Elaine Howard Ecklund - How Religious Are Scientists?

May 7, 2010

Host: Chris Mooney

It’s hard to think of an issue more contentious these days than the relationship between faith and science. If you have any doubt, just flip over to the science blogosphere: You’ll see the argument everywhere.

In the scholarly arena, meanwhile, the topic has been approached from a number of angles: by historians of science, for example, and philosophers. However, relatively little data from the social sciences has been available concerning what today’s scientists actually think about faith.

Today’s Point of Inquiry guest, sociologist Dr. Elaine Ecklund of Rice University, is changing that. Over the past four years, she has undertaken a massive survey of the religious beliefs of elite American scientists at 21 top universities. It’s all reported in her new book Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think.

Ecklund’s findings are pretty surprising. The scientists in her survey are much less religious than the American public, of course—but they’re also much more religious, and more “spiritual,” than you might expect. For those interested in debating the relationship between science and religion, it seems safe to say that her new data will be hard to ignore.

Elaine Howard Ecklund is a member of the sociology faculty at Rice University, where she is also Director of the Program on Religion and Public Life at the Institute for Urban Research. Her research centrally focuses on the ways science and religion intersect with other life spheres, and it has been prominently covered in USA Today, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Newsweek, The Washington Post, and other prominent news media outlets. Ecklund is also the author of two books published by Oxford University Press: Korean American Evangelicals: New Models for Civic Life (2008), and more recently the new book Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think (2010).

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


Related Episodes

Richard Dawkins - Science and the New Atheism
December 7, 2007

Comments from the CFI Forums

If you would like to leave a comment about this episode of Point of Inquiry please visit the related thread on the CFI discussion forums

Basically Elaine’s premise reflects the thinking of many friends I have in the faculty of several universities around the world. But as usual, social sciences approach to the issue is based on the accumulation of trivia. It is impossible to condensate a life of thoughts in a few answers to questions which cannot extend beyond a very limited scope. It is not the quantity of discreet data which will give you the idea of what goes in the consciousness of those individuals who comprise our faculties. It is the quality of the thought that it is found in those individuals. The reality is that the scientific community is discarding beliefs at a faster pace than ever in favor of what we could call spiritual hypothesis. As that, the framework of the traditional religions is incorporated as metaphors for the human consciousness, undressed from any ritualistic or theological meaning. And that is more evident in the thinking of those who work in the field of Biology. Those spiritual hypothesis are being analyzed, researched, studied, and discussed, without any rush to show conclusions like those demanded by a media in love with sound bites. The fact that the media have focused on propositions from a large group of individuals who make their living out of the field of science, both atheist and theist, doesn’t mean that on this subject they are doing science. At best, it appears to most of us like classical examples of what we try to avoid: Pseudo-science. I won’t pretend to make this a factual conclusion. It is only a personal perception born of numerous and lengthy discussions with friends who qualify as members of such universe. And we haven’t found a decent scientific explanation showing how human consciousness is begotten and what it is. Metaphors and allegories are just hints which some day might help us to find those answers. Meanwhile, we are too busy trying to stay on top of our real scientific concerns, to entertain the guests with this type of polite (or not so polite) conversation.

Posted on May 07, 2010 at 3:37pm by rommey Comment #1

The fact that the media have focused on propositions from a large group of individuals who make their living out of the field of science, both atheist and theist, doesn’t mean that on this subject they are doing science.
At best, it appears to most of us like classical examples of what we try to avoid: Pseudo-science.

A fair point, though the interview was interesting and seemed worthwhile.  You got me to wondering if the term “Pseudo-science” isn’t being over used and over extended.
OK Ecklund and that field may not be doing “science” in the traditional sense of the concept - but, “science” was conceived and developed around observing solid stuff and processes.
Seems to me “real science” is impossible in some fields of intellectual study, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid learning, nor that the broader principle of science can’t be applied in an ad hoc manner to fit the reality of ones study.

And we haven’t found a decent scientific explanation showing how human consciousness is begotten and what it is.
Metaphors and allegories are just hints which some day might help us to find those answers.

Do you think a decent scientific explanation re human consciousness is even possible?
Perhaps fine tuning metaphors and allegories is the best we do.

Meanwhile, we are too busy trying to stay on top of our real scientific concerns, to entertain the guests with this type of polite (or not so polite) conversation.

would you mind elaborating?

Posted on May 08, 2010 at 9:50am by citizenschallenge Comment #2

citizenschallenge
Posted: 08 May 2010 09:50 AM

rommey - 07 May 2010 03:37 PM
The fact that the media have focused on propositions from a large group of individuals who make their living out of the field of science, both atheist and theist, doesn’t mean that on this subject they are doing science.
At best, it appears to most of us like classical examples of what we try to avoid: Pseudo-science.

CC: A fair point, though the interview was interesting and seemed worthwhile.  You got me to wondering if the term “Pseudo-science” isn’t being over used and over extended. OK Ecklund and that field may not be doing “science” in the traditional sense of the concept - but, “science” was conceived and developed around observing solid stuff(?) and processes.
Seems to me (?) “real science” is impossible in some fields of intellectual study, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid learning, nor that the broader principle of science can’t be applied in an ad hoc manner to fit the reality of ones study.

OK, why stuff? Looks that you got nothing to add or discuss, so you play devil’s advocate?

CC: would you mind elaborating?

No.

Posted on May 08, 2010 at 10:46am by rommey Comment #3

CC: A fair point, I thought the interview was interesting and seemed worthwhile.  You got me to wondering if the term “Pseudo-science” isn’t being over used and over extended. OK Ecklund and that field may not be doing “science” in the traditional sense of the concept - but, “science” was conceived and developed around observing solid stuff(?) and processes.
Seems to me (?) “real science” is impossible in some fields of intellectual study, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid learning, nor that the broader principle of science can’t be applied in an ad hoc manner to fit the reality of ones study.

OK, why stuff? Looks that you got nothing to add or discuss, so you play devil’s advocate?

Excuse me, OK “Matter”  Beyond that, can’t I try to extract a little more info?
I wasn’t trying to play devil’s advocate, ... though I’m not sure why that would be worth flipping over.

CC: would you mind elaborating?

No.

Another, excuse me to you.  Your sentence is basically a quick rant, a rant that has probably has some foundation and reasoning behind it. 
I asked if you cared to elaborate because I was curious what you meant - and no it isn’t self evident… this is a discussion forum

Meanwhile, we are too busy trying to stay on top of our real scientific concerns, to entertain the guests with this type of polite (or not so polite) conversation.

Posted on May 08, 2010 at 11:19am by citizenschallenge Comment #4

My first thoughts after listening to this podcast twice while mowing the lawn on Saturday (besides this is a great way to mow the lawn…) is that Chris is very good at what he does, both familiarizing himself with the material and letting the interviewee explain things and engage the audience.

