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Academic push poll linking ID with fear of death: Possible backfire?

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Richard Weikart, Cal State U prof and author of Hitler’s Ethic, wrote UD a note on the recent study in which fear of death supposedly increased support for ID (yes, that one where they stitched together a bunch of stuff to represent  ID theorist Michael Behe, including stuff he hadn’t written1).

Weikart says,

This article is intending to suggest that people believe in Intelligent Design because of their “death anxiety” (rather than empirical evidence). However, the solution suggested by these researchers—to explicitly explain to people that evolution can provide meaning and purpose to their lives—is astonishing, if you really think about it.In my view, these researchers are shooting themselves in the foot. Their purpose, of course, is to try to overcome what they see as a psychological obstacle to believing in evolution. But what they actually suggest is that those who believe in evolution do so, not because of the evidence presented, but because they have adopted a philosophical position—evolution provides meaning for life.

This study shows that acceptance of both evolution and Intelligent Design is dependent on one’s worldview, on one’s philosophical presuppositions, as much or more than on the scientific evidence. Surprise, surprise . . .

Further, the notion that a non-teleological process like evolution can provide meaning and purpose for one’s life is a convenient fiction. Thus, they are advocating creating warm and fuzzy fictions to get people to embrace a “scientific” theory.

If “death anxiety” is an existential and irrational psychological tendency that militates toward belief in Intelligent Design, then how is “evolution has meaning and purpose” any less existential and irrational? It cuts both ways, it seems to me.

1 But remember, the goal  in “science” is, get results!

The original story:

From Theories, Inc.: You only favour ID because you are afraid to die! (And we, your Darwinist superiors, can just make stuff up with impunity)

Well some profs say, in this recent academic push poll (“Death Anxiety Prompts People to Believe in Intelligent Design, Reject Evolution, Study Suggests,” ScienceDaily, March 30, 2011). They did an experiment that they say demonstrates it:

Researchers at the University of British Columbia and Union College (Schenectady, N.Y.) have found that people’s death anxiety can influence them to support theories of intelligent design and reject evolutionary theory.Existential anxiety also prompted people to report increased liking for Michael Behe, intelligent design’s main proponent, and increased disliking for evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

The lead author is UBC Psychology Asst. Prof. Jessica Tracy with co-authors Joshua Hart, assistant professor of psychology at Union College, and UBC psychology PhD student Jason Martens.

Published in the March 30 issue of the journal PLoS ONE, their paper is the first to examine the implicit psychological motives that underpin one of the most heated debates in North America. Despite scientific consensus that intelligent design theory is inherently unscientific, 25 per cent of high school biology teachers in the U.S. devote at least some class time to the topic of intelligent design.

An extract from Carl Sagan provided the missing teddy bear, absent in Dawkins, to help people accept Dawkins’s materialist atheism. Personally, I think the most remarkable part is that the push pollers even did the study. I can remember when ID was supposed to be dead, then a threat, then a menace, then more of a menace, then … better get out the thesaurus we are in the repetition zone …

Anyway, some comments landed on my desk, including one from one from psychologist Jack Cole on what it means and one from Mike Behe, advising that, in the test passages for this study, something he had not written was attributed to him (surprise, surprise):

Rest here.

Surely we fear death because to embrace it would reduce our chances of surviving and passing on our genes. Yet more fact free "science." Mung
There is nothing bad in the fear of death. The fear of death in the Christian times was considered a virtue. Indeed, we would not have done a lot of things, had we remembered about our last minute. Voltaire suffered such a terrible death that his nurse was shuddering with fear afterwards, saying she would never ever want to witness the death of an atheist again. Eugene S
I like ID because it makes sense to me as a rational person and as a Christian, although the two aren't mutually exclusive. I dislike evolutionary theory because it is, to paraphrase a scientist, "too much guesswork running after too few facts." It doesn't hold up under scrutiny. I like Michael Behe because he appears to be a honest scientist. I dislike Richard Dawkins because he is an arrogant atheist. My supposed "fear of death" has absolutely nothing to do with any of the above. Barb
These kinds of studies are crocks anyway so why bother. Phaedros
semi OT; Barry Arrington may really appreciate this; There is an old joke about there being no lawyers in Heaven. This moving Near Death Testimony ruins the punch line of that old joke. Encounter with God - short video http://www.cbn.com/media/player/index.aspx?s=/vod/RH32v2_WS&search=heavenhell&p=1&parent=0&subnav=false bornagain77

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