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Religion, science

Religious “shared reality” hinders acceptance of scientific reality.

One of the difficulties in discussing religion is that it is not a single phenomenon.  It is a belief system, a social structure, a moral paradigm, a set of rituals and practices, and a sense of identity.  Typically, when a critic of religion advances a hypothesis about something that religion “causes,” he is shouted down from all sides by people claiming that it’s not “religion,” but some kind of social phenomenon that is operating alongside religion.

This kind of goal-post shifting is frustrating, but ultimately, it is just a diversion from the reality of cause-effect factors in what we can loosely term “the religious environment.”  A 2010 study published in the science journal “Social Cognition” has pinned down one functional difference between believers and non-believers.  In an article curiously titled IN DEFENSE OF RELIGION: SHARED REALITY MODERATES THE UNCONSCIOUS THREAT OF EVOLUTION, researchers have verified the predictions of “Shared Reality Theory” with regard to believers’ perceptions of evolution and atheists.

[E]xposure to evolution-related words reduced the religiosity and anti-atheist prejudice of participants who perceived their religious experience to be unshared with their fathers, but not of participants who perceived their religious experience to be shared with their fathers…  [E]xposure to evolution-related words reduced the religiosity and anti-atheist prejudice of insecurely attached participants but not securely attached participants. Together results suggest that dynamics in religiosity and religion-related prejudice are regulated by the two key elements postulated in shared reality theory: relationship quality and the degree to which relationship-relevant experiences are perceived to be shared.

In lay terms, here’s what it means.  Humans are highly susceptible to beliefs about other people’s reality.  In experiment after experiment, it has been proven that we consciously and unconsciously adopt the worldviews of those around us.  The effect is profound when we want to be liked and accepted, but it is also quite strong in adversarial relationships, as well.  (Stockholm Syndrome is a prime example of this.)

Subjects with strong “shared reality bonds” with their religious fathers showed marked resistance to viewing atheists or evolution favorably.  Similarly, subjects with “secure attachments” to religion (read: strong social bonds) were unlikely to change their views.  In other words, the social bonding and shared reality of religious commitment are responsible for hostility towards atheists and evolution.

To put this in a more direct way, religious adherence and the reality sharing it causes are responsible (at least in part) for the seemingly inexplicable resistance to the overwhelming evidence that evolution is fact.  (Though it is difficult to compare such things, it is often said by biologists that the empirical evidence for evolution’s existence is at least as compelling as the evidence for gravity.  And evolution is actually better described in some ways than gravity.)

Continue reading on Examiner.com Religious “shared reality” hinders acceptance of scientific reality. – Atlanta atheism | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/atheism-in-atlanta/religious-shared-reality-hinders-acceptance-of-scientific-reality#ixzz1QWXfTsL2

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Discussion

3 thoughts on “Religious “shared reality” hinders acceptance of scientific reality.

  1. Typically, when a critic of religion advances a hypothesis about something that religion “causes,” he is shouted down from all sides by people claiming that it’s not “religion,” but some kind of social phenomenon that is operating alongside religion.

    This kind of goal-post shifting is frustrating, but ultimately, it is just a diversion from the reality of cause-effect factors in what we can loosely term “the religious environment.”

    Actually, for me it’s the inconsistent standards of which cause and effect is applied.

    For example, while back, on the “R”RS somebody posted a study that showed that kids you attended church had better indicators of mental health than those that did not. The responses were typical. The poster [who was Christian] said that it was BECAUSE of the religion, and the atheists said it was DESPITE the religion.

    Now this creates a rather sticky situation for both the Christian and atheist.

    The typical atheist argument is that religion influences behavior so Osama Bin Laden or Fred Phelps are influenced by religion. However. they stop at stuff like the study. I’m sorry, but if religion influences behavior, than it’s entirely possibly that it influenced these kids to behave better. If religion has effects on mental states, than it’s possible that it helped improved the kids.

    The Christian is in the same trap of course. If religion influenced say MLK, or the like, than it’s possible it influenced Hitler or Osama Bin Laden.

    Truth be told, I have yet to see a coherent method of determining whether religion influenced a behavior i.e not the “Because it’s obvious” argument.

    As for the study/article, I think it sums up what I’ve been saying for a long time. That it’s the community of the religion. Remember the chart from that study I posted? Do you know what they did to get the same behavior patterns for both atheist and theists? They controlled for coalition i.e sense of community.

    Posted by cptpineapple | June 29, 2011, 4:27 pm
  2. Truth be told, I have yet to see a coherent method of determining whether religion influenced a behavior i.e not the “Because it’s obvious” argument.

