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Trust in science high in Finland, survey finds

More than 80 percent of respondents in Finland said they think science benefits people like themselves.

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The majority of respondents in Finland said they trusted science over religion, according to a survey. Image: Family Tree DNA / Lehtikuva
Yle News

An international survey has found that Finnish residents are highly trusting of scientific research, often even when it contradicts their personal religious faiths.

The majority of study participants in Finland, 59 percent, said they considered scientists to be very trustworthy.

"Finland's results reflect a traditional respect for education and science, and also a general trust in national institutions," said professor of communications Esa Väliverronen from the University of Helsinki.

He said the main issues holding back people's trust in science in developing countries, for instance, were poverty, inequality and general distrust of their government.

The Wellcome Global Monitor (siirryt toiseen palveluun) survey queried more than 140,000 people around the world last year. The poll was conducted across 144 countries commissioned by Wellcome Trust, a London-based research charity organisation.

Elsewhere in the world, respondents in the former Soviet state of Uzbekistan were the most trusting of scientists (66%), while those queried in the central African country of Gabon had the least trust in science professionals (13%).

Differing views

Respondents who confirmed they were followers of a religion were asked whether they experienced a mismatch between their own religious beliefs and scientific data, and if so, which views they preferred.

About 60 percent of those respondents said science conflicted with their religious views. However, only one-fifth (17%) of those said they trusted religious teachings over science when asked to decide between the two.

Compared to most other countries in the survey that figure is rather low, according to Väliverronen. In Sweden, 30 percent of the religious respondents said they preferred their faith over science. The ratio was signficantly higher in Norway and the UK (40%), Turkey (51%), the US (60%) and Pakistan (95%).

"About a decade ago there was outrage over the fact that some people don't believe in evolution. But based on this research it seems religion plays almost no part in Finnish attitudes to science," said Väliverronen.

Access to facts

The Wellcome Trust survey also found that Finnish respondents actively acquire science-related news and information; 65 percent of respondents said they had looked for scientific data online in the past month. Globally the figure was less than one third, with health-related searches being most common.

The survey report's authors added that not all countries have easy access to sources of information, most notably the internet.

Internet access and science education in Finland are at a high standard worldwide (siirryt toiseen palveluun), and residents are aware of their own scientific competence, according to the survey. Sixty-six percent of the Finnish respondents said they were reasonably or very well versed in science, while "over half (57%) of the world's population don’t think they know much – if anything – about science," the report stated.

Respondents from the United States tended to overestimate their science skills, while people from Singapore and China underestimated their abilities.

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