NEW YORK– More than half of Indian scientists self-identify themselves as religious and almost a third believe that religion and and science can not only co-exist but be used to help each other, reveals a worldwide survey of how scientists view religion.
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.
“More than half of scientists in India, Italy, Taiwan and Turkey self-identify as religious,” said the study’s principal investigator Elaine Howard Ecklund from Rice University in Houston, US.
“And it is 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),” Ecklund noted in an official statement.
The researchers found that 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.
When asked about terms of conflict between religion and science, Ecklund said that only a minority of scientists in each regional context believe that science and religion are in conflict.
In the Britain – one of the most secular countries studied – only 32 percent of scientists characterised the science-faith interface as one of conflict.
In the US, this number was only 29 percent. And 25 percent of Hong Kong scientists, 27 percent of Indian scientists and 23 percent of Taiwanese scientists believed science and religion can coexist and be used to help each other, the findings showed.
The researchers collected information from 9,422 respondents in eight regions around the world: France, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Taiwan, Turkey, Britain and the US.
They also traveled to these regions to conduct in-depth interviews with 609 scientists.
In addition to the survey’s quantitative findings, the researchers found nuanced views in scientists’ responses during interviews.
For example, numerous scientists expressed how religion can provide a “check” in ethically gray areas.
“Religion provides a check on those occasions where you might be tempted to shortcut because you want to get something published,” a biology professor from Britain was quoted as saying.
“I have no problem going to church services because quite often, again that is a cultural thing,” said a physics reader in Britain who said he sometimes attended services because his daughter sang in the church choir.