How You Think?

Are you trying to figure out how people behave? Look first at how they think. Philosophy is a way of thinking about the world and much more. Who or what shapes the way you think? Enter C. Stephen Evans, PhD at @baylor, and author of the recently released, A History of Western Philosophy: From Pre-Socratics to Postmodernism @ivpress. It took him seven years to write it. What an unusual conversation we had as @cristiejohnston and my project rolls on – our 98th filmed interview.



Dr. Jerry Johnston: What we see in trends that – even in the nones – that atheism is a small segment. Would you agree? Or are people afraid to say they’re an atheist?

Dr. Richard Dawkins: Oh no, it is small. It is small especially in America. It’s not small among elite scientists. It’s about 90% among elite scientists, among members of the National Academy and, similarly, fellows of the Ross Society in Britain. I think we’ve got a job to do – I mean an educational job to do.

@cristiejohnston and I have now filmed with nearly 100 of the leading sociologists, philosophers, scientists, atheists, and apologists in the world. And, our multifaceted project continues. We are in the process of writing four separate books as well as producing several other resources.

Dawkins admitted to us in Oxford, England that “atheists” represent a small population in the USA. Correct. Four out of five Americans believe in God. Pew Research (survey of 4,700 adults in December 2017 and released April 25, 2018) reveals that one-third of Americans say they do not believe in the God of the Bible, however, 56 percent say they believe in God “as described in the Bible.”

Cause for concern: Adults under age 50 and college graduates are less likely to believe in God than older Americans and people with only a high school education.


Drs. Cristie Jo & Jerry Johnston
May 9, 2017 Interview with Dr. Richard Dawkins

Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston: Let’s just for instance say that the Bible is true and its claims are true and that when all of us stand before God one day, we will give an account of ourselves. How then will you justify your life in atheism when you stand before God?

Dr. Richard Dawkins: I think, well, I would first of all say to God, ‘Which one are you?’

Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston: Meaning?

Dr. Richard Dawkins: ‘Are you Zeus, are you Apollo, are you Thor, are you Mithras? Are you the great JuJu at the bottom of the sea?’

Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston: And that would be important to you because?

Dr. Richard Dawkins: It’s my sarcastic way of answering you because you are talking as though there’s just one God.

Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston: Okay.

Dr. Richard Dawkins: And I’m pointing out to you that there are thousands of gods that people have believed in and so the first question is to establish: ‘Is this Baal?’ And then I think I would probably quote Bertrand Russell: ‘Not enough evidence God, not enough evidence. Why did you hide yourself so convincingly?’

Professor Richard Dawkins is a British evolutionary biologist, ethologist and writer. He is often referred to as “the most famous atheist in the world.”


Drs. Cristie Jo & Jerry Johnston
May 9, 2017 Interview with Dr. Richard Dawkins

Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston: So God hides himself and Richard Dawkins needs evidence. What sort of evidence would it take to convince Richard Dawkins that there is in fact a God?

Dr. Richard Dawkins: It’s a very difficult question that I used to think was an easy question. I used to think that you would simply say, God could perform some amazing wonder that we would all see.

Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston: Like a miracle.

Dr. Richard Dawkins: Yes, like a miracle. And I suppose it would be possible, it should be possible to devise a sufficiently convincing miracle, but if you’ve ever seen a really, really good conjurer, they do miracles. Of course, they’re not miracles; they’re tricks. But you would be – any naïve person would be – convinced it was a miracle.

Scientist and atheist, Dr. Richard Dawkins, told The Guardian that he was “greatly encouraged” to learn that the unofficial Arabic pdf of his book The God Delusion had been downloaded 13MM times. Dawkins writes in The God Delusion about his wish that the “open-minded people” who read it will “break free of the vice of religion altogether”. The book has sold 3.3MM copies worldwide since it was published in 2006.

Has Your Faith Affected Your Promotions?

Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston: Has your outspoken Christianity, your outspoken faith, caused any problems with your promotions here at Rice University? Because we see that in other parts of the country. What about for you here?

