Do smart people believe in God?

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believe in God

I was always amazed at stories about Einstein’s belief in religion.

How could a man who lived after the quest for quantification and proof allow for something so nebulous as God? I didn’t really get it, especially since I am the type of person who needs to know the how and why behind everything.

It wasn’t really until I started to study, practice and teach yoga and other Eastern philosophies and practices, while also teaching a bit of anatomy and physiology that I began to discover that the more I knew, the more outliers I discovered. Moments or phenomenon that happen, but defy conventional explanation.

Do I know who or what God is…or even that God is?

Not yet. Still, though I am not an overtly-religious person, I have this sense of existing within some kind of energetic or spiritual eco-system from which I draw support and life and to which I am beholden.

And, I am open to the notion of some sort of super-intelligence or, as was said in What The Bleep Do We Know?, something akin to the superposition of all consciousness. I have a sense of something that I cannot intelligently articulate.

And, that got me wondering whether there was a clear trend among people of science.

Then I learn about a fascinating study that just blew my mind…

It appeared in the July 1998 issue of Nature (Edward J. Larson and Larry Witham: “Leading Scientists Still Reject God.” Nature, 1998; 394, 313.).

In that 1998 study, Larson and Witham repeated a survey that was conducted in 1914 and then again in 1933 by Leuba. It asked biological and physical scientists from the National Academy of Sciences about their belief in God, then contrasted the responses over an 84-year period. Here’s what they revealed.

Percent who believe in God: 1914 – 27.7% | 1933 – 15% | 1998 – 7%

Disbelief in God: 1913 – 52.7% | 1933 – 68% | 1998 – 72.2%

Doubt or agnosticism: 1913 – 20.9% | 1933 – 17% | 1998 – 20.8%

Interestingly, an August 2005 article in LiveScience on scientists’ belief in God
yields very different numbers that show a higher level of belief, though still well below levels in the general population. That same article also revealed some 76 percent of doctors said they believed in God and 59 percent believe in some sort of afterlife.

Contrast this with a 2003 Harris Interactive survey that found that 79% of Americans believe there is a God, and that 66% are absolutely certain this is true. Only 9% do not believe in God, while a further 12% are not sure.

So, it looks like, as a general rule, there is a stronger tendency for scientists, who are some of the smartest, most educated people, to disbelieve.

Which makes me really curious, what do you guys think about the connection between intelligence, science, education and a belief in God?

Does anyone have links to other interesting studies on this?

Share your mind in the comments below…
UPDATE: 4-14-08: The Pew Foundation just released a study that revealed that, when looking at changes from one major religious tradition to another — including no religion at all — more than one-in-four adults (28%) have changed their religious affiliation from that in which they were raised.

Among those changing their affiliation, the largest number now say they are not affiliated with any particular religious group or tradition.

Another group that shows a net gain as a result of affiliation changes is nondenominational Protestants, whose share of the population has more than tripled as a result of such shifts. The denomination that has experienced the greatest net loss by far is the Catholic Church.

Fascinating…what’s this all about?

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54 responses

54 responses to “Do smart people believe in God?”

  1. Mark Dykeman says:

    It’s a toss up between:

    “Where’s the evidence?”


    “Who needs evidence? How the heck else could this have happened?”

    A person who thinks themself smart or wise could conceivable choose either answer, depending on how they wish to rationalise their belief.

  2. Mark Dykeman says:

    “conceivably”, even

  3. Well, as a simplistic overview, you have two only slightly overlapping groups here, scientists and the religious. Each group by its own practices skews the probable results for its group.

    Scientists as a whole are engaged in studying what they can measure and quantify. God eludes such measurement and quantification and is not likely to be the subject of their research or interest.

    The religious, however, begin with a belief in god and occupy themselves with all the rules and theology that arises from that belief. They are not going to be much interested in measuring and quantifying God either.

    Each group is engaged in pursuits not particularly relevant to the other group.

    To go deeper you have to look at the nature of belief. The scientists hold a belief that for something to be valid it must be subject to measurement and quantification. The western world has enshrined this point of view in its overall mind driven approach and educational system, so the more educated will be more aligned with the scientific approach.

    On the other hand, the religious are primarily occupied with faith, which seems to require belief without proof. The purposes of their beliefs may be simply to create certainty in an uncertain world. As such, they can be quite militant about defending their beliefs.

    Muddying the waters still further is the fact that we all possess a form of consciousness, but that this consciousness has not been the subject of much scientific study. It is hard to pin down in a satisfactory manner scientifically.

