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Daniel Wilson

Only 10% of the Nobel prize winners are atheist ?

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Hi all,

I was very surprised to discover that only 10% of the Nobel prize winners are atheist:

1. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Religion_of_Nobel_Prize_winners.png

2. https://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/?p=7237

3. https://www.quora.com/What-proportion-of-Nobel-prize-winners-are-atheist

4. https://www.johnlennox.org/resources/145/how-many-nobel-prize-winners


This info contradicts everything I've heard before, that there is a strong negative correlation between intelligence and religiosity.

For example:

1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xvILvxYbFA&feature=youtu.be&&t=1m45s

2. https://www.ted.com/talks/richard_dawkins_militant_atheism#t-955695

3. https://www.psypost.org/2019/11/meta-analysis-of-83-studies-produces-very-strong-evidence-for-a-negative-relationship-between-intelligence-and-religiosity-54897

How do you explain this?
 

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What proportion of the general population (in the countries that those Nobel Prize winners come from) identify as atheists? Because if it significantly less than 10%, then that could be consistent with the claimed correlation.

Another potential confounding factor is the fact that most of those studies (according to your last link) were done in the USA. Would the same hold in, for example, India where attitudes to religion or spirituality may be quite different.

Also, is the relationship linear? For example, is the correlation between IQs around 100 and religiosity, the same  as it is for IQs around 150?

And is there a correlation between IQ and Nobel Prize winners? (It seems obvious that there should be but ...)

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I question the validity of the source data. Is sharing ones religious affiliation / nonbelief in an open and honest way prerequisite to receiving the award? No, it’s not, so most of these “data” underlying the claim of “only 10%” are surely better classified as unsourced assumptions. You may as well be asking why only 10% of Nobel winners like mozzarella. 

Edited by iNow

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30 minutes ago, Daniel Wilson said:

How do you explain this?

Why does it matter?

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16 minutes ago, iNow said:

I question the validity of the source data. Is sharing ones religious affiliation / nonbelief in an open and honest way prerequisite to receiving the award? No, it’s not, so most of these “data” underlying the claim of “only 10%” are surely better classified as unsourced assumptions. You may as well be asking why only 10% of Nobel winners like mozzarella. 

I don't understand your comment, why do you question the validity of the source data?

This are very smart people, so my expectation was to see a much higher percent of atheists in this community.

(BTW: Why can't I turn my links to a clickable links? )

 

1 minute ago, dimreepr said:

Why does it matter?

Because this are a very smart people, so my expectation was to see a much higher percent of atheists in this community.

That's why.

 

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3 minutes ago, Daniel Wilson said:

I don't understand your comment, why do you question the validity of the source data?

Because in my experience I’ve found that it’s a wise standard operating procedure when it comes to questionable assertions like these. 

Most people that I know don’t go around declaring their nonbelief or religiosity, especially in context of well known scientific awards. 

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1 minute ago, iNow said:

Because in my experience I’ve found that it’s a wise standard operating procedure when it comes to questionable assertions like these. 

So what do you think, that the Nobel prize winners lied when they said that they believe in God?

 

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8 minutes ago, Daniel Wilson said:

Why can't I turn my links to a clickable links?

https://www.scienceforums.net/topic/108124-welcome-to-the-upgraded-sfn/page/4/?tab=comments#comment-1011928

 

Just now, Daniel Wilson said:

So what do you think, that the Nobel prize winners lied when they said that they believe in God?

 

No. I think most never bothered to answer the question and that the 10% claim relies too heavily on assumption and limited data

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9 minutes ago, Daniel Wilson said:

Because this are a very smart people, so my expectation was to see a much higher percent of atheists in this community.

That's why.

That doesn't answer my question.

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2 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

That doesn't answer my question.

He didn't claim it "mattered". Some of us just find certain things interesting and are curious about them.

You also didn't answer his question.

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4 minutes ago, iNow said:

No. I think most never bothered to answer the question and that the 10% claim relies too heavily on assumption and limited data.

Well, this is an assumption that You have to prove.

 

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Nonsense. 

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3 minutes ago, zapatos said:

He didn't claim it "mattered". Some of us just find certain things interesting and are curious about them.

True, but I think theres subtext and I'm curious.

7 minutes ago, zapatos said:

You also didn't answer his question.

I'm not sure it's answerable.

 

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9 minutes ago, iNow said:

Nonsense. 

No this is not nonsense, you claim that the data in the linked articles is not reliable, you have to prove it.

 

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1 hour ago, Daniel Wilson said:

How do you explain this?

 

I can't find where the source data came from. I looked at the book the chart came from in the first link but I don't see his methods. How does one know the religion of someone who won the prize 100 years ago? My brother in law (a scientist) claims Christianity but that is for the sake of his mother. He is an atheist in reality.

