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Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think Paperback – December 1, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0199975006 ISBN-10: 0199975000 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (December 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199975000
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199975006
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 0.8 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,988 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ecklund, a professor at Rice University, surveyed 1,700 scientists at 21 elite universities to ascertain how many of them were influenced by religion. She sent a 34- question survey and did 275 personal interviews. Her well-footnoted book profiles how natural and social scientists interact with each other in their own departments, the university at large, students they teach, and the general public. Within the survey, she discovered individuals who identified no religious tradition but considered themselves to be spiritual (spiritual atheists). Among those who were religious, she found varying beliefs about the ultimate nature of things, including intelligent design, evolution, and creationism. Professors presented their convictions or silenced them, either bringing religious thinking into classrooms or keeping it out. Many saw religion as useful in teaching ethical behavior in society. Ecklund concludes by dispelling myths about today's science professors, offering an evidence-based peek behind the doors of academia. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Since surveys of scientists' religious beliefs began nearly a century ago, no one has produced a study as deep and broad as Ecklund's. Perhaps its most surprising finding is that nearly a quarter of the atheists and agnostics describe themselves as 'spiritual.' Surely Science vs. Religion will be the gold standard of such surveys for decades to come." --Ronald L. Numbers, Hilldale Professor of the History of Science and Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison

"Drawing on extensive research and interviews, Elaine Howard Ecklund offers an informative, incisive, engaging, and fair-minded narrative of the deeply held-and deeply divergent-ideas about religion among scientists in the academy." --Francisco J. Ayala, author of Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion

"Science vs. Religion presents an important study on a timely subject. The book raises issues that merit serious consideration by anyone who cares about science or religion or the intersection of the two." --Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, Fellow, Queens' College, Cambridge

"Fascinating." --The Chronicle of Higher Education

"Ecklund dispel[s] myths about today's science professors, offering an evidence-based peek behind the doors of academia." --Publishers Weekly

"[Science vs. Religion] is going to seriously undercut some widespread assumptions out there concerning the science religion relationship." --Discover Magazine

"Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think is a refreshing and hopeful book. Its findings deserve wide notice--and discussion. With this book, Prof. Ecklund has done a great service to science, to religion, and to the common good." --Rod Dreher, Beliefnet

"Instead of sweeping generalizations, [Ecklund] gives us individualized voices representing a broad spectrum of convictions. Her moderately optimistic findings suggest that 'boundary pioneers' ... will have an increasingly important role to play. In evangelical circles, we still have a long way to go, but there are hopeful signs--including the appearance of a book such as this." --Christianity Today

"To a large degree, Ecklund will satisfy the reader's curiosity concerning the discrepancy of religion between scientists and the U.S. population in general." --New York Journal of Books

"A fresh perspective. For Ecklund, the bottom line is recognizing and tolerating religious diversity, honestly discussing science's scope and limits, and openly exploring the disputed borders between scientific skepticism and religious faith." --The Washington Post

"Ecklund's outstanding research-consisting of surveys of nearly 1700 natural and social scientists at major U.S. universities-and judicious recommendations make this a valuable work for all who care about the subject of science and religion." --Library Journal, Starred Review

"We agree that dispelling myths is an important step towards a more productive relationship between religious and scientific communitites; Ecklund's pioneering work offers critically important information toward dispelling those myths." --Books & Culture

"...Ecklund's research affirms that no matter where a person or institution may land on a spectrum of beliefs about what constitutes true knowledge, everyone is overdue for a more mature and nuanced ability to communicate and relate." --Milton Frieser, Cardus

"...its engages the reader - well written, clear prose...."--Nancy Nason-Clark, Univeristy of New Brunswick

"Science vs. Religion explores important and interesting questions. It helps us to see how the voice of science and the voice of faith have been defined over time by many actors. And it invites us to shatter some myths along the way: engaging dialogue and strong data often have this result."--Sociology of Religion

"An ambitious overview of the boundaries between religion and science seen across time and space...Aided by having this collection in hand, I am excited at the prospect of comparing science-oriented language, magic practices, and fertility rites, for example, across religious cultures. But the point is that I have the invaluable advantage of acquaintance with this book. Its essays are thorough, balanced, and masterfully scholarly. Precisely because they provide a systematic global overview of religious encounters with science, they invite riskier research."--Journal of the American Academy of Religion