Dr. James Tour: Nothing has happened in promotions as far as professorial promotions at Rice. I came to Rice as a chaired professor and I’ve maintained that chair. Thirty years ago, things were different than they are now. In 2004, approximately when the Dover trial occurred, there was a sort of change where people started thinking more critically toward Christians. I have been held back tremendously in awards and in societies – in professional societies that have not permitted me to come in because of my faith – because of my not buying in wholeheartedly to the mantra of evolution.

Dr. James Tour’s scientific research areas include nanoelectronics, graphene electronics and photovoltaics, carbon supercapacitors, lithium ion batteries, chemical self-assembly and carbon nanotube and graphene synthetic modifications. He has also worked extensively on carbon composites, hydrogen storage, and practical applications in medicine and oil recovery for nanoengineered carbon. He is perhaps best known for his carbon-based fullerene-wheeled “nanocars,” a 2005 breakthrough feat in nanoengineering that produced functional, rolling vehicles just a few nanometers in size.

Tour also built small humanoids using similar technology. An example called the “NanoKid” became the basis for a school-based learning program for children that introduced them to nanoscience. His commitment to science education continued with his more recent Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero science educational package development for middle school education.

Tour received his bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Syracuse Univ., and his Ph.D. in synthetic organic and organometallic chemistry from Purdue Univ. He joined the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology at Rice University in 1999. Tour has more than 650 research publications, more than 120 patents and averages more than 3,000 citations per year.


Dr. Jerry Johnston: If some of these stats are right, about 80 to 90 percent of students raised in solid, biblical-teaching churches don’t continue their faith after they go to a secular university. How do you respond to that?

Dr. James Tour: Well this is part of why I’m here. We have to fill universities with people who love the Lord and are not afraid to talk about Him. I even understand and I see myself what’s happened in the last 20 years with my being here at Rice. Students used to come to me and to say, ‘Biology professor so-and-so is mocking Christians all the time.’ Is he mocking Christians? Why would they want to do that? Have they not enough biology to teach? Why don’t they come and mock me? We’ll go toe-to-toe. And they can mock me and tell me how silly I am. And we’ll put my credentials against theirs.

Each year, the editors of R&D Magazine are tasked with the responsibility of choosing candidates for its top individual award, the Scientist of the Year. For 48 years, this Award has recognized many of the world’s preeminent scientists and most accomplished researchers. Without exception, its recipients have made substantial contributions to their field of study, whether materials science, physics, biology or chemistry.

Professor James M. Tour was named the 2013 R&D Magazine “Scientist of the Year.”

The . T. and W. F. Chao Professor of Chemistry at Rice University, Tour is a synthetic organic chemist who has made numerous contributions to our fundamental understanding of chemistry and materials science, particularly at the nanoscale. His work has resulted in a wealth of practical applications for microscale and nanoscale science, and he, with the contribution of the James M. Tour Group research facility at Rice, has helped make substantial advances in the ability to manipulate small volumes of organic materials.


Dr. Cristie Jo Johnston: So, Professor Tour, let’s talk about you being a racecar driver. So, if you Google the word ‘nanocar,’ your name pops up as the creator, along with some other team members here at Rice University. What is a nanocar? And how do you race a nanocar?

Dr. James Tour: So, a nanocar is a single molecule. It has a chassis, axles, wheels, and motor. And you build it such that it’s all based upon the building up of single molecules. You can park about 50,000 of them across the diameter of a human hair. The diameter is this way across the human hair. So they’re very small. We make about a billion, billion of them at a time. And they had the first nanocar race this summer in Toulouse, France. And we won.

James M. Tour, PhD, has published more than 650 research articles, and has developed more than 100 patents. He was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors in 2015. Tour was named among “The 50 Most Influential Scientists in the World Today” by in 2014, listed in “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” by Thomson Reuters in 2014, and was the recipient of the Trotter Prize in “Information, Complexity and Inference” in 2014. He has received numerous other awards for his research and his work as a professor.

