Scientists' Belief in God Varies Starkly by Discipline
About two-thirds of scientists believe in God, according to a new survey that uncovered stark differences based on the type of research they do.
The study, along with another one released in June, would appear to debunk the oft-held notion that science is incompatible with religion.
Those in the social sciences are more likely to believe in God and attend religious services than researchers in the natural sciences, the study found.
The opposite had been expected.
Nearly 38 percent of natural scientists -- people in disciplines like physics, chemistry and biology -- said they do not believe in God. Only 31 percent of the social scientists do not believe.
In the new study, Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund surveyed 1,646 faculty members at elite research universities, asking 36 questions about belief and spiritual practices.
"Based on previous research, we thought that social scientists would be less likely to practice religion than natural scientists are, but our data showed just the opposite," Ecklund said.
Some stand-out stats: 41 percent of the biologists don't believe, while that figure is just 27 percent among political scientists.
In separate work at the University of Chicago, released in June, 76 percent of doctors said they believed in God and 59 percent believe in some sort of afterlife.
"Now we must examine the nature of these differences," Ecklund said today. "Many scientists see themselves as having a spirituality not attached to a particular religious tradition. Some scientists who don't believe in God see themselves as very spiritual people. They have a way outside of themselves that they use to understand the meaning of life."
Ecklund and colleagues are now conducting longer interviews with some of the participants to try and figure it all out.
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