Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

New study: scientists and the general public similar in religious practices

Rice University reports on a new study conducted by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund.


The public’s view that science and religion can’t work in collaboration is a misconception that stunts progress, according to a new survey of more than 10,000 Americans, scientists and evangelical Protestants. The study by Rice University also found that scientists and the general public are surprisingly similar in their religious practices.

The study, “Religious Understandings of Science (RUS),” was conducted by sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and presented today in Chicago during the annual American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference. Ecklund is the Autrey Professor of Sociology and director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program.

“We found that nearly 50 percent of evangelicals believe that science and religion can work together and support one another,” Ecklund said. “That’s in contrast to the fact that only 38 percent of Americans feel that science and religion can work in collaboration.”

The study also found that 18 percent of scientists attended weekly religious services, compared with 20 percent of the general U.S. population; 15 percent consider themselves very religious (versus 19 percent of the general U.S. population); 13.5 percent read religious texts weekly (compared with 17 percent of the U.S. population); and 19 percent pray several times a day (versus 26 percent of the U.S. population).

[...]RUS is the largest study of American views on religion and science.

What would be interesting is to find out what specific arguments scientists who believe in God would appeal to, and which specific arguments scientists who don’t believe in God would appeal to.

You can see Ecklund’s book about her research here on the Oxford University Press web site. You can also buy the book here from

And here is a related lecture from Cambridge University featuring Dr. Ecklund.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Does science cause people to disbelieve in God? A look at the research of Dr. Elaine Ecklund

Dr. Elaine Ecklund explains her research about scientists and their beliefs in this paper.


Scholars talk a great deal about research done in the 1960’s that revealed differences in religious beliefs among members of different disciplines (especially comparisons between natural and social scientists). My findings, however, do not reveal vast discrepancies in religious belief and practice among disciplines and fields. The true difference lies between academics in these scientific disciplines and members of the general public. With little doubt, scientists at major research universities are less religious—at least according to traditional forms of religion—than members of the general public.

During public lectures about the study, the question inevitably asked first is: Do the professors you studied believe in God? When asked their beliefs about God, nearly 34 percent of academic scientists answer “I do not believe in God” and about 30 percent answer “I do not know if there is a God and there is no way to find out,” the classic agnostic response. This means that over 60 percent of professors in these natural and social science disciplines describe themselves as either atheist or religiously agnostic. In comparison, among those in the general U.S. population, about 3 percent claim to be atheists and about 5 percent are religiously agnostic. When it comes to affiliation with particular religions, scientists are also vastly different from members of the broader society. About 52 percent of scientists see themselves as having no religious affiliation when compared to only 14 percent of the general population. Scientists who are not religious justify their inattention to religion through language that stresses the irrelevance of science to religion. Those not raised in religious homes, the case for the majority of scientists without religious affiliation, also emphasize their lack of experience with religion.

[...]What are we to make of this lack of traditional religion? Is knowledge of science somehow in conflict with being religious? Childhood religious background, not exposure to scientific education, seems to be the most powerful predictor of future irreligion. Those scientists raised in almost any faith tradition are more likely to currently be religious than those raised without any tradition. In addition, scientists who describe religion as important in their families as children are much more likely to practice faith currently. When compared to the general population, a larger proportion of scientists are raised in non-religious homes. When one considers that many more scientists come from non-religious homes or homes that were nominally religious, the distinctions between the general population and the scientific community make more sense. A large part of the difference between scientists and the general population may be due more to religious upbringing, rather than scientific training or university pressure to be irreligious, although these other possibilities should be further explored.

I heard about this research in the latest episode of the Reasonable Faith podcast. You can listen to it to hear Dr. Craig’s comments.

I think this research raises an important question that we need to ask scientists who don’t believe in God. That question is: “which particular pieces of scientific evidence led you to doubt God’s existence?” And then we should have done our scientific homework about the Big Bang, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, the habitability arguments from astrobiology, and so on, to be able to make a positive case for God’s existence from science. Christians ought to be more excited about science, because we have nothing to fear – and everything to gain – from knowing a lot more about science than we know now.

You can see Ecklund’s book about her research here on the Oxford University Press web site. You can also buy the book here from

UPDATE: Commenter Eugene has found a related lecture from Cambridge University featuring Dr. Ecklund.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Dad: the tenth most popular gift requested by children at Christmas

Dina sent me this sad article from the UK Telegraph.


A study of 2,000 British parents found most children will put a new baby brother or sister at the top of their Christmas list, closely followed by a request for a real-life reindeer.

A “pet horse” was the third most popular choice, with a “car” making a bizarre entry at number four.

Despite their material requests, the tenth most popular Christmas wish on the list was a “Dad”.

[...]A request for a “mum” reached number 23 on the list.

