sábado, 18 de fevereiro de 2012

Results on the survey on natural theological arguments

[this is cross-posted in Prosblogion] I would like to thank everyone who has completed my survey on natural theological arguments. This survey's aim was to get a rough idea on how philosophers today evaluate various natural theological arguments in terms of their strength/plausibility. My study was motivated by the observation that philosophers frequently voice intuitions about the general plausibility of natural theological arguments, e.g., "since Darwin, the argument from design has lost its appeal", or "the hiddenness argument is a strong contender to the problem of evil as an argument against the existence of God." However, actual data on philosophers' assessments of these arguments was, to my knowledge, unavailable. I'm very pleased with the large sample (802 respondents!). The data will be used in a monograph I am currently writing on the cognitive basis of natural theology. The main results are published here: 

Descriptive statistics about the sample

Respondents (N = 802) were recruited through a philosophy mailing list and several philosophy blogs
Average age: 36.5 years (SD = 11.8 years)

Gender: 75.8 % were men and 24.2 % were women. This is a gender imbalance, but it is not out of line with other philosophy surveys, and may reflect the general gender imbalance of philosophy.
  • Religious self-identification: 40.5 % theists, 40.4 % atheists, 19.1 % agnostic or undecided (I'll refer to this group as agnostic for short, realizing that not all agnostics see themselves as undecided).
    Target group: 85.8 % of respondents self-identified as philosophers; the remaining 14.2% did not (the real percentage may be higher, as some respondents said they had some training in philosophy at the undergraduate or graduate level, but moved on to major in other fields).

    AOS: The most mentioned philosophical specialization was philosophy of religion (33.8 %). The other most mentioned areas of specialization were, in descending order,  metaphysics (27.8 %), ethics (26.8 %), epistemology (25.8 %), history of philosophy (22.2 %) philosophy of mind (19.2 %) - The total is more than 100 % because respondents could indicate multiple AOS
    Academic position: graduate students (33.3 %), faculty including tenure track (32.9), non-tenure track with PhD (15.8%), undergraduates (8 %), non-academics (10 %).
    Statistical analysis

    I used a linear model to examine which factors (age, religious self-identification, gender, AOS, philosopher or not, academic position) might influence the overall assessment of natural theological arguments. As we will see below, the only statistically significant independent variable for the assessment of the natural theological arguments turned out to be religious belief. Whether or not one is a theist, atheist or agnostic influences to a very significant extent how one evaluates the arguments (more on this below). Other seemingly significant independent variables like philosophical specialization were no longer significant when controlling for religious self-identification.

    How strong do philosophers rate natural philosophical arguments?

    (...)

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