    I think a deeper understanding of consciousness would provide the missing piece that lies at the heart of both groups, the underlying reality that spawns both directions of thought and effort.

  4. Ankush says:

    If there is a God, he’s cleverly hidden somewhere between 0 and 1. In Heisenberg We Trust.

  5. Venecia says:

    I think you are approaching this from the wrong angle. Scientists are intelligent, certainly. But they are not the only smart people. That is, there are tons of truly brilliant and well educated musicians, artists, writers, and so on. I wonder what these groups would say about the existence of god?

    See, above any IQ score or university degree, scientists are rationally minded. In fact, being rational is a defining criteria for success in the sciences and those drawn to science tend to have that view. Rationally minded people would be more prone to disbelieving or questioning god.

    Your artistic type is more likely symbolically or metaphorically minded. Again, it’s a strong criteria for the career path. Therefore they would be more likely to believe in some “god” construct.

    So scientists don’t disbelieve god because they are smart. They disbelieve god because they are scientists.

    I don’t see either believing or disbelieving as inherently better. Different strokes for different folks.

  6. Scott says:

    I am an electrical enigneer and for 13 years worked in the space industry. During that time I attended a lecture given by an astrophysicist who during his lecture was describing increasing number of Einsteins theorys that in recent years have been proven to be true, namely his theory of general relativity. General relativity states that gravity is a property of the geometry of space and time. In herent in this theory is that matter space and time had the same origin.

    Another discovery in the field of astrophysics that he explained was that the universe is very finely tuned, millions of times more finely tuned than anything that man is able to tune.

    I personaly see this as evidence of a “chief engineer” or “inteligent designer”. I have worked on projects to design very complex electronic systems for use in space. This takes many engineers and others many years to make these operate properly. Boeing right now knows this all to well with their 787 airplane falling behind schedule. I know that nothing happens by accident except accidents.

  7. Mohsin says:

    Belief in God. Well, I don’t have much left in myself.

    It could be some pan-dimensional hyperintelligent creatures who created us as an experiment to know the ultimate answer to the question of Life, Universe, and Everything for all we know. 🙂

    Or it could be just as easily an old tortoise that puked our universe into existence.

    Why a personal God of all things that seem to be so popuilar among most believers?

  8. Matt says:

    “Do smart people believe in God?”

    If there is a God, and I believe that there is, then you would be dumb not to. 🙂

  9. Ankush says:

    You know…it’s kind of ironic that Gottgried Leibniz invented binary mathematics and simultaneously theorized about infinite possible worlds (i.e. multiverse, MWI). He also believed that the instance of our universe/world was the best of all possible worlds thanks to…yup…God.

    It seems to me that part of the problem is that the God-concept is often discussed in a binary context – “God exists” or “God does not exist”. Humans tend to be encapsulate/generalize complexity. Certainly our own universe is complex enough that we should go insane if we lacked the ability to abstract it. I think that the burden of our own existence requires us to take so many things on faith (and for some this is merely another abstraction) that there’s little choice but to think in binaries. Well what about the agnostics? They just haven’t thought it through. 😉

  10. Chin chin says:

    I think there are many smart people out there who believe and don’t believe in God. That is, according to the world’s standard of who smart people are. However, in God’s standard, as is said in the Bible, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”

  11. Hmm. Well, here’s my (not very well analyzed) thought.

    Generally speaking — and I acknowledge it is a very broad generalization — the more educated one is, the more likely one is to question. (In the context of education, I include the self-taught.) When we are young, either chronologically or intellectually, we are far more likely to accept what we are told simply because we are told it. Until we reach higher levels of education, questioning is neither rewarded nor valued but discouraged. How many times did we hear, “Because I said so!”

    For the very faithful, faith answers all of their questions for them, and there’s no need for an advanced physics degree. In many cases, the stronger one’s belief in God, the less one feels the compunction to have a rational explanation for everything. The answers are already there, as it were. Culturally speaking, we have the belief that religion and science are diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive. Certainly there are exceptions — Einstein, for one, believed that the more he learned about physics, the more he believed that such order and precision could not have happened without a higher plan — but statistically, we believe you can have one or the other, but not both.

    Practically speaking, there’s the birds-of-a-feather factor. The highly academic seldom congregate in geographic or social locations known for their religion. Granted, it’s another generality, but if you work at MIT, you don’t live in the Bible Belt. In most major urban and academic centers, there is no social pressure to believe in God.

  12. Mohsin says:

    @Naomi, Einstein didn’t believe in God. He believed in nature and the apparent order in nature. Metaphorically speaking, maybe he even worshiped nature, but that would make him a pantheist.