It’s sad. I think that there is a perception among many young women today that it is OK to have recreational premarital sex that may lead to having a child out of wedlock. Many unmarried women have an intuition (not supported by data) that a child will turn out fine without a father in the home. Some think (against the data) that fathers can be substituted with a government welfare check and that children won’t notice the difference. But the research shows that this is a false belief.


Census data and the Fragile Families survey show that marriage can be extremely effective in reducing child poverty. But the positive effects of married fathers are not limited to income alone. Children raised by married parents have substantially better life outcomes compared to similar children raised in single-parent homes.

When compared to children in intact married homes, children raised by single parents are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems; be physically abused; smoke, drink, and use drugs; be aggressive; engage in violent, delinquent, and criminal behavior; have poor school performance; be expelled from school; and drop out of high school.[19] Many of these negative outcomes are associated with the higher poverty rates of single mothers. In many cases, however, the improvements in child well-being that are associated with marriage persist even after adjusting for differences in family income. This indicates that the father brings more to his home than just a paycheck.

The effect of married fathers on child outcomes can be quite pronounced. For example, examination of families with the same race and same parental education shows that, when compared to intact married families, children from single-parent homes are:

  • More than twice as likely to be arrested for a juvenile crime;[20]
  • Twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral problems;[21]
  • Roughly twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school;[22] and
  • A third more likely to drop out before completing high school.[23]

The effects of being raised in a single-parent home continue into adulthood. Comparing families of the same race and similar incomes, children from broken and single-parent homes are three times more likely to end up in jail by the time they reach age 30 than are children raised in intact married families.[24] Compared to girls raised in similar married families, girls from single-parent homes are more than twice as likely to have a child without being married, thereby repeating the negative cycle for another generation.[25]

Finally, the decline of marriage generates poverty in future generations. Children living in single-parent homes are 50 percent more likely to experience poverty as adults when compared to children from intact married homes. This intergenerational poverty effect persists even after adjusting for the original differences in family income and poverty during childhood.[26]

And here’s a bit more data showing that having government replace fathers via higher taxes and more redistribution of wealth doesn’t take away the bad effects of fatherlessness:

Children from low-income, two-parent families outperform students from high-income, single-parent homes. Almost twice as many high achievers come from two-parent homes as one-parent homes. Source: “One-Parent Families and Their Children;” Charles F. Kettering Foundation (1990).

Children reared by a divorced or never-married mother are less cooperative and score lower on tests of intelligence than children reared in intact families. Statistical analysis of the behavior and intelligence of these children revealed “significant detrimental effects” of living in a female-headed household. Growing up in a female-headed household remained a statistical predictor of behavior problems even after adjusting for differences in family income. Source: Greg L. Duncan, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and Pamela Kato Klebanov, “Economic Deprivation and Early Childhood Development,” Child Development 65 (1994).

After taking into account race, socioeconomic status, sex, age, and ability, high school students from single-parent households were 1.7 times more likely to drop out than were their corresponding counterparts living with both biological parents. Source: McNeal, Ralph B. Jr.”Extracurricular Activities and High School Dropouts.” Sociology of Education 68(1995): 62-81.

I think that these are significant in light of the recent shooting in Connecticut:

In studies involving over 25,000 children using nationally representative data sets, children who lived with only one parent had lower grade point averages, lower college aspirations, poor attendance records, and higher drop out rates than students who lived with both parents. Source: McLanahan, Sara and Gary Sandefur. Growing up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994.

A 1988 Department of Health and Human Services study found that at every income level except the very highest (over $50,000 a year), children living with never-married mothers were more likely than their counterparts in two-parent families to have been expelled or suspended from school, to display emotional problems, and to engage in antisocial behavior. Source: James Q. Wilson, “In Loco Parentis: Helping Children When Families Fail Them,” The Brookings Review, Fall 1993.

72% of adolescent murderers grew up without fathers. 60% of America’s rapists grew up the same way. Source: D. Cornell (et al.), Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 5. 1987. And N. Davidson, “Life Without Father,” Policy Review. 1990.

The likelihood that a young male will engage in criminal activity doubles if he is raised without a father and triples if he lives in a neighborhood with a high concentration of single-parent families. Source: A. Anne Hill, June O’Neill, “Underclass Behaviors in the United States,” CUNY, Baruch College. 1993.

The shooter in Connecticut hadn’t spoken to his father in two years:

Peter Lanza, the father of Sandy Hook shooter, hadn’t spoken to his son for more than two years and his father is at a loss for what drove Adam to kill 20 students and six teachers at his old elementary school.

[...]Adam, 20, had not spoken to his brother Ryan or father for upwards of two years at the time of the shooting. Adam reportedly distanced himself from his father Peter when he started to become serious with his new girlfriend, and current wife.

