Scientists’ Faith In God Unchanged
Repeating verbatim a famous survey first conducted in 1916, Edward J. Larson of the University of Georgia has found that the depth of religious faith among a group of prominent American biologists, physicists and mathematicians has not budged regardless of whatever scientific and technical advances this century has wrought.
Then as now, about 40 percent of the respondents said they believed in a God who, by the survey’s strict definition, actively communicates with humankind and to whom one may pray “in expectation of receiving an answer.” Roughly 15 percent in both surveys claimed to be agnostic or to have “no definite belief” regarding the question, while about 42 percent in 1916 and about 45 percent today said they did not believe in a God as specified in the questionnaire.
The figure of unqualified believers is considerably lower than that usually cited for Americans as a whole. But those familiar with the survey said that, given the questionnaire’s exceedingly restrictive definition of God - narrower than the standard poll question - and given scientists’ training to say exactly what they mean and nothing more, the 40 percent figure in fact is impressively high.