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Thread: The Situation of Faith in God or Science

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    Default The Situation of Faith in God or Science

    The Situation of Faith in God or Science
    Posted by The Situationist Staff on December 17, 2008

    From Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor for University of Illinois News Bureau:

    * * *

    A persons unconscious attitudes toward science and God may be fundamentally opposed, researchers report, depending on how religion and science are used to answer ultimate questions such as how the universe began or the origin of life.

    Whats more, those views can be manipulated, the researchers found. After using science or God to explain such important questions, most people display a preference for one and a neutral or even negative attitude toward the other. This effect appears to be independent of a persons religious background or views, says University of Illinois psychology professor Jesse Preston, who led the research.

    The study[, titled "Science and God: An automatic opposition between ultimate explanations"] appears in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

    Preston and her colleague, Nicholas Epley, of the University of Chicago, wanted to explore how information about science influences a belief in God, and how religious teaching can also cause people to doubt certain scientific theories.

    As far as I know, no one has looked experimentally at an opposition between belief in science and religion, Preston said.

    It seemed to me that both science and religion as systems were very good at explaining a lot, accounting for a lot of the information that we have in our environment, she said. But if they are both ultimate explanations, at some point they have to conflict with each another because they cant possibly both explain everything.

    The researchers conducted two experiments designed to manipulate how well science or God can be used as explanations. In the first, 129 volunteers read short summaries of the Big Bang theory and the Primordial Soup Hypothesis, a scientific theory of the origin of life. Half then read a statement that said that the theories were strong and supported by the data. The other half read that the theories raised more questions than they answered.

    In the second experiment, which involved 27 undergraduate students, half of the study subjects had to list six things that you think God can explain. The others were asked to list six things that you think can explain or influence God.

    All the subjects were then required to quickly categorize various words as positive or negative on a computer.

    What they didnt realize was that they were being subliminally primed immediately before each word, Preston said. So right before the word awful came up on the screen, for example, there was a 15-millisecond flash of either God or science or a control word.

    A 15-millisecond visual cue is too brief to register in the conscious mind, but the brief word flash did have an effect. Those who had read statements emphasizing the explanatory power of science prior to the test were able to categorize positive words appearing just after the word, science, more quickly than those who had read statements critical of the scientific theories.

    Those who were asked to use God as an ultimate explanation for various phenomena displayed a more positive association with God and a much more negative association with science than those directed to list other things that can explain God, the researchers found. Similarly, those who read the statement suggesting that the scientific theories were weak were extremely slow to identify negative words that appeared after they were primed with the word God, Preston said.

    It was like they didnt want to say no to God, she said.

    What is really intriguing is that the larger effect happens on the opposite belief, she said. When God isnt being used to explain much, people have a positive attitude toward science. But when God is being used to account for many events especially the things that they list, which are life, the universe, free will, these big questions then somehow science loses its value.

    On the other hand, people may have a generally positive view of science until it fails to explain the important questions. Then belief in God may be boosted to fill in the gap, she said.

    The most obvious implication of the research is that to be compatible, science and religion need to stick to their own territories, their own explanatory space, Preston said. However, religion and science have never been able to do that, so to me this suggests that the debate is going to go on. Its never going to be settled.

    * * *
    Source: The Situation of Faith in God or Science

    An interesting blog post about faith and psychology. No doubt people on both the atheistic and theistic sides of the divide will get angry, but I wanted to promote some new discussion outside of the usual "does God exist", " is God/Science a better explanation for the world" questions.

    It's about self-examination and the unconscious forming of faith in a particular ideology. I'm particularly interested in those people who initially had faith in God and lost it/did not have faith in God and gained it.

    At what point did you start taking "the other side"? Was there a clearly defined point? Or did it happen over a period of time? Did you realise that your perspective was changing while it was changing? Did this affect the "data" that you collected (what you observed in the world), and your processes of reasoning?

    (I don't mean to offend people with my straightforward questions, I'm genuinely curious.)

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    Senior Member Array JAVO's Avatar
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    I took a class in science and faith in college 14 years ago. This was the conclusion on nearly every issue we discussed:

    The most obvious implication of the research is that to be compatible, science and religion need to stick to their own territories, their own explanatory space, Preston said. However, religion and science have never been able to do that, so to me this suggests that the debate is going to go on. Its never going to be settled.

