Subscribe
Subscribe
MY AMERICAN SCIENTIST
LOG IN! REGISTER!
SEARCH
 
Logo IMG
HOME > PAST ISSUE > COMMENTS > Comment Detail

Evolution, Religion and Free Will


Comment

The following was sent as an unpublished letter to the editor in June, 2007:

In "Evolution, Religion and Free Will" by Gregory W. Graffin, and
William B. Provine, (Macroscope, July - August), the authors are
surprised by the amazing single-mindedness of a diverse group of
149 “eminent evolutionary scientists”. In fact, most respondents to this study would appear to be poured from the same mold! There is a suspicious lack of diverse opinion. The authors’ hint at a simple explanation in the story of Darwin and Asa Gray; i.e. there is a big “career payoff” for evolutionary scientists when, like Darwin, they distance themselves from religion. Any “religious scientists” risk the implication that their research might be influenced by their religious
views. So those who wish to join a group of “eminent” evolutionary
scientists can eliminate this risk by simply distancing themselves from religion.

This “career payoff” hypothesis can also explain the author's
observation that their eminent scientists had no better knowledge about the meaning of free will than students in an introductory evolution class. There is no career payoff in pursuing knowledge of theological
issues. Studying religious issues would counter ones efforts to distance oneself from religion. This may apply to the 1998 study of NAS scientists as well.

Likewise, the authors observe
"the commonly held view among [eminent] evolutionists is that religion is subsumed under socio-biological evolution." If one must distance oneself from religion in order to be
credible, then one cannot hold that evolution is subsumed by religion! In fact, Leuba’s 1916 conjecture simply recognizes the “career payoff” hypothesis. Leuba’s statement: “…belief in a personal God and in immortality would continue to drop in greater scientists", becomes a warning:
“If you mix God and science, your chances of scientific
recognition will diminish.” This warning could be the mold that has formed successful careers in evolutionary science since Darwin.

Scientists cannot claim any credibility in questions of religious belief if, in order to attain scientific credibility, they removed religion from their area of expertise. Such a disclaimer might significantly reduce the number of respondents to this study, but I would not be surprised if it revealed a much more diverse set of views
in the results.

D.H. Stevans
stevans@umdnj.edu

posted by D Stevans
September 2, 2008

 

Read Past Issues on JSTOR

JSTOR, the online academic archive, contains complete back issues of American Scientist from 1913 (known then as the Sigma Xi Quarterly) through 2005.

The table of contents for each issue is freely available to all users; those with institutional access can read each complete issue.

View the full collection here.


Indexes

Year-end indexes in PDF format:

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010


Subscribe to Free eNewsletters!

  • American Scientist Update

  • An early peek at each new issue, with descriptions of feature articles, columns, and more. Every other issue contains links to everything in the latest issue's table of contents.

  • Scientists' Nightstand

  • News of book reviews published in American Scientist and around the web, as well as other noteworthy happenings in the world of science books.

    To sign up for automatic emails of the American Scientist Update and Scientists' Nightstand issues, create an online profile, then sign up in the My AmSci area.


Write for American Scientist

Review our submission guidelines.


Subscribe to American Scientist