Washington: Oxford University psychologists suggest that a faith in the explanatory and revealing power of science increases in the face of stress or anxiety.

The researchers argue that a belief in science may help non-religious people deal with adversity by offering comfort and reassurance, as has been reported previously for religious belief.

"We found that being in a more stressful or anxiety inducing situation increased participant’s belief in science," Dr Miguel Farias, who led the study in the Department of Experimental Psychology at Oxford University, said.

"This belief in science we looked at says nothing of the legitimacy of science itself. Rather we were interested in the values individuals hold about science.While most people accept science as a reliable source of knowledge about the world, some may hold science as a superior method for gathering knowledge, the only way to explain the world, or as having some unique and fundamental value in itself. This is a view of science that some atheists endorse," he said.

As well as stressing that investigating a belief in science carries no judgment on the value of science as a method, the researchers point out that drawing a parallel between the psychological benefits of religious faith and belief in science doesn't necessarily mean that scientific practice and religion are also similar in their basis.

Instead, the researchers suggest that their findings may highlight a basic human motivation to believe.
The researchers said that their findings are consistent with the idea that belief in science increases when secular individuals are placed in threatening situations.

They go on to suggest that a belief in science may help non-religious people deal with adverse conditions.The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

(Agencies)

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