How do religious scientists handle their beliefs in the workplace?
Do they keep quiet about their religion?
Do they hide?
Most religious scientists remain in the closet, according to Elaine Howard Ecklund in her book “Science vs. Religion”: “The majority of religious scientists are rarely public with their colleagues about their views.” They fear ridicule or scorn from their non-religious colleagues, who, they believe, “think poorly of religious people and religious ideas.” Some religious scientists express concern that, if they were public about their faith, it would harm their careers. But other religious scientists are outspoken and public about their beliefs.
Francis Collins, who we discussed yesterday, is one of the best known examples of a scientist who is publicly religious. His beliefs don’t seem to have harmed his career. But Ecklund points out that he was a scientific star well before his religious beliefs became widely known. Other religious scientists are open about their faith, too, but there are not many.
In the scientific workplace, faith tends to be private. Is there another alternative to staying in the closet or being outspoken and public? There is, and Ecklund calls them “Boundary Pioneers.” They’ve reconciled science and faith and openly talk about their reconciliation. Secular scientists find Boundary Pioneers to be appealing and speak about them in positive terms, Ecklund reports. Secular scientists often look to Boundary Pioneers as a way to educate religious students. Religious students can be turned off to science (especially if their teachers are vocally anti-religious). Rather than write off religious students, some secular scientists will point to Collins or other examples of scientists who have reconciled faith and science. Perhaps one of them will become the future religious scientist who eclipses Collins’ considerable scientific achievements.
We’ve been looking at what scientists believe. Tomorrow, we’ll consider what they know about religious Americans who are not scientists—and why what they know helps to maintain the science vs. religion divide. Are you a scientist? How is faith handled in your workplace?
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(Originally posted in www.OurValues.org)