    He also believed that there was order rather than chaos underneath everything and refused to accept the Quantum Mechanics, but he wad proved wrong on that account.

  13. Mohsin says:

    “wad” in last sentence is = was

  14. “Lexi of creative energies” gave a useful response.

    I agree that we need to explore consciousness much deeper before we are able to answer these questions. It is not at all a matter of education, or accomplishment within a particular area of study, as each study is biased by it’s specialization.

    The nature of specialized studies (as most studies are), precludes an understanding of the whole. It’s like trying to understand the Grand Unified Field Theory by employing mechanical engineering concepts.

    We are far too immature as a species to find any type of common agreement that matters.

    And if someone had THE answer, their biggest hurdle would be communication. The word esoteric was coined for a good reason. The most relevant thoughts on the matter will be beyond most people’s comprehension.

    We have to go much further down the time-line before discussions like this can lead to any common understanding. Hopefully it gets people thinking though. We all have such amazing potential.

    The good part is: the answer pales in comparison to the quest.


  15. True scientists are not authoritarian. They accept science has uncovered only so much and there are much to be explored.
    To me, it makes very much sense that the more intelligent someone is, the more open he or she is to the unknown. (In other words, if someone thinks he or she knows all, they just admitted they know so little.) The unknown and not yet explained fully includes God, or invisible power.

    It probably takes a higher dimension of perception (not just the five senses we usually utilize) to understand God.

  16. Akemi,

    I agree with you. It does take intelligence, and a dynamic sort as you imply, to penetrate these mysteries.

    I also feel that this type of intelligence is available to most of us.

    The juice of life is to explore. The answers are perhaps not as important. To try our best to perceive reality in an unfiltered, non-judgmental manner is enough. Premature labeling stops perception, and leads to polarization of the camps of thought.

    If everyone were satisfied with perception and awareness minus the conclusions, we might meet somewhere down the line in one of those “aha” moments.

    PS: the web site linked to my name is not yet up and running. The content will be up in a few days. I’m just testing my Gravatar 🙂

  17. Tim says:

    I take a stab at the questions:

    1. Do you need proof of something in order to “just know”. I used to say yes you do. Now I say no you don’t need proof. Do you love your kids? Of course. Can you prove it? Can you define love? No, but you know that it is real. That is faith. So if you “just know” there is a god, or a super intelligence or a then that is enough.

    2. Why do people switch? Personally i believe religions to be man made veneers, which are wallpapered over esentially the same thing call it god, super intelligence , . Peel back the layers and you ultimately arrive at the same thing – faith or “just knowing”. I think that when the chosen veneer doesn’t feel quite right we switch to another, looking for that ultimate connection that does feel right, but I don’t think is found in doctrine. It is found in just knowing.

  18. Kelly says:


    I was wondering what kind of comments you’d be getting on this and I’m really impressed. What a thoughtful discussion!

    As a pretty intelligent, and creative-type person, who did the switch (raised Catholic, went atheistic for a while, then realized it’s that church I don’t believe in, not The Big Guy), in the shadow of MIT, and with two mathematician/scientists for parents, my feeling is that the brainier you are the more you will question God, to an extent.

    I don’t think it’s the whole answer, though. The big picture, I think, is cultural. Becoming a joiner of anything is falling away, from unions to bridge clubs to the Chamber of Commerce, and religion (and God) is just another victim. It’s becoming a disconnected world. There’s a great book (and website) called Bowling Alone, which really gets into this idea of declining socialization.

    You’re a lot less likely to believe in God if you haven’t been socialized to (by spending time in religious instruction or at regular religious services), and over the decades, we go less, we take our children less, which leaves more opportunity for questioning. The scientists who answered that question are not the same ones, changing their minds; they’re a different group than the ones who answered it ninety years ago.

    If the Harris survey were worded the same as the study in Nature (the wording counts for a lot!), and were done over the same long span of time, I’d bet even those strong numbers of the population at large would see a proportionate decline.

    I never get out of a comment like this saying just my 2¢ worth!



  19. Jonathan Fields says:

    @ Everyone – wow, I was offline for most of the afternoon after writing this post and am just returning to digest all the extraordinary insights.

    It seems, rather than resolution, the further you go down the rabbit hole, the more questions evolve. But, maybe, in the end, that’s the point.

    I am also fascinated by the line of exploration about the effect of socialization or repetition to a predefined notion of God through participation in a community.

    And, the whole discussion of religion versus spirituality is fascinating.

