50 more professors (that makes 150) profess atheism

November 2, 2013 • 10:05 am

Just this morning J Pararajasingham posted the third installment in his series of “Academics speaking about God” (go to the links for part 1 and part 2). At 50 atheist academics per video, he’s up to 150 now.  He’s also put together videos of Christians speaking about God and writers speaking about God; you can see them all on Pararajasingham’s YouTube channel).

I’ve listened to the whole thing, and asterisked and put in bold those people whose words were most interesting to me. I’ve also indicated the time in the video that they appear.

The winner for me is Steve Jones, perhaps because he’s my friend, but also because although I’ve known him for 30 years, I’ve never heard him speak so forcefully about the incompatibility of science and religion.

101. Sir Andrew Huxley, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine

*102. Steve Jones, UCL Professor of Genetics 2:04; incompatibility of science and religion

103. Yujin Nagasawa, Professor of Philosophy, Birmingham University

104. Dame Alison Richard, Cambridge Professor of Anthropology

*105. Peter Millican, Oxford Professor of Philosophy 4:10

106. Gareth Stedman Jones, Cambridge Professor of History

107. Roald Hoffmann, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

108. Michael Mann, UCLA Professor of Sociology

*109. Brian Greene, Professor of Physics, Columbia University (a touch of accommodationism) 6:27

110. CJ van Rijsbergen, Cambridge Professor of Computer Science

*111. Louise Antony, Professor of Philosophy, UMass 7:46

112. Leonard Mlodinow, Cal Tech Professor of Physics

113. Lisa Jardine, UCL Professor of History

114. Aaron Ciechanover, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry

115. Herbert Huppert, Cambridge Professor of Geophysics

116. Geoff Harcourt, Australian Academic Economist, Cambridge

*117. Elizabeth Loftus, Professor of Cognitive Psychology, UC Irvine 10:47

118. Paul Rabinow, Berkeley Professor of Anthropology

119. Sir Brian Harrison, Oxford Professor of Modern History

120. Lisa Randall, Harvard Professor of Physics

121. Gabriel Horn, Cambridge Professor of Zoology

122. Jonathan Parry, Cambridge Professor of Anthropology

123. Masatoshi Koshiba, Nobel Laureate in Physics

*124. Frank Drake, Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, UCSC 15:35

125. Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography, UCLA

*126. Sir John E. Walker, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry; incompatibility of science and religion 16:19

*127. J.L. Schellenberg, Professor of Philosophy, MSVU 17:16

128. Horace Barlow, Visual Neuroscientist, Cambridge

129. Baroness Susan Greenfield, Oxford Professor of Neuroscience

*130. Hermann Hauser, Science Entrepreneur (Cambridge) 19:22

131. Stephen Gudeman, Professor of Anthropology, Minnesota

*132. Jim Al Khalili, Professor of Theoretical Physics, Surrey 21:09

133. Mark Elvin, Professor of Chinese History, ANU/Oxford

*134. Stuart Kauffman, Professor of Biochemistry and Mathematics, UVM; accommodationism 22:17

135. Stefan Feuchtwang, Professor of Anthropology, LSE

136. Ken Edwards, Cambridge Professor of Genetics

*137. Raymond Tallis, Professor of Geriatric Medicine, Manchester 24:52

138. Geoffrey Hawthorn, Cambridge Professor of Sociology and Political Theory

139. Sir Roger Penrose, Oxford Professor of Mathematics

140. John Dunn, Cambridge Professor of Political Theory

*141. Nicholas Humphrey, Professor of Psychology, LSE 29:06

*142. Craig Venter, Synthetic Life Pioneer; admits he’s an atheist on “60 Minutes” 30:00

143. Paul Churchland, Professor of Philosophy, UC San Diego

*144. Christian de Duve, Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine; incompatibility of science and religion 30:57

145. Michael Bate, Cambridge Professor of Developmental Biology

146. Melvin Konner, Professor of Anthropology, Emory University

*147. Stephen Jay Gould, Harvard Professor of Zoology and Geology 33:55

*148. Arif Ahmed, Senior Lecturer Philosophy, Cambridge 34:59

*149. Christof Koch, Caltech Professor of Cognitive and Behavioural Biology; mentions free will 35:28

*150. Peter Higgs, Nobel Laureate in Physics; incompatibility of science and religion 36:14

h/t: Michael

47 thoughts on “50 more professors (that makes 150) profess atheism

  1. > At 50 atheist academics per video, he’s up to 150 now.

    ‘Tis surprising that any educated-folk
    still swallow the old Bos-Scat Religions invoke.
    Surely, folk can ken it is all mirrors-and-smoke.


  2. I’ll have to listen to this instalment soon but I did listen to Christof Koch segment because I really like him – he always seems to be able to form answers quickly and never seems to stumble.

  3. I would really like to see some professors or professionals in the arts included in these compilations.

    Ben and Matt and I can’t be the only atheist musicians out there. I feel like there’s still a common perception that beautiful art is mysterious and somehow evidence of “something beyond”. Which is baloney. But many artists perpetuate that perception. It’d be nice to get some down-to-earth artists in the public eye, explaining how artistic creativity works and why it’s not mysterious or evidence of anything other than the artist’s ability.

