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Elaine Howard Ecklund

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Title: Elaine Howard Ecklund  
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Subject: Naturalism (philosophy), Spirituality, List of Rice University people
Collection: American Sociologists, Cornell University Alumni, Living People, Rice University Faculty, Year of Birth Missing (Living People)
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Elaine Howard Ecklund

Elaine Howard Ecklund
Residence Houston, Texas
Nationality American
Fields Science and religion
Institutions Rice University, 2008-present
University at Buffalo, SUNY, 2006-2008
Alma mater Rice University, Postdoctoral
Cornell University, BS, MA, PhD
Known for Science and religion

Elaine Howard Ecklund is the Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Sociology and the Director of Graduate Studies at the Rice University Department of Sociology, director of the Boniuk Institute for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance, director of the Religion and Public Life Program in Rice's Social Science Research Institute, and a Rice Scholar at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. She is also a Faculty Affiliate in the Rice Department of Religious Studies. Ecklund received a B.S. in Human Development and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Sociology from Cornell University. Her research focuses on institutional change in the areas of religion, immigration, science, medicine, and gender. She has authored numerous research articles, as well as two books with Oxford University Press.[1]


  • Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think 1
    • Criticisms 1.1
  • Other work 2
  • Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance 3
  • Religion and Public Life Program 4
  • Influence 5
  • Books 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think

Ecklund's 2010 book, Science vs. Religion: What Scientists Really Think is a systematic study of what scientists actually think and feel about religion. In the course of her research, Ecklund surveyed nearly 1,700 scientists and interviewed 275 of them. Ecklund concluded that "Much of what we believe about the faith lives of elite scientists is wrong. The 'insurmountable hostility' between science and religion is a caricature, a thought-cliche, perhaps useful as a satire on groupthink, but hardly representative of reality."[2]

In her book she mentions her most recent finding that at least 50% of scientists consider themselves to have religious traditions. Some of Ecklund's other findings about scientists self descriptions:

  • 34% were atheist (12% of which also call themselves spiritual), 30% were agnostic, 27% had some belief in God (9% have doubts but affirm their belief, 5% have occasional belief, 8% believe in a higher power that is not a personal God), and 9% of scientists said they had no doubt of God's existence. While more atheistic than the rest of the U.S. population, the research demonstrates that about a third (36%) of these scientists maintain some belief in God, a considerably smaller proportion than the approximately 90% in the general American population.
  • Most scientists that did express some belief in God considered themselves "religious liberals".
  • Some atheist scientists still considered themselves "spiritual".
  • Religious scientists reported that their religious beliefs affected the way they think about the moral implications of their work, not the way they practice science.[3]

Ecklund explains that scientists who believe in God may live "closeted lives" to avoid discrimination. Others are what she calls “spiritual entrepreneurs,” seeking creative ways to work with the tensions between science and faith outside the constraints of traditional religion. The book centers on portraits of 10 representative men and women working in the natural and social sciences at top American research universities. Ecklund reveals how scientists—believers and skeptics alikes—are struggling to engage the increasing number of religious students in their classrooms. She argues that many are searching for "boundary pioneers" to cross the picket lines separating science and religion and overcome the "conflict thesis".


Jason Rosenhouse is Associate Professor of Mathematics at James Madison University. Rosenhouse is critical of some of Ecklund's research summaries. In particular, he contests her claim that "As we journey from the personal to the public religious lives of scientists, we will meet the nearly 50 percent of elite scientists like Margaret who are religious in a traditional sense" (page 6, Ecklund, 2010). Rosenhouse says that "religious in a traditional sense" is never clearly defined. He suggests that she may be referring to her finding that 47% of scientists affiliate themselves with some religion, but says that calling them "religious in a traditional sense" is therefore misleading, because only 27% of scientists have any belief in a God, even though many more than that associate with religious cultures.[4]

Other work

In 2006, Ecklund published Korean American Evangelicals: New Models for Civic Life, an examination of the civic narratives, practices, and identities of second-generation Korean-American evangelicals. The book looks at how Korean Americans use religion to negotiate civic responsibility, as well as to create racial and ethnic identity. The work compares the views and activities of second generation Korean Americans in two different congregational settings, one ethnically Korean and the other multi-ethnic, and includes more than 100 in-depth interviews with Korean American members of these and seven other churches around the country. It also draws extensively on the secondary literature on immigrant religion, American civic life, and Korean American religion. The book was reviewed in several academic journals.[5]

Ecklund's completed research projects include the Religion among Academic Scientists (RAAS) study; the Religion, Immigration, Civic Engagement (RICE) study; and research on religion and medicine. Her ongoing projects focus on religion among scientists in international contexts, religious understandings of science, and ethics among scientists in international contexts.

Ecklund's current research project, Religion among Scientists in International Contexts (RASIC), is the first-ever cross-national study of religion and spirituality among scientists. The project is funded by a two million-dollar grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation. The study will begin with a survey of 10,000 biologists and physicists at different points in their careers at top universities and research institutes in the United States, United Kingdom, Turkey, Italy, France, India, Hong Kong, and Taiwan— nations that have very different approaches to the relationship between religious and state institutions, different levels of religiosity, and different commitments to scientific infrastructure—and be followed by qualitative interviews with 600 of these scientists.

