Re: [asa] Number of biologists who are TE

From: Merv <>
Date: Mon Sep 18 2006 - 23:25:09 EDT

I just started reading "Challenging Nature" by Lee M. Silver -- a
Princeton molecular biology professor -- and he cites the following
study (I'll give an excerpt from p. 31 that leads up to that citation.)

Silver writes ...
Sophisticated defenders of traditional religion are wont to point out
that many of the scientific giants of yesteryear, including Francis
Bacon and Isaac Newton, were Christian believers who consciously
compartmentalized their science and faith. Compartmentalization,
however, was easier in the centuries before scientists learned about
genes, evolution by natural selection, molecular biology, and the
localized neuronal and chemical bases for mental activities. Among the
current biologists who are members of the prestigious U.S. National
Academy of Sciences,, only 5.5 percent have faith in a transcendent
God. Nevertheless, in a pamphlet aimed at persuading the public to
accept the teaching of evolution in public schools, Bruce Alberts, the
molecular biology president of the National Academy, claimed, "There are
many very outstanding members of this Academy who are very religious
people . . . many of them biologists."
<end excerpt>
For the info above he cites a study by Larson & Witham (apparently
published in 1998 according to a summary of it found at
<> )

And earlier on p. 16 Silver shares this conclusion after an anecdote
about his colleagues trading war stories about their encounters with
"people who 'actually believe' that a soul or spirit animates living
creatures or survives death in some way." Quote continued: "Their
implicit understanding is that colleagues in their field will almost
certainly think the same way they do, because the practice of molecular
biology--compared with every other field of scholarship and science--is
the /least /[emphasis in original] compatible with spiritual beliefs."

So how's that for a declaration of the warfare model? For all of his
world travels to sample the local religions and spiritualities, I hope
his engagement with the issue can get deeper than the tired straw man
caricature of spirituality that always comes from the Dawkins crowd.
The ironic thing is, that it is these people that become the most
zealous converts on the rare occasions that they are converted. (One
can almost see the pre-converted apostle Paul) The convert may switch
allegiances dramatically, but the fundamentalism never leaves.

I never read his earlier work "Remaking Eden" but maybe he will have
some novel insights. He doesn't seem to jump on the "religion is on
its way out" bandwagon, but instead strikes up a bit of a fatalistic
despair that the ignorant masses (my words -- not his -- not yet anyway)
will ever come around. To the extent that my characterization is
accurate, I suppose a bit of elitism is par for someone with Ivy league


David Campbell wrote:
> > I getting the general impression especially from ASA meetings
> > (which
> > may not be a representative sample) that it is probably fair enough
> > to
> > say that most college biology teachers are TE. Is that right? I
> > suspect
> > next might be ID and least YEC. Have there been good studies of
> > this?
> > I did a quick web search and a study by covenant college
> > would seem to
> > indicate that maybe my assumption is not right at least with
> > Coalition
> > colleges.
> The discussion associated with the Paleontological Society short
> course on evolution/creation issues at the Geological Society of
> America meeting about 7 years ago suggested that a large proportion of
> those present would fall broadly under the TE category, though I would
> not have much confidence about the theological orthodoxy of most or
> how strongly theistic. This would be a sample from primarily secular
> colleges.

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Received on Mon Sep 18 23:24:21 2006

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