Peter and Adam’s mother Nancy split in 2001 but did not formally divorce until November 2008. Court records made the split appear amicable as both parties agreed to put their sons needs above any bitterness, but Adam was apparently the one to cut ties with his father in 2010.

Women need to think ahead and realize that the little children will be impacted by her choice of man, as well of her choice of whether to have recreational premarital sex with a man. If she doesn’t test him adequately and makes poor choices, then the children will be deprived of a father in the home. I don’t think that the sentiment “he makes me happy and horny and my friends approve of him” necessarily translates into “he can do the job of protecting, providing and leading on moral and spiritual issues”. Those are two different sets of criteria, and often at cross-purposes in a culture that despises traditional male roles as “sexist”.

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Friday night movie: Great Expectations (1946)

Here’s tonight’s movie:

IMDB mean rating: [7.8/10]

IMDB median rating: [8/10]


Great Expectations is a 1946 British film directed by David Lean, based on the novel by Charles Dickens and stars John Mills, Bernard Miles, Finlay Currie, Jean Simmons, Martita Hunt, Alec Guinness and Valerie Hobson. It won two Academy Awards (Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography) and was nominated for three others (Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay).

Pip, a good-natured, gullible young orphan, lives with kind blacksmith Joe Gargery and his bossy, abusive wife ‘Mrs. Joe’. When the boy finds two hidden escaped galley convicts, he obeys under -probably unnecessary- threat of a horrible death to bring the criminals food he must steal at peril of more caning from the battle-ax. Just when Pip fears to get it really good while they have guests, a soldier comes for Joe who takes Pip along as assistant to work on the chains of escaped galley-convicts, who are soon caught. The better-natured one takes the blame for the stolen food. Later Pip is invited to became the playmate of Estelle, the equally arrogant adoptive daughter of gloomy, filthy rich Miss Havisham at her estate, who actually has ‘permission’ to break the kind kid’s heart; being the only pretty girl he ever saw, she wins his heart forever, even after a mysterious benefactor pays trough a lawyer for his education and a rich allowance.

This movie has a special significance to me. It was one of the first classics I ever read, and there is much wisdom in it, especially for young men.

Happy Friday!

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Do Christian music and Christian fiction create a good foundation for faith?

Here’s an interesting account by a young woman who became secular by becoming very involved in Christian music and then jumped to secular music because it was better music.


“Who’s in the House” is a hip-hop track about the presence of the Lord. Through megaphone distortion, Carman rapped a few lines: “You take him high / you take him low / you take JC wherever you go,” then led into a call and response hook reminiscent of ’80s-era De La Soul. “Tell me who’s in the house? JC!”

If you’re wondering what teenager in her right mind would listen to a forty-year-old Vegas showman with a Jersey accent rap about Jesus, the answer is: me. In junior high, I saw Carman in concert three times. The Standard was the first CD I ever bought. I rocked out to Carman on my Walkman on the way to youth group and dished with my girlfriends about what a hottie he was. At the concerts, I bought his T-shirts and posters, and when he called out “Who’s in the House?” I made my arms into letters, YMCA-style, with the rest of the crowd and shouted “JC!”

I was homeschooled up until tenth grade, and my social life revolved around church. I grew up submersed in evangelical youth culture: reading Brio magazine, doing devotions in my Youth Walk Bible, eagerly awaiting the next installment of the Left Behind series, and developing a taste in music that ran the gamut from Christian rap to Christian pop to Christian rock.

And she ends with this:

Basically, CCM caught on to the number one rule of coolness: don’t let your marketing show. The best bands—the successful ones, at least—learned to gloss over the gospel message the same way TV producers camouflaged corporate sponsorship. Explicitly Christian lyrics prevented DC Talk from crossing over to the secular market in the ’90s; today it’s difficult to imagine their unapologetic faith making it in the Christian circuit.

This trend spreads beyond CCM into many areas of evangelical culture. The church is becoming increasingly consumer-friendly. Jacob Hill, director of “worship arts” at New Walk Church, describes the Sunday service music as “exciting, loud, powerful, and relevant,” and boasts that “a lot of people say they feel like they’ve just been at a rock concert.” Over the past ten years, I’ve visited churches that have Starbucks kiosks in the foyer and youth wings decked out with air hockey tables. I’ve witnessed a preacher stop his sermon to play a five-minute clip from Billy Madison. I’ve walked into a sanctuary that was blasting the Black Eyed Peas’s “Let’s Get it Started” to get the congregation pumped for the morning’s message, which was on joy. I have heard a pastor say, from a pulpit, “Hey, I’m not here to preach at anyone.” And yet, in spite of these efforts, churches are retaining only 4 percent of the young people raised in their congregations.