She has also published nearly thirty articles in peer-reviewed social scientific and medical journals.[6] With an interest in translating academic research to a broader public, she has written blogs and essays for The Scientist, The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Social Science Research Council, Science and Religion Today, The Washington Post, USA Today, Huffington Post and the Houston Chronicle.

Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance

Ecklund was named director of the Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance in September 2013. The institute conducts multidisciplinary research, educates scholars and community members, and organizes outreach efforts in Houston, nationally, and globally. The institute was established in May 2013 through a $28.5 million gift from Houston philanthropists Dr. Milton and Laurie Boniuk.

Religion and Public Life Program

Ecklund serves as the director of the Religion and Public Life Program (RPLP) at Rice University. The RPLP pursues its mission to conduct research, train scholars and offer programs that advance dialogue about religion in the public sphere by bringing together scholars who study religion, religious leaders from different traditions, students and community members from a variety of backgrounds and with diverse religious perspectives. The RPLP facilitates conversations about religion not only within the academy, but between the academy and the broader public. A relatively new program, the RPLP was launched in 2010 as part of the Social Sciences Research Institute at Rice University.


Ecklund's work has been covered in Newsweek,[19] The Washington Post,[20],, Chicago Public Radio, Houston Public Radio, Xinhua News,[21] and other national and international news media outlets.


  • Ecklund, Elaine Howard (2010). Science vs Religion: What Scientists Really Think. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.  
  • Ecklund, Elaine Howard (2006). Korean American Evangelicals: New Models for Civic Life. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.  

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Rod Dreher (2010 April 30). "Science vs. Religion: What do Scientists Say?", accessed 2 June 2014.
  3. ^ Rod Dreher (2010 April 30). "Science vs. Religion: What do Scientists Say?", accessed 2 June 2014.
  4. ^ Jason Rosenhouse (2010 May 20). "Scientists and Religion", accessed 2 June 2014.
  5. ^ Reviewed in: The Christian Century v. 124 no. 23 (Nov. 13 2007) (non-academic magazine); American Journal of Sociology v. 113 no. 3 (Nov. 2007); Choice v. 45 no. 2 (Oct. 2007). The Journal of Religion v. 89 no. 4 (Oct. 2009). Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion v. 46 no. 3 (Sept. 2007). Interpretation (Richmond, Va.) v. 62 no. 1 (Jan. 2008). Sociology of Religion v. 70 no. 1 (Spr 2009). Social Forces v. 88 no. 2 (Dec. 2009). (information from Book Review Digest database, accessed 25 May 2010)
  6. ^ Ecklund CV, accessed 2 June 2014; similar findings obtained from searches on PsycINFO (10) and Pubmed (3), 25 May 2010.
  7. ^ 2014 February 20. "Faith and Reason: Scientists are Not as Secular as People Think," The Economist, accessed 2 June 2014.
  8. ^ Jeffrey Kluger (2014, February 7). "The Science of Stupid: Galileo is Rolling Over in His Grave," TIME, accessed 2 June 2014.
  9. ^ Peter Crutchley (2013, October 20). "Kelvin's Conundrum: Is it Possible to Believe in God and Science?", BBC, accessed 2 June 2014.
  10. ^ David Freeman (2014, March 17). "New Survey Suggests Science & Religion are Compatible, but Scientists Have their Doubts," Huffington Post, accessed 2 June 2014.
  11. ^ 2014, February 19. "'Religious Understandings of Science' Study Reveals Surprising Statistics," Huffington Post, accessed 2 June 2014.
  12. ^ 2014, February 18. "Science Group, Evangelicals Seek New Collaboration Between Science and Religion," Huffington Post, accessed 2 June 2014.
  13. ^ AFP (2014, February 16). "Science, Religion Go Hand-in-Hand in U.S.," Yahoo! News, accessed 2 June 2014.
  14. ^ James M. Gentile (2012, December 4). "Gender Bias and the Sciences: Facing Reality," Scientific American, accessed 2 June 2014.
  15. ^ Scott Jaschik (2014 February 17). "Survey Suggests a Smaller Science-Religion Divide than Many Perceive," Inside Higher Ed, accessed 2 June 2014.
  16. ^ Colleen Flaherty (2014, February 12). "Paper Says Physical Scientists Smarter and Less Religious than Social Scientists," Inside Higher Ed, accessed 2 June 2014.
  17. ^ Chris Mooney (2010, May 7). Latest POI is Up: “Elaine Howard Ecklund–How Religious Are Scientists?”, Discover Magazine, accessed 25 May 2010.
  18. ^ Anonymous (2005, August 14). Scientists' Spirituality Surprises. The Washington Times, accessed 25 May 2010.
  19. ^ Lisa Miller (2007, Jan. 27). Beliefwatch: Ivy League, Newsweek, accessed 25 May 2010.
  20. ^ Wendy Cadge (2009, December 7). Spirituality: Rx When Medicine Fails, Washington Post, accessed 25 May 2010.
  21. ^ Gareth Dodd (2007, July 2). Study: Upbringing Why Most Scientists Not Religious, Xinhua News, accessed 25 May 2010.

External links

  • Ecklund's website at Rice University
  • Ecklund's faculty listing, Rice University Sociology Department
  • Ecklund's faculty affiliate listing, Rice University Religious Studies Department
  • Ecklund's profile at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
  • Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance website
  • Religion and Public Life Program website
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