Nearly 300 scientists who consider themselves atheists also claim to have distinct spiritual beliefs. More than 20 percent of atheist scientists, according to new research from Rice University, say they have a spirituality that’s consistent with science, although they are not formally religious.
While the general public tends to marry spirituality with religion, the study found that spirituality is a separate idea ~ one that more closely aligns with scientific discovery ~ for "spiritual atheist" scientists.
"Our results show that scientists hold religion and spirituality as being qualitatively different kinds of constructs," said Elaine Howard Ecklund, assistant professor of sociology at Rice and lead author of the study. "These spiritual atheist scientists are seeking a core sense of truth through spirituality ~ one that is generated by and consistent with the work they do as scientists."
"There's spirituality among even the most secular scientists," Ecklund said. "Spirituality pervades both the religious and atheist thought. 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.”
According to the research, the scientists find spirituality congruent with science and separate from religion, because where spirituality is open to a scientific journey, religion requires buying into an absolute "absence of empirical evidence."
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