    Another thought arose as I moved through the comments. Even within the hard physical and biological sciences, I wonder if there is a noticeable difference between those who regularly explore phenomena on a more theoretical or mathematical level versus those whose exploration is very practical, with a strong expectation of arriving at a knowable proof or solution.

    Great discussion, guys, will digest all your thoughts and share more in the morning.

  20. Matt says:

    It is also important to note that the very nature of God as a creator means that to use the rules of creation to prove or disprove the existence of the creator of the rules seems irrational. For example, can I use the rules of Monopoly to prove the existence of Parker Brothers?

  21. 1.Is there a connection between intelligence, science, education and a belief in God?

    Absolutely not. Besides, what people say they believe and what they actually believe are two very different things.

    2. As for the Pew Study finding that more than one-in-four adults (28%) have changed their religious affiliation from that in which they were raised–I am in that 28% because I realized that I could not accept all the beliefs of the religion of my youth. I went on a “church search” I called it, and ended up embracing a more inclusive philosophy.

    I would guess that people who change are looking for beliefs that resonate with what they’ve grown to see as true in this world and with how they want to live. I suspect that most who change religions probably move from a restricted set of beliefs to those that are more inclusive. That probably explains why the Catholic Church has experienced the greatest loss.

  22. God vs. religion. There is a huge difference in my opinion. Religion often seems to have more to do with human interpretations and rituals than belief in God or spirituality.

    Is there a God? I believe yes. This is where faith comes into play for me, not just science.

    Great discussion.

  23. Arthur says:

    Einstein did not believe in one or more deities, but (as he put it) “the god of Spinoza”. He used the term “god” in the way a pantheist uses it, as handy shorthand for “the cosmos and the laws of physics”.

    Einstein was a brilliant and compassionate man, but he was not a religious man.

  24. Anthea says:

    A worthy and interesting topic to get us commenting away…

    I think there are varying ideas about “God” – God as He is defined in the Bible is definitely different from my idea of God. – As an entity controlling that which cannot be controlled, a guiding force and presence. An explanation for that which cannot be explained by science or otherwise.

    “Scientists” may believe a God such as this rather than as for example, the creator of man. (When evidence leads to belief in evolution)

    God explained where man came from, when man had no other way to explain it. God can explain to us the exceptions we experience in modern life – and let us get to sleep at night!



  25. Tyson says:

    I find it interesting that people try to separate God and science. For, if there’s a God, He (or She) probably lives by rules or science of His own, just as we do. Whether ours are Eternal rules/laws that He and we are bound to, or ones He set out for us, are probably irrelevant. Either way, there are laws of faith (I’ve seen this over and over again in my life and the lives of hundreds of others) set out in religious doctrines that can be measured. However, it’s *how* your measure them that becomes tricky. For example, many personal gurus suggest we give back a portion of what we earn, and that by giving, we’ll gain more in return. Sometimes money, sometimes other unexpected rewards. The law of tithing set out in the Bible (to donate 1/10 of your income) to the church (Malachi 3 is the best example)says the giver will be returned with blessings that cannot be contained. It’s been my experience, and that of others I know to be true. However, I don’t know if science is able to truly measure this or not – and that might be where the divide lies.

  26. Kelly says:

    I’m impressed that the response to your questions has been very intelligent, friendly, and relatively fair. What a great reader base you have!

    I just found out about this movie that is coming out:
    It seems a little dramatized, but I’m going to check it out. I thought the topic went along well with your discussion.

    I think that sometimes “educated” people haven’t really studied religion or religious texts in order to make an “educated” decision about faith. Faith is not necessarily the same as credulity and certain sacred writings, when studied, have many interesting scientific accuracies that at the time of writing were not recognized.

  27. Vicky H says:

    I really don’t care what adult scientists or adults in general believe, this is where I have an issue.

    As a taxpaying parent, I am still in awe of how many science teachers ‘push’ the no God and Big Bang stuff when they know how many people are Christians.

    They don’t or maybe can’t express both sides, so my 12 yr old comes home and says “Mom, God can’t exist, my science teacher told me…”.

    Well I am a taxpayer too. And if these scientists have beliefs or disbeliefs is no matter to me, but how and what they teach is very relevant even a ‘but some people believe differently’ caption would be nice.

    Sorry to be negative, but this really bites-my-butt.