Another must-read….

Good job touching on Templeton Foundation question—I still am concerned that it is some Trojan Horse.

Two questions after listening to the interview:
1.  why doesn’t/didn’t Ecklund use the questions posed to the National Academy of Science in the earlier survey Chris Mooney refers to
[links
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_atheism
Nature paper : http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html ]
as a ‘control’ to understand how her population is different when given the same questions (which showed only 7% of NAS members believed in God). This also tests whether there is something in how she is wording her questions or asking the questions which is affecting the answer.
2.  A 75% response rate is very high. Ecklund and maybe Mooney also noted this.  Was there something special in the inquiry which resulted in such a response rate? It seems like it is so high that there has to be a reason, and some explanations would undermine the results.

I also wondered about scientists at industrial research labs, and also whether Ecklund is interviewing tenured faculty, junior faculty, or post-docs and graduate students.  I’ll have to check notes but I think it is ‘faculty’.

Posted on May 08, 2010 at 11:56am by Jackson Comment #5

Good questions Jackson. I hope she will come onto the forum and answer them.

Posted on May 08, 2010 at 1:13pm by asanta Comment #6

Hello,
I had actually started working on the following well before the above exchange and other things pulled me away. 
I was impressed with the interview, listened to it last night and over the course of today a second time in more detail.  Simply because it resonates with my perspective.
In a way rommey is right, I have nothing to add.  But me thinks, so what, I’m the student here.

But, I do have a sense of what is important to the portions of the discussion that interest me. 
So, I’ll share my thoughts usings E.H. Ecklund’s words:

(3:40)
“Scientists were surprisingly more religious than I thought they would be, but in some different ways than I thought they would be.”
Most surprising finding: that people who do not consider themselves at all religious, and are scientists, see spirituality as very attractive.

(26:35)
“Scientists who have a very cohesive idea about what it means to be spiritual -
but not one that they want to attach, at all, to a religious community.”  No woo!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(28:00)   
“(These scientists) want something that is totally consistent with science
and something which even gives them a kind of moral frame for the ways in which they apply their science. 
Something which gives them a sense of meaning and purpose outside themselves, which is not science but yet is completely compatible with science.”

Chris M : “... so in a sense the scientific spirituality you’re talking about is sort of synonymous with the wonder of nature expressed by someone such as Carl Sagan…”

(29:20) 
There are a group of Atheists who are total modernists. . . if you think that science really has all of the answers, even to things, like love and beauty, the soft things we usually think of religion as having more access to than science.  Then, religion is just not necessary.  So its very much a pervasive modernist mindset. 

EE: “But, there are still these scientists who are spiritual, who see these things very differently. 
Who see something that’s different than science, but complimentary, that’s not religion. 
I think that’s very different.”

(30:15)
CM: Why are you using the word “spiritualist”*, why not wonder and awe.
EE: ~ Good question: it* was actually built out of the questionnaires however the interviewees themselves brought the term* back into the study results.

1.  why doesn’t/didn’t Ecklund use the questions posed to the National Academy of Science in the earlier survey Chris Mooney refers to

I looked at those links and it sure seems like it’s getting time to repeat that survey.  But, it seems to me that Ecklund was after a different “resolution” on the topic,
a worthy one at that, in my humble opinion     ;-)

ps Chris nice interview, thoughtful questions, good tempo, info packed, easy to listen to repeatedly
  :coolsmile:

Posted on May 08, 2010 at 2:10pm by citizenschallenge Comment #7

1.  why doesn’t/didn’t Ecklund use the questions posed to the National Academy of Science in the earlier survey Chris Mooney refers to

I looked at those links and it sure seems like it’s getting time to repeat that survey.  But, it seems to me that Ecklund was after a different “resolution” on the topic

Chris Mooney has his own blog which I need to track more.
He commented on this question on May 3
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/05/03/ecklund-vs-larson-witham-on-religion-among-elite-scientists/
and got some discussion….

I don’t think the explanation is that she asked different questions just because she wanted different answers (which would be really bothersome), and from the interview I think she did a lot better job than that.  We all know from surveys how frustrating it can be if our true answer doesn’t exactly fit any of the choices, and maybe all of the religion-and-science surveys have weaknesses in that way. 

Now I wonder about the response rate for the NAS survey.

Possible explanations in Chris’ blog responses:
1. NAS narrow sample (one commenter says Ecklund includes “social scientists” in the survey)
2. different questions—how is god defined on the surveys
3. 7% number in NAS is low because people scared to admit they believe in God (“7% was always rubbish”)

I think the survey results would have been much stronger if she had both redone the NAS type survey, as a baseline and then done the 2nd survey.

Even the comments on Chris’ blog show this chasm between “metaphorical Christians” and “literal Christians”—it is very hard for an atheist to relate to what a metaphorical Christian “believes in”... (i.e. the Daniel Dennett “belief in belief” loop..)

Posted on May 08, 2010 at 2:41pm by Jackson Comment #8

I think the explanation that she asked different questions because she wanted different answers is really bothersome

Ouch!  I think that’s an unfair spin.  Should astronomers be limited to the visible spectrum?  I know that’s not particularly fair either ;-)
but, I have achieved my level of incompetence on this topic so I’ll sit back and just listen for a while.

Posted on May 08, 2010 at 3:54pm by citizenschallenge Comment #9

I think the explanation that she asked different questions because she wanted different answers is really bothersome

Ouch!  I think that’s an unfair spin.  Should astronomers be limited to the visible spectrum?  I know that’s not particularly fair either ;-)
but, I have achieved my level of incompetence on this topic so I’ll sit back and just listen for a while.

errk I edited it ... I don’t think the explanation is that she asked different questions because she wanted different answers (which would be bothersome)...

my quota of posts…

Posted on May 08, 2010 at 4:03pm by Jackson Comment #10

:lol:
fair enough

Posted on May 08, 2010 at 4:09pm by citizenschallenge Comment #11

I don’t know enough about the previous study. Were they allowed to be anonymous? Were they also anonymous to the surveyor, or was it just the result that was made anonymous? If it was anonymous, why would any one scientist be overly concerned about the results of their input into the collective result. I’m putting it badly I know, but what she is saying about the results of the previous survey isn’t making sense to me. If you presume you are one theist in a sea of nontheists, why would you worry that stating your theistic views would bring derision from your coworkers, especially if it were an anonymous survey. If it turned out that there were 50% of you who thought they were the ‘one theist’, it should have shown up. How does she know that the ‘change’ in results doesn’t have more to do with the changing political landscape, rather than the wording of the questions in the previous survey?