Did claiming atheism impact your ability to receive grants 100 or even 50 years ago? That may also have some impact.

I also would have expected a higher percentage of atheists, but on the other hand, Jews are highly over represented. Go figure.

 

 

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25 minutes ago, Daniel Wilson said:

you have to prove it.

My questioning of assertions and suspicion of source data underlying those assertions doesn’t magically shift the burden of proof on to me. 

Even if for the sake of discussion we assume the number is valid, the easy explanation is that atheism as a label wasn’t really used back then. It only came into prominence within the last decade or two. Prior, most called themselves non-practicing, or deistic, or more believers of Spinoza’s god of nature, for example. 

Regardless, I do find the claim far too questionable to take seriously or hypothesize about reasons. YMMV

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Religious beliefs are based on 'faith', which requires no evidence or facts.

Science is based on evidence and facts, and some people are more adept than others at determining/discovering that evidence or building models that attempt to explain those observations.

On the other hand, sometimes being truly exceptional ( as Nobel prize winners are ) requires a 'leap of faith'.

does that maybe explain how the two correlate ?
( I don't know, I'm just making this stuff up as I go )

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9 hours ago, zapatos said:

How does one know the religion of someone who won the prize 100 years ago?

And, to confirm that the numbers from that long ago are consistent with a supposed correlation between intelligence and religiosity you would need to have data on the number of people in the general population claiming to be atheist. And do we even know that the clamed correlation existed in that period? For all we know, it could be a modern phenomenon.

There doesn't seem to be enough data here to know:

- If the correlation exists

- How great the correlation is

- How "religiosity" is defined and measured

- How "atheism" is defined and measured

- How "intelligence" is defined and measured

- In which countries, cultures and time periods the correlation exists

- How many people are atheist in different intelligence ranges in each country at each time period

Therefore there is no way of knowing if the claimed 10% is expected, surprisingly high, unexpectedly low or even non-existent.

Also important to note that religiosity and atheism are not opposites or even incompatible. How many of the Buddhists are also atheist (not believing in a god)? How many of those categorised as "Jewish" are just culturally Jewish but not at all religious (and the same could be said of other religious labels, to some extent). And so on and so on

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1 hour ago, Daniel Wilson said:

I don't understand your comment, why do you question the validity of the source data?

There seems to be only one source, with no detail as to how it was collected and what biases might exist.

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Only 10% of Nobel prize winners being atheist wouldn't surprise me at all.

Remember, even the Catholic Church promotes evolution. Not only that, but not everyone interprets religion the same, just because you believe in God doesn't mean you believe Noah's ark was real or homosexuals are going to hell. 

IMG_2922.PNG.f5b2434494f7d2d5e6c34ad23b5c29e5.PNG

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Indeed, in a world of ever increasing competition, it's important to know what binds us rather than what divides us.

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2 hours ago, Curious layman said:

Only 10% of Nobel prize winners being atheist wouldn't surprise me at all.

Remember, even the Catholic Church promotes evolution. Not only that, but not everyone interprets religion the same, just because you believe in God doesn't mean you believe Noah's ark was real or homosexuals are going to hell. 

Since about 40% of scientists are atheist (https://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/) how do you explain the underperformance of atheists when it come to the Nobel Prize?

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1 minute ago, zapatos said:

Since about 40% of scientists are atheist (https://www.pewforum.org/2009/11/05/scientists-and-belief/) how do you explain the underperformance of atheists when it come to the Nobel Prize?

Different populations, different survey methods, different questions among other things.

For example, the Pew research was of American scientists. The Nobel Prize research included scientists and non-scientists from multiple countries. That alone makes any comparison meaningless.

 

 

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The second link in OP (https://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/?p=7237) states that the 10% claim is "bullshit". It does not support the 10% claim and gives several reasons why the number may be incorrect. 

Talk page of wikipedia "List of nonreligious Nobel laureates" states "The main source of this article is not reliable": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:List_of_nonreligious_Nobel_laureates#The_main_source_of_this_article_is_not_reliable

 

2 hours ago, Strange said:

Different populations, different survey methods, different questions among other things.

For example, the Pew research was of American scientists. The Nobel Prize research included scientists and non-scientists from multiple countries. That alone makes any comparison meaningless.

Good points, I'll add a local example. Wikipedia lists 32 swedish laureates. During the years of Nobel Prizes Sweden have made several changes* to how church and state are related. Those reforms could impact what individuals would have answered at that time compared to more present times. It would require a lot of rigor to be able to produce reliable definitions and a usable list. This is just an example, for one single country, intended to highlight the difficulty with this kind of material. 

 

 

*) https://www.svenskakyrkan.se/church-and-state until year 2000 state and church was united 
Swedish only found: http://www.notisum.se/rnp/SLS/lag/19510680.htm Until 1952 you had to belong to a religious community, you could exit stat church only if you registered at another religious community.

 

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