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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)

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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):

Cole, a practising psychologist and Uncommon Descent moderator, notes:

The fear of death is not actually measured in this study, but is in fact inferred. The measure of mood in the study actually showed an increase in positive mood after thinking about one’s own death. It is not explicitly stated, but this is inferred to be more of an unconscious process. From the study authors:

Finally, MS had no effect on negative mood, t(119) = 1.43, ns; but slightly increased positive mood, t(119) = 2.00, p<.05, consistent with previous research [37]. Indeed, MS manipulations tend to have little impact on explicit affect, but effects emerge occasionally, as was the case in Studies 1 and 3 here. However, entering positive affect and negative affect as covariates in all five studies did not alter any results.

Also, the multiple studies might support a conclusion more along the lines of “thinking about one’s own death associated with affirming a meaningful worldview.” Because the natural science students were more likely to like Dawkins after the same exercise. If they are going to have a distorted headline (as in the press release), they could have just as easily have written, “Death Anxiety Prompts Natural Science Students to Believe in Evolution, Reject Intelligent Design, Study Suggests.”

I think it’s natural that a person would be prompted to think about the bigger picture (origins and the hereafter) when considering their own death and to seek meaning. But I think the study’s authors implicitly (or perhaps explicitly) want to suggest something irrational is taking place. I don’t think it’s irrational at all to affirm a worldview that provides more meaning. Even if it is anxiety about death that prompts consideration of the bigger picture and meaning, I’m fine with that. Sometimes anxiety is a good thing which motivates people to consider certain things and is, in part, the mind’s way of tagging something as being important.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the data or methodology of the study that I can see. The problem comes in the biased inferences and the political/theoretical lead up to presenting the study’s results. The conclusion that can be drawn from the study is certainly something many supporters of ID have long known, that the ID perspective supports a more meaningful worldview. And when most people are prompted to think about the bigger picture of their lives, they are better able to appreciate that fact, regardless of their religious beliefs.

One might add that asking students (not likely to die any time soon) to “imagine their own death” is going to produce many instances of imagineering. One would learn more from doing the experiment in a seniors home that features a n almost complete turnover every five years …

But while we are here, re the curious incident of the Behe text extract:

The participants were then asked to read two similarly styled, 174-word excerpts from the writings of Behe and Dawkins, which make no mention of religion or belief, but describe the scientific and empirical support for their respective positions.

Behe contacted us to mention

Below are the texts attributed to Dawkins and me that were read in the psycho study (from the supplemental material). They are not single quotes, but pastiches of passages. Worse, in the case of the passage attributed to me, although the first sentence is from the beginning of DBB, and the last two sentences are from the latter portions of the book, the middle sentences are from the Foreword to “Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe, by me, Bill Dembski, and Steve Meyer. I did not write the forward to that book (I think someone at the publisher’s did), so those are not even my words.

This is science?

No, it isn’t. It’s push polling. Dr. Behe. It doesn’t matter what you actually wrote. Next, they’ll produce a hologram of Dr. ID and attribute whatever they please to it.

Passages Used as Stimuli in Studies 1, 2, 4, and 5:

Dawkins-Evolutionary Theory passage:

Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is satisfying because it shows how simplicity could change into complexity, how unordered atoms could group themselves into ever more complex patterns until they ended up manufacturing people. Darwin provides a solution, the only feasible one so far suggested, to the deep problem of our existence. . . Today the theory of evolution is about as much open to doubt as the theory that the earth goes round the sun. Many evolutionary transitions are elegantly documented by more or less continuous series of gradually changing intermediate fossils. Darwinian evolution shatters the illusion of design within the domain of biology, and teaches us to be suspicious of any kind of design hypothesis in physics and cosmology as well. The full implications of Darwin’s revolution have yet to be widely realized. Darwinism encompasses all of life—human, animal, plant, and bacterial. Darwinian evolution, as one reviewer has observed, is the most important natural truth that science has yet discovered. No serious biologist doubts the fact that evolution has happened.

Behe-Intelligent Design Theory passage:

Darwinian evolution is being pushed to its limits by discoveries in biochemistry. Over the last fifty years, discoveries in biology, physics, astronomy, and cosmology, suggest that life and the universe manifest signs of real design. Further, many evolutionary biologists have acknowledged fundamental problems with Darwinian evolution as an explanation for the complexity and apparent design of living organisms. As a result of both these developments, many scientists and philosophers now think that the universe and life appear designed because they really were. These scientists advocate an alternative theory of biology and cosmological origins known as the theory of intelligent design, or, simply, design theory. Design theorists believe that scientific evidence actually points to intelligent design. This result, of cumulative efforts to investigate life at the molecular level, is so unambiguous that it must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science. The observation of the intelligent design of life is as momentous as the observation that the earth goes around the sun or that disease is caused by bacteria.