Posted on May 08, 2010 at 4:55pm by asanta Comment #12

- I’m trying to find the questions that were used and to try to understand how the survey was conducted. (ie. there is a difference in believing in the possibility of an impersonal god or god-like being, believing in some as yet undefined or unexplained interconnection between people or living things or just matter in general as a collective god-experience OR believing in a personal God as put for the various religions including the major ones). If someone has a link to a good abstract of the survey I’d love to read it.

- I think there should be made, a distinction between “Science vs. Religion” and “Science vs. Fundamentalism”. Science and Religion may have some grounds to work out together (though my bias is that Religion will continue its historic trend and draw closer to Science not visa versa). However, I think there is not doubt that there IS an all out war between Science and Fundamentalism which seems to be hopelessly buried in its own dogma and will relentlessly twist and distort the work of Science and individual scientists in order to hang on to the wreckage of literal interpretations of ancient myths and obsolete scriptures. Cruise any of the ICR articles such as this one http://www.icr.org/article/5353/ to find the intellectual dishonesty of fundamentalist groups co-opting the work of scientists and falsely re-framing it to serve their purposes (like a drunk man uses a lamp post- for support rather than illumination). My hypothesis is that a proper survey would show that scientists writ large are NOT fundamentalist and that science at it’s core is at odds with fundamentalism (of any kind, in any faith) where dogma persists in the light of and in spite of new and compelling evidence. To be a fundamentalist is to be unteachable.

- There is a more fundamental question though which infringes on the “non-overlapping magesteria”  concept, which I think is a cop out and here is why. Science conceived of black holes, dark matter and dark energy before we had evidence of their existence. We, as of yet, do not have a way to study these phenomena directly, however, we CAN study them by studying their effect on the environment around them. As a result we have verified their existence, measured their influence on their surroundings and learned a lot about them though in actuality no one has ever “seen” them. God and/or the “spiritual world” either has an effect on the environment around it or it doesn’t. If it does, then that effect should be able to be measured, quantified and brought into sync with a scientific method of study. If it has no measurable effect, then even if it exists, it as good as doesn’t because it is not only non-overlapping, it is impertinent. I would suggest that we have already done and are doing these studies and that such studies (on prayer, “religious health” and such things) have come up empty handed in terms of establishing that there is a measurable effect to begin with (or has not distinguished any such effect from the placebo effect). These studies look no different than those on ghosts, UFO’s, homeopathy, acupuncture etc. We seem to really want these things to be real, but they keep telling us they are not. Which may mean that the “spiritual” sensation that we may all have in some way or another, is really just a reaction to the shared consciousness, born of the evolved phenomenon of self-awareness that we have regarding some relatively universal set of valued morals and behaviors, our respect for the past, our hopes for the future and the mixture of grandeur, awe, fear and helplessness with regard to the present. I personally don’t think that this very naturalist description of “spirituality” diminishes in the least its meaning to at least me, if not us all individually.

Posted on May 09, 2010 at 8:09pm by Bill Goodwin Comment #13

About 10 years ago I subscribed to the NOMA view as it seemed to both make sense, and as a strategy to reach an accord (or at least a true) between “science” and religion. “Let science explain how, and leave religion to the why” was kind of a mantra for me.

Upon reflection, I think the do conflict on a number of issues. For most individuals it comes down to the competing claims made for the following:

[1] Claims to the way the world works: the pillar of religious authority

Methodological naturalism is in direct conflict not just to fundamentalist claims (ie. six day creationists) but even the most universal clam of all religions: that we are spiritual beings with an immortal “soul”. The latest neuroscience and research in the philosophy of mind directly challenges that.

It’s not simply a case of “how old is the earth”, but it’s even more essential than that/ “Who are you? And what are you?” is the fundamental question being addressed. The old mind/body dualism has been dealt a serious of blows that has essentially discredited the idea that we possess a “soul”. The “I” we think of us our consciousness is not the executive decision maker we once thought, but our minds seem more the product of emergent properties. Intelligence, consciousness and memory are far more malleable and less concrete than we thought.

This is a direct challenge to the idea proposed by most religions that posit we are the “captains of our soul” and possess free will (oh now here comes the dreaded free will debate!). The point is, everything we thought about the world and ourselves as posited by religious thought is not so.

[2] Claims to morality: knowing how the world works, allows religion to say how we should live in it

Claiming how the world works gives the religious authority to then speak about how we should act. Saying the world is only 6000 years old, and was created especially for us by a creator allows the fundamentalist Christian to make claims for how we should act as well.

Remove the authority of being able to interpret “creation” in such a manner, and you remove one of the powerful crutches religion rests upon. It positions itself as having a deeper insight into the world. If the Christian is not right on the age of the world, and the manner in which it was created, on whose authority can they speak? Not gods, as they have been removed from the picture as creator and caretaker.

Religion myths such as Genesis posit the universe as the stage for a cosmos and moral drama. We, as moral agents play upon this stage with the backdrop of a loving but vengeful god.

This is why creationists strive so hard to discredit science: we are saying the play does not exist. Your actions are fruitless. No one is watching. That we are responsible only to each other (the actors are the audience) is deeply terrifying.

The same with neuroscience. Learning that we cannot always control our actions due to deeper psychological or evolutionary inheritance challenges religions claim to modify and control social behaviour.

Ultimately, science challenges religious authority on every level.

Sure, for the more liberal religious person god retreats into an even more abstract and absent role (the law maker, or the one who set the universes initial conditions).

But the loving, interventionists god (who also send us to hell for being naughty) is explicitly excluded from the formation of scientific hypothesis. Yes, some people don’t like having their world view challenged, but science says the universe is not the sandpit god created for his creatures to play in.

Posted on May 09, 2010 at 9:18pm by Mike from Oz Comment #14

Mike (Bill too)
nice post, but I think it doesn’t apply,
you’re overlooking the rejection of Religion explicit in EE’s results.

Spiritual “minus the religion” was the provocative point.

You know, that freaky fuzz in our telescope upon our world… as we perceive it.
(and that I’ve tried describing in some of my other recent posts)

Posted on May 09, 2010 at 9:29pm by citizenschallenge Comment #15

Mike (Bill too)
nice post, but I think it doesn’t apply,
you’re overlooking the rejection of Religion explicit in EE’s results.

Spiritual “minus the religion” was the provocative point.

You know, that freaky fuzz in our telescope upon our world… as we perceive it.
(and that I’ve tried describing in some of my other recent posts)

Yes, worth considering.

Posted on May 09, 2010 at 10:43pm by Mike from Oz Comment #16

Great responses.

