More people believe in aliens and ghosts than in God, a new survey finds, according to a British newspaper.
The survey, however, was done by a marketing firm in conjunction with the release of an X-Files DVD, and details of how the poll was conducted were not reported in the Daily Mail. Survey questions, depending on how they are written, can greatly skew results, along with how subjects are sampled.
That said, the poll of 3,000 people found that 58 percent believe in the supernatural, including paranormal encounters, while 54 percent believe God exists. Women were more likely than men to believe in the supernatural and were also more likely to visit a medium.
Indeed, humans are prone to believing in things they can neither see nor find logical evidence for.
A survey of U.S. college students done in 2006 found 23 percent of freshmen had a general belief in paranormal concepts — from astrology to communicating with the dead. Interestingly, the number jumped to 31 percent among seniors and 34 percent among graduate students.
Researchers who have compared various human belief systems say our tendency to believe is deeply rooted.
"While it is difficult to know for certain, the tendency to believe in the paranormal appears to be there from the beginning," said Christopher Bader, a Baylor University sociologist. "What changes is the content of the paranormal. For example, very few people believe in faeries and elves these days. But as belief in faeries faded, other beliefs, such as belief in UFOs, emerged to take their place."
Religion and belief in the paranormal are not linked as one might imagine. A handful of surveys show just the opposite, in fact.
"Paranormal beliefs are very strongly negatively related to religious belief," said Rod Stark, another Baylor researcher. Some scientists think this is so because religions tend to discourage paranormal beliefs, and indeed most devout practitioners of a religion have been shown to be the least likely to believe in Bigfoot, ghosts or aliens.
This article is from the LiveScience Water Cooler: What people are talking about in the world of science and beyond.
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Robert is an independent health and science journalist and writer based in Phoenix, Arizona. He is a former editor-in-chief of Live Science with over 20 years of experience as a reporter and editor. He has worked on websites such as Space.com and Tom's Guide, and is a contributor on Medium, covering how we age and how to optimize the mind and body through time. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.