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    Senior Member Array placebo's Avatar
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    Well I grew up being taught both religion and science at the same time, so I was and am pretty comfortable with both of them. I had a biology teacher actually, who was a really good teacher, who stated something along the lines of the more he learns about biology the more he believes there is a God--well this is his opinion and I'm not gonna defend or oppose it, but I'm just giving an example of how I've been basically taught that religion and science are not exact opposites, that they can feel like the coexist rather neatly together.

    And as a child, I did very strongly believe in God, because, well, you tend to believe what people tell you about when you're that young (e.g. about Santa, the gaddam tooth fairy, that those little balls of styrofoam are actually spider eggs and if you don't clean them all up their gonna hatch and attack you). But I think it was just a very very gradual thing that happened as I was growing up that I began to trust less and less the Christian idea of God. I mean, there are many factors to it that are hard to define. Just by growing up, seeing the people around you, seeing the world around you, and being who I am, rather self-absorbed, meant it was important to me to evaluate my beliefs. But God was never my number one priority, I am, which is why even though I feel rather comfortable with both religious ideas as well as scientific ideas, I'm still in this gradual process of finding out where it's best to place my faith.

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    lackluster primate Array Night's Avatar
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    The article provides misguided terminology in its assessment of science as a system that provides "ultimate" solutions.

    Science provides falsifiable theory cultivated by the logical assembly of empirical hypothesis. As an entity, science does not pretend to offer final judgment on anything. On the contrary, clinical revision of existing theory is the rationale responsible for sharpening awareness of our material world. The geocentric model of the universe is an example of scientific theory discarded once new information became available.

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    read more philosophy plz! God is not contra sciencia.

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    lackluster primate Array Night's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nozflubber View Post
    read more philosophy plz! God is not contra sciencia.
    Correct.

    There is no philosophical friction -- only institutional. More often than not, fundamentalist perspectives function as the responsible powderkeg entity working to upend ideals that run contrary (...) to its faith-based network of belief.

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    Gotta catch you all! Array Blackmail!'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Night View Post
    The article provides misguided terminology in its assessment of science as a system that provides "ultimate" solutions.

    Science provides falsifiable theory cultivated by the logical assembly of empirical hypothesis. As an entity, science does not pretend to offer final judgment on anything. On the contrary, clinical revision of existing theory is the rationale responsible for sharpening awareness of our material world. The geocentric model of the universe is an example of scientific theory discarded once new information became available.
    Indeed!

    I'm glad somebody noticed it, and I'm not surprised it was Night.
    "A man who only drinks water has a secret to hide from his fellow-men" -Baudelaire

    7w8 SCUxI

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    Science glorifies God's creation, and by understanding the creation, we can better understand the creator.

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    Quote Originally Posted by nozflubber View Post
    read more philosophy plz! God is not contra sciencia.
    Quote Originally Posted by Night View Post
    Correct.

    There is no philosophical friction -- only institutional. More often than not, fundamentalist perspectives function as the responsible powderkeg entity working to upend ideals that run contrary (...) to its faith-based network of belief.
    Quote Originally Posted by RaptorWizard View Post
    Science glorifies God's creation, and by understanding the creation, we can better understand the creator.
    Yup.

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    I think neuroscience is revolutionizing our understanding of this immensely. I think we are now beginning to see the physical underpinnings of belief whether in science or (g)God(s). Personally, I think people's belief in spirituality correlates highly with the emotional response they have to traumatic events. Usually atheists reject spirituality because of the cognitive dissonance associated with the cortradiction between belief in a benevolent diety and the pain in the world. I also think familial/social relationships have a lot to do with this as well. I think people who believe often have a sense of existential security that is not just personal, but exists on a grander scale. I have run into many atheists who look at life in this manner as well, whether it be someone who is simply entraptured by the beauty and marvels of the physical universe or someone who foresees trends that lead up to a future Nirvana like Raymond Kurzweil. Whatever you believe, I think it is important to have respect for those who disagree and be able to "adopt their mind" if only for brief periods, so you can relate to them and so we can begin to heal the emotional rifts in humanity which divide us.
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

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