Recent sociological research on scientists has dispelled the myth that most scientists are hostile towards religion. Even though scientists in many countries are less religious than the general public, only a minority of them see science and religion as being in conflict, and even among atheist scientists, there seems to be an openness to spirituality. But our best research to date tells us little about the existential concerns and spiritual yearnings of non-religious scientists.
How, if at all, do non-religious scientists in different national contexts experience and respond to spiritual yearnings—i.e., the desire for deeper connection to self, others, nature, or God? How does spiritual yearning fit within their "ultimate concerns" and their pursuit of a more meaningful life? What factors, within the practice of science or elsewhere in their lives, facilitate and inhibit such spiritual yearning?
To answer these questions, we will conduct in-depth interviews with 100 physicists and biologists from the US, UK, Italy, and India, and organize an interdisciplinary workshop to produce an edited volume. We will also develop a podcast and YouTube video series, as well as organize public events in the four countries.
Project outputs will include a journal article and book manuscript on Spiritual Yearning in Science; conference presentations; public lectures; podcast episodes; short films; and an international workshop. Publications will shed new light on the spiritual yearnings of the non-religious and provide new directions and tools for further empirical inquiry into spiritual yearning. Our public engagement initiatives will build an international audience of scholars and practitioners from diverse disciplines interested in understanding spiritual yearning among the non-religious. Our project will help dispel caricatures and stereotypes, and present a more deeply human picture of scientists, which can enrich the science-religion dialogue.