Religious faith and interest in basic science

You are taking one person, or at least a small collection of people (i.e AIG) and then generalizing to large groups (All religious people).
These kind of generalizations don’t work with people.

How would you feel if someone pointed to Richard Dawkins and other scientists like him to make the case that Scientists are hostile towards religious people?

You should know better than this.

Yes, I agree with you here @Ashwin_s.

While @Herman_Mays analysis of Jeanson might be accurate, the sample is not representative of the Christian scientists in this thread.


He’s not the only one. Pretty much every creationist I’ve encountered does this.

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I’m wondering what exactly you are so worried about here? LGBT? Feminism? I think what some culture war conservatives would label as “political correctness” I might just label as common decency.

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I think the degree to which this actually occurs in American universities is wildly overblown mostly by culture war religious conservatives who seek to further their own agenda that in general runs counter to a secular society tolerant of diversity.

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I gave you an example. There are university professors who would say that the sort of work Doreen Kimura did should not be done, because it might lead people to draw socially repressive conclusions regarding the capacities and rights of women. And I’m saying that the only job Doreen Kimura had as a scientist researching brain development in human males and females was to accurately describe what happens in that development. She shouldn’t have to worry in the slightest about the indignation of feminist professors, whether in her own psychology department or in any other department. She only should have had to worry about producing good research. If scientists have to worry about whether their results will offend people, and if they feel they have to adjust what they do and claim in order to anticipate possible offense, they are crippled. And this applies across the board, to historians, philosophers, religion scholars, etc.

You as a biologist are probably much less sensitized to this sort of activity in the university, but it absolutely dominates the Arts departments, both Social Science and Humanities. I and other scholars know this from very painful and costly experience.

How much time have you spent in Arts departments? How many close academic colleagues do you have in Arts departments, and how often do you discuss hirings, etc. with them? It’s not overblown. The professoriate in the Arts (in secular schools, I mean) is overwhelmingly leftist/feminist, way out of proportion to the percentages in the general population.

A young Ph.D. in Sociology who has become known for championing capital punishment in his academic articles and books, if he is looking to be hired for his first job or for tenure, had better plan on a fall-back, non-academic career, because he is not going to be hired in 95% of the nation’s Sociology departments. He could be the best sociologist in the country in terms of statistical skills, survey technique, communications skills, number of publications in good journals, positive student teaching recommendation, etc. – but he has almost no chance of ever being hired by his Sociology colleagues. The culture of Sociology is overwhelmingly leftist. And a literary scholar who thinks that most of feminist literary theory is a pile of deranged ideological rubbish, and says so in his publications, has very little chance of landing a job in an English department. It doesn’t matter how well he argues his position. It doesn’t matter that his history, philosophy, argumentative prose, classroom teaching ability, etc. are all superior to those of the people he is criticizing; the feminists in the English departments will make sure that he is not hired.

This is life in the Arts in the secular university. There are rare exceptions, the odd department or university that is different. But in the main, Arts departments have become clubs of the like-minded, with their own orthodoxies, just like the orthodoxies you deplore when they are religious rather than secular ones. And it’s orthodoxy as such that is the problem – there should be no orthodoxies in any university department. University faculties should be collections of oddballs and heretics who rarely agree on anything, except on the one fundamental principle that the only thing that matters is evidence and argument and that no position, no matter how unpopular, is to be ruled out in advance of serious consideration.

And by the way, I’m not a “religious conservative” as you seem to conceive of the term. You seem to have in mind someone like Ken Ham and things like Creation Science, and I’m on record, here and on BioLogos, as opposed to those things. I don’t think Biblical interpretation should control what scientists can say or do. Every hypothesis should be on the table for discussion, even hypotheses that conflict with a literal reading of Genesis. It’s not scientists’ job to worry about the possible hurt feelings of religious people. At the same time, it’s not the scientists’ job to worry about the indignation of secular feminist professors, either. It’s the scientists’ job to correctly interpret nature, and if that offends anyone on the political or religious left, or the political or religious right, tough. The university should have no allegiance whatsoever to right or left or any social or political ideology or religion. It should be a place where scientists and scholars seek to determine the truth. Unfortunately it very often fails to live up to that ideal of detachment.