  28. Ankush says:

    Vicky H: I have a hard time connecting with this feeling. How does one teach a child “faith”? How is it any different when a parent teaches a child that God exists or when a science teacher implies/asserts that God doesn’t exist? Isn’t “faith” an experience vs a piece of information? I think that Jonathan’s article points to this very idea … that even in the face of a lack of empirical evidence for the existence of a God … some believe and some don’t. To me, faith is what I try to feel when I’m in a situation where I have no control (like influencing every experience my kids will have). I know it’s going to sound a bit condescending or perhaps confrontational… but maybe you need to have a little more faith? 😉

  29. Vicky H says:

    Having faith is one piece of a bigger puzzle.

    My point is that we count on teachers to teach our kids all aspects of a situation and what I’m saying if their is no mention of God, then is ALL the information being presented? It’s not like .001% of the population believes in God?

    It’s like what is emitted in colleges, the professors personal opinion. What did they go to school for?

  30. Ankush says:

    I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying that because the majority of people in America believe in God, that science teachers should pay homage to this fact? Isn’t a better context for this lesson in a history, philosophy, or religious studies class? If not, then perhaps we can take it to the next level of “fair and balanced” and ask our priests, rabbis, and ministers to acknowledge the lack of scientific data supporting the existence of God each time they give some sermon?

  31. Awww says:

    You’ve been posting really rarely lately… I waited days for this boring load of nonsense – checking back and checking back. I miss you.

    You should do more fun posts. Only scientists and writers and religious leaders and stuff are interested in this sort of intellectual mumbo jumbo.

  32. Vicky H says:

    Science believes it has the ‘answer’ to how the earth, solar system, ect was created. Since these people are scientists, who believe in science, I am not surprised.

    I think most people who are very intellectual need to have an answer for most things, God is not tangible (you can not touch him) where as science supposidly explains why there is not a God.

    Historians don’t care if God exists, is God a man in history?

    I respect the scientists right to beieve what they believe (they are adults, over the age of 18). I respect my right and all of your rights to believe what we want to believe (we are adults, over the age of 18).

    My point is that kids (ie.. Elementary, Middle, and H.S.) students (under the age of 18) are being taught ONLY ONE SIDE, because of the separation of church and state no one will touch religion with a ten-foot pole.

    I’m saying. If my child is under the age of 18 (they are taking required classes, not choosing religious studies, psychology, ect.) that when teaching science (again to kids under 18) that to tell it like it is 100% a fact that something happened one way is elitist.

    Were those scientists there? I don’t say 100% unless I am poisitive, no doubt.

    What I am saying is that there is doubt. Millions of people believe in God in the US, so to teach to kids (again under the age of 18) only one side of something that ‘could be’ something else is misleading.

    I’d also like to say that I have complete faith in science since it taught me that Pluto is one of the planets in our solar system, but has since I was a kid ‘revised’ that and not included it.

    See science is a science.

  33. cf says:

    Wow, further down the rabbit hole is so very true.

    I definitely see your point Vicki…although I think it’s a great opportunity for you to explore and discuss with your children that there’s even more out there than science and the bible’s explanation for things… there are many, many, many belief systems that have their own explanations for creation, etc, etc, etc.

    I went to private school and received a faith-based education, in public schools I went to, it was science based, but I never was forced to make a choice between the science and my faith or what I’d been taught from a religious perspective. The door could be opened to say that in public schools, they should teach every possible angle that exists because there’s definitely not only two. I think that is why there is definitely a place for faith-based education as well, so we can make that choice too.

    I think teaching our kids compassion first and foremost will allow them to not only learn a greater appreciation and understanding for their own religion and faith but allow them to exist peacefully in a world where people do believe different things and dare I say it…It’s actually ok!!

    I think lots of folks that have faith in God also have an immense amount of faith in science… just take the medical field for one, medicine, testing, diagnoses…

  34. kath says:

    I think that maybe God is bigger than the human brain is capable of understanding. I still question a lot of the beliefs that I was raised with, but I’m trying to follow a quote I once read:
    I would rather live my life as if there is a God and die to find out there isn’t, than live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is. This might sound simplistic and unsophisticated to many of you who believe that religion is a crutch for the weak, but if that’s what I need to get through my day, so be it. Maybe people (not any of you, of course ;))should stop worrying about whether or not there is a God and start trying to be decent human beings.

  35. Reverb says:

    As Victor Hugo said in Les Mis…
    “God is behind everything, but everything hides god.”

    I have always wondered what difference does it make if we believe or do not believe? Shouldn’t we still be nice to each other? Would the fact that there is no god mean that everyone could abdicate their responsibility to their fellow human beings? Since we will never know whether there is a god or not, maybe we need to focus our attention and efforts on being good to one another.

