Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Atheist Scientists Say They're Spiritual: Study

A Rice University study of hundreds of scientists from 21 elite research universities shows that many say their spirituality is consistent with their scientific endeavors, yet deny the existence of God, or any god.

UPDATE 5/18/11: Top Scientist Dismisses Heaven as 'Fairytale'

-- From "The Spiritual Lives Of Atheist Scientists" by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service (Huffington Post) 5/6/11

Elaine Howard Ecklund, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of sociology at the Houston university, said the research shows that spirituality is not solely a pursuit of religious people.

"Spirituality pervades both the religious and atheist thought," she said. "It's not an either/or. This challenges the idea that scientists, and other groups we typically deem as secular, are devoid of those big 'Why am I here?' questions. They too have these basic human questions and a desire to find meaning."

Ecklund and other researchers found that these "spiritual atheists" viewed not believing in God "as an act of strength, which for them makes spirituality more congruent with science than religion."

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From "Some atheist scientists are spiritual" by UPI 5/7/11

For example, the spiritual scientists see both science and spirituality as "meaning-making without faith" and as an individual quest for meaning that can never be final. For example, spirituality is open to a scientific journey, but religion requires buying into an absolute absence of empirical evidence, Ecklund said.

The study, scheduled to be published in the June issue of Sociology of Religion, says non-spiritual colleagues might focus on their research at the expense of working with students, but spiritual scientists' sense of spirituality results in them helping struggling students succeed.

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From "More than 20 percent of atheist scientists are spiritual" by Jessica Stark, Rice News staff 5/2/11

[The study] discovered that the terms scientists most used to describe religion included "organized, communal, unified and collective." The set of terms used to describe spirituality include "individual, personal and personally constructed." All of the respondents who used collective or individual terms attributed the collective terms to religion and the individual terms to spirituality.

"While the data indicate that spirituality is mainly an individual pursuit for academic scientists, it is not individualistic in the classic sense of making them more focused on themselves," said Ecklund, director of the Religion and Public Life Program at Rice. "In their sense of things, being spiritual motivates them to provide help for others, and it redirects the ways in which they think about and do their work as scientists."

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Click headlines below to read previous articles:

Scientist: Universe Created Itself, Not God

Chimpanzees are Authors of Morality, says Scientist

Scientists Can't Tell Difference Between a Man and a Woman

University Won't Hire Christians as Scientists

Obama Energy Dept. Boots Conservative Scientist over Homophobia

Failed Science Advocates Target 'Non-believers'

Calif. Science Center Sued for Censoring Scientific Inquiry