Poll: Mexicans Express Belief in Spirits, Not Science

Mexicans put too much faith in magic and too little in science, according to a survey of public perception of science and technology. According to the poll, about half the country's citizens also believe scientists are "dangerous."

The study, compiled annually by the National Council on Science and Technology and the National Institute of Statistics and Geography, indicates that a large percentage of Mexicans give credence to homeopathy, acupuncture, spiritual cleansing, lucky numbers, and ESP. Approximately 38% also believe that "space vehicles from other civilizations" visit Earth.

To be sure, Mexicans are aware that their faith in otherworldly forces may be a problem. About 83.6% agreed with the statement, "We believe too much in faith and too little in science." Most think the country needs more scientists.

The results are considered worrisome. As in other Latin American nations, scientists in Mexico fret that economic development is limited by low investment in R&D. Rosaura Ruiz, director of the faculty of science at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, told El Universal newspaper that Mexicans' faith in magic "might be laughable except that it is desperately grave for national development."

The Mexican poll uses many of the same questions asked by researchers in surveys of American adults funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

NSF's results indicate that Americans have a better grasp of scientific facts than Mexicans but are only slightly less credulous. About a third of Americans also think UFOs are real, and a similar percentage believes that astrology is "very scientific" or "sort of scientific."

According to the Mexican poll, scientists are both feared and respected, perhaps not unlike the Aztec priests of old. In the survey, 57% of Mexicans interviewed agreed that "due to their knowledge, scientific researchers have power which makes them dangerous."

*This item has been corrected, 11:00 a.m. on 5 January. The original version of this article mischaracterized a U.S. survey of public attitudes towards science. The results are gathered by independent researcher organizations and reported by NSF bienially, not annually.

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