Latest POI is Up: "Elaine Howard Ecklund–How Religious Are Scientists?"

By Chris Mooney | May 7, 2010 2:26 pm

Ecklund(1)The show website is here; you can listen here and download/subscribe here.

Here is the description of the program:

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.

Once again: The show website is here; and you can listen here and download/subscribe here. And you can get a copy of Ecklund’s book, Science vs Religion: What Scientists Really Think, by clicking here.


Comments (8)

  1. gillt

    Ecklund’s findings are certainly surprising, especially since they don’t seem to be supported by her data. Take a look in the appendix to her book.

  2. ambulocetacean

    Chris, The topic and the research may be interesting but I was stunned to hear you interviewing someone else who has also taken Templeton money. If I had wanted to listen to a Templeton podcast I would have gone to their stinking website and seen if they had one.

    I kept listening to PoI after you joined but I have now unsubscribed. The last of the confidence I once had in you has evaporated.

  3. Jen

    Awesome. I <3 sociology!

  4. Jean

    Chris, Great interview, really interesting. I liked the moment when you played devil’s advocate about the “second generation atheist” business. The devil always needs an advocate. It was interesting that she found so few atheists who were “anti-religious.” Wish I could find her statistics online, but I haven’t been able to.

  5. TB

    I’ll be picking up her book to see for myself. I’ll have to do that because critics like gillt have in the past criticized content in books without actually reading them – instead relying on unreliable third party sources for instance.

  6. Jaime A. Headden

    Ambulocetacean missed the first thread discussing Ecklund’s credentials and the use of “Templeton money” — should check it out before spouting what he/she doesn’t know.

  7. Chris Mooney

    I made sure the templeton funding was disclosed and discussed on the air. This was my responsiblity as a host, since some think it is controversial.

    If you don’t want to even hear the word “Templeton” at all, I guess you should boycott–but in my view, disclosure is the best way to approach such things.

    Then, with disclosure in place, one can go on to judge the arguments on their merits.

  8. Ken Pidcock

    Interesting work and interesting interview.

    Perhaps it would be better for science literacy in the US if we were to promote the voices of religious scientists rather than discouraging the voices of non-believing scientists.


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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