Just when you thought science and religion can’t coexist, a new worldwide study comes assuring that not all scientists are atheists.
Are all scientists atheists? Do they believe religion and science can co-exist? These questions and others were addressed in the first worldwide survey of how scientists view religion, released by researchers at Rice University.
No one today can deny that there is a popular ‘warfare’ framing between science and religion, said principal investigator Elaine Howard Ecklund, adding that this is a war of words fueled by scientists, religious people and those in between.
The study’s results challenge longstanding assumptions about the science-faith interface. While it is commonly assumed that most scientists are atheists, the global perspective resulting from the study shows that this is simply not the case.
Ecklund noted that more than half of scientists in India, Italy, Taiwan and Turkey self-identify as religious and it’s striking that approximately twice as many ‘convinced atheists’ exist in the general population of Hong Kong, for example, (55 percent) compared with the scientific community in this region (26 percent).
The researchers did find that scientists are generally less religious than a given general population. However, there were exceptions to this: 39 percent of scientists in Hong Kong identify as religious compared with 20 percent of the general population of Hong Kong, and 54 percent of scientists in Taiwan identify as religious compared with 44 percent of the general population of Taiwan. Ecklund noted that such patterns challenge longstanding assumptions about the irreligious character of scientists around the world.
Ecklund said that the study has many important implications that can be applied to the university’s hiring processes, how classrooms and labs are structured and general public policy.
“Science is a global endeavor,” Ecklund said. “And as long as science is global, then we need to recognize that the borders between science and religion are more permeable than most people think.”