Since 2012, the research agency Ipsos/ MORI has been conducting surveys into, what they have dubbed, the perils of perception. This explores the difference between people’s perception of something and its reality. For example, people in the UK overestimate prison population, knife crime, and unemployment but underestimate the impact of climate change and the level of sexual harassment.
Ipsos/ MORI does not ask about people’s perception of science and religion, in part because there is no ‘reality’ figure, such as official measures of unemployment or prison population, to compare it against. Nevertheless, the data in this report suggest that this topic does suffer from the peril of misperception. More people think that there is a general antagonism between science and religion than feeling strongly about it themselves… Continue reading →
42% of biologists in the UK are female, with an average age of 37, and 47% are not from the UK. Not many labs keep a stock of funky pink lab coats, but the cartoon here is a reminder that the iconic picture of a Caucasian male (preferably with a mop of white fuzzy hair) is no longer representative of the average lab worker.
On the other hand, when sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and her collaborators surveyed the population of British biologists, they found that gender, age, rank and institution seem to have no effect on whether a person is likely to feel a sense of religious belonging.* Some of the preliminary findings of this survey were presented at the Faraday Institute’s Uses and Abuses of Biology workshop in September, and it’s worth reading the full paper, co-authored with Christopher Scheilte.
Ecklund’s earlier study on religion among scientists in the US showed that there are a significant number of scientists who describe themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’ (see earlier blogs). In the UK this group does not seem to exist. Perhaps, suggested Ecklund, the Church of England is so widely accepted as a cultural institution that people do not feel the need to distance themselves from religion.**