The way I view science and the way that it was taught to me was that you can't prove anything. Even if something has happened 100% of times in the past does not mean it will happen again in the future. If I hold up an apple and then drop it, I am fairly certain it will fall to the ground. But science dictates that there is a small amount of uncertainty that it might not actually do that. In science, you can't prove, you can only disprove.
So how could a good scientist be a "true" atheist? By being a "true" atheist I mean a person who is 100% convinced there is no God or anything of the sort. That, in my opinion, goes against what science is really about, which is questioning things. To be 100% convinced of something insinuates more like faith than science. Science is about being a skeptic, to be unsure of things. Now this analogy also applies to religious fanatics, like those who believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old. They ignore tons of scientific data to the contrary just to fill their belief system.
As a qualifier to my post, here are the definitions I am using. Definitions differ, so yours may be different than mine:
atheism: Disbelief in, or denial of, the existence of a god
agnostic: One who holds that the existence of anything beyond and behind material phenomena is unknown and (so far as can be judged) unknowable, and especially that a First Cause and an unseen world are subjects of which we know nothing.
Source - Oxford English DictionaryScientists should fit somewhere in the middle based on their way of thinking. I think that the majority of scientists if they are religious, view religion as a moral compass and not as a "this is the way things are" sort of thing and if they aren't religious then they are most likely agnostic. Although, agnostic usually gets lumped into the Atheist category on most questionnaires. Agnostic is not the same thing as atheist, contrary to what public media tends to make it out as.
I feel agnostic is the perfect "belief system" for scientists because it is basically what we study. It is uncertainty. You can't know one way or the other what is right. And that is how I feel a scientist should feel. Now I don't intend to inflame criticism with this post as to more incite conversation. This has also extended from a previous conversation with someone about whether it was even right to use the word believe as a scientist.