    Well, that’s just what I was saying. “Religion” cannot be an obvious or empirical cause of anything until it is defined rigorously. And plenty of people have done that. However, there’s still a problem. One study will highlight one functional social phenomenon within religion and correlate it to a particular effect. The bloggers/news/pundits will then say, “Religion causes this!” Another study will do the same thing, and point at an entirely different aspect of religious life. By the end of fifty studies, we have fifty different aspects of religion (49.5 of which are not unique to religious life), each of which contribute to what we can call “overall religious behavior,” and none of which addresses the generalized notion that “religion causes X.”

    The thing is… and this is where you get caught up sometimes… is that ALL of social science is like this. Religion doesn’t present a unique problem. There are lots of things we discuss in terms of direct cause and effect when they’re actually more complex. As an example, we say that poverty causes crime. And it’s true. However, poverty itself is a function of many variables, including education, geography, intelligence, mental illness, race, physical appearance (remember that pretty people make more money than ugly people), religious belief, religious influence, political affiliation, etc, etc, etc… If someone wanted to object to “Poverty causes crime” in the same way you object to “Religion causes X,” (whatever X happens to be at the moment), they absolutely could. And yet… poverty causes crime.

    So… to be extra precise, social scientists should say things like this: The typical life experiences, social influence, herd mentality, decreased critical thinking skills incited from hypnotic responses to preachers, commitment to tradition as opposed to skepticism, tendency to value personal experience as empirically relevant, tendency to compartmentalize cognitive distortion and dissonance, belief in the value of faith, practice of faith-based reasoning, and elevation of authoritarian propaganda combine to form what can generally be referred to as “religion.” This matrix of behaviors, beliefs, and social structures form a unique framework which encourages and condones, unconsciously and consciously, societal trends which generally run contrary to trends exhibited by cultures dominated by “progressive values” (I’ll spare you the lengthy definition of progressive values… but you get the point.). In general and in specific ways, progressive culture is demonstrably more functional than religious.”

    But… that’s kind of clunky.

    As for the study/article, I think it sums up what I’ve been saying for a long time. That it’s the community of the religion. Remember the chart from that study I posted? Do you know what they did to get the same behavior patterns for both atheist and theists? They controlled for coalition i.e sense of community.

    Yes. And remember what I, and GFelis, and three or four other people told you? That study misses the entire point. Nobody denies that community is important, or that herd mentality is a huge part of religion. The important thing is the faith based reasoning causes people to reach untenable conclusions which, when followed to logical conclusions, encourage and condone dysfunctional behaviors, which are then reinforced by the herd behavior which you rightly point out as a factor in atheist and theist culture.

    Posted by Living Life Without a Net | June 29, 2011, 7:04 pm
  3. I would change that to 50 of which are not unique to religion.

    I don’t see the parrells between “poverty causes crime” and “religion causes X” I know it’s not unique and that’s exactly the problem. It’s being treated as if it is.

    For example, there are variations on the definition of poverty and religion, but not on the same scale.

    For poverty, I can say it’s anything under $X per year that may or not be disputed but, we do have a yard stick on poverty i.e income level [regardless of the CAUSES of poverty]. But when it comes to religion, we don’t have such a yard stick.

    I see all too often people take a row from the matrix of religion and use it to define it. Take lack of critical thinking, while religion does include this, people have the annoying tendacy to use it to define “religion” such as “Communism lacks critical thinking therefore it’s a religion.

    Take your definition of religion. you said it formed a unique framework….but as I’ve pointed out several times, I don’t think religion is unique in anything it does for the good or ill, and you just redefine anything that causes more or as much ill as religion is a religion, and if a religion does have progressive values, than you don’t define it as a religion.

    We don’t see that with poverty and crime. If somebody says that population density also contributes to crime, or contributes more to crime, the “poverty causes crime movement” doesn’t redefine poverty to include population density.

    In other words, my number one gripe with you and many others, is the “uniqueness” of religion. Do religious people do stupid/dangerous things? Yes, is it because of religion? Some times it is. But you seem to think that only religion can bring that level of stupidity or dangerous thinking. You concede that other things will get people to do stupid/dangerous things, but not on that level, and I think you’re dead wrong.

    tendency to value personal experience as empirically relevant,

    You do that all the time.

    The important thing is the faith based reasoning causes people to reach untenable conclusions which, when followed to logical conclusions, encourage and condone dysfunctional behaviors,

    I hope you come to realize that it’s because I don’t like faith based thinking is why I’m so vocal about things like this.

    Posted by cptpineapple | June 29, 2011, 8:08 pm

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