Jerry Johnston Interview Jonathan Lanman Regarding Virtual Reality in Religion

Bloomberg Businessweek asked Apple CEO Tim Cook, “You’ve talked a lot about augmented reality at the heart of the company’s future. How do you see AR moving forward?” Cook replied, “I think it is profound. I am so excited about it, I just want to yell out and scream. The first step in making it a mainstream kind of experience is to put it in the operating system. We’re building it into iOS 11, opening it to developers – and unleashing the creativity of millions of people. Even we can’t predict what’s going to come out.” (June 19, 2017, p. 54) 

Very soon virtual reality headsets will be a common possession and extraordinary experience! No one can quite calculate the impact VR is going to have on society and religion. So, Cristie Jo Johnston and I traveled to BelfastIreland to film with Jonathan Lanman, Assistant Director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen’s University. His work on atheism and secularization aims to provide an account of why some individuals become theists and others become non-theists, why some nations have much higher proportions of non-theists than others, and why some non-theists engage in anti-religious social action. Lanman is one of the four principal researchers in the John Templeton Foundation project, Understanding Unbelief.” We a most interesting, thought-provoking conversation in our nearly two-hour filmed interview.

Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via transcontinental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.

Jerry Johnston Interviews Lois Lee – Founding Director of the Nonreligion and Secularity Network

Lois Lee had just arrived back in London, England after her honeymoon when Cristie Jo Johnston and I filmed with her. She is quite unique and very articulate. Lois writes: “I joined the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kent in 2017 as a Research Fellow, and will take up my post as lecturer in 2019. I am Principle Investigator on the Scientific Study of Non-religious Belief project (UCL Institute of Advanced Studies) and the Understanding Unbelief programme (Religious Studies, University of Kent), both majorly funded by the John Templeton Foundation.  I have a strong interest in working with research communities in the wide dissemination of research. I am founding director of the Nonreligion and Secularity Research Network (NSRN), co-editor of the journal, Secularism and Nonreligion (S&N) and co-editor of the NSRN book series, Religion and Its Others: Studies in Religion, Nonreligion and Secularity (De Gruyter). I also work with community groups as well as national and local media to disseminate my own and NSRN research outside of academia.” 

NONES are the third largest religion? An “increasing large population”? People attend “atheist” churches? What’s going on? If anyone understands secularity and non belief Lois Lee does. Listen to this clip. Lois refers to “doing a lot of studies with psychology students in the U.S.” – and then she adds, “so a lot of what we know about the atheist mind is really the atheist mind of some students in the U.S.” (United States). Whoa! That is a bit puzzling. Again, Lois is one of the world’s foremost leaders in secularity.

That is why Cristie and I am on an investigative journey. Why is there such an alarming high number of university students from Christian backgrounds who leave the church after their years in college? There seems to be an easy check-out system going on. It is time to drill down and discover why.

Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via transcontinental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.

Jerry Johnston Interviews Miguel Farias – Nones Researcher

Four scholars are researching, in four different countries, profiling nones. A compilation of their landmark research, along with other researchers, will be presented in Rome in 2019. Why are people religiously disaffiliating? What is the difference in non-believers in Japan as opposed to Denmark, or Brazil in contrast to the United States? What are the actual catalysts of unbelief?

There is obvious diversity in different nations around the globe. The John Templeton Foundation project, Understanding Unbelief, will attempt to answer the causes and characteristics of unbelief. A psychologistanthropologistsociologist, and theologian will travel to different countries and cultures and profile nones. Interestingly, it is the same journey Cristie Jo Johnston and I have been on for nearly three years.

Christian denominations are in decline in the United States, including the Southern Baptist ConventionMainline denominations have witnessed a precipitous drop of at least 30 million people in the last several decades. Leaders seem to be scratching their heads and asking why.

Miguel Farias and I met in Oxford, England. I asked him which countries the principal researchers of the Templeton project were headed. Dr. Farias was a Departmental Lecturer and Deputy Course Director of the MSc in psychological research at the Department of Experimental Psychology, at the University of Oxford, having previous held a lectureship at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and several postdoctoral research fellowships at the University of Oxford. In 2014, Miguel joined Coventry University to lead the BrainBelief and Behaviour research group. With philosophers and neuroscientists, he pioneered research on the analgesic effects of religious beliefs and the stress-buffering effects of science beliefs.

We look forward to work with these scholars in the days ahead.

Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via transcontinental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.