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Do Evolutionists Believe in God? A Study Friday, June 22, 2007

Posted by Henry in atheism, biology, Cornell Evolution Project, evolution, religion, science, secularism, survey, theism.

The relationship between science and religion has always been uneasy and sometimes controversial. The religious views of eniment scientists have been studied in a couple of surveys conducted in the early part of 1900’s. In a poll conducted in 1910 to 400 scientists, 32% of them believed in a “personal god”. The same poll was again carried out in 1933, and this time the belief in a personal god had dropped to a mere 13%, which is not all that surprising given the rapid advancement in our scientific understanding back then, and even more less surprising is the fact that biologists scored lower percentages in both polls.

Now, in 2003, we have another similar but more sophisticates survey conducted – this among eminent evolutionists. This is the website for the study, and here is the article featured in American Scientist Online.

This time, the concept of god is widened to include more choices for the participants, and the graph below shows the result:

Cornell Evolution Project Chart on Theism

Only a mere 4.8% of the evolutionists consider themselves to be a full theists i.e. believer of a personal god. Yes – only 4.8% of them believe in the personal God most of us are familiar with!

Now onto the relationship between science and religion:

Evolutionists were presented with four choices on the relation between evolution and religion: A, they are non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) whose tenets are not in conflict; B, religion is a social phenomenon that has developed with the biological evolution of Homo sapiens—therefore religion should be considered as a part of our biological heritage, and its tenets should be seen as a labile social adaptation, subject to change and reinterpretation; C, they are mutually exclusive magisteria whose tenets indicate mutually exclusive conclusions; or D, they are totally harmonious—evolution is one of many ways to elucidate the evidences of God’s designs.

The result is that 72% of the evolutionists chose B – that is, religion is a social phenomenon developed as we evolved. I find this particular question rather interesting – choice B seems to be the odd one out. All other choices address the question of how science and religion overlap, except for B which is more about the origin of religion.

The authors of the survey did point out this good point:

If Asa Gray represented the commonly held view of scientists who studied evolution in the 1860s, evolution could be subsumed under religion as a manifestation of God’s design. Today, as our results show, the commonly held view among evolutionists is that religion is subsumed under sociobiological evolution. There has been a complete inversion of the naturalist worldview in the last 150 years.

The following chart gives a nice visualisation of the result of the survey.

Cornell Evolution Project Chart on View on Religion

Courtesy of Sandwalk.


1. Some good stuff… « blueollie - Friday, June 22, 2007

[…] nice takes on this from the blog On Evolution; here the blog author notices how scientists tend to view religious belief as a product of our […]

2. stakey - Wednesday, March 5, 2008

why do evolutionists believe what they believe

3. Rouxan - Friday, May 7, 2010

Funny evolution sounds very much like a belief and not fact. The problem mostly comes from the fact that you look for facts that will substantiate your believe and not for facts that prove to be what happened.
This will state that evolutionist are a religion on its own with some facts. The same can be said for Christianity as a believe with some facts.

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