A new survey shows that atheists and agnostics are 76 percent more likely than Christians to believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life. Overall 37 percent of those surveyed were willing to say they believed in the existence of extraterrestrial life, only 21 percent said they did not believe. However, most people (42 percent) were reticent to commit either way, saying they just aren't sure.
The survey was conducted by Survata, a market research company. The results were shared on a blog posting on Survata's website, and it points out that throughout history scientific discovery has often been at odds with religious doctrine.
In modern times, NASA seems to be getting closer to the discovery of extraterrestrial life with programs such as the Mars rover and Kepler telescope. The likelihood of extraterrestrial life is rising with each new discovery. Some feel that if the discovery of life is just around the corner, this may be an issue for religious dogma.
A new book titled Science, Religion, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, by Theologian and Professor David Wilkinson, tackles these problems. He recently told the Durham Times that Christian theologians are currently philosophizing about these issues, and the relationship between science and religion is "more subtle and fruitful than just conflict."
Survata decided they could help shed some light on how religious affiliation relates to belief in extraterrestrial life with a survey. They polled 5,886 Americans, asking them: "Do you believe in the existence of extraterrestrial life?"
Survata also asked the participants their religious affiliation. Of those who chose Atheist/Agnostic, 55 percent said they did believe in the existence of extraterrestrials. Interestingly, of those who chose "other" for religious affiliation, 62 percent said they believe in extraterrestrial life, this was the group with the highest percentage with that answer.
The religious group with the highest percentage that believes in extraterrestrial life was the Muslims at 44 percent. The Jewish and Hindu groups were similar in their percentage of believers, 37 percent and 36 percent respectively. Christians had the lowest percentage for the belief in extraterrestrial life at 32 percent. However, the lowest group was those who did not wish to share their religious affiliation. Only 18 percent of this group believes extraterrestrials exist.
Even though the number of believers varied, the number of people who were not sure was pretty constant at about 30 percent. The variances came with those who said they outright did not believe extraterrestrials exist. This category ranged from 15 percent among atheist/agnostics to over 30 percent for Christians and Jews.
Christians were the largest religious affiliation with a little over 2,200 participants, and Survata went more in-depth with them to show the differences between denominations. Baptists were the least likely to believe in the existence of extraterrestrials with 29 percent in the affirmative and 39 percent in the negative. The other denominations were fairly close at about 30 percent not believing in ET and 35 percent to 40 percent in the affirmative.
Survata's website also has a tool that lets you drill down into the data a bit more. When I looked into gender variances, there was little difference. However, age differences were significant.
Younger participants answered the question nearly completely opposite those in older groups. Among the 13 to 17 group, 58 percent said they believed in extraterrestrial life, only 11 percent said no, and 31 percent were unsure. However, the 40-plus group had nearly a third as many believers with only 20 percent saying they believed in extraterrestrial life, 30 percent said they did not believe in extraterrestrial life, and a large number (51 percent) said they were unsure.
The Huffington Post and YouGov also did a recent poll on belief in extraterrestrials. They asked whether the participants believed that "some people have witnessed UFOs that have an extraterrestrial origin." Their findings were a bit shocking, 48% answered in the affirmative and 35% in the negative. They had a smaller sample size at 1000 participants.
When The Huffington Post and YouGov broke down the numbers they also found little differences between the genders. However, their political affiliations were interesting. They found, "from a political perspective, the ET believer camp reveals 58 percent to be Democrats, 47 percent Independents and 37 percent Republicans." Given Survata's findings, and the perception that Republicans are more often Christian, this may shed more insight into why people believe what they do.
The Survata survey demonstrates a belief in God may shade a person's belief in extraterrestrial life. Wilkinson says he wrote his book in hopes that "people of religious faith will see the search for extraterrestrial intelligence isn't a threat but is something they can be very supportive of," an idea that younger generations seem much more ready to accept.
Read more about the survey at OpenMinds.tv.
Follow Alejandro Rojas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AstroATR