I think maybe I wasn’t explicit enough. When I said that my bias was that Religion would follow it’s historical trend and continue to move toward Science, the longer version of that is that, as Science continues to interpret the evidences related to the things that we experience as “spiritual” (ie. to your point on mind/body dualism) only those faiths that seek to maintain religious traditions for social/community cohesiveness but release their dogma in favor of “real world”, scientific, natural explanations will be able to resolve what we see as the Science vs. Religion problem. Arguably many Catholics and Jews seem to accept their religion for the traditions but unlike fundamentalists, they don’t try to integrate their faith into their daily lives or struggle with what is mythology or metaphor against the growing backdrop of scientific knowledge. So as Science continues to explain and understand better the phenomena that give rise to such “spiritual experiences” and to the extent that Religion incorporates that understanding into a more Universalist style of “worship” there can and I think will be growing common ground between Science and Religion. To the extend that Religion continues to hang onto dogma in a fundamentalist fashion even when it is in conflict with objective reality, there will remain a Science vs. Religion problem.

So I think we are all actually in agreement here.

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 4:05am by Bill Goodwin Comment #17

Another follow on for further clarification.

Using the mind/body dualism problem as a sample, I think that when science provides natural explanations for the experience that it doesn’t stop the experience from being profound. Rather, it only “explains” the experience in natural terms and actually makes it a more universal feature shared by humans and opens up the question “how much of that profound experience do we or can we share with other life?”

Also to your point re: “the rejection of religion”, correct me if I’m wrong but the suggestion was that there continues to persist in scientists a nebulous assent to some sort of unexplained or unexplainable spiritualism. This is speculation, but I’d bet that the rejection, if distilled, is a rejection of dogma, received knowledge, unchanging un-evolving belief; and the “spiritual exploration” is a more natural exploration of how these natural phenomena give rise to a “spiritual experience” and how that experience can be capitalized upon to solidify a more universal community…or something like that.

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 4:27am by Bill Goodwin Comment #18

Bill, Science isn’t only descriptive. It attempts to define the phenomena. Regarding the “spirituality” aspect of the human thinking, there is no a real “definition” of what is that “spirituality”. Though we have infinite numbers of descriptive blurbs attempting to pass for a definition.
Same thing with language, which is a collection of descriptive blurbs attempting to define each a certain aspect of our perceptual reality. As the symbolism of the word evolves, so do the descriptive blurbs. As we shift from one culture to another, the word shifts the descriptive code. This hasn’t anything to do with the Universe. What we know as an electron, a proton, and a neutron, in the pattern of a free molecule of Oxygen, aren’t exactly what we know about an electron, a proton, and a neutron in the pattern of a free molecule of Carbon. The difference is even more manifest when we consider what they really are in a free molecule of carbon dioxide. However, there is a commonality of properties between electrons in all of those three molecules, and so it is about the protons and the neutrons, that we can successfully use such commonality in our research. It is just the patterns which differ, and the properties of those patterns. You wouldn’t confuse oxygen with carbon nor them with carbon dioxide.
Can you find a successful descriptive blurb about “spirituality” which can be used with similar success and prevent us from being confused about the “matter” of it?
;)

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 7:04am by rommey Comment #19

My initial response to Bill, has to do with the lead post. After examining the material collected by E.H.Ecklund, there is only a logical conclusion. The whole exercise is a Marketing paper for the promotion an undisclosed “spirituality” and as well undisclosed “religiosity” of the individuals polled and interviewed by her. There is no delimitation of what is individual belief, shared social context, and traditional folk mythology. As in “I arrived to such belief” versus “I attempt to find a common ground to hang out with certain fellows” versus “my grandparents expressed these beliefs, so did my parents, and so do I”. All of it commingled to confuse the unadvised reader and lead him/her by the nose towards the final spiel: Religion is a real component of our universe. Right! Reminds me of the CTMU attempt to smoke our perception with a language redefinition without any scientific merit. Thomas de Aquinas was more clear about it than these social science experts. Let me guess, isn’t she a Harvard grad? If not, she should. ;)

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 7:22am by rommey Comment #20

My next reaction to the lead post, is one of mild disagreement with Chris Mooney. One thing is civility, another thing is compromise. My thinking is that USA’s drift towards an Unscientific America is consequence of letting the religion racket control our discourse. Haven’t found yet a decent proposal that would reveal other causes or reasons for the depletion of our intellectual capital. They, the religionist crowd, never showed any proclivity towards respecting any thinking that contradicts their creed. And they take advantage of the ignorance of most of our population, through their Marketing campaign for their imaginary gods. When I am in a joking mode, I generally refer to God™. Not much difference with the Mustang™ brand owned by Ford Corp. Actually I prefer Ferrari.
Seriously, Mooney’s prescription (Unscientific America) isn’t educational nor scientific. It is the expression of a marketing strategy, and, if he isn’t careful, will land him an offer from Madison Avenue. Except that there isn’t a real market of ideas that are offered on either counter. That’s the frustration of those whose vocation keeps them working in the scientific fields. The unstoppable noise from these shopkeepers makes difficult to concentrate on the ongoing research of our Universe.
But this is only my thinking. Welcome to yours. ;)

PS: I wonder how many arms EHE twisted to make those polled and interviewed available to her?

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 7:53am by rommey Comment #21

Lastly, I support Mooney’s honesty and willingness to tackle EHE, but can’t commend his naïveté thinking that she would offer anything more than what she offered in her session at the James A. Baker III Hall, Rice University. See Event

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 8:08am by rommey Comment #22

Now you can start shooting at me, it won’t be the first time. ;)

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 8:12am by rommey Comment #23

Members of the National Academy are “probably pretty different” from scientists in general? Ecklund has “no idea how they are probably pretty different”? I’ll give her a hint: they are smarter.  ;-)

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 8:13am by George Comment #24

Hi Everyone,
Thanks for the comments….wanted to let you know that my first blog post about the show is up:

It asks, are first and second generation atheists really any different?

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/intersection/2010/05/10/from-point-of-inquiry-are-first-and-second-generation-atheists-anydifferent/

chris

p.s.: To George, the NAS members may be smarter, but I am sure they are also many other things….they may differ in age/generation, for instance. I wouldn’t assume it is only intelligence.

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 9:47am by CMooney Comment #25

Unless I missed the point, she is trying to have us understand that scientists are more “spiritual” than we would expect but reasserts that they reject “religion”.

I’m suggesting that scientists who she suggests are “spiritual” are blending an objective, science-based understanding of reality with a subjective set of feelings, values and behaviors that we all seem to share to some extent or another.

Regarding the “spirituality” aspect of the human thinking, there is no a real “definition” of what is that “spirituality”. Though we have infinite numbers of descriptive blurbs attempting to pass for a definition.

To your point(s), Rommey, I’m not suggesting that science is “defining spirituality” per se but rather that it is giving good and continually improving objective definitions to the foundational physical realities that give rise to the phenomena that people experience subjectively as “spiritual”. Which maybe gives religion and science some common ground to work on.