  36. Klaus says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    I was curious what kind of reactions you’ll get for your article – actually I thought people would just shout at each other. From that point a very positive surprise.

    @Vicky H and cf: Science does NOT believe it has an answer to how the earth was created etc. Science is focussing on observable facts, is creating some hyphothesis or models of reality out of that, and tries to predict the behaviour of a system. It then tries to verify or falsify the predictions. Think about Einsteins theories: a lot of the implications of his therories could not be observed when he formulated his therories. However, more and more could be verified by advanced measures. Therefore, I seems to be a very good model of reality.

    Additionally, scientists usually try to cut out explainations which are not necessarily required (known as Occams razor). The advance of science has caused that more and more stuff can be explained without the concept of a deity (e.g. rain, thunder, the evolution of man). Does it mean that any deity does not exist? No, as you can not really prove non-existance.

    Faith, on the other side, is a completely different approach: you do not try to falsify an assumption, but rather the opposite.

    Therefore, science is not a “believe”, it is a methodology with a potentially changing and evolving model on how to explain the world. Faith, on the other side, is a static explaination (often quite dated IMHO, depending on the religion you base your faith on).

    So, a science based education is not “one sided”, as faith fails to provide the other side: Faith is simply rejecting the fact of a) limited knowledge at every point in time and b) the willingness to adapt to new evidence.

    If a teacher would ever try to tell my daughter that e.g. the bible provides a realistic explaination about how earth was created, I would try to get him fired, as this contracticting to all known evidence.

  37. Kelly says:

    Maybe we need to explore the word “faith” here. When I see some person of “faith” on the subway or television screaming about hell, sinners, The Lord, and damnation I am irritated that this image will make some people think that religious “faith” is strictly a blind emotional reaction. One of the definitions of faith in the dictionary is trust. Usually, if you are smart, you don’t just trust someone or anything without reason. Usually there is a history of certain outcomes or actions that enable you to trust that the future of that relationship or organization,etc. will be consistent with the past actions. It could be the same with religious faith. A person could be emotionally attached to a belief for many reasons (fear, sentimentality, social pressure)but to really trust in it you would think that some study and proof through history would be involved. This is where people who have studied religion and sacred texts can make an informed decision to trust or not to trust. Today a lot of people seem to lump all religion into the same category of fanatics and understandably think of it as a bunch of hooey. I realize that everyone has a choice, but it bothers me when most people have made a choice without really educating themselves first. This goes both ways- with science we can believe in theories that are taught as fact without really considering the “proof” or alternative teachings. I think if you are confident in your reasoning skills than you should not be afraid to educate yourself about other beliefs/teachings. It will either strengthen your faith in what you already know or you may learn something new.

    I can see both sides here regarding the classroom discussions. I think some scientific theories need to be clearly taught as theories and that parents also need to have confidence that they can back up their teachings at home as well.

    As far as firing a teacher that mentioned other options…would you fire your kid’s lit teacher for having them read Greek mythology filled with the gods that people believed in at that time in history? What about a group discussion? What about reading The Scarlet Letter? What about the Bible as literature ( it is the most circulated book in the world ) in which the theme of good vs. evil has been woven into most other literature? My non-religious college lit class studied that at a public school. Looking back I think that it would have been smart and interesting to also incorporate more eastern lit to compare and contrast, not necessarily as religion, but as literature.

  38. Vicky,
    Our country is founded upon freedom of religion. In addition, churches are tax exempt to pursue the teaching and practice of their beliefs.

    That is a long long way from requiring the government to teach in public schools the religious beliefs of those you think hold the majority opinion to children of the minority religious opinions.

    This is not the proper function of the government. The function of the government is to safeguard freedom, a rather overlooked necessity these days.

    Science is not a religion or a substitute for religion and is an appropriate part of education, despite any of its shortcomings. It provides a way of understanding physical cause and effect and the basis of working with technology, which is all pervasive in our society.

    But to teach religious beliefs in science classes in public schools is a direct assault upon the freedoms of our country. For all I know, that may be your intent, but it is not mine.

    We do not need inquisitions, witch burnings, and other wretched excesses of intermingling religion and government. So please use your religious freedom to teach your beliefs in your church or privately, but not in the public schools.

  39. Janet says:

    @Vicky – I had the same frustration. That’s one of the reasons why we home school our 3 kids. We are devoted Christians and don’t think it’s right for the schools to dictate our children’s opinions about the world. If you don’t like the school system, you don’t have to keep your kids in it! We didn’t!

