Religion Among Scientists in International Context

Elaine Howard Ecklund, Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology
Rice University

Project Summary

What is the relationship between scientists and religion across the globe?

It is often claimed that science is incompatible with religion and culpable for secularization. Tension is felt on a global scale as scholars argue that religion hinders the progress and acceptance of science in the United States, Europe, and parts of Asia. Yet no research to date has addressed how scientists view religion and how religion influences scientists in different regional contexts.

The Religion among Scientists in International Context study is the first-ever empirical study of religion and spirituality among scientists in a cross-regional context. It includes a cross-regional survey of over 22,525 biologists and physicists at different points in their careers. They hail from top universities and research institutes in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Taiwan, and Turkey—regions that have very different levels of religiosity, levels of scientific infrastructure, and approaches to the relationship between religious and state institutions. The project also includes follow-up qualitative interviews with 609 of these scientists.

Through these two instruments, we can determine how scientists in different regional contexts understand the relationship between science and religion (and, where relevant, spirituality). We can also determine how religion and spirituality influence their research agendas, daily interactions with students, and ethical decisions and discussions. The dataset, articles, and books we produce will reshape the secularization debate, create new measures of religion and spirituality, and initiate a new research agenda within the social sciences. Furthermore, our findings will help improve public policy efforts to increase productive dialogue between scientists and religious communities in different regional contexts by uncovering similarities and differences in how they perceive the proper relationship between science, religion, and spirituality.

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Project Details

Project Duration

1 January 201231 December 2015

Core Funding Area

Big Questions

Region of Activity

North America

TWCF Number

0033

Amount Awarded

$2,424,132

Project Co-Leaders

Kirstin R. W. Matthews, Rice University
Steven Lewis, Rice University

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