Is Our Children Learning Atheism?
If, during this U.S. Presidential election, candidates fight over who is less elitist, pay attention. I see the problem as being one of anti-intellectualism seeking to justify horrific public policy decisions that turn out to be disastrous. One candidate is accused more often than the other of being the elitist favorite, while the other is on the “straight talk express” unencumbered by serious examination. Fiill in the blanks yourself as to which is which.
Anti-intellectuals claim that our schools and universities are ruled by liberal atheists, and so the larnin’ that comes out of these institutions is suspect. One can make a good case for the liberalism aspect of the claim, but the atheism is harder to defend based on surveys of academics. Razib at the ScienceBlog “Gene Expression” reports on the results of a recent survey published in Profiles of the American University: Volume II: Religious Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty. (permission to copy in whole or in part not granted, but there is a link to the pdf of the report from Razib’s article. It’s 97 pages.)
In the survey, the authors show that while faculty tend to be more likely to be liberal/religous than conservative/religious, only 4% directly declare themselves to be godless. Numbers on surveys are hard to verify because of the faults of self-reporting, but that seems to be a lower portion than among the general populace.
I am going to leave it up to Scienceblogs to police the possible copyright violations of Razib’s post, and I am not going to copy the tables nor provide quotes (I don’t want to put Clashing Cultures at risk!) I think that you should go over and read the post.
Aside from the question of godlessness, Razib also addresses a topic near and dear to my co-blogger Anastasia, that of the selective nature of skepticality among faculty (italics mine:)
Am I the only one who has had the experience of a non-science background friend who is surprised that I’m not terrified by the idea of fish genes being spliced into tomatoes? In other words, yes, a modern liberal arts education might make one more skeptical of conventional “mainstream” world-views, but that skepticism is often not complemented much with a commitment toward rational & empirical analysis of the issues at hand. So naturally intuitive morality with roots in our cognitive hardware kick in.
Anastasia has written many posts in which she analyzes the hating on GMO because of Monsanto Foods’ involvement. People who should know better refuse to accept the science independently. I don’t know how much of the anti-GMO sentiment there is on campuses, but it seems as though Razib runs into it from liberal arts and humanities colleagues.
My impression is that the accusation of godlessness is based on the same style of reasoning as people apply to the question of whether or not GMO foods should be studied. It’s an accusation without in-depth analysis.
Of course, requesting people to apply in-depth analysis is elitist, isnt it?
Who would you rather have a beer with?