “The Greatest Scientific Mind.” I’ve replied by posting a new essay entitled, “Does Atheism Break Down Here?”

    In it I quote Dawkins in his excellent book The God Delusion attacking one of the most persuasive and venerable arguments for God’s existence. I show that he swings his bat three times, hits nothing but air, and strikes out completely. His brilliance is beyond question, but there are many weak spots in a strong book. Here I highlight three such passages and show how they deflate when sharply examined.

    I am not anti-science. My two postings before the current one, titled respectively “Is God’s Existence Improbable” and “The Greatest Scientific Mind” (to be read in that order), presume the validity of Big Bang cosmology and evolutionary theory.

    No one has yet commented on my posting, “Does Atheism Break Down Here?” My closing line was: “Help me! My agnosticism is tottering. This looks like a proof [of God’s existence].” I would seriously like some readers of The Friendly Atheist to tell me if, in my essay’s rebuttal of Dawkins, the points I make are not valid. If not, why not?

    See The Believing Agnostic at:

    Shane Hayes

error: Content is protected !!