One of the hot debates in academia is now reaching the courts. The question: Do universities discriminate against religious conservatives? Some professors and students say they do, but it’s not an easy charge to pin down.
When Elaine Howard Ecklund began asking top scientists whether they believe in God, she got a surprise. Ecklund, an assistant professor at Rice University and author of the book Science Vs. Religion, polled 1,700 scientists at elite universities. Contrary to the stereotype that most scientists are atheists, she says, nearly half of them say they are religious. But when she did follow up interviews, she found they practice a “closeted faith.”
“They just do not want to bring up that they are religious in an academic discussion. There’s somewhat of almost a culture of suppression surrounding discussions of religion at these kinds of academic institutions,” Ecklund says.
She says the scientists worried that their colleagues would believe they were politically conservative ”” or worse, subscribed to the theory of intelligent design. Ecklund says they all insisted on anonymity.