Scientists in the study questioned members of competitive rowing teams and recruited 100 of them, mostly in their 20s, who said that they lacked strong religious beliefs. The rowers were divided into two groups, one set of whom were about to race in a regatta, and a second group facing a much less stressful competition.

Group members were then asked whether they agree or disagree with statements like, “We can only rationally believe in what is scientifically provable,” and “All the tasks human beings face are soluble by science,” and “The scientific method is the only reliable path to knowledge.”

Athletes who were preparing to compete were, predictably, under more stress than athletes who were under less pressure. In addition, they were statistically more likely to express a strong belief in scientific principles, 15 percent more than their less stressed counterparts.