Indian scientists significantly more religious than UK scientists

Indian scientists significantly more religious than UK scientists
Elaine Howard Ecklund. Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Indian scientists are significantly more religious than United Kingdom scientists, according to the first cross-national study of religion and spirituality among scientists.

The U.K. and India results from Religion Among Scientists in International Context (RASIC) study were presented at the Policies and Perspectives: Implications From the Religion Among Scientists in International Context Study conference held today in London. The conference was sponsored by the Religion and Public Life Program and the Baker Institute for Public Policy. The U.K. results were also presented at the Uses and Abuses of Biology conference Sept. 22 at Cambridge University's Faraday Institute in Cambridge, England.

The surveys and in-depth interviews with scientists revealed that while 65 percent of U.K. scientists identify as nonreligious, only 6 percent of Indian scientists identify as nonreligious. In addition, while only 12 percent of scientists in the U.K. attend on a regular basis—once a month or more—32 percent of scientists in India do.

Elaine Howard Ecklund, Rice's Autrey Professor of Sociology and the study's principal investigator, said the U.K. and India data are being released simultaneously because of the history between the U.K. and India. She noted that their differences are quite interesting to compare.

"India and the U.K. are at the same time deeply intertwined historically while deeply different religiously," Ecklund said. "There is a vastly different character of among scientists in the U.K. than in India – potentially overturning the view that scientists are universal carriers of secularization."

Despite the number of U.K. scientists identifying themselves as nonreligious, 49 percent of U.K. survey respondents acknowledged that there are basic truths in many religions. In addition, 11 percent of U.K. survey respondents said they do believe in God without any doubt, and another 8 percent said they believe in a higher power of some kind.

Ecklund noted that although the U.K. is known for its secularism, scientists in particular are significantly more likely to identify as not belonging to a religion than members of the general population.

"According to available data, only 50 percent of the general U.K. population responded that they did not belong to a religion, compared with 65 percent of U.K. scientists in the survey," Ecklund said. "In addition, 47 percent of the U.K. population report never attending religious services compared with 68 percent of scientists."

According to the India survey, 73 percent of scientists responded that there are basic truths in many religions, 27 percent said they believe in God and 38 percent expressed belief in a higher power of some kind. However, while only 4 percent of the general Indian population said they never attend religious services, 19 percent of Indian scientists said they never attend.

"Despite the high level of religiosity evident among Indian scientists when it comes to religious affiliation, we can see here that when we look at religious practices, Indian scientists are significantly more likely than the Indian general population to never participate in a religious service or ritual, even at home," Ecklund said.

Although there appear to be striking differences in the religious views of U.K. and Indian scientists, less than half of both groups (38 percent of U.K. scientists and 18 percent of Indian scientists) perceived conflict between religion and science.

"When we interviewed Indian scientists in their offices and laboratories, many quickly made it clear that there is no reason for religion and science to be in conflict; for some Indian scientists, religious beliefs actually lead to a deeper sense of doing justice through their work as scientists," Ecklund said. "And even many U.K. scientists who are themselves not personally religious still do not think there needs to be a conflict between religion and science."

The U.K. survey included 1,581 scientists, representing a 50 percent response rate. The India survey included 1,763 scientists from 159 universities and/or research institutions. Both surveys also utilized population data from the World Values Survey to make comparisons with the general public. In addition, the researchers conducted nearly 200 in-depth interviews with U.K. and Indian scientists, many of these in person.

The complete study will include a of 22,000 biologists and physicists at different points in their careers at top universities and research institutes in the U.S., U.K., Turkey, Italy, France, India, Hong Kong and Taiwan—nations that have very different approaches to the relationship between religious and state institutions, different levels of religiosity and different levels of scientific infrastructure. Respondents were randomly selected from a sampling frame of nearly 50,000 scientists and compiled by undergraduate and graduate students at Rice University through an innovative sampling process. The study will also include qualitative interviews with 700 scientists. The entire RASIC study will be completed by the end of 2015.

Rice University's Baker Institute Science and Technology Fellow Kirstin Matthews and C.V. Starr Transnational China Fellow Steven Lewis serve as co-principal investigators for the project. The project is funded by a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation. A related study that is part of the research initiative is funded by the National Science Foundation and examines Ethics among Scientists in China, U.K. and U.S.


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Sep 24, 2014
British scientists would mostly be Christian, while nothing is mentioned as to the religions prevalent among Indian scientists. I'm saying if Indian scientist are not Christians then this can't be valid research.

Sep 25, 2014
Ecklund, a Templeton apologist, has a long history of obfuscating religion re science. When her own survey results say that most scientists are non-religious, she lump agnostics with religious et cetera. This is her study, and the fieldwork isn't finished yet, so any conclusioans are premature and in fact break statistic methodology. [ http://rplp.rice....94967368 " a grant from the Templeton World Charity Foundation"; http://siic.rice.edu/ " will run through the end of October 2014"]

The obvious question here is how Ecklund formulated her questions and lumped her bins. Few if any scientists would say that there are "basic truths in many religions", they prefer to speak of facts and in religions there are none. However they could well claim that many religious texts are handling emotional or moral "truths", as they learn them from, and so become consistent with, secular societies.

