Stats on religion and scientists 'nothing new' says Catholic biochemist

Dr. Michael J. Behe
Dr. Michael J. Behe

.- Responding to an LA Times article published Tuesday regarding the lack of religious scientists in America, Dr. Michael J. Behe told CNA that the statistics were “nothing new.”

According to the LA Times article, only 51 percent of scientists in America believe in a higher power compared to 95 percent of American adults. Additionally, close to half of American scientists claim no religious affiliation while only 17 percent of American adults have no religious affiliation.

“About a hundred years ago a similar survey was taken,” said Dr. Behe, professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Despite all of the changes and scientific advances in the last century, the old survey, says Dr. Behe, “showed roughly the same percentages.”

When asked for the explanation behind the apparent lack of religious scientists, Dr. Behe told CNA that there are a variety of factors.

“Some scientists want to explain all of reality and if God exists, then there are limitations to their work and they can't explain everything,” said Dr. Behe, who added that others “go into science because they feel an antagonism towards religion and they want to explain things in another way.”

Dr. Behe also discussed the concept of social pressure in the scientific community.  If one is raised in a religious household and enters a community where religion is “shunned or looked down upon,” scientists tend to acclimate to the environment. Calling lack of belief among scientists a “professional disease,” the professor gave the example of lawyers becoming alcoholics. “Some lawyers become alcoholics and some scientists become atheists,” he explained, saying it can be “a side effect of the work they do.”

Dr. Behe warned against the idea that these statistics somehow prove that increased scientific knowledge diminishes the need for religion or the belief in God. “If there was scientific evidence against it, then number of scientists who believe in God would be close to zero.”

Rather, Dr. Behe continued,“there are plenty of scientific reasons to think that the elegant machinery that has been discovered in life could not have arisen by some chance process.”

What scientists have discovered about the universe in recent decades is that “the universe is very finely tuned to support life,” Dr. Behe told CNA.

“If a person looks at the scientific evidence objectively,” said Dr. Behe, “the past half century or so it's become much stronger pointing towards the conclusion that something outside of our universe is needed to explain what we find in our universe.”

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