So, I think that scientists in question are using the word “spiritual” because we don’t have a better word for the nebulous things that are meant by it and I’m not sure you can be careful enough about making sure that the average person doesn’t apply a mystical, woo-oriented definition of “spiritual” where it is not intended.

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 9:59am by Bill Goodwin Comment #26

Lastly, I support Mooney’s honesty and willingness to tackle EHE, but can’t commend his naïveté thinking that she would offer anything more than what she offered in her session at the James A. Baker III Hall, Rice University. See Event

rommey I dare say you would have gotten a kick out of watching me as I was finishing listening to that lecture you provided a link to. 

I was listening and found it worthwhile for sure, so I’m making a few notes.  Sharpening my pencil for a few comments to add to this thread.

I hadn’t actually paid attention to the source, before clicking on your link.  Turned out to be a genuine hour lecture Q/A thing that was interesting and worth watching through.  Toward the end of the Q/A I heard Ecklund acknowledge the Baker Institute and some distant bell went off.  Then came final credits… and James A. Baker III Hall…  the Baker Institute…  What!  Oh *%#/ that James Baker!  That man who belongs on my list of the ten super villains of my era.  Then, I remembered the Templeton Foundation was mentioned in Mooney’s interview and all the hostile stuff I’ve read about them in some threads.  rommey you’da busted up watching my transition.

Well, now, your hostility makes a little more sense.  In fact, it took all the wind out of the post I was putting together and I just stepped away from the whole thing.  But, a good six hours have passed and i feel better now.

So, on the one hand I can appreciate some of your cut’n dry hostility toward the funding sources and skepticism toward the results of said studies. 
But, I feel like that’s a different sort of battle than the one I’m focusing on.

Namely, that need in most of us people to acknowledge a (an ineffable) connection to a primal reality beyond our ability to grasp.  Perhaps including biological memories (instincts) of our evolutionary paths - even in a behavioral, perceptual manner.  The fuzz in the image we see through our crude telescopic (mental) instruments.

Spirituality for lack of a better term.

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 6:14pm by citizenschallenge Comment #27

Unless I missed the point, she is trying to have us understand that scientists are more “spiritual” than we would expect but reasserts that they reject “religion”.

I’m suggesting that scientists who she suggests are “spiritual” are blending an objective, science-based understanding of reality with a subjective set of feelings, values and behaviors that we all seem to share to some extent or another.

There is a difference between the conducting and interpretation of science,
and the human being who is doing the conducting and interpretation of the science.

What is valid for one is not necessarily valid for the other.

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 6:27pm by citizenschallenge Comment #28

p.s.: To George, the NAS members may be smarter, but I am sure they are also many other things….they may differ in age/generation, for instance. I wouldn’t assume it is only intelligence.

Well, I wouldn’t assume it is only intelligence, but it seemed like the least controversial one to mention. I gave it a quick look and found at least two more, but after considering it carefully I think I’ll keep it to myself.

Posted on May 10, 2010 at 8:48pm by George Comment #29

Finally listened to the podcast. Very good show, Chris.

Some of my concern with these sociological experiments is that the data itself appears to me fundamentally inchoate. Take the difference between spiritual and nonspiritual atheists, for example. My suspicion is that the box a particular scientist gets put into may depend on a turn of phrase that the scientist him or herself views as unimportant. Viz., the ones who use the term “spiritual” get called “spiritual scientists” and the ones that use the term “awe and majesty” do not. Is that a really crucial distinction? Or, as it often seems to me, is that the kind of thing that depends basically on whim. I know that even on this forum there have been some arguments about the term “spiritual”, but first, I doubt that many scientists would get very worked up about the term, and second, even if they would, what would be the basis of their concern? Many don’t like the term because historically it has had supernatural implications. But the interview led me to believe that all the scientists in the discussion rejected those implications, so it would seem to me that the difference between the scientists who engage in “spiritualist” language and those that don’t might basically amount to a meaningless disagreement about semantics, more akin to a different accent than a different belief.

Further, re. the issues of new atheism, while there may be some new atheists who hate all religion equally, in my experience even some of the most prominent new atheists like Dawkins have said that they have nothing particularly against a sort of soft, liberal Christianity that views itself as compatible with science. IIRC Dawkins said that if all Christianity were like that, he would not have spoken out so much. So one wonders if around 95% of the sample believed in evolution, whether what we’re talking about even with the religious folks is the sort of soft, liberal sort of religion that really many new atheists don’t seem to be so strident towards. That didn’t really come out in the discussion, though it is an important caveat. And it once again shows that scientists are very significantly different in their religious beliefs than the general public.

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 4:50am by dougsmith Comment #30

@dougsmith ...Exactly! Well put.

And note that the question on the book title is “How Religious Are Scientists?” not “How Spiritual Are Scientists?”...and where is the tag line “An what do they mean by ‘spiritual’?”. Which means a layperson reader with a bias toward mystical religiosity might sloppily call this a “win” for religion. If there WERE a god, he’d know, they don’t need much to go on to misconstrue things.

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 5:14am by Bill Goodwin Comment #31

Yeah, I mean from the discussion the one takeaway is that [95%? 96%?] of scientists believe in evolution, and less than 50% of the US general public does. THAT’s the kind of religiosity that has the new atheists up in arms. I just don’t think there would be a new atheist movement if only 4-5% of the general public rejected scientific results because of their religious convictions. So there’s something of an unclarity about what religion, particularly the paradigmatically problematic religion, really means.

I think what rightly gets some in the new atheist community riled up is the suggestion that religion is always the fuzzy, liberal, scientifically compatible stuff. To be fair, what rightly gets the sociologists of religion riled up is the suggestion that religion is always the fundamentalist, violent, scientifically illiterate stuff.

To that extent, these groups are talking past one another. There are religions of both kinds, and religious practitioners of both kinds. (And perhaps even some who move between them).

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 6:45am by dougsmith Comment #32

Another oddity: I believe that she said in the conversation that atheism was on the rise within the scientific community, and then later on said that religion and spiritualism were on the rise within the scientific community. That can’t all be right, since the total would add to more than 100%.

So that confused me.

