According to the Religion Among Scientists in International Context study of religion and spirituality among scientists that was presented at a conference in London, Indian scientists were found to be significantly more religious than their United Kingdom peers (1). The conference was sponsored by Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program and Baker Institute for Public Policy, and was also presented at Cambridge University’s Faraday Institute. Overall, 1581 U.K. scientists (50% response rate) and 1763 Indian scientists from universities and/or research institutions took part in the survey (2). The researchers conducted close to 200 in-depth interviews with both U.K. and Indian scientists, many of which were done in person (3).
According to the study, while 65% of U.K. scientists identified as non-religious, only 6% of Indian scientists identified similarly. In addition, while only 12% of scientists in the U.K. attended religious services on a regular basis (once a month or more), 32% of scientists in India do. Sociology professor Elaine Howard Ecklund, known for her studies on religion and science, explained that the U.K. and India data and their differences are quite interesting to compare,
“India and the U.K. are at the same time deeply intertwined historically while deeply different religiously. There is a vastly different character of religion 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 non-religious, 49% of U.K. survey respondents still acknowledged that there are basic truths in many religions. Moreover, 11% of U.K. survey respondents said they do believe in God without any doubt, and another 8% said they believe in a higher power of some kind. Ecklund further observed 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. In addition, 47 percent of the U.K. population report never attending religious services compared with 68 percent of scientists.”
Furthermore, as per the India survey, 73% of scientists responded that there are basic truths in many religions, 27% said they believe in God and 38% expressed belief in a higher power of some kind. However, while only 4% of the general Indian population said they never attend religious services, 19% of Indian scientists said they never attend. Ecklund goes on,
“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.”
A further interesting finding of Ecklund’s was that less than half of both groups (38% in U.K. scientists & 18% of Indian scientists) viewed that there was 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. 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.”
1. Phys. Indian scientists significantly more religious than UK scientists. Available.
2. McCaig, A. 2014. Indian scientists significantly more religious than UK scientists. Available.
3. TempletonWorldCharity. Religion Among Scientists in International Context. Available.