The diverting New Scientist tells us that atheists turn to science in times of stress:
Some caveats: the effect was modest, the team didn’t measure whether the rowers’ stress levels went down, and the subjects – competitive athletes who follow a rational training regime – are probably already scientifically minded. However, the findings reflect a growing body of psychological evidence that people find comfort in times of threat by moving closer to certain aspects of their world view – conservatives become more conservative, for example, liberals more liberal, religious believers more devout.
And this is big news?
Why would anyone waste time on a study that demonstrates that when people are under threat, they turn to what they really believe?
From news writer O’Leary: When civil rights were deteriorating in Canada some years ago, I used to comfort myself listening to the national anthem, of all things (“the true North, strong and free”), thinking — if Canada isn’t free, we had better do something about that, and soon.
We can’t allow claims about legal offenses that make no sense under English Common Law (the supposed crime of disrespect for some historical figure like Mohammed, for example), to be tolerated in our courts. (We won that one.)
The big problem is what DO people really believe? On what evidence? And how will it help them? And what will the outcome be?
Denyse O’Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.