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I saw that some theses acknowledgements thanks God, so are there any rules or suggestions about that? Is it ok to do it for believers or just don't mention your religious affiliation in a scientific work?

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  • 35
    If it's OK to thank dog I see no reason why it wouldn't be OK to thank God.
    – ff524
    Mar 17 '15 at 21:57
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    Don't misspell her name.
    – JeffE
    Mar 18 '15 at 1:26
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    There are no specific rules for who or what can be acknowledged. Academic writing is not, in general, governed by rules. Mar 18 '15 at 8:04
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    For a thesis, what is allowed depends on the rules of your institution. I think most institutions won't care one way or the other, but some do object to certain acknowledgments. The University of Leiden has forced people to rewrite, or leave out, their acknowledgements because they had thanked various deities, their pet, or their running mates. As for etiquette, there is none that I heard of.
    – JanJ
    Mar 18 '15 at 11:54
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    @emory Perhaps, but thanking another person in the acknowledgements section is not usually meant (or seen) as an attempt to transfer responsibility for mistakes in the paper onto that person and I don't see why thanking God would be different in this respect. Mar 19 '15 at 23:35
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There's nothing wrong with thanking God or other religious figures, and it's not particularly unusual. It could upset people if you use the acknowledgments as a place to expound religious doctrine, but no reasonable person would take offense at simply thanking God and I've never seen it cause any controversy.

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    Nonbelievers might be annoyed to see god thanked prior to, or instead of, someone they think deserves it. I haven't seen it in an academic setting, but I have seen grumbling from athletes about a successful teammate who thanks god but not their teammates.
    – KRyan
    Mar 19 '15 at 1:16
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    @Kryan that is an issue of not thanking someone who should be thanked, and is really unrelated to thanking god per se. For example if you only thanked your parents, I'd assume you'd get the same possible reaction. Mar 19 '15 at 5:03
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    @WetLabStudent It arguably weakens the value of all acknowledgements to include bogus acknowledgements (my sister once did quite intentionally to make a point, by thanking Black Sabbath). Consider thanking a deity for your (or your relatives’) recovery from a disease: many people (me included) consider that this cheapens the actual work of the medical personnel who cured the person, and consequently ungrateful and rude (even when the medical personnel is acknowledged besides a deity). Sep 28 '16 at 11:44
  • @KonradRudolph I think the people who aided in the actual work should try their best to maintain some cultural sensitivity and not take such statements personally. To many people a deity is actually involved in looking after the "actual work" and whether such beliefs are bogus or not, it seems a bit of an over-reaction to view such statements as ungrateful or rude just because they conflict with your own world views. I say this as someone who doesn't believe in a deity. Oct 3 '16 at 1:44
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Your acknowledgements are yours to do with as you see fit. Some might look at you a bit askance, particularly if your professed beliefs conflict with your research (e.g., a Jehovah's witness working on blood transfusions), but ultimately you can thank whoever or whatever you found helpful, whatever it might be.

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    A thesis about blood transfusions written by a Jehovah's witness seems a rather far-fetched and extreme example.
    – jwg
    Mar 19 '15 at 8:30
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I see no problem with this. A rabid atheist or differently-religious advisor or reviewer may be unhappy, but so may be a reviewer who is just going through a bitter divorce upon seeing an acknowledgement of a beloved spouse. No matter what you do, you can always inadvertently hit the wrong note.

As to suggestions, I'd say a discreet

A.M.D.G.

(centered on its own page) can never be wrong.

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    OT, but I have to remark that I think the phrase "rabid atheist" is an unfortunate choice. It both denigrates a subset of people for their strong beliefs and trivializes a medical condition.
    – Tim
    Mar 18 '15 at 3:13
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    Jesuit schooling, @StephanKolassa?
    – Matt
    Mar 18 '15 at 4:32
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    Putting A.M.D.G or its equivalent in thesis acknowledgements is one thing; putting it in a standard paper (as I have occasionally seen) is another, and less appropriate.
    – jakebeal
    Mar 18 '15 at 12:21
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    I tend to regard "A.M.D.G." on academic work as a bit presumptuous about the quality of the work. Mar 18 '15 at 14:47
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    Perhaps this is a cultural thing but I would consider use of AMDG in any scientific work to be wildly inappropriate. Simply thanking your deity of choice in the acknowledgements would be perfectly fine, even if I'd personally consider it quaint.
    – Lilienthal
    Mar 19 '15 at 8:54

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