  40. Tim Brownson says:

    It just took me 9 hours to read the responses!

    We are talking about an intelligence so way and above anything on this planet that suggesting the scientific intelligentsia are anymore likely to understand God than lay people, is like saying a guy just turned his fire on in New Zealend, and we should be feeling a tad warmer.

    It’s not really, Ijust like the analogy.

    I’m 45 and only stated believing in God about 2 years ago. Maybe that’s because I am so cmuch loser to seeing him/her than I was 20 years ago. I am however, not religious and don’t really have time for sectarian approaches to spirituality.

  41. Vicky H says:


    I wasn’t saying religion should be taught in public schools. Although it wouldn’t bother me any if it was.

    What I was saying is that to present something as 100% factual, when none of us can be 100% sure there is not a God, is what I’m against.

    Guys, Pluto USED to be a planet… then changed their mind. Need I say more?

    Astronauts have never even been outside of our solar system. Every star in the sky is another sun, somewhere else. I think we just don’t know and part of belief and faith is NOT always needing to know, ya know?

  42. Blair Rorani says:

    To answer your question, true intelligence is the glory of God. The most advanced science at one point said the earth was flat. Not true intelligence. God always knew he created it in a spherical shape.

    Because God knows all things, all man can ever do in relation to principles and truths governing the physical universe is discover laws and principles that God already knows. If knowledge is power, then God it follows that God is omniscient and omnipotent. You can’t be one without the other.

    To disprove the existence of God logically requires one to know all that now exists in physical space, all that ever existed previously and all that will ever exist. By this reasoning, only God could logically produce all the evidence that He does not exist.

  43. Klaus says:


    Good example with Pluto: The scientific approach is to rethink your assumptions about the world when new evidence comes up- I have not heard that about faith .
    (BTW: the Pluto example is more about the definition of what constitues a planet – it was never doubted that Pluto exists)

    Your example with the austronauts is not a very good one: you can image all kind of things in one of the other solar systems, e.g. a planet where Peter Pan is actually living. However, there is no _evidence_ to support such an assumption, even if the Peter Pan story is well known. But everybody is free of course to believe in anything without knowing, even in Peter Pan.

    @Kelly: My comment about firing a teacher was about teaching kids about religion – I think it is important to know about current and ancient religions, as this was and is shaping our society. I had catholic religious eduction throughout my schooling (I’m not from the US), and it was an interesting subject most of the time (let the unbearable dogmatic aspects aside).

    My point was about firing a teacher if he would present a text in the bible as a prooven scientific explaination about how the world was created. It is not, as it is not supported by any fact besides a book which dates twothousand years back in time. Presenting it as a religious text which contains an explaination based on the existing knowledge twothousand years ago is somthing which makes sense for me if taught in schools (if other religions are presented on an equal basis). Then it’s up to the individual whether he/she chooses to believe in such a text or not.

  44. […] that off my chest, wheeew! Especially after the hardcore (and rather fabulous) discussion around science, God, sprituality and religion from my last […]

  45. Ankush Narula says:

    Vicky: Science makes no assertions of certainty. Scientists hypothesize/predict – behavior and states using available information and the existing base of scientific theories. Theories emerge based on the repeatable observation of empirical evidence. When observations change, then the theories change with it. A theory that is widely accepted, long lasting, and foundational can also become a scientific principle or a law.

    Your excellent point about Pluto also applies to Blair’s point about humanity’s transition of belief that the earth was flat to the earth being round. This is exactly science – it’s a never-ending exploration of the true nature of things. Just because a scientist once observed that “Pluto is the furthest planet in our solar system” didn’t make it an unprovable fact. It was considered a generally and widely accepted theory about the nature of our solar system. When the information changed to reveal the true nature of Pluto in our solar system, the science had to change with it – along with the books on this subject. Science is a process/method of learning – not an institution of truths. By it’s very nature, science accepts its own fallibility and is continually changing to adapt.

    Blair: your statement about the nature of God seems arbitrary to me. What if the true nature of God is the complete absence of information and knowledge? Certainly this is more consistent with religious faith where what you know is less important than how you feel.

  46. Maria says:

    “God” is part of culture. The traits and abilities of Superior Being(s) have changed radically over time and location, and are in all cases a direct reflection of the culture that the idea/being arose in.

    There’s no reason to believe that the Judeo-Christian “God” is literally real, any more than there’s reason to believe Zeus or Athena or any of the other thousands of deities humans have invented and worshiped over time are real. They’re all cultural constructs in some ways similar to ideas such as “Freedom” and “Duty”.