    1. Given public perception of the arts vs. that of science, such proclamations might have an even greater effect on public opinion.

    2. Agreed. I’ve heard more than one person say, on learning that I am an atheist, “But … you’re an artist!” As if this was some wild self-contradiction.

      In a way I understand. Back when I was Spiritual I think the Argument from Beauty (“God is the best explanation for the existence of Beauty”) was the most convincing to me.

      Of course, it falls completely apart if you really think about it — but I had been influenced by the Romantics and the Transcendentalists and it took a while to stop trying to intuit any truth which had a connection to the way I felt.

      1. Has anyone ideas on the survival value in humans and other animals of beauty.

        Incidentally, I’m a musician, earning a living as a composer/arranger for the last 30 years. Ben are you there? My trumpet gods are Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown and Charlie Shavers – apart, of of course from the Father of us all, S*tchm*.

        I became a fully-fledged atheist when I learned about natural selection at 14.

        1. Yeah, I’m here. Been a busy day.

          I’m actually a legit player, so my pantheon includes Bud, Crispian Steele-Perkins, Glantz, and the like.

          As for beauty…what I’ve heard that makes more sense is not so much that beauty is directly related to survival, but that our sense of beauty is tuned to traits that are (at least proxies) for viability. At least to a first approximation, individuals — both humans and those of other species — who appear more beautiful tend to be those who are more fit in the Darwinian sense.

          That sense seems to extrapolate to include displays of skill — which is, again, a proxy for fitness. A skilled craftsman who creates a masterful spearhead will be more successful in his society than one who just carelessly produces cheap shit. By extension, skill in all fields is demonstrated by beauty.



    3. I had the same thoughts. I did see some liberal arts folks on there (history). I think I went to a really godless university as most of my liberal arts profs were atheists. I distinctly remember there were some students that went to a Sunday Mass just to see what it was like (that’s how godless they were)- even I had been to religious ceremonies before.

      1. Well, I think his physicist identity eclipses (how appropriate) his keyboardist identity.

        I haven’t really searched, so it may be out there, but what I haven’t really run across is a respected atheist artist or musician explaining why the Argument from Beauty is bunk. I think it should be obvious why it’s not compelling, but you see it more often than you’d think you would. There are all sorts of quotes along the lines of: “a Mozart mass can make the unbeliever half believe”. Or there’s my mom, trying to convince me that god exists by reminding me that Bach often wrote S.D.G. (soli deo gloria) on his manuscripts.

        1. I just did a bit of Googling and found this Wikipedia page:


          There’re some damned big names on there, including:

          Bartok Berlioz Bizet Boulez Delius Grainger Janacek Prokofiev Ravel Rimsky-Korsakov Saint-Saens Shostakovich Varese Vaughan Williams

          and many more. I also note the omission of one I would have been fairly certain of: Bernstein.

          I rather suspect that at least some of them would have said some of the words you’re looking for….


    4. Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker are always showcasing composers and other artists on “Freethought Radio”; there’re a lot of big name composers and classical musicians who were atheists; Verdi is one I can think of right now.

  4. Wonderful to see Hermann Hauser on the list. I worked for Hermann in three companies over several years. In addition to being a brilliant (and witty) entrepreneur, he was incredibly kind and helpful to me at what was undoubtedly the lowest ebb of my life. Good without God indeed! (Interestingly, given the current context, one of my fondest memories is of Hermann’s moving rendition of Stille Nacht [Silent Night] at a company Christmas party.)

  5. Steve Jones – strange strange behaviour recently.

    I attended a two day Royal Society seminar on the influence of Alfred Russel Wallace where Jones gave a paper arguing in part that there is a genetic basis for religion and that religion is on the ascendency, in spite of a number of studies showing the opposite effect. Now Steve Jones is an atheist and was not just playing to any personal bias. The thing I really found upsetting was not the conclusions he made, but the appallingly bad use of he of statistics to “prove his point” – mixing correlation with causation, mixing effects and potential causes, using VERY limited samples in very limited ways. Now he wasn’t claiming that religion was right or anything NOMAish… just very weird, and dare I say it, very unscientific in the worst sort of Evolutionary Psychology sort of fashion.

    1. PS: I do have the very highest regard for Jones both as a scientist and a Humanist. Maybe I just bristle whenever someone gets going in an Evolutionary Psychology sort of direction

  6. The Louise Antony clip is great:

    Piety is doing what’s pleasing to the gods. Doing good and being good. Surely what’s most pleasing of all, then, is someone who does good because it is good — because she understands what the good is, and because she values it for itself, and not for the prizes it might bring. Atheists, if they commit themselves to justice, to peace, to the relief of suffering, can only be doing so out of love of the good. Atheists have the opportunity to practice perfect piety.

    1. Exactly. Are you doing good because it IS good, or because you expect a reward (or fear a punishment)? Classical conditioning, pure and simple.

      1. And I maintain that we all do good for the sake of doing good — religious and atheist alike. Surely most religious people aren’t really obeying their holy book — else they’d be just as big an a**hole as their god is described as being.