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 6:46am by dougsmith Comment #33

Jot this to the fact that basically I am a healthy skeptic in socio-political issues and somehow cynical. Borrowing an image from the Judeo-Christian Mythology, EHE is the classical snake in Paradise. Except that the fruit she’s holding for us is the sour grape from the Christofascist grapevine, a somehow unorthodox tree of knowledge. In a present which is challenging our societies with environmental problems of our own doing, economical and financial problems created by exempting our corporations from social oversight, and social problems created by outdated socio-legal frameworks which refuse to yield when faced with civilization’s and culture’s changes, her immediate objective is twofold: one, to present scientists as not sold on rejection of the religions, and two, make a picture of scientists as being inherently different from the common populus, them hiding out in the academic ivory towers, unaware of folk preoccupations. Those who confuse the intent of her book (and personal interviews) with the exercise of a loose social science methodology, are buying in the pseudo-science of polling and individual sampling, which is spuriously used here, out of their traditional application in Marketing as practiced in Madison Avenue. This book isn’t a scholar’s product. It is a propaganda piece released in an electoral year, after the fundamentalist-libertarian-conservative-fascist conglomerate got trounced in an historic 2008 election. Their timing is precisely targeted to the summer reading and the campaign perfectly orchestrated and choreographed.
Unfortunately, they succeeded in adding a perceived atheistic (and respected) venue to the dance, confirming the validation of their piece. It helps her to appear consistent in such atheistic picture, and any valid objection easily dismissible considering the source. An atheist as Mooney would play his atheist game so, wouldn’t he? A Q/A at James Baker III Hall at Rice University makes her suspect by association. By far not the effect she’s looking for. She probably would dream to have a televised discussion with Dawkins or any equivalent public atheist.

Doug: El sueño de la razón produce monstruos, excepto en años de elecciones generales, entonces es cuando produce paraísos…

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 6:53am by rommey Comment #34

Interesting portion of a review by L.A. Jackson in the Amazon page for EHE’s book:

This book is more opened-minded than any book pertaining to science and religion I have come across. The only persuasion asserted by the author is that the conflict between science and religion is not so wide after all, and that a deeper understanding of both groups’ beliefs is a strong step towards reconciliation. Regardless of your religious beliefs or your exposure to this topic, I highly recommend this book. It’s a quick and easy read from a novel perspective that will surely leave you thinking.

Summer reading? Sure, why not… See this comment?  ;)

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 7:15am by rommey Comment #35

Why did this feel like another case of big study proves the obvious? Atheists who go to church? Wow, earth shattering stuff! Where has this (thoroughly sincere sounding woman) been hiding?

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 7:29am by eplommer Comment #36

Doug, I mean no disrespect on your comments. I like what you’re doing, which, in my perspective, is addressing the product of EHE, both the book and the interview. It is healthy no to dismiss the intellectual challenge that this woman presents to our consideration. But, from my point of inquiry, I leave analyzing the details of her opus to you guys. At my age, I have seen most of all, and discussed a great deal of it. Now, I look for the big patterns, and how each element such as her book and interviews, plays in the context of our global environment. It doesn’t mean that I refuse to read her book, au contrary, I enjoyed reading such material, as I enjoyed her interview and her Q/A at Rice, while at the same time keeping an eye on the legitimacy of the material and the hidden connections.
As a non-believer, my working definitions of religion, church, cult, ritual, spirit, soul, anima, consciousness, mind, are all concomitant (synchronic?) with a biological framework, of which sociology of the species provides me with an encompassing perspective. Philosophy, epistemology, ontology, even logic, are not focus areas, but humble tools to work my way into the knowledge about the Universe and comprehension of it. Although I come from the empiricist perspective of an Engineer, my interest has always been a lot wider than the pedestrian scope of technology. Thus my historical, archaeological, anthropological, psychological and biological investigations. As example, nanotechnology wasn’t born when I was pursuing my academic objectives, but since its appearance in the scientific field I make a point of keeping updated of their work, with an eye on possible connections with our biology and our nature. And there are some jewels to be found in such field. One thing that can be said, is that I am unconventional.
Perhaps this might sound to some as hostile and dismissive of some discussions, but it isn’t so, the point being that I have a lot less time left, now that I reached the age of 68, to chase all that interesting stuff presenting itself to my perception. On the other hand, I never found a discussion that didn’t gift me with something useful to add to my toolbox. And I appreciate such gift.

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 8:27am by rommey Comment #37

Understood, rommey. I think we have to be careful not to engage in a form of confirmation bias, chucking out or refusing to engage with results we don’t like just because we don’t like them. I’ve got several questions that I’ve outlined, above, but I believe her methodology is scientifically correct and the results appear to me both plausible and worthy of our interest.

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 8:45am by dougsmith Comment #38

Worship the scientists!

Problem solved.  :lol:

psik

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 10:06am by psikeyhackr Comment #39

Understood, rommey. I think we have to be careful not to engage in a form of confirmation bias, chucking out or refusing to engage with results we don’t like just because we don’t like them. I’ve got several questions that I’ve outlined, above, but I believe her methodology is scientifically correct and the results appear to me both plausible and worthy of our interest.

That’s the problem, this kind of exercise “makes us believe” her methodology is scientifically correct. Well, the lady can do math, what about the process, the delineation of questions in the survey, are they asking precisely defined terms which are meant to reveal precise answers? Are those answers guided, provoked or insinuated by the language of the survey, or are they the result of a free make up by the surveyed? From my read, the answer to the majority of these questions we can make about the described study is negative or reveals a built-in ambiguity. Also that’s what you seem to hint at in your comments and your questions. That’s what I meant when I said that it is a Marketing paper. These kind of surveys is what we do for our clients at Madison Avenue, so the corporate types would buy the campaign we already designed for them. It is an art, not a science. What’s more it is a sales technique for selling a proposition produced a priori of any research.
And for the fallout of the promotion we gave to her opus, that’s already water under the bridge. The spin has already been baked and distributed to the outlets. So it is a mot point to argue about.
Finally, it isn’t a matter of like or dislike. It is what it is. A political propaganda piece. Not a sincere attempt to understand how people think but a deliberate construct to make us think what she wants us to think. I didn’t find and I don’t see any evidence to make me think the contrary. I am open to be shown if any is there.

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 12:03pm by rommey Comment #40

Finally, I just reminded myself that the book and EHE answers in the interview and Q/A at Rice were not meant to answer to somebody like you or me, because we would catch the bait and release the hook. Then, from my perspective, the book and her answers are directed to a population who expects something and will see in it what they expect, and sit back satisfied their understanding is in the right. No matter that the facts are lost in the exercise. Akin to the results in Biblical Archaeology. We want them to confirm our beliefs. And, from that perspective, they do, oh boy, they do.

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 12:14pm by rommey Comment #41

Doug: El sueño de la razón produce monstruos, excepto en años de elecciones generales, entonces es cuando produce paraísos… los que se transforman en infiernos una vez que tu haz votado.


(The reason’s dream produces monsters, except in general election years, then it’s when it produces paradises, which transform into hells once you have voted.)

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 12:31pm by rommey Comment #42

Rommey, the color blue is reserved for official Mod/Admin posts, so I’ve changed the color there.

