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Researchers: Religion alters nonbelievers’ psychology

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From Brittany Cardwell and Jamin Halberstadt at The Conversation:

A study in Finland explored how religious and non-religious people responded to the idea of God.

The researchers used electrodes to measure how much sweat people produced while reading statements like “I dare God to make my parents drown” or “I dare God to make me die of cancer”. Unexpectedly, when nonbelievers read the statements, they produced as much sweat as believers — suggesting they were equally anxious about the consequences of their dares.

And that’s not simply because nonbelievers didn’t want to wish harm on others. A companion study showed that similar dares that did not involve God (such as, “I wish my parents would drown”) did not produce comparable increases in sweat levels. Together, then, these findings suggest that despite denying that God exists, nonbelievers behaved as though God did exist.

Does this mean that nonbelievers are lying when they say they reject God? Not exactly. Rather, these contradictory behaviours probably arise in part due to living in a theistic culture that hammers home the idea that God exists. Perhaps this leads nonbelievers to form “implicit” attitudes that are at odds with their “explicit” ones. More.

Aw guys, get out more!

This sort of study explains why so few people regard social sciences as anything like a science, electrodes notwithstanding.

What obviously happened: The nonbelievers think that the evidence is against God. But they are not sure enough to stake their life or that of anyone important to them on it. And why should they be? If they’re right, nothing would happen. But if they’re wrong, people might die. And what would be the justification for that? Participation in some stupid study? Yes, that happens in science fiction, but…

It puts one in mind, by way of contrary example, of this much more cautious exchange among cosmologists, suggested by Peter Woit, on the probability of the multiverse (alleged to have been calculated):

1. Carroll: “About 50%”

2. Polchinski: “94%”

3. Rees: “Kill my dog if it’s not true”

4. Linde: “Kill me if it’s not true”

5. Weinberg: “Kill Linde and Rees’s dog if it’s not true”

Not quite sure how one explains this when arguing with people convinced that science is just opinion. More.

One doubts any of them worked up much of a sweat, not even Linde. Nothing was really at stake. No one thought the multiverse might kill them.

It would be interesting if social sciences were to try getting closer to human nature.

See also: All sides agree: progressive politics is strangling social sciences

and

Seven myths of social psychology

One Reply to “Researchers: Religion alters nonbelievers’ psychology

  1. 1
    Seversky says:

    I’d say it shows most atheists are really also agnostic. I know I am. They don’t believe that there is a god out there but they don’t know for certain that there isn’t either. Of course, you could argue that a maximally good God wouldn’t do any of the things asked of Him but then there’s all those Old Testament stories which suggest He might…

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