The American professoriate: godless liberals?

By Razib Khan | June 21, 2008 2:36 am

In short, liberal, yes, but godless, far less so. Religious Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty:

Faculty are, however, not monolithic. There are divisions among faculty ranks. Science and math faculty are the least religious in belief and behavior. Business faculty are the most conservative and most religious. Humanities faculty, though the most politically liberal, are not less religious than other faculty and on some measures are more religious. Faculty, while less religious than the general population, are complex in their religiosity.

Am I the only one who has had the experience of a non-science background friend who is surprised that I’m not terrified by the idea of fish genes being spliced into tomatoes? In other words, yes, a modern liberal arts education might make one more skeptical of conventional “mainstream” world-views, but that skepticism is often not complemented much with a commitment toward rational & empirical analysis of the issues at hand. So naturally intuitive morality with roots in our cognitive hardware kick in.
Most interesting figures below the fold….


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The 19% of definitional (as opposed to identifed) atheists is probably an underestimate. From page 27:

We can conclude that those who did not answer are more likely to answer that they do not believe in God. The overall proportion of atheists among the faculty as a whole is actually more like 24% than the 19% shown by those who answered affirmatively.

fac1fig7.jpg
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The fact that non-Evangelical Protestants are not noticeably underrepresented, while Evangelical Protestants are, should not surprise if you keep in mind that there are simply fewer academic caliber minds among Evangelicals. 3% of the faculty sample consisted of Unitarians, around 0.2% of the American population. So this group is 15 times more represented in the faculty than in the general population. Of course, you know that Unitarians are probably the smartest religious group in the United States. In any case, the survey apparently had an N of around 1,300.
(H/T Volokh Conspiracy)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture
  • Bob S

    Some organization surveys members of the NAS every 10 years or so. Only about 40% of the members report some sort of religious feeling. Significantly, this drops to around 4% of biologists, all of whom are Darwinists.

  • BGC

    I am not clear (from looking at the methods section) what kinds of institution were included in the sampling frame. Are these all faculty from 4 year colleges, or does the sample include community colleges?

  • Russell

    You’re wrong to the stats, Bob. Physical scientists and biologists in the NAS are almost indistinguishable in this regard:
    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/ctrl/news/file002.html

  • http://scienceblogs.com/ethicsandscience/ Dr. Free-Ride

    Any ideas, for the purposes of this study anyway, what the difference is between “atheist” and “no religion”?

  • John Emerson

    The personal relationship with God is controversial in many mainline denominations. From the numbers it seems that a lot of mainline Christians are sliding in a Pentecostal, evangelical, or charismatic direction.

  • http://changelog.ca/ Charles Iliya Krempeaux

    @Dr. Free-Ride: Regardiing…
    “Any ideas, for the purposes of this study anyway, what the difference is between “atheist” and “no religion”?”
    My guess would be that “no relgion” could be that a person believes in God, but does not follow any “religion” beyond that.
    (Where an Atheist is a person who either does not believe in god, or neither believes nor disbelieves in God. I.e., they either disbelieve or are undecided.)
    – Charles Iliya Krempeaux
    http://changelog.ca/

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    My guess would be that “no relgion” could be that a person believes in God, but does not follow any “religion” beyond that.
    yes. in most general population surveys only about 40% of those with “no religion” are atheists or agnostics; the rest are theists or deists. in this survey it seems that “no religion” would just be the residual after you remove self-identified atheists and those with religious identification. that is, theists with no religious identification.

  • http://www.scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    Are these all faculty from 4 year colleges, or does the sample include community colleges?
    only 4 year from what i can see.

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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