    2. It really annoys me when religious people imply that atheists cannot have any good in them. Recently I gave up eating babies for just long enough to donate a kidney to a stranger. I’m fully recovered now from what was a relatively simple operation, and happy to know that a lady in the north of England (whom I have never met) now has the benefit of a new start in life. It’s a really good feeling, and I can recommend it to anyone in good health. (A recent change in the law in the UK permits altruistic kidney donation as long as no money changes hands).

  7. Strictly speaking Andrew Huxley came out as an agnostic: he married into a family of atheists (his wife was also a distant cousin of Horace Barlow #128).

      1. “He was the youngest son of the writer and editor Leonard Huxley by his second wife Rosalind Bruce, and hence half-brother of the writer Aldous Huxley and fellow biologist Julian Huxley, and grandson of the biologist T. H. Huxley.” — Wikipedia


  8. A perfect weekend contemplation. I was interested in and pleased with Ventner’s stand.

    I must admit to jumping around a bit, but someone mentioned “hiddenness”. Likely because of the removed context it struck me how that ‘explanation’ for absence of fact is the perfect conspiracy theory. The only agency [sic!] that can reveal the conspiracy is on oversight by itself!

    So, no. Conspiracy theories are by construction (large set of interdependent conditions, impossible to test) the most unlikely theories out there. This must be the King of Conspiracies.

  9. It would be very interesting, and more importantly, most influencing to have in all of these higher educational settings Worldwide, the statistics on who of the lower echelons, the merit workers and the middle – level employees in universities and colleges, are themselves atheist and who recognize the incompatibility of their departments’ knowledge with (any) religions.

    All of these elitist people stated by Dr Pararajasingham and illustrated in this video, the grand hoo – hahs of their higher educational settings, are impressive, yes of course; but, much more so, are the good godless masses: the everyday folks who go home at the ends of their ivory – tower workdays to their wee ones — and continue out in their communities starkly un’protected’ from the buffering walls of knowledge against that other mass: the very mean – spirited and so hard – hearted religionists — and continue, out there and from their kiddos’ git – go cores / from their children’s beginnings, to raise up to the future millennia the next generations of atheists.

    I do not know, of course; I am guessing re its statistic: most of the godless within this gargantuan number of the World’s universities’ lower positions who are influencing their children’s brains about fact and about science are its women.

  10. Going to enjoy watching this.I just remembered what I saw in AARP mag that 68% of people over age 50 believe in heaven.Don’t know who they asked or how many they asked. Sometimes with these surveys it can be the mood your in that day. Like a good mood yeah I believe in heaven or a bad mood well no I don’t.

  11. Sounds encouraging, though the headline instantly brought to mind the Nazi pamphlet ‘100 German scientists against Einstein’. Einstein’s classic reply: “If I were wrong, one would be enough”.

    (I can’t help it. I’m such a doubter that I find it hard to make a persuasive case for anything because halfway through my argument a little voice starts asking me “Do you realise how glib/unconvincing you sound?” I’d be useless as a barrister 🙂

    The video is interesting – though I think classing it as ’50 profess atheism’ is a little strong, not least since some of them say ‘agnostic’. I’m not about to debate that ‘agnostic vs atheist’ thing all over again since I think it’s mostly quibbling about dictionary definitions. It’s telling that Gareth Jones for example, starts by saying he’s an Anglican atheist and ends by classing himself as an agnostic – obviously he doesn’t see a big difference.

    1. (I can’t help it. I’m such a doubter that I find it hard to make a persuasive case for anything because halfway through my argument a little voice starts asking me “Do you realise how glib/unconvincing you sound?” I’d be useless as a barrister 🙂

      Same here!

      I like to think that it’s because I’m also always so terribly attuned to how other speakers are trying to influence their arguments with all kinds of persuasive tactics unrelated to the soundness of said arguments…

  12. I know this is targeted at the American general public audience, but I still find it strange and disconcerting that people expect their professors to be anything other than atheists. Thinking back to my university days, I can’t think of a single professor (or lecturer ; not quite how sure that translates onto the American academic spectrum, some of our lecturers didn’t have degrees) who I was sure was a goddist of any sort, though I wouldn’t be surprised if a couple of the people in the department of Divinity was a goddist.
    I’m pretty sure that the scandal of any openly goddist professor would have echoed round the Science faculty at least. (I can’t speak for the Arts faculty ; I didn’t bother to go there.)

  13. Just finished watching. I was a bit annoyed at the number of declared non-believers who practically fell over themselves to reassure the world that they’re not “militant” atheists, as well as the number who took pride in pointing out that anything is possible and we can’t rule out with absolute certainty that maybe faery tales are true after all. For those people, the Big Bang seemed to be the favored gap in which to point at as to where the believers should go look for their gods.

    And you were spot on, Jerry. Your friend Steve would seem to be the only example who, based on these short snippets, truly “gets it” — who unambiguously places credulity front and center as the heart of the problem. (Some others, of course, may well have done so given the opportunity, but Steve was the only one who did so here.)



    1. You might like Peter Atkins if you have not seen/read him – just search Oxford Union & him for a long debate on Islam.

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