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 12:44pm by dougsmith Comment #43

Now, I am going to play devil’s advocate.
I’ve been a bit confined right now, thus have been able to do a bunch of net surfing today and came across this interesting (at least I found it provocative) quote from Francis Collins made during a Charlie Rose (PBS) interview:

(19:15) “Atheism is probably the least rational of all of the choices, it’s the assertion of a universal negative and scientists are not supposed to do that.”

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 2:25pm by citizenschallenge Comment #44

Rommey, the color blue is reserved for official Mod/Admin posts, so I’ve changed the color there.

LOL, how did you know green is my fav color? OK, I’m sorry to have missed that. There so many things I haven’t learned about the forum that it’s shameful. Now, a question, where you got your quote, I liked it. But, if you know me, I had to improve it. (It had the feel of a Garcilaso de la Vega quote).

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 2:47pm by rommey Comment #45

Now, a question, where you got your quote, I liked it.

From Francisco Goya ...

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 2:52pm by dougsmith Comment #46

I should have known, mi tocayo. I spent many an afternoon studying his style in El Prado.

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 2:58pm by rommey Comment #47

Another oddity: I believe that she said in the conversation that atheism was on the rise within the scientific community, and then later on said that religion and spiritualism were on the rise within the scientific community. That can’t all be right, since the total would add to more than 100%.

So that confused me.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who heard that ( I actually was not sure I actually heard the contradiction, but did not feel like listening again to find out).

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 3:33pm by asanta Comment #48

Maybe here?

http://www.fotos.org/galeria/data/537/3El-sueno-de-la-razon-produce-monstruos-Los-Caprichos-de-Goya.jpg

What I wonder how it is meant: the reason that is dreaming, or the dreaming about reason… Is the spanish unambiguous?

GdB

(O sorry posting too quick, see Doug reacted already… And that it is ambiguous.)

Posted on May 11, 2010 at 11:17pm by GdB Comment #49

It’s either “The sleep of reason” or “The dream of reason”. It can’t be “The dream about reason” because that would be “El sueño con ...”

I think the image lends itself more to “The sleep of reason”, cf.: the english Wiki: “It consists of a self-portrait of the artist with his head on a table, as owls and bats surround him, assailing him as he buries his head into his arms. Seemingly poised to attack the artist are owls (symbols of folly) and bats (symbols of ignorance). The viewer might read this as a portrayal of what emerges when reason is suppressed and, therefore, as an espousal of Enlightenment ideals. ...” (It could also be romanticism, but I find that less plausible and anyway that’s not why I picked it).

One should also look at the other of his Caprichos. Some of the strongest artwork I know.

Rommey, El Prado is one of my favorite museums. I confess that one of my favorite paintings there (along with all the Velázquez, of course) is Van Der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross, with Mary’s form echoing Jesus’s, and the artist’s amazing ability to capture form and expression.

Posted on May 12, 2010 at 3:36am by dougsmith Comment #50

owls (symbols of folly)

And I thought that “The owl of Minerva flies at twilight”... Being disappointed. :down:

One should also look at the other of his Caprichos.

Seeing this your interpretation is the most probable.

GdB

Posted on May 12, 2010 at 4:29am by GdB Comment #51

Doug: El Sueño is “the dream”; De La Razón is “of the reason”; Dormir is “to sleep”; I would agree with “The viewer might read this as a portrayal of what emerges when reason is suppressed” but with a different twist of its meaning: El Sueño de la Razón, implying when reason is not guided by conscious (wakeful) awareness, produces monsters [produce monstruos].
Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream was properly translated into Spanish as “Sueño de una Noche de Verano”. Similarly is Theory of Dreams, “Teoría de los Sueños”... Therefore my translation to English is the proper and unambiguous “Reason’s Dream Produces Monsters” but as a literary expression to convey the meaning expressed as portrayal of what emerges when reason is suppressed, I could use (perhaps more precise) “Reason’s Sleep Produces Monsters”
;)
Looking at Francisco Goya’s life, though, I would go with the “Reason’s Dream”... What did you say? ... I can’t hardly hear you… Apenas le oigo, debe ser un sueño hablándome en silencio… Qué obscura es la noche o es que me estoy volviendo ciego también?

Posted on May 12, 2010 at 4:51am by rommey Comment #52

Goya was mentally ill and I think he was simply trying to say that when he could not reason during his mental breakdowns he would see monsters. I also have many memories of El Prado. My school was about five minutes from the museum and I often visited it between classes.

Posted on May 12, 2010 at 7:13am by George Comment #53

@dougsmith ...Exactly! Well put.

And note that the question on the book title is “How Religious Are Scientists?” not “How Spiritual Are Scientists?”...and where is the tag line “An what do they mean by ‘spiritual’?”. Which means a layperson reader with a bias toward mystical religiosity might sloppily call this a “win” for religion. If there WERE a god, he’d know, they don’t need much to go on to misconstrue things.

I have relistened to the podcast a few times this week and these are some points where I have questions:
1. the 75% response rate is odd enough that she should have looked into it.  For example, someone might be tampering with the survey.
2. the “spiritual” stuff seems odd to me from my experience as a scientist.  Not as odd as #1 but counter to experience.
3. she noted atheism is increasing but this didn’t seem to be part of the book—Chris Mooney didn’t get into what data (maybe from other people) led her to that view although I think there are a lot of general surveys making this point.  She felt “New Atheists” were a minority but I think that it is a continuous spectrum of belief and that “New Atheists” can be defined in more than one way (we’ve discussed that on this forum—also what the difference if any between atheist and agnostic)
4. She said that scientists formed their positions early whether they were religious or spritual(?) or atheist, before their scientific training. This was not the case for me and so I’m skeptical of this generalization - just as Chris was skeptical about generalizations about 1st/2nd generation atheists.  Now a days where CFI has campus outreach I actually think there is more opportunity for college students to be exposed to atheism than there was in the 70s.  I also think the more common use of “atheism” in the popular media has an effect.  Even the John Shelby Spong books spray some realism over things.

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 2:43am by Jackson Comment #54

1. the 75% response rate is odd enough that she should have looked into it.  For example, someone might be tampering with the survey.

I believe she said she did detailed followups with a randomized selection of those who responded. If so, I don’t see how there could be any tampering. Who would be doing the tampering and how?

Further, I don’t see the point of tampering with a survey like this.

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 4:07am by dougsmith Comment #55

3. she noted atheism is increasing but this didn’t seem to be part of the book—Chris Mooney didn’t get into what data (maybe from other people) led her to that view although I think there are a lot of general surveys making this point.  She felt “New Atheists” were a minority but I think that it is a continuous spectrum of belief and that “New Atheists” can be defined in more than one way (we’ve discussed that on this forum—also what the difference if any between atheist and agnostic)

I wasn’t in on those earlier discussion of the definitions of atheism vs. agnosticism, but I have recently developed this rationale.