Sep 25, 2014
Here is a god reference to Ecklund's "spin-doctoring": http://www.newrep...eyre-not

"Her work is, of course, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, whose goal to show that science and faith are mutually supportive. Ecklund's spinning of her survey data to emphasize interdisciplinary comity—even when the data doesn't really show it—is getting quite tiresome. I've often written about Ecklund's spin-doctoring, which always yields conclusions congenial to Templeton's mission, but the distortions just keep on coming. Templeton dispenses some $70 million a year to get its soothing message out."

"Surveying American scientists as a whole, regardless of status, a different Pew poll showed that only 33% admitted belief in God, with 41% of scientists being atheists or agnostics."

If religious US is so non-religious, why would non-religious UK be worse? There is an Ecklund buried here.

Sep 25, 2014
More here:

"Now the antecedent of "they" is unclear (Ecklund is a dreadful writer), but I'm pretty sure she and Lee are referring to "religious institutions," not to "nonreligious scientists." In other words, they're trying to show how religion itself has an important function in America. Well, maybe it does, but not among this group, since 83% of atheists scientists don't expose their kids to church.

Why does Ecklund continue to trawl her data for dubious conclusions like this, publishing paper after paper distorting her results to show how religious we atheist-scientists really are? Well, he who pays the piper calls the tune, and if you check who funded Ecklund and Lee's research, you'll find this acknowledgment:

This research was supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation, Grant #11299, Elaine Howard Ecklund, PI."

[ http://whyevoluti...entists/ ]

Sep 25, 2014
Why do you care anyway?

You believe everything came from nothing by some meaningless accident, and has no real underlying meaning or purpose.

What difference should it make to you?

Leave other people alone, and go live in your own meaningless hell you've made for yourself, and quit trying to recruit others.

If Christianity is right, when unbelievers die, they go to Hell (well, not quite, God still judges the hearts of people, but that's more complicated,) and believers go to heaven.

If Atheists are right, when anybody dies nothing happens. Their atoms return to the soil and there is no spirit or soul. Your consciousness just winks out of this meaningless existence.

So you have:

1, nothing to gain by believing in Atheism either way.

2, If Christianity is true Atheists probably go to hell.

3, If Christianit is true beleivers go to heaven.

4, If Christianity is false the worst you can do by believing is break even with atheists.

The statistics say you should believe in God.

Sep 25, 2014
Why do you care anyway?

So you have:

1, nothing to gain by believing in Atheism either way.


Except satisfaction in knowing I haven't been duped by crackpots.

2, If Christianity is true Atheists probably go to hell.


You're saying a god would punish me for using the brain he supplied and created?

3, If Christianit is true beleivers go to heaven.


So belief is the ticket to heaven no matter a person's actions?

4, If Christianity is false the worst you can do by believing is break even with atheists.


Not true. If you've been wasting time going to church or praying to a non-existent entity or sending money to god (no idea why god needs so much money) the atheists are way ahead.

The statistics say you should believe in God.


Logic says you should not believe.

Your emotions are impeding your spelling ability. Have you tried praying to your god to have that fixed?

Provide proof any meaning is required in the universe. It just is.

Sep 29, 2014
@Returners "You believe everything came from nothing by some meaningless accident, and has no meaning or purpose. "

Just because you dislike the implication of something, it doesn't make it untrue. We make our own meaning and purpose in life.

"Leave other people alone, and go live in your own meaningless hell you've made for yourself, and quit trying to recruit others."

I'd love to "leave people alone" but they're not happy until I believe the same nonsense as the do. They're unhappy until their superstitious views rule over society. They're not happy until they can subjugate those who're different. Be they gay, female, of another/no religion.

You also seem to think it's a choice between Christianity and atheism, when there's 4,000 different made up gods out there. A Christian's as likely to be wrong as everyone else. There's no evidence for any gods. I'll base my belief (or lack of) on that conclusion.

Sep 29, 2014
We're the product of our society. India's a religious (even if officially secular) society, it's hardly surprising that this report reflects that. It is pleasant to see that even in India scientists are less likely than the general population to buy into religious myths. Although disappointing at the same time, that still so many people are fooled by stories made up by primitive societies.
Still, the trend is heading in the right direction. Most nations show a decline, not an increase in religiosity, which can only be a good thing.

Sep 29, 2014
So you have:
1, nothing to gain by believing in Atheism either way.

Lots of spare time to think about important things. (As with not participating in any other delusional activity)

2, If Christianity is true Atheists probably go to hell.

If religion X is true (where X is any of hundreds of non-christian religions) then Christians go to (their) hell. So what? If you're pretending to believe to hedge your bets then you're sunk in almost all cases (and you're even sunk if you're christian and god actually CAN see in your heart - because then he'll dump you into hell for dissembling)

3, If Christianit is true beleivers go to heaven.

Same as above. You think you get in by just pretending to believe?

4, If Christianity is false the worst you can do by believing is break even with atheists.

Nah. The worst is that you've just wasted your entire life for nothing.

The statistics say you should believe in God.

What statistics?

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