International Survey on Religious beliefs and Opinions of Scientists in India



The Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture (ISSSC) of Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, recently released the results of a survey conducted on religious beliefs and opinions of academics and scientists in India. The majority of the Indian scientists are Hindus (66%) and the next large group was atheists (10%). Some of the interesting questions in the survey included do you approve of the space scientists going to Tirupati to seek the blessing of Lord Venkateswara before launching a satellite.

The Worldviews and Opinions of Scientists in India Summary Report gives the highlights of an international, academic web survey conducted. The survey was conducted between August 2007 and January 2008 in cooperation with the Center for Inquiry India. The large national sample of Indian scientists, the first of its kind, included 1,100 participants from 130 universities and research institutes.

The summary report contains three sections. The first is a profile of the respondents. The second describes their opinions on political, economic and scientific issues. The third delves into their worldviews and religious beliefs and attitudes. You can read the entire survey in PDF format here.

Some interesting finds from the survey

Beliefs about God

30% said I don’t believe in a personal God but I do believe in a higher power.
26% said I know God really exists and I have no doubts about it.
12% don’t believe in God.

Beliefs in Miracles

Majority of the scientists don’t believe in miracle. But 38% believes that god performs miracle and 24% believes that holy people perform miracles.

Traditional Beliefs

Overall, the majority of scientists rejects all the traditional beliefs.
Only 29% believe in Karma.
26% believe in life after death.
20% in reincarnation

Spirituality

The majority of scientists think of themselves as “spiritual.” And to majority of them spirituality means commitment to higher human ideals, such as peace, harmony, or well-being. To 31% spiritual meant a higher level of human consciousness or awareness.

Degrees in Vedic Astrology and Ayurvedic Medicine

The Survey found that scientists are by far more likely to approve of university degree courses in Ayurvedic medicine (90% “strongly” or “somewhat”) than degree courses in Vedic Astrology (44%).

Vegetarianism

A majority of the scientists surveyed is not vegetarian (57%). The vegetarian population (43%) is motivated by both health and religious reasons.

Secular/Religious Outlook

The scientists are most likely to regard their personal outlook as “secular” or “somewhat secular” (75%). Only 7% has a religious outlook.

The Meaning of Secularism

The vast majority of the scientists perceives this term as tolerance and a large majority recognizes it as it appears in the Indian constitution as religion-government separation. When it comes to “private secularism” or secularity, a majority regards it as meaning the absence of religious affiliation. Only a minority of scientists conceives of secularity as meaning atheism.

Blessing of Rocket Launching

In 2005 space scientists went to Tirupati to seek the blessing of Lord Venkateswara before launching the rocket and satellite. Do you approve or disapprove of the action?

The Indian scientific community is split on the issue of seeking a religious endorsement of a space research project, which occurred in 2005. Approval of this ritual has the support of 41% of the scientists while 46% disapprove. However, the level of disapproval is more intense with a plurality (33%) “disapproving strongly.”

Science versus Religion

A plurality of the scientists (44%) is willing to criticize and confront religions where they think they contradict accepted scientific theories but a sizeable minority (23%) is opposed.