My musical discovery of the last two years is the punk rock band Bad Religion. Thirteen CDs, all full of great songs – try Supersonic, Suffer, and the music videos for Los Angeles is Burning and Atomic Garden. More amazing than the music, however, is the fact that the lead singer, Greg Graffin, just finished his dissertation at Cornell.

A rule of thumb is that Ph.D. candidates who work full-time rarely finish. Graffin tours the world, but still managed to complete a thought-provoking dissertation on how biologists reconcile evolutionary theory and their broader worldview. A few striking results:

  • 84% of biologists surveyed say they are “not religious.” 79% say they do not believe in God.
  • 4% of biologists say they believe in God “regardless of the evidence”; 15% say they keep methodology and belief separate.
  • A issue with a very low degree of consensus: Does evolution lead to progress? 53% say there is.
  • 54% agree that “I keep my beliefs about morality and ethics separate from my practice and teaching of evolution.”

    What does this have to do with economics? Graffin has documented yet another interesting set of systematic belief differences between laymen and experts. (Well, technically he only has data on the experts, but we know roughly what laymen would say). When economists and the public systematically disagree, a lot of people are eager to impugn the economists’ objectivity. How would the same people react to Graffin’s results?

    But actually, given Graffin’s apparently strident leftism, I’m a lot more curious about how he’d react to my results.