Tag Archives: Psychology

Scientists and Faith

A 2016 Ipsos Mori survey of 3000 scientists in the UK, France, and Germany found that about as many (c.43%) are “spiritual” or “religious” as are non-religious.  Meanwhile, a 2009 Pew survey in the USA found that 41% of chemists, 32% of biologists, 30% of geologists, and 29% of physicists and astronomers are religious, and a worldwide study found that 47% of scientists are “spiritual” or “religious”.

What I find most curious, however, is that the Pew survey demonstrates a greater tendency towards religion amongst young scientists, a tendency which is directly opposite to the trend in the general population worldwide. It is also notable that fewer scientists in the US than in the UK, France, or Germany are religious, and yet the US has by far the most religious general population. In addition, the worldwide study shows that, while 44% of the general population of Taiwan identify as religious, 54% of Taiwanese scientists do. In Hong Kong, those figures are 20% and 39%.
 
I wonder, then, what the correlation between scientists and cultural divergence is, and whether the probability of a scientist’s being religious is inversely proportional to the probability of the average citizen’s being so.

 

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The Economics of Sectarianism

Peter Leeson and Jacob Russ (George Mason University, Virginia, USA): “Europe’s witch trials reflected non-price competition between the Catholic and Protestant churches for religious market share in confessionally contested parts of Christendom. By leveraging popular belief in witchcraft, witch-prosecutors advertised their confessional brands’ commitment and power to protect”.

The paper also discusses the difference between “coercive exclusion” (i.e. monopolistic) tactics, and how those are only successful in areas where “brand loyalty is strong”.  In more-contested markets, churches had to “make their brands more attractive to religious consumers”.  That is a lesson which many churches today need to learn, especially the ones who imagine that fear is the only motivator towards religion.

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Young people’s views of religion

The following is a useful graphic display of the difference between US Christian and non-Christian views of Christianity. Barna have a similar chart relating to what people perceive as “extreme” in religion, and nearly three times as many young Brits believe religion to be a nett source of evil as believe it to be a nett source of good. 

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Conservatives panic more easily

As the Atlantic noted, conservative are easier to panic. Unfortunately, this also means that they can be scared into imagining that climate change is a Chinese conspiracy rather than being scared into actually doing something about climate change.

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Agnostic verbal skills FTW

On a verbal intelligence (wordsum) test (out of 10):
* people who are certain God exists (5.83)
* people who believe in God part of the time (