As a matter of fact, the results of a new survey, released in the latest American Scientist, reveal something to the contrary, at least, with regard to evolutionary biologists. The “so many scientists believe in God, and that’s proof there’s no conflict” argument, of course, is one of the arguments forwarded by proponents of “Intelligent Design” as proof of the lack of any real conflict between teaching of both creationism and evolution.
The results, depicted in this chart, revealed that of 149 evolutionary scientists, approximately 80 percent stated they did not believe in God. These evolutionary scientists were comprised of scientists whose specialties included organismic evolution, phylogenetics, population biology/genetics, paleontology/paleoecology/paleobiology, systematics, or organismal adaptation or fitness.
This was a drastic change from the 1914 poll asking the same questions: then, 32 percent of the polled scientists believed in a “personal God,” and 37 percent believed in immortality. A 1933 redux revealed that belief in a personal God had dropped to 13 percent, and immortality to 15 percent. Beliefs in both God and immortality, in both polls, were less common among biologists than among physical scientists.
In 1998, the study was repeated among National Academy of Sciences members. Only 10 percent of the scientists believed in God or immortality, and only 5 percent of biologists believed in either.
Clearly, the more recent poll results deal primarily with biological scientists–so those who insist that “plenty of” scientists still swing both ways may still have some facts to back them up. Not so, though, among scientists whose living is to study the development and history of biological organisms. It’s just not so. And, per the 1998 study, 10 percent and 5 percent are pretty slim pickings, no matter how you spin it.