    My background: IQ in the low 150s, degree in Computer Science, employed by a scientific research institution, raising my son as an Ethical Humanist. I was raised Catholic, which I consider a cultural construct that has outlived its usefulness. I hang around Buddhists when I feel a need for some spirituality in my life.

  47. Engineer Scott says:

    The real question is not whether smart people believe in god but rather, do YOU believe in God? With your heart. What relationships do you enter into using your intelect? You don’t, you use your heart.

    The bible states in 1 Corinthians 1:27

    “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty”

    Jeremiah 29:13
    “You will seek Me (God, Jesus Christ) and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.”

  48. Vicky H says:


    I hear your point and was I not working FT I would probably do the same. But then my point is as a taxpayer, don’t my kids have a right to public education?

    Christians are already homeschooling their kids in droves which is our ‘this sucks’ answer to this whole problem.

    As individuals are given more choices, individuals will choose by supply and demand.

    There are looonnggg waiting lists at public schools? aren’t there?

  49. […] You Missing Some Money? Do smart people believe in God? Why Lending Club Has Stopped Taking New Lenders Top reasons people don’t […]

  50. Ant says:

    Wow…What inspiring words…from a lot of you. But some of you, as intelligent as you claim to be, just don’t get it.

    Maybe you don’t want to, deep down inside. Maybe its not “cool” to believe anymore, or its too much “work” & effort.
    Kids get teased at school for being religious, so from an early age it becomes a negative in their minds & they often avoid it for fear of this ridicule. This is why they often only bring it back into their lives again when they get older, & wiser.

    Every day, God proves his existence to me…. over & over again.

    Because he loves me, & I want him to, & it feels great.

    When I ask, I receive, & when I knock, the door is always opened, & when I seek, I always find.

    These things don’t just randomly happen at the exact moment I ask…… time & time again right through my life…..

    Let ignorant non-believing scientists, or any non believer try to explain that.

    I believe science proves Gods existence 100%.

    God is the greatest scientist of all time & the best & most intelligent scientists & thinkers of our time have intelligence of an infinitesimally lower level compared with that of our creator, so who are they to say he doesn’t exist, because they don’t have enough intelligence to prove him.

    How do you think this universe became what it is?
    Do you really believe it was random?? That’s Impossible!

    It has to have been designed & created by someone/something(we call him God). How does it all work so scientifically perfect?
    I believe in the big Bang theory, but I believe it was created by God, the greatest scientist of all. It wasn’t just a big explosion that randomly created the universe then life just randomly fell together & randomly evolved…. come on, surely we can’t be so ignorant to believe that. Every step in creation is directed by something of omnipotent power & intelligence.

    If it wasn’t, then science & evolution wouldn’t make any sense at all.

    As for those who believe in creation, as stated in the book of Genesis, well, don’t take it literally.

    Maybe you should try to look at it in the way I believe God intended it, when he inspired the writer.
    Like most lessons & inspiration in the bible, Genesis is meant to explain how God expects us to live. You don’t need to take it literally. It is a “parable”, just like all of Jesus’ parables.

    That is how God teaches people. They are meant to be pondered upon so you can figure out for yourself the lesson in them.

    We all have God inside us. He is the voice we hear as our Conscience that tells us the difference between right & wrong. We all have this voice in us, whether we believe in him or not, & he uses it to guide us.

    Our thoughts are intangible, so science cannot prove they exist….so does that mean they don’t?

    God Exists

  51. Ankush says:

    Ant: But that’s really the point… science doesn’t have any real answers, it just keeps asking questions. This process flies in the face of religious doctrine and dogma – the purpose of which seems to be ethical and moral conservatism and societal control. I would guess this is why preachier religious people get so irritated and rattled by it while those who are truly faithful and enlightened accept it or ignore it.

  52. […] I’d love to see a conversation between him and Jonathan on religion and intelligence (see this by […]

  53. Pentad says:

    Moshin, the commentator further up, is correct. Einstein did not believe in God, although many would like to construe his use of language in this way. Although, he used the word God, it was not meant literally, and very much a thing of the times in which he lived.

  54. Janet says:

    @Vicky –

    I don’t know if you’ll read this, but the way I look at it is this:

    If someone provided me with an opportunity to have my kids hit in the head with a shovel every day free of charge, I wouldn’t take it.

    Because school would be a negative thing for them, I choose not to send them there, even though it would be free to do so.

    Deciding to send your kids to school because you’re allowed to and it doesn’t cost anything is the wrong attitude to have.