Certainly the “scientific” position should be that I/we are agnostic given the issues of proof and certainty. However, I find that the term is misleading. When you tell a believer (Christian, Muslim, Hindu….) that you are “agnostic” they see that as hopeful. They believe that by virtue of the fact that you are saying that you are “not sure if God exists” that you believe that “their God”, as described in their scriptures, might exist. So I prefer the term “atheist” because though, scientifically, I can’t be certain that God or a God-like being doesn’t exist, I AM certain that the God described in the scriptures of the worlds religions are mythical constructions of human imagination.

Though I am flirting with Christopher Hitchens’ term “anti-theist”

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 4:45am by Bill Goodwin Comment #56

@dougsmith ...Exactly! Well put.
And note that the question on the book title is “How Religious Are Scientists?” not “How Spiritual Are Scientists?”...and where is the tag line “An what do they mean by ‘spiritual’?”. Which means a layperson reader with a bias toward mystical religiosity might sloppily call this a “win” for religion. If there WERE a god, he’d know, they don’t need much to go on to misconstrue things.

Yes, well put… though I enjoyed Ecklund’s various presentations and feel a certain sympathy for her position, because of my own experiences and attitude toward spirituality (in a non woo manner).

As for the 75% response, in one of the other things I’ve looked up on Ecklund it was mentioned that she sent them money with the questionnaire - not much, but enough to nudge more responses from the folks.

PS.  If Eckland ever responds to this thread I’d love to hear her comment on Doug’s observations.

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 8:12am by citizenschallenge Comment #57

1. the 75% response rate is odd enough that she should have looked into it.  For example, someone might be tampering with the survey.

I believe she said she did detailed followups with a randomized selection of those who responded. If so, I don’t see how there could be any tampering. Who would be doing the tampering and how?

Further, I don’t see the point of tampering with a survey like this.

Doug I agree with you but the 75% is just really odd—and unexplained.

I’m open to other suggestions and I agree tampering is unlikely.

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 4:19pm by Jackson Comment #58

I’m open to other suggestions

Maybe it depends on who asks the question. When I was younger I often used to tell girls I was spiritual. Girls like to hear that stuff and we like to confuse them.  :-)

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 5:45pm by George Comment #59

@dougsmith ...Exactly! Well put.
And note that the question on the book title is “How Religious Are Scientists?” not “How Spiritual Are Scientists?”...and where is the tag line “An what do they mean by ‘spiritual’?”. Which means a layperson reader with a bias toward mystical religiosity might sloppily call this a “win” for religion. If there WERE a god, he’d know, they don’t need much to go on to misconstrue things.

Yes, well put… though I enjoyed Ecklund’s various presentations and feel a certain sympathy for her position, because of my own experiences and attitude toward spirituality (in a non woo manner).

As for the 75% response, in one of the other things I’ve looked up on Ecklund it was mentioned that she sent them money with the questionnaire - not much, but enough to nudge more responses from the folks.

PS.  If Eckland ever responds to this thread I’d love to hear her comment on Doug’s observations.

so “spiritual” scientists are more likely to feel guilty if you send them money….(?)

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 5:59pm by Jackson Comment #60

Jackson, what was the 75% in reference to again?

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 6:01pm by George Comment #61

Actually, I think I know why so many people answered they were spiritual. It’s probably the same reason why in a country like the Czech Republic most people would give the opposite answer. I think they are lying. In the U.S. being an atheist or even an agnostic is seen as something immoral, in the CR being religious or spiritual—the word “spiritual” hasn’t been part of everyday language now for over hundred years— is considered as almost some kind of mental illness. And so people lie.

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 6:11pm by George Comment #62

Jackson, what was the 75% in reference to again?

Ok, sorry if I’m making too big a deal about this. I’ll drop it until I look at the book and dig a little more.

In the podcast Ecklund noted that she had a 75% RESPONSE RATE to her initial survey. She then interviewed folks randomly chosen from these respondents, but used the survey for the statistics.

This is high for a “random” survey. 
One post above noted she sent some money with the request—but it might be that she worded her request for the survey that appealed to the prestige of the scientists.
A best case scenario is that the results are 100% valid and it would be nice if she could share her procedure (which maybe is in the book) because we all benefit from properly conducted surveys.

To put the number in context—what fraction of these scientists voted in the last presidential election? Do we think it was 75%?

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 6:30pm by Jackson Comment #63

Hmm, I see. Yes, I agree, I think she should clarify how she did it.

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 6:40pm by George Comment #64

Hmm, I see. Yes, I agree, I think she should clarify how she did it.

I’ll admit I’m a bit disappointed she hasn’t managed to visit this threat -

But, the cute barb’s at “spirituality” are missing the point also.

so “spiritual” scientists are more likely to feel guilty if you send them money….(?)

Oh, I get it, this is why they represented such a high % rather than arriving at a more true representative sampling - one that you would feel more comfortable with.

Any ways, you know what they say: money makes the world go around.

Posted on May 14, 2010 at 10:12pm by citizenschallenge Comment #65

Thank you Chris for letting us know your worldview prior to beginning the interview.  However, less than 2 minutes later you introduce your guest and yet you never get around to asking about her worldview.  This needs to be a requirement for any and all guests, particularly authors.

Posted on May 16, 2010 at 1:38am by jasonb Comment #66

Another link to discussion over at
Jerry Coyne (why Evolution is True)
http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/rosenhouse-reviews-ecklund/

and a blog new to me
EvolutionBlog—Jason Rosenhouse

http://scienceblogs.com/evolutionblog/2010/05/scientists_and_religion.php#more

have now had a chance to read Elaine Howard Ecklund’s new book Science vs. Relgion: What Scientists Really Think. It is worth reading, despite her annoying decision to include social scientists, but not mathematicians, in her definition of “scienitst.” I also did not care for her obvious preference for those scientists willing to talk sweetly about religion, but what can you do?

Posted on May 21, 2010 at 3:06pm by Jackson Comment #67

Another Jerry Coyne commentary on the book—-

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/ecklund-is-framing-again/

If you want to see framing at its nauseating best, or worst, observe how Ecklund downplays the irreligiosity of scientists in favor of showing how “spiritual” they are, how few of them actually spend their time trying to destroy religion, and how “nearly one in five is actively involved in a house of worship, attending services more than once a month.”

Posted on Jun 28, 2010 at 6:54pm by Jackson Comment #68

Yes, I read that too. I would really like to know more about her methodology. I can’t take a study seriously unless it is transparent. I’m sure someone will do a followup study which will find very different results.

Posted on Jun 29, 2010 at 7:43pm by asanta Comment #69