Customer Reviews

Ecklund's study is very thorough, and the book makes for a good read, especially for people that are interested in this topic.
Ecklund did an amazing job surveying over 1000 US scientists (natural and social scientists) to determine if scientists were religious.
K. Matthews
Others talk about the rigid secular orthodoxy that they experience on campus, and how so-called "diversity" is often very limited.
Daniel B. Clendenin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A. Crouch on May 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is a model of in-depth sociological research, based on extensive in-person interviews with a rare (and rarefied) set of subjects: scientists at elite academic institutions. Ecklund clearly has a gift for getting beneath the surface in her interviews, and she puts the results together in memorable and succinct ways that sometimes confirm and sometimes undermine stereotypes of how scientists view religion--the adversarial title of the book (for which an author can never be held fully responsible) does little to convey the nuance and surprises of the analysis. The results, to be sure, are not entirely surprising: most elite scientists are indeed distant from traditional religion, as one would expect, even while a substantial minority are much more engaged with faith (both traditional and self-constructed) than even their own colleagues would guess. The decision to include social scientists among the sample seems to me a bit counterproductive, given how much methods and scholarly temperaments differ in the social sciences (even the "hard" disciplines like economics) compared to the natural sciences. Still, this is important work with an empirical clarity that has been needed for a long time in a field often mired in stereotypes and assumptions. It will serve the ongoing conversation about science and religion well for many years.
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30 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Daniel B. Clendenin on May 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In this recent study, sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund of Rice University moves beyond common cultural rhetoric to social scientific reality. During a four-year period from 2005-2008 she surveyed roughly 1,700 scientists from seven natural and social scientific disciplines who were randomly selected from twenty-one elite research universities. In addition, she further interviewed 275 of these scientists in person or by phone. She structures much of her narrative around ten scientists who embody many of the broad themes that emerged from the study.

"Neither a polemic nor a manifesto," she writes, "this book offers a balanced assessment of information gathered scientifically from scientists themselves" (p. 5), although in the last chapter she sheds her scientific neutrality and assumes the role of an "arbitrator" (p. 149) to suggest how both scientists and religionists can engage in "more productive dialogue." Ecklund's study documents how the common assumptions of many people are wrong.

In the first half of the book she explores the personal religious beliefs of scientists. About 53% of the elite scientists have no religious tradition, but this likewise means that almost half of them do subscribe to some sort of spirituality. Those who reject religion often do so for reasons that have nothing to do with science (eg, family background or the problem of evil). Roughly twenty percent of atheists and agnostics still describe themselves as "spiritual." In the second half of the book, Ecklund describes how these scientists engage public issues. How do they handle religion in the classroom? Do they actively suppress it, passively ignore it, or constructively enage it? Another chapter examines the secularization of the university.
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful By K. Matthews on April 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I was able to read this book a few weeks ago. Ecklund did an amazing job surveying over 1000 US scientists (natural and social scientists) to determine if scientists were religious. She then followed the survey up with personal interviews of scientists to help give depth and help understand the survey responses. In her book, she uses the interviews to shed light on different ways scientists view religion as well as spirituality.

As expected, there is a higher percentage of athetists and agnostics in science than you find in the general public. What was facinating was her findings that many athetists still had a sense of spirituality, very few were actually hostile towards religion, and most who were atheists either grew up in families without strong religion or moved away from organized religion long before becoming scientists (as opposed to the myth that science makes people reject religion).

Ecklund concludes with recommendations for how scientists should address religion , how religious leaders should engage scientists, and why both should care about what the other thinks. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the subjects and hope it will increase more thoughtful discussions on the topic.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Harrison Scott Mccann on May 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is a well-researched and thoughtful book. Those looking for a screed- either pro- or anti-religion- will be disappointed. However, as a distillation of what college and university professors think, it is quite illuminating. Though most authors on the interminable science vs religion debate claim to speak for one side or the other, Dr. Ecklund lets those who are (often unwittingly) on the front of the conflict speak for themselves. You can cite a study that says X% of scientists are atheists, but what does that mean? What does that X% actually believe? Or the population that's not in X%? How do they reconcile the advancements of their field with whatever their spiritual beliefs are, if reconciliation is in fact called for?

If you want a confirmation of your own beliefs, read Dawkins or Hitchens or Spitzer or Craig or any number of other authors. If you want to be informed, if you want to learn something, if you want to read a different take on the debate, then I highly recommend this book.
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