I haven’t said much about Elaine Ecklund, the Templeton funded “researcher” who tries to show in a paper and a book and in interviews and online snippets and tidbits that science and religion are not so opposed to one another amongst scientists at elite US universities as the public has been led to suppose. Indeed, in her latest sally into the battle she brings up her reserve, supposing to deal atheists who oppose the accommodation of science and religion a knock-out blow. The schwerpunkt of the attack is directed towards atheists with children who go to church and sit alongside religious believers. One thing that should be noticed about Ecklund’s strategy is that, while she keeps bringing her reserves into the fight, the original data set (more about that in a moment) that she is working with consists in 275 interviews with “elite scientists” taken in 2007. That’s a full four years ago, and she’s still bringing “new” insights to bear even now, four years later, based on the original dataset! Templeton certainly got its money’s worth out of Elaine Ecklund, but did Ecklund contribute anything genuine to the issue of the relationship between science and religion? This we have cause to doubt.
As the blogger Sigmund says, in a post guested by Jerry Coyne over at the website “Why Evolution is True“:
… Ecklund has continued to hammer on at her dataset, determined to prove that it is not quite the mortal blow to science-religion compatibility that her own figures suggest. One cannot, however, fault her for sheer determination, or indeed imagination, in how she tackled this dilemma. After deciding that belief in God is not a critical point, nor indeed is adherence to traditional religious practice, Ecklund recently settled on the idea that it is the question of “spirituality” that proves the compatibility of science and religion.
As Sigmund points out, very clearly, even Ecklund’s dataset does not support her conclusions, and if you factor in the fact that Ecklund chooses to talk about spirituality rather than about religion as such, it is unclear just what conclusions can be said to be supported by the evidence she provides.