In his column, the spiritual atheist Sam Harris sets out to debunk a "myth" that has been propagated by the NCSE: "Atheism has no connection to science."
Although it is possible to be a scientist and still believe in God "” as some scientists seem to manage it "” there is no question that an engagement with scientific thinking tends to erode, rather than support, religious faith. Taking the U.S. population as an example: Most polls show that about 90% of the general public believes in a personal God; yet 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not. This suggests that there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is.
One can only guess how many NAS members share Harris' faith in reincarnation and xenoglossy, but we won't go there. Instead, let's just point out that not only does Harris ignore the critical thinking skill of considering multiple causes, he also makes the classic mistake of confusing a correlation with a cause. That is, he takes a sociological fact (a correlation) and attempts to explain it in a simple, one-dimensional manner "“ "there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is."
But why has Harris chosen this variable alone? After all, one-dimensional explanations can be used to account for other facts about the NAS. For example, what is the % breakdown of males and females who are members of the NAS? I couldn't find a list of the NAS members (and I admit not looking very hard), so I decided to search the member directory of the NAS with the five most common male and females names . It turned out that 353 members have the five most common male names. Yet only 33 members have the five most common female names. It is thus probably safe to guess that something like 90+% of NAS members are male.
So let's now apply Harris' logic. Would we thus suggest that "there are few modes of thinking less congenial to women than science is?"
Update: A closer look.