Scientists Who Believe in God

Some interesting stats from Christianity Today.

42% Scientists ages 18-34 who say they believe in God.

28% Scientists 65 and older who say this.

(Source: Pew Research Center)

What do you make of those stats?  I was surprised the older group showed so much less belief.  But 42% is no small number, and undermines the claim that most scientists are atheists.

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18 thoughts on “Scientists Who Believe in God

  1. the problem with long age development is how it affects our understanding of what sin is. If it was a natural development, if death was part of God’s plan, what was Jesus dying for?

  2. Thanks, Chris!

    I’m withholding judgment on whether macroev can explain the diversity of life. I don’t really see it as a theological question so much as a scientific one. I may be in the minority when I say that I don’t think the answer even has large theological implications.

    Front-loading makes sense to me. It has always seemed to me that, since God is omniscient and may be outside of time to start with, He probably knew exactly what He was getting when He created the universe. If He chose, He could have created one that came with all the forces and physical characteristics that would eventually produce our bodies, or He could have changed biology along the way. I don’t suppose we’ll find out for certain until we can ask directly. :)

  3. Hi Des and Shining,

    Interesting discussion! I believe in an old universe and earth, which seem to be supported by solid science, but I’m skeptical about macroevolution being able to explain the diversity of life. At least in Lenski’s studies on thousands of generations of bacteria grown in the lab, only small adaptions are observed, and these always come at the cost of turning off other genes, resulting in a loss of other functionality. Mutation and selection seem to be pretty limited in what they can accomplish (as recounted by Behe in the “Edge of Evolution”). On a naturalistic worldview, I’d go further and say such a scenario doesn’t have a chance. But I’m open to the possibility that God “front-loaded” the creation in such a way that life would develop “naturally” under some kind of evolutionary scenario.

    I agree with Des that one can accept the evolutionary story and still embrace Christianity, since it could turn out that that’s the way God decided to go about it. If I were sharing the gospel with someone who felt that was a problem, I would tell them it’s a peripheral issue to salvation and instead focus on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As someone said, maybe Des, we do need more thinking and research on this issue. I’m sure more evidence will come to light as time goes on.

    Blessings,
    Chris

  4. A young friend of mine just did research on these groups last year. According to her: People who merely claim intelligent design are (contrary to darwinian /natural evolutionists’claims) not basing this on or connecting it to reigious faith. They often believe in some force who imbued everything with a plan, yet they still believe it takes long ages AND they usually do not believe in a personal god. Theistic evolutionists are like yourself, believers in God’s continued input but not in the 6 day development of our earth sructure and diversity of life. You are not the only real Christian I know in this group. Also, people of many religions fall into this group. Jews, Islamics, and Christians have traditionally held, and a number of us still do hold, to the 6 day model. Many in the group I call my own would probably consider me a heretic as I do not believe the whole universe was created 6,000 years ago. I used to believe as they do but a few years ago I finally took note of what Gen 1:1,2 really said.

  5. I am soooooooo excited about what you pointed out about God creating out of nothing only in those areas. I had come to that conclusion based on other aspects of the Biblical account. It is always nice to have one’s study validated from an unexpected angle. Briefly, my current understanding of the text leads me to believe that some time in the distant past (could be billions of years) God created the cosmos and set everything spinning and kept it all going. He finished them all off using material He had already created, finshing off with our world. When He started here He was using the water and other pre-existing material that at that point was without form and void, set up the structure an populated it with plants and animals. I am just a deeply interested ameteur but I have communicated with a number of creation scientists with Ph.Ds who believe pretty much the same.

  6. I think it’s great to be able to have a good discussion with people and show that special creation (not sure exactly where that differs from intelligent design; please feel free to enlighten me :)) is reasonable. I agree with you that creationists can become too rigid as a result of unfair attacks; I think it goes both ways. Both sides of the argument seem to me to make the other side more dogmatic and inflexible. Maybe we Christians should be the ones, not to compromise on the truth, but to focus on the essentials and be a little more lighthearted and flexible about the rest.