Mrs O'Leary:
And how can man die better Than facing fearful odds, For the ashes of his fathers And the temples of his gods.... --from "Horatius" by Thomas Babington Macaulay
It's been a long time since I heard or saw that poem. A reminder that there are some hills worth standing and dying if necessary on. As Queen Esther put it: "If I perish, I perish . . . " And so, in the style of BA77, I give you, in the teeth of an age of arrogance of power in the spirit of Haman of old, late prime minister of the Persian Empire:
FLOWER OF SCOTLAND (Video): Oh Flower of Scotland When will we see Your like again, That fought and died for Your wee bit Hill and Glen And stood against him Proud Edward's Army, And sent him homeward Tae think again. The Hills are bare now And Autumn leaves lie thick and still O'er land that is lost now Which those so dearly held That stood against him Proud Edward's Army And sent him homeward Tae think again. Those days are past now And in the past they must remain But we can still rise now And be the nation again That stood against him Proud Edward's Army And sent him homeward, Tae think again.
GEM of TKI kairosfocus
Incidentally... Sagan would be so useful today, what with all the debates about science and religion. By most definitions he would be called an atheist, but he hated the term. "An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone who knows there is no god. By some definitions atheism is very stupid." http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/18/AR2006041801870_2.html Not that Sagan was a believer, but he also strongly denied being an atheist. nullasalus
Gil at 4: Can't say I was ever afraid to die either. Close to death, occasionally. I had different adventures from yours, some involving creeps and some involving criminals. Some I subjected myself to for good reason. Some were accidents of nature. But I was taught, growing up: "How should a man die better Than facing fearful odds For the ashes of his fathers And the temples of his gods?" (Yes, yes, I am old enough that teachers actually taught us that death is inevitable, but only honourable or innocent death matters. NOT hedonism 401. (And women automatically converted male pronouns to themselves.)) The spooky thing is that death always loomed as a relief, until Father Confessor told me that hope for such relief, whatever lay beyond, was a temptation to be resisted. So fear of death as an explanation for interest in ID?: whoop, whoop. O'Leary
I may be afraid of pain, but I'm certainly not afraid to die,,, AIN'T NO GRAVE (Can Hold My Body Down) Johnny Cash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66QcIlblI1U Shroud Of Turin Carbon Dating Overturned By Scientific Peer Review - Robert Villarreal - Press Release video http://www.metacafe.com/watch/4041193 He's Alive - Dolly Parton - 1989 CMA - music video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UbRPWUHM80M bornagain77
You only favour ID because you are afraid to die! For 25 years I was the editor and publisher of Hang Gliding magazine, the publication of the U.S. Hang Gliding Association. I took up hang gliding as a hobby while I was in college earning my three worthless academic degrees in music, foreign language, and literature -- actually, not so worthless in retrospect, since these disciplines have enriched my life in many ways, none of them financially -- during which time I became fascinated with the ancient dream that a human could fly like a bird. This dream I finally realized. I built my first hang glider from a kit in 1973 and taught myself to fly. During my hang gliding career I made more than 1,500 flights at altitudes up to 15,000 feet MSL, and spent many hours soaring with Falcons and other birds of prey, wingtip to wingtip, observing their behavior. Just to prove that I'm not making stuff up and suffering from delusions of grandeur (both demonstrable pathologies of Darwinists) see the following link: http://www.willswing.com/reviews/review.asp?reqReviewIdx=falcon I would propose the exact opposite thesis concerning fear of death. The afraid-to-die thing is on the part of materialists, who, on the basis of their nihilistic philosophy have literally nothing to look forward to. GilDodgen
Putting aside the yet-again association of ID with the supernatural and the suggestion that ID is anti-evolution, the most interesting part of the article is the suggestion that perhaps the data from the study can be used to 'get more students to accept evolution.' Clearly that's what is really important, right? Not having students understand the questions and decide on their own, or even having them merely be very informed about evolution. What's being pursued is a show of faith, a commitment even without understanding. I wonder if it would be suggested that one way to 'get more students to accept evolution' would be to provide quotes from a Thomist philosopher, or a (serious) TE remarking about how evolution may well be, or even is, guided and purposeful, a means God used to accomplish His creation, knowing full well the results. If that resulted in more students accepting evolution, would it be viewed as a viable means of communicating the idea? Somehow, I doubt it. nullasalus
OT: Here is a gem of a video; John Lennox in fine form; Is Faith Delusional - John Lennox (PART 1 of 5) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3t-g4z0Igw bornagain77
If the Dawkins piece a pastiche, which parts of which books is it constructed from? SteveGoss

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