Anticipated decline in faith among scientists fails to materialize in 80 years

people_larsonA full 40 percent of scientists believe in a personal God and afterlife, according to a 1997 study.

“Although the suggestion 80 years ago that four in 10 scientists did not believe in God or an afterlife was astounding to contemporaries, the fact that so many scientists believe in God today is equally surprising,” said study organizers Edward Larson and Larry Witham, of the University of Georgia, in the journal Nature.

The duo replicated a study from 80 years prior conducted by James Leuba that shocked America at a time when faith enjoyed wide acceptance. He found that four of 10 scientist didn’t believe in God.


Stephen Hawking opted to not believe.

Leuba “predicted that more and more scientists would give up their belief in God, as scientific knowledge replaced what he considered to be superstition,” writes the National Center for Science Education in an article “Do Scientists Really Reject God?”

Leuba would be disappointed. The 1997 iteration of his poll found the percentage of faith-holding scientists remained constant through 80 years of scientific and technological advance. Science has not dislodged belief in God, and the number of theistic scientists is “impressively high,” according to the New York Times.


Francis Collins does believe.

“The results also indicate that, while science and religion often are depicted as irreconcilable antagonists, each a claimant to the throne of truth, many scientists see no contradiction between a quest to understand the laws of nature, and a belief in a higher deity,” the New York Times wrote.

What’s more, the narrowly-phrased questions designed by Leuba — and repeated by Larson and Witham — may have overstated disbelief, according to Rodney Stark, a professor of sociology and comparative religion at the University of Washington in Seattle, as quoted in the New York Times. Stark’s research indicates that scientists pretty much reflect the general American public when it comes to believing in God.

“To the extent that both surveys are accurate readings, traditional Western theism has not lost its place among U.S. scientists, despite their intellectual preoccupation with material reality,” Larson and Witham wrote in their study. Read the rest of the article.

10 responses to “Anticipated decline in faith among scientists fails to materialize in 80 years

  1. That is because Religion is a placebo. You need to ask for change. science is a chemical that requires a spark. Working together would be high genieus.

  2. Pingback: Anticipated decline in faith among scientists fails to materialize in 80 years – Does the Future come about because of our past?

  3. How many times have people pronounced God is dead only to be found a fool? Thanks for this brother!

  4. I come from an extended family liberally sprinkled with both scientists and ministers. Faith is no obstacle to an inquiring intellect, nor vice versa.

  5. Wait a second…..the 80 years old study said that 4 of 10 scientists did NOT believe in God. The 1997 study said that 4 of 10 scientists DO believe in God, unless there’s a typo in the article. So doesn’t that mean that there HAS been a decline? Or am I reading this all wrong? Regardless, 40% is still higher than I would have expected, I’m pretty impressed. 🙂

    • Yes, it’s confusing, as stats usu. are. So back 90 years ago, it was a shocker that so many scientists didn’t believe in God — 40%. Now, the American public is astonished that so many do — %40. The other percentages spread across a gamut of options, including agnostics who simply don’t know.

  6. Amen! We know quite a few scientists who are strong Christian believers. The Bible promises that a lie is but for a moment, but the lip of truth is established forever. Since Jesus is the Way, Truth & Life…it makes sense that those who seek the truth would find Jesus.

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