Despite all the affected teenage rebellion, I continued to call myself a Christian into my early twenties. When I finally stopped, it wasn’t because being a believer made me uncool or outdated or freakish. It was because being a Christian no longer meant anything. It was a label to slap on my Facebook page, next to my music preferences. The gospel became just another product someone was trying to sell me, and a paltry one at that because the church isn’t Viacom: it doesn’t have a Department of Brand Strategy and Planning. Staying relevant in late consumer capitalism requires highly sophisticated resources and the willingness to tailor your values to whatever your audience wants. In trying to compete in this market, the church has forfeited the one advantage it had in the game to attract disillusioned youth: authenticity. When it comes to intransigent values, the profit-driven world has zilch to offer. If Christian leaders weren’t so ashamed of those unvarnished values, they might have something more attractive than anything on today’s bleak moral market. In the meantime, they’ve lost one more kid to the competition.

So, I’d like to look at whether listening to contemporary Christian music is a good way to build a strong faith that lasts.

Should people sing about things that they don’t know are true?

I would not be comfortable singing about a state of affairs that I did not know was true. And yet, that is exactly what happens in churches and youth groups. Young people are brought up to sing about a story without first having any evidence that the story is true. Imagine what that does to a person – what are they thinking about the purpose of the singing? They don’t know these things are true, but they sing anyway! The church services almost never link what the Bible says to anything in the real world. Naturally, as soon as children hit the university, they fall away. Their questions about the problem of evil, the problem of suffering, the problem of world of religious pluralism, the hiddenness of God, justice of Hell, etc. were never answered.

I think this anti-intellectual approach is really damaging. The impression of Christianity that young people will have is that truth doesn’t matter, that you can sing about something just to be part of a group, and for emotional pleasure. Then with the end-of-the-world fiction and other Christian fiction – all for enjoyment, and all not connected to knowledge. How does any of that connect to the real world? When young people are taught that being a Christian has no connection to reason, evidence or the real world, then their Christianity doesn’t survive leaving the safety of their home and church.

Christian music reinforces the idea that Christianity makes you feel good

The problem with Christian music is that a person listening to it can quickly develop the idea that what Christianity is about is having happy feelings, because people feel happy when listening to music. I’ve noticed that a lot of Christians leave the faith because they have this idealized notion that the world should be a happy place, where no one ever feels bad. Then they find verses in the Bible that are exclusive and judgmental, and they leave the faith because Christianity is too “mean”.

Those emotions of compassion and intuitions about happiness are not compatible with hard verses of the Bible and exclusive Christian doctrines. If we teach children that happiness and doing good things are what Christianity is about, then eventually they will dump it when the open profession of their faith causes them to have bad feelings and to lose friends. I think young Christians in particular feel pressure to jettison Christian rules when it comes to dating and marriage – because they want to be happy, and they think that the rules shouldn’t stop them from pursuing happiness. If they don’t know why the rules are there (truth) then they will just reject anything that conflicts with their intuitions, emotions and desire to be happy. If the purpose of life is to have good feelings about yourself, and to have everyone like you, then Christianity is not the answer. If the purpose of life is to know the truth and to live according to it, then Christianity is the answer.

English is not a subject that is very friendly to Christian beliefs

I note that she seems to have studied English at the undergraduate level and is currently studying it at graduate level, which I think is significant. English is well known to be a hotbed of postmodernism, deconstructionism, feminism and socialism on campuses. She would therefore be under enormous pressure there to abandon her faith, especially in order to get good grades. Nothing that she did as a young person would equip her to deal with the pressure from peers and teachers when challenged on her Christian faith. Singing, reading fiction, Bible reading and prayer do not help a young person who is confronted by peer pressure and secular left professors holding the grading pen – especially in English where marking of essays is subjective.

I think that mathematics, computer science and engineering are much safer fields for Christians to study. My background is in computer science, and I have an undergraduate and graduate degree in that area. These areas are safer because it is much harder for the professors to inject politics into the curriculum, so that students don’t have to be forced to accept things on faith, without any critical thinking or debate. Math features answers that are right or wrong regardless of politics, and programming features programs that either run or not, regardless of religion.

It’s not a good idea to stay a student all your life

Our CCM woman seems to have been a student all her life. She doesn’t have the skills or the money to make it on her own. She has to agree with them in order to get tuition, student loans, etc. – in order to live away from her parents. This would be another pressure on her to turn away from her Christian faith. She is trapped by not having any marketable skills that would allow her to earn a living without having to agree with anyone’s views. Students also have the things they read handed to them – it’s much harder for her to find the time to read things that the professors don’t want her to read – and she could never bring those things up in class safely anyway. A lot of people who thrive on being told that they are good prefer to stay in school where it is easy to just do whatever the teacher says in order to get good grades – especially in non-STEM fields like English.

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