    I know that I am in the minority, but I actually don’t think that evidence for macroevolution could indicate that the Bible was untrustworthy. In fact, I think that the ideas in Genesis match up pretty well with many of the current ideas of evolution. :) I know that it’s controversial, and I really don’t mean to yank anyone’s chain. I’m not saying that this is how it has to be; this part is just speculation, in the interest of explaining why a person doesn’t have to mistrust the Bible to see macroevolution as a possible mechanism of Creation. Here are a few minor thoughts:

    1. Genesis was authored thousands of years ago, in a culture of desert nomads. Moses obviously wouldn’t use the same sort of language that we would use today in communicating the ideas. For US to think that Genesis describes evolution, we would be thinking in terms of DNA, natural selection, genetic drift… Not exactly viable concepts in Moses’ time. If, however, you could show a very fast-forwarded vision of Creation to a desert nomad of thousands of years ago and that creation happened to include macroevolution in more or less its currently speculated form, then it seems to me that the desert nomad would be likely to recount that vision as something like what we get in Genesis. He would be absolutely correct, but it might not sound that way to us.
    2. The language in Genesis sometimes seems to support an evolutionary approach – for example, the word that in the Hebrew usually means “creation from nothing” is only used three times, to describe the creation of the earth and heavens, the first origin of animal life, and the making of man in God’s image. The other word used in Genesis for the other parts of creation indicates a reshaping or transformation from existing matter. Note that God’s creation of man in His image doesn’t seem to be referring primarily to the physical creation of man, since we presumably don’t look much like God, but to the creation of a human soul. Genesis describes the breath of life when God “made Adam a living soul.” If I remember right, the Hebrew word for “breath” can also mean “life” or “soul.” This seems a type of creation distinct from the creation of the fish, birds, etc.

    I’m really not trying to convince you of the evolution thing. I personally am content with however God decided to do it. :) I just hope that I can demonstrate in my feeble way that taking the Bible seriously is not incompatible with any of the viewpoints that we’ve discussed, including macroevolution.

  7. As I said before I do not blieve it is possible to prove how anything happened. It is possible to show what is reasonble, logical. The reason special creation is important to me is deciding if the Bible can be trusted in its ideas. I think mybe sp creationists sometimes become overly rigid in their beliefs and responces because of the pointed attcks they face by some of the Darwinian faith. It is unfortunate that some jobs an even schooling closes in front of many who dare to express their their belief in Gen 1-11. When science teachers insist, as mine did, that only their belief of origins is intelligent and reasonable,I considered it an open door to show that special creation is after all quite reasonable.

  8. I don’t think that belief in long stages of development in itself leads many people to disbelieve in Christ. I think that more people are led to disbelieve by the insistence of some Christians and some scientists that belief in long biological development and belief in God are incompatible. That sets up the choice: if you think that the evidence points toward evolution (and some people will see it that way) then you have to throw God out. Whatever the truth about evolution, that is a false dichotomy.

    One of the problems with that dichotomy is that, if you buy it, evidence for evolution is evidence against God. Evidence against evolution is not necessarily evidence for our God. Also, there are many convincing arguments on both sides. I don’t think we need to leave people’s salvation to the quality of the arguments they hear about evolution – which is ultimately unrelated to salvation anyway.

    A good friend of mine is a professional biologist. She was a lifelong atheist until she began seeking the truth in graduate school. When she thought that the other evidence for Jesus was strong, she asked me what I thought about evolution and Genesis. When I told her why I don’t think that they conflict, she realized that the evidence that she has seen is no barrier to belief. She’s now an amazing, on-fire Christian. She didn’t need to know whether macroevolution is true or not – she needed to know that she could accept Christ either way.

    As for children behaving abominably because they believe that we came from slime in the sea, is that different from being formed from mud? ;) I don’t think the problem there is what people think our very distant ancestors looked like; I think it’s their view of who we are in relation to God. The worldview that says that God is not involved is just flat wrong, and lots of people use evolution to support that worldview. That support is an illusion, and I don’t like that we Christians have bought into it.

    I don’t mean to argue with you here; it doesn’t matter what either of us think about macroevolution, and I thank God that we both know Him. This is just one of the areas that I think we as Christians have been suckered into reinforcing unnecessary barriers to belief. My problem isn’t with belief or disbelief in macroevolution; that’s ultimately a scientific question and people can disagree. The problem is with accepting the “other side’s” propaganda that either one could disprove our Creator.

