Bulletin Banner

Return to March/April 2013 articles.

Article title

Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think

by Elaine Howard Ecklund, Oxford University Press, ©2010,
228 pages, $27.95 (hard cover), ISBN 978-0-19-539298-2

Picture of BookOne of the difficulties faced by ministries like Does God Exist? is the lack of research into what scientists really believe about God and religion. Vocal atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris tend to lead the public to believe that all scientists who are really good scientists are atheists, and some fundamentalists tend to condemn all of science as atheistic in tone. For over five years we have had a column in this periodical in which we quote Nobel Prize winning scientists who express strong faith statements in opposition to these stereotypes.

Elaine Howard Ecklund is a member of the sociology faculty at Rice University, and this book is a survey of 1,700 scientists and interviews with 275 of them. The first 155 pages of the book discuss what Ecklund feels the data shows and the remainder of the book contains the data, notes, a bibliography, and an index. The book explores the personal faith of scientists and what is happening in secular educational institutions in the area of faith and religion.

I suspect that no one will be happy with this book. Atheists will not like it because it shows that nearly 50% of elite scientists are religious and a very small minority are hostile to religion. Christian leaders will not like it because the definition of “religion” is so broad that almost any belief system is considered on par with belief in Jesus Christ. The book does point out the role of unfortunate denominational traditions in creating unnecessary opposition from the scientific community; but no attempt is made by the author to filter out the extremists on both sides. The last two chapters of the book deal with how dialogue might be established, and what Ecklund calls “myths believed” by both sides. The failure to include the role of apologists and the impact some modern apologists are having is unfortunate, but there is much to learn from this book.

This is a book for college professors and students, people in the church who are employed in scientific areas, and ministers working with well educated people in technology-related fields. It is not positive nor is it negative in its conclusions. While it is well written it is not particularly useful in apologetics or in helping young people deal with faith issues on a personal level.