The following questionnaire (reported in Nature, 3 April 1997) was sent in 1916 and again 80 years later to a randomly selected group of scientists. In May of 1997 it was sent to all Hoover fellows (72 individuals).


Conflicting statements are confidently made regarding (whether scientists [and social scientists] hold a) belief in God and in personal immortality. Nevertheless, sufficient data are not extant to support any such supposition.

The accompanying questions [were] sent to 1000 persons taken by chance from those listed in "American Men (and Women) of Science", in the hope of securing statistics valid for this group. The condition of success is that all those addressed respond. No satisfactorily definite conclusion could be drawn if many of those addressed refused or neglected to answer.

It will take you only a few seconds to make a mark by every statement true for you. Please do it, if at all possible, on receipt of this paper and return it in the enclosed stamped envelope.


1. I believe in a God in intellectual and affective communication with humankind, i.e., a God to whom one may pray in expectation of receiving an answer. By "answer" I mean more than the subjective, psychological effect of prayer.

2. I do not believe in a God as defined above.

3. I have no definite belief regarding this question.

i.e., the belief in continuation of the person after death in another world.

1. I believe in:

a. personal immortality for all people
b. conditional immortality, i.e., for those who have reached a certain state of development.

2. I believe neither in conditional or unconditional immortality of the person.

3. I have no definite belief regarding this question.

4. Although I cannot believe in personal immortality, I desire it.

a. intensely
b. moderately
c. not at all

Responses to Questionnaire
(percent of respondents)

              Questions                 Scientist Survey     Hoover    
                                          1916    1996       Fellows  
        Belief in Personal God

I believe in a God in intellectual 42 39 29 and affective communication with humankind,

I do not believe in a God as defined 42 45 52 above.

I have no definite belief regarding 17 15 19 this question.

Belief in Human Immortality

Belief in personal immortality 51 38 20

Personal disbelief 20 47 40

Doubt or Agnosticism 30 15 40

Source: Nature Vol. 386 (3 April 1997): 435-436.

Twenty-eight percent of those sent a questionnaire (all senior, senior research, and research fellows at Hoover) returned the questionnaire. The Nature 1996 study had about a 60 percent response rate in both years.

The first five responses at Hoover, all of those returned on the first day, were from those who believe in a personal God.

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