The Conflict Between Religion and Science in Light of the Patterns of Religious Belief Among Scientists

Zygon 38 (3):603-632 (2003)


Recent summaries of psychologist James H. Leuba's pioneering studies on the religious beliefs of American scientists have misrepresented his findings and ignored important aspects of his analyses, including predictions regarding the future of religion. Much of the recent interest in Leuba was sparked by Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham's commentary in Nature , “Scientists Are Still Keeping the Faith.” Larson and Witham compared the results of their 1996 survey of one thousand randomly selected American scientists regarding their religious beliefs with a similar survey published eighty years earlier by Leuba. Leuba's original studies are themselves problematical. Nonetheless, his notion that different fields of science have different impacts on the religion‐science relationship remains valid. Especially significant is his appreciation of religion as a dynamic, compelling force in human life: any waning of traditional beliefs does not mean a decrease in religious commitment but calls for a new spirituality in harmony with modern scientific teachings. Leuba's studies, placed in proper context, offer a broad historical perspective from which to interpret data about religious beliefs of scientists and the impact of science and scientists on public beliefs, and opportunity to develop new insight into the religion‐science relationship

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