Pew Poll Results: Who Believes in Aliens?


Let’s start by clarifying a rather important point. When pondering over the question of who believes in Aliens, this is not about abduction claims. It is just this question – Are we completely alone in the universe or is there intelligent life somewhere out there?

Related to this is another question – what about UFO sightings by US Military personal, is that evidence of intelligent life from beyond earth?

To be wholly clear, right now we don’t know.

In a recent survey, Pew asked these questions and came up with some fascinating results. What I’m doing here is taking a look at those results and using them to reveal how our beliefs can greatly influence how we tend to view many other things.

Pew Survey – Who thinks there are aliens out there?

If you asked the question “Is there intelligent life on other planets – what is your best guess?”, then overall how many would say “Yes” and how many would say “no”?

This is what Pew recently did, but with an interesting twist.

They also found out a bit about the people they interviewed. For example …

  • What is the religious belief of the people they asked
  • Do they pray on a regular basis?
  • Do they attend church on a regular basis?
  • How important is religion in their life?

The results on the question for everybody breaks down as follows …

  • 65% said – Yes, there is probably intelligent life on other planets
  • 34% said – No, there is probably no intelligent life on other planets
  • 2% did not answer

However, what happens when we break these overall numbers down using what we know about these people.

Will it be the religious or the non-religious who are inclined to consider the possibility that there is indeed intelligent life on other worlds?

Prepare for a potential surprise.

The Reveal

It’s the skeptics, those that doubt religious claims, the people who are the least religious, don’t pray, and don’t attend religious services, that are far more open to the thought that there may indeed be intelligent life on other worlds.

Meanwhile, it is the white evangelicals who mostly reject the idea and dismiss the possibility that there may indeed be intelligent life on other worlds.

What about UFO sightings by US Military personal?

Another question asked was this – “do you believe recent UFO sightings by people in the military is evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth?”

Here things breakdown rather differently …

On the previous question it was 85% of Atheists who said “Yes, there is probably intelligent life out there” and that puts them very much in the lead there. Now for this question it is 69% Atheists who said “No, UFO sightings by military personal are not evidence of intelligent life from other worlds”.

This time it is a religious grouping, the Catholics, who are mostly inclined to say “Yes”. A close second were the Nones.

What on earth is going on here, why such extremes?

Both questions on the surface appear to be similar, and yet they yield very different responses.

Pew simply asked the questions and then reported the results, they don’t mull over why it is like this, so I’ll offer you a few thoughts on that.

Firstly, let’s start by thinking about how we think about things.

Why are religious people religious, and why are some people not religious?

This is a vast topic that is complicated so what follows is an ultra dilute simplification.

Generally, most inherit their beliefs from the culture around them. The specific religious belief you have is in many respects about geography – where you were born and where you live. There are always exceptions. Some do switch to different variations of belief, or simply tone it down to something that is just for major life events – hatching, matching, or dispatching. Other might dial it up, way up, have a conversion experience, speak in tongues, get baptised as an adult, attend church several times a week, etc… Beyond such extremes, for most, it is a cultural inheritance that is accepted and absorbed without too much questioning.

What about people who don’t believe, how has that come about?

Generally these are people who have given the entire topic a great deal of thought over a long period and have come to a conclusion that there really is no evidence for a supernatural entity or any of the associated supernatural claims. This perhaps explains why most atheists and agnostics are far more knowledgeable about religion than the religious themselves.

What this all leads to is a bit of a segregation taking place. People who tend to lean a bit more towards questioning things, and are analytical about how they approach many things, tend to be less religious and more agnostic and/or atheist.

Meanwhile, people who happily accept their cultural inheritance tend to lean just a little bit more towards responding intuitively to things. For example, they are happy to attend Church weekly because it brings comfort, it was how they were brought up, and it feels right for them.

This perhaps reveals how these different groupings might respond to the alien questions.

“Is there intelligent life out there on another world?”

We live in a galaxy that has at least 200 billion other stars (not million, but billion). Beyond our galaxy there are literally trillions of other galaxies, each with hundreds of billions or even trillions of stars. The numbers are quite literally beyond the ability of our minds to truly grasp.

Intelligent life emerged naturally at least once – we obviously know this because that’s us. It is not unthinkable that it has also happened elsewhere.

However, if you are religious, deeply religious, and are sure that we are the unique creation of a supernatural entity, then despite what we know about the vastness of the universe, the emotional bond to the idea of being a unique and very special creation means you would most probably lean a bit more towards rejecting the possibility of intelligent life existing elsewhere.

Are the UFO sightings by US Military Personal “evidence” of intelligent life beyond our earth?

The idea is indeed an enticing and compelling one. However, there does also exist a pool of rather robust debunking of all the claims. If you delve deeply into the topic you can find it all. That’s perhaps a separate topic for another day.

For the moment, the point is this. You need not doubt that something was indeed sincerely spotted that was not identified. If you think about such things analytically, then you would be far less inclined to make the leap from “not identified” to “aliens”.

With some things, as in this case, I would argue that the most honest answer is “I don’t know”. Often for some that is a gap they feel compelled to fill, hence the solution to fill that gap with is “aliens”.

In Summary

There are no absolutes here. In no case is it “All religious people…”, nor is it “All non-religious people…”. However, in a general sense, what we believe and how we think about religion does appear to flag up how we may also tend to think about many other things as well, for example the possibility of intelligent life on other worlds, or what we conclude when faced with astonishing mysterious claims.

Questions for commenters

Have you changed your mind over the years and gone from being nonreligious to being religious, or instead have put away previously existing religious beliefs and practises?

If so …

  • Do you think that change also modified your views concerning aliens?
  • Do you think that your change of belief also changed your thoughts on other topics?

1 thought on “Pew Poll Results: Who Believes in Aliens?”

  1. I saw a relatively huge sphere UFO in 1975 that was almost certainly ET craft. I don’t know if anything was in it,** but all indications were that it was at least “intelligently guided.” Skeptics are right to be skeptical, but I’m 100% certain that the overwhelming majority of UFO skeptics would no longer be skeptical that no UFO sightings are ET if they saw what I saw that “fateful” night. Even after what I saw I’m skeptical of almost all UFO sightings, but I know for sure the one I saw existed and it was likely ET.

    **I have my doubts if organic life was in it because of its speed, instant acceleration, and “instant stopping,” but perhaps the intelligent life somehow had technology to keep organic life from being smashed by G-forces.


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