According to a 2005 Rice University survey by Elaine Howard-Eckland, about 34% of all scientists surveyed said that they are either agnostic or atheist. When the researchers divided the survey responses by area of expertise, namely natural vs. social science, they found that natural scientists are much less likely to believe in God than social scientists.
In a 1998 survey of members of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), nearly 95% of biologists declared that they were either atheist or agnostic, much higher than all scientists in general! (SOURCE: Larry Witham, Where Darwin Meets the Bible (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.) Similarly, according to a 2003 Cornell survey, a whopping 87% of evolutionists deny the existence of God, 88% disbelieve in life after death, and 90% reject the idea of evolution being directed toward an “ultimate purpose!” (SOURCE: Gregory W. Graffin and William B. Provine, Evolution, Religion and Free Will, American Scientist, vol. 95 (July-August 2007.)
Finally, according to a 2007 national survey of faculty at colleges and universities, more than 60% of all college biologists consider themselves atheists or agnostics. (SOURCE: Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, How Religious are America’s College and University Professors? Feb. 6, 2007.)
Why are people in the biological and natural sciences more likely to be atheists or agnostics? Oh . . . could it have something to do with evolution?
Here is how evolution contributes to atheism and agnosticism.
At a fundamental level, evolution is mechanistic. By mechanistic I mean that evolution makes two ontological assertions about the fundamental nature of the natural world, namely that materialism and efficient causation rule the world. Materialism is the belief that the fundamental nature of the world is physical material. Everything that truly exists is made up of matter. In a manner of speaking, what matters is matter. There is no such thing as the non-physical. Spirits are not real, neither are your thoughts, emotions, and personal sense of identity - these are nothing more than the actions of electrochemical processes in your nervous system. And efficient causation is the belief that events or change result from natural laws acting on physical material. There are no supernatural, spiritual, or cognitive sources of change. Also there is no purpose or agency in events; there are just the unintentional forces of nature which determine how matter is to behave. Mother Nature is like a blind watch maker that creates a beautifully complex world without a purpose or goal in mind.
There are no inherent problems with interpreting natural world events using a mechanistic-laden theory like evolution, as long as people recognize the limitations. Evolution has its faults, but so does practically every other scientific theory. If we restricted science to only perfect theories, there would be no science.
Problems arise when impressionable minds embrace evolution’s mechanistic underpinnings, when they accept mechanism as reflecting the way the world really is, as a sort of ontological reality. When President Ezra Taft Benson said that “Students at universities are sometimes so filled with the doctrines of the world they begin to question the doctrines of the [Lord’s] gospel,” I think that he was partly, if not wholly, referring to evolution’s atheistic allure.
The antidote to evolution’s and any theory’s atheistic allure: Faith in the Lord.