Thursday, December 23, 2010

Leaving Religious People Out of Science

Thus far, Elaine Howard Ecklund's Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think is a really good read. I appreciate most of all how she is using research to lay out the range of scientists' views about religion. She's clearing up the myths and assumptions that often turn debate into shouting.

The first few chapters have me thinking about social reproduction and how the culture of university science departments keep religious people out of science. She shows how many religious scientists feel that their faith beliefs would not be accepted by their colleagues, and they therefore keep their religion as a private matter. So, to the public or to students in classes taught by that group of scientists, science has an unreligious or even anti-religious face.

Dr. Ecklund's research shows that this is not some sinister plot of Some Evil Group of Scientists who are out to destroy religion in America. Instead, her research is making me think of how social cultures reproduce themselves. Until Title IX mandated change, American girls so often heard the message, "Sports are for boys" mainly because boys were the only ones in sports. The male-dominated American sports culture reproduced itself until the sports culture was forced to change and now we see how great athletes girls can be. In the same way, I'm wondering if religious people don't feel welcomed in science simply because they aren't already welcome in science. Isn't it that the non-religious culture of American science is simply reproducing itself and blocking many religious people from going into science because they don't feel that they're welcomed?


Anonymous said...


If its the "non-religious culture in American science" that is keeping religious people out... when did that start? Could it be the result of a major book published in 1859? Or perhaps people who are "more" religious choose to purse other careers and thereby allowed that culture to develop as opposed to be pushed out?


Lee said...

Josh: Don't know if you'll see this, but I just found your comment. I had to turn comment moderation on due to spam, but I didn't have an email alert set up about comments. Sorry!

I'm thinking that it's a both/and thing going on. In the 20th century, American universities (and their seminaries) got more and more skeptical of anyone who worked their faith into their actual work. Then, as deeply religious people left or became quiet, the culture became one of secularism. Ecklund, in her book, thinks that this might be changing, however, with a new generation of scientists who are more apt to express their spirituality.