If you want to learn more about what actually goes on in modern university departments to enforce ideology, you can read books like Illiberal Education by Dinesh D’Souza.

Now i think you have either arrived at a tautology or just have very limited experience.

If you define “creationist” as everyone who believes God created all things including life. Then, you need to meet more creationists ( by the above definition) who are scientist. for example @swamidass, @dga471 etc.

If you define “creationist” as people who use Science to prove the bible, For example AIG, then your claim is tautological. Its true by definition.

IMO, you need to reflect on what exactly you are claiming and why the claim has significance.

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A creationist is someone who believes in a divine supernatural creator.

By that definition you include most Christians…most Christians believe in a God who is above the natural order.

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Of course! Virtually ALL Christians are creationists. The problem I have isn’t with creationists but with science denialists and people who misrepresent their religious beliefs for something they aren’t.

But Herman, we’re now back to square one: equating all Christian scientists to Nathaniel Jeanson and AIG. As you said earlier to Ashwin:

So now we’re back to where we were in the beginning, where you accused your Christian scientific colleagues of only being interested in science to advance their theological agenda. Now this group has been enlarged to include basically everyone who believes in a Creator above the natural order: Joshua @swamidass, @PdotdQ (a Catholic), @Michelle, @Jordan, @stlyankeefan, to give some examples. Possibly also Francis Collins, Director of the NIH, according to this criteria, is not truly interested in science, but only in studying topics that serve their agenda, just like AIG-affiliated scientists. :thinking:


@Herman_Mays tell us about your personal beliefs. As I recall, you consider yourself a Christian, right? So do you believe God created all things?

And yes Daniel virtually all Christians are creationists and as long as they aren’t misrepresenting their beliefs as something they are not or denying the science to serve an ideological agenda then I really could care less.

If that’s not describing you then you have nothing to worry about.

I’m not accusing anyone of anything and I have no desire to revisit that conversation.

Here’s the bottom line.

If you only become interested in the science to use it to either promote some religious beliefs above others or to shelter a religious belief from scrutiny then that is not helpful.

If you aren’t doing that and you are simply interested in the science for its own sake then you have nothing to worry about.

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Then all theists are creationists – all Christians, Jews, Muslims and others akin to them. Which is not how the term “creationist” is generally used in American popular discourse about origins. We’ve had this discussion many times before, here and on BioLogos.

By your definition, Ken Miller is a “creationist”; he would of course reject that label for himself, seeing himself as the foe of creationists.

A post was merged into an existing topic: Political correctness and universities

About a year ago I had an argument with a creationist about how to understand a particular sentence in an evolutionary biology paper. After a heated back and forth, I finally decided to just write one of the authors to get clarification on how to understand the sentence. To my great surprise the author was very defensive when I first inquired, and demanded to know who I was, my background, my purpose for asking these questions etc. etc.

After explaining who I was and why I was asking and this had satisfied the author, I was explained that the reason for this inquiry was that, after publication of their paper, the authors of the paper, the journal in which it had been published, the reviewers and handling editor, and various type of pop-sci news-outlets that had advertised it, had all been attacked by some irate creationist. I suspect their defensiveness is because they’d been threatened with a lawsuit or something by this religious lunatic.

Richard Lenski has been contacted by creationists who demand his research stop and be defunded.

PZ Meyers has been threatened by some religious crackpot for his defense of evolutionary biology. IIRC so has biochemistry professor Larry Moran.

James Tour is calling for an end to funding of origin of life research. This is basic research, that some are demanding defunded and stopped because apparently it’s without basis and (in their opinion) has zero practical utility.

We hear similar types of arguments from people who demand to know what use it is to a medical doctor, or surgeon about to conduct surgery, that we share common ancestry with the other great apes (a utilitarian argument). As if that knowledge has to have direct utility in surgery, otherwise it has none, or isn’t worth knowing for it’s own sake.

These stories are not unusual. While some religious people can find inspiration in their religion that motivates them to pursue a career in science, others find it to do the opposite.


You make a good point. Unfortunately, my experience is that the need to show practical application isn’t limited to Christians. I went to grad school wanting to study cell differentiation because I think it’s interesting. I ended up doing cancer research because that’s where the money is.