  9. BTW, I agree that belief in God-originated beginnings cannot be proved. But it is also intrinsically true that evolutionary faith in random beginnings cannot be proved either. All you can do is provide evidence. Those who have faith in evolution interpret it one way and those who have faith in a god, explain the evidence another way. Personally, after studying the “natural” evolution model, even if my faith in my God was destroyed and gone, I could never embrace the macro evolution stuff. It violates my logical processes.

    • Hi Shining,
      I think you’re right that neither side can offer conclusive evidence that would convince any rational person. As you mention, it’s far from obvious that Darwinian evolution is a fact. It hasn’t been shown that random mutation and natural selection can produce new or complex bodily systems. As Michael Behe shows, these two factors are very limited in what they can accomplish, even over long periods of time. Unfortunately, Darwinism is the reigning orthodoxy today and you can’t question it without being vilified. Many of its proponents defend it with a religious fervor. To doubt it invites excommunication from the Church of Science.

      • I hear you. But God overrules sometimes and a few of His own slip in. Don’t suppose it was easy for Joseph or Daniel. Greatest want in the world is for those who stand for HIs truth tho the heavens fall.

        • At the risk of throwing a wrench in the works: I would also say that belief in any form of evolution, including macroevolution, does not preclude belief in God as creator of all and Jesus as our Saviour; nor does it preclude belief in divine intervention in human lives or physical miracles.

          My personal opinion is that many biologists are anti-Christianity mostly based on politics and social pressure, not because a belief in evolution has much real bearing on theology.

          I would caution anyone who is witnessing to a biologist not to base their arguments on disagreements about evolution/intelligent design. Those arguments can “go round and round forever,” and usually never get anywhere. They also set up a “science vs. God” dynamic that I think is dangerous. I think Paul’s statement that he “resolved to know nothing except Christ, and Him crucified” when speaking to smarty-pants is good advice. Basically, if Jesus is who He said that He was, and was crucified, buried, and rose again, and if we can have a reasonable amount of certainty that the basics of His teachings have been faithfully handed down through His church and the Scriptures, then the rest can be hashed out afterward.

          I am a Christian and a biologist. I have many Christian friends who see evolution as crazy and obviously wrong. I don’t agree with them, but I usually don’t say much on the subject unless asked – ultimately, it doesn’t matter what people think about evolution. It only matters what they do with Christ.

          • Certainly belief in Jesus is the center of everything. I have found tho, that belief in long ages of development has led many people to disbelieve in the Bible and Jesus. When children think they come from slime in the sea we should not be surprised when they act abominably. Altho I do not understand how you can be a Christian while believing macro I accept your assertion and I am glad for your faith. BTW when I went back to college I led several profs and a number of fellow students back to belief in Genesis which was followed by their return to a relation to Jesus.

  10. Educators who formally or informally teach their faith in evolution greatly affect their students’ beliefs. That’s why it is important. Even if one could show a number of non-educator scientists who are believers, and you can, it does not off-set the indoctrination and antagonism of militant believers in evolution.

  11. Pingback: It’s not like me too… « Mentality's Mind

    • Hi morsec0de,

      Thanks for raising that question. If my memory serves, the person I most recently heard make that claim was PZ Myers in a radio interview. But there is a long history of this kind of claim. Of course, in the end, it doesn’t matter how many scientists are or aren’t believers in God, since majority vote can’t decide what’s true or false. And, I don’t believe most scientists have the expertise to weigh in on this question authoritatively, since this is really a philosophical question, and most scientists aren’t philosophers.

      But to list a couple of examples, the first person to conduct a survey of the religious beliefs of scientists was a U.S. psychologist named James H. Leuba, in 1914. “He found that 58% of 1,000 randomly selected US scientists expressed disbelief or doubt in the existence of God, and that this figure rose to near 70% among the 400 ‘greater’ scientists within his sample.” He “attributed the higher level of disbelief and doubt among ‘greater’ scientists to their ‘superior knowledge, understanding, and experience.'”

      To give one additional example, Oxford University scientist Peter Atkins stated, “You clearly can be a scientist and have religious beliefs. But I don’t think you can be a real scientist in the deepest sense of the word because they are such alien categories of knowledge.” (both quotes come from http://freethoughtpedia.com/wiki/Scientists_and_atheism“.)

      This kind of attitude, which is “scientism,” underlies much of what the new atheists write and say.

      Chris

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