The Science Club Knows
Most high schools in America have a science club. When I was young, they were the really smart kids who actually knew how to use a slide rule and were the first to purchase electronic calculators. They were the ones who took every science class available – including those requiring you to dissect small mammals. Given my dislike for scalpels, I was not in the science club.
My guess is that Richard Dawkins was in the science club. In fact, he still is. He’s a Fellow of the Royal Society. It’s a club of 1,700 scientists in England that requires an invitation to join. All of them are intelligent and a few have won Nobel Prizes. So, what they think must require our special attention – right?
Richard Dawkins points to a survey of the Royal Society as evidence that highly intelligent people don’t believe in God.[i] The survey showed that 78% of Royal Society Fellows strongly disagreed with the idea of God’s existence. Even more, 86.6%, disagreed that there is a personal God.[ii] That’s quite a majority, or is it?
A small club
At the time of the survey, there were 1,074 members of the Royal Society. Only 248 of them chose to respond. Of these, 239 were men.[iii] Should we defer to them and assume they’re correct? After all, they’re intelligent scientists.
A different perspective
If we look at a larger universe of people, the results change dramatically. Let’s give it a try.
- American adults – There are about 210 million adults in America. 90% believe in God or a higher power. Only 3 or 4% are atheists.[iv]
- American College graduates – About 70 million Americans have graduated from college. Of these, about 89% believe in God or a higher power. About 11% call themselves atheists or agnostics.[v]
- American professors – There are about 1.5 million undergraduate professors in America. They are a small group of only 7/10ths of 1% of Americans. Yet 75% of them believe in God or a higher power. About 10% are atheists.[vi]
To find a group of intelligent people in America so small that most don’t believe in God requires you to ignore most university professors. Why would we assume a group so small to be correct?
A different club
It seems there is another small club of smart people in the world – it includes more than scientists. What Richard Dawkins fails to point out[vii] is that from 1901 to 2000 about 90% of all Nobel Prize winners did believe in God. Of the winners, 65% were Christians, 20% were Jewish and 5% were Muslim. Only 10% identified themselves as atheists, agnostics or free-thinkers.[viii]
It’s also interesting that Christians won 78% of the prizes for Peace, 72% for Chemistry, 65% for Physics, 62% for Medicine, 54% for Economics and 49% for Literature.[ix] It seems Christians are better peacemakers than economists or writers, but they’re definitely big contributors in Chemistry, Physics and Medicine.
Back to the science club
There is no doubt the science club is intelligent. And, apart from inventing atomic bombs and biological weapons, they truly have done an incredible amount of good in the world. However, is the science club the most reliable source of knowledge about God? Not necessarily.
The challenge with the science club is that it generally restricts its own view.
- Steven Weinberg, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, conveyed that the goal of science is “to find explanations of natural phenomena that are purely natural.”[x]
- Richard Feynman, another Nobel Prize-winning physicist explains that scientists are trained to doubt. In the course of their work, doubting is valuable.[xi]
- Francis Collins, the Head of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, explains that the tools of science are not the right ones to illumine the subject of God.[xii]
- When it comes to God, the scientific method doesn’t work. If God exists apart from matter and outside of space, time, and natural laws, you can’t put him in an experiment.
In addition to determining whether God exists or not, Richard Feynman states that science has nothing to say about morality.[xiii] Yet morality is real. It also can’t tell us what happened one hundred years ago and why – history does that. And, it can’t tell us why the universe exists or why the laws of physics are as they are.[xiv]
Science is great, but there are a lot of things it can’t do.
What about other clubs?
I’m grateful for the science club, the pre-med club and the engineering club. They have made the quality of my life much more enjoyable.
I’m also grateful for the ethics club, the history club, the philosophy club, the archaeology club, and the theology clubs – BCM, Chi Alpha, CRU, Delight, InterVarsity, OCF, Ratio Christi, RUF, and Young Life, to name a few. They’ve helped us to explore the subject of God and discover history, truth, morality, and wisdom that can’t be gained through science.
Are these other disciplines and ways of looking at the world irrelevant? Is philosophy really dead, as Stephen Hawking claimed?[xv] I don’t think so.
There is more than one club of smart people in town. Perhaps we should listen to them.
Copyright 2021 by Patrick Prill
[i] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (New York, NY: Mariner Books, 2008), 128. [ii] Eminent scientists reject the supernatural: a survey of the Fellows of the Royal Society, Evolution: Educations and Outreach: 6, Article number: 33 (2013) [iii] IBID. [iv] https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/ [v] In America, Does More Education Equal Less Religion?, Pew Research Center, April 26, 2017, http://www.pewforum.org/2017/04/26/in-america-does-more-education-equal-less-religion/ (Poll results can vary slightly from year to year.) [vi]Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, The Religiosity of American College and University Professors, Sociology of Religion, 2009, 70:2, 113-114. [vii] In The God Delusion, Dawkins claims to have found one website with a list of only six Christian Nobel Prize winners. He also points to a study by Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, suggesting Nobel Prize winners were less religious than the general population. However, the results were not radically different from those of Baruch Shalev – about 85% were classified as having religious belief. Dawkins also repeats Bertrand Russell’s claim that “intellectually eminent” people don’t believe in Christianity, but they’re afraid to make it known. [viii] Baruch Shalev, 100 Years of Nobel Prizes (New Delhi, India: Atlantic Publishing, 2003), 57. [ix] IBID. [x] Steven Weinberg, To Explain the World, (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2015), xiii-xiv [xi] Richard Feynman, The Meaning Of It All (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1998), 37. [xii] Francis Collins, The Language of God (New York, NY: Free Press, 2007), 30. [xiii] Richard Feynman, The Meaning Of It All, 44. [xiv] Frank Close, Particle Physics – A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2012), 39. [xv] Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design (New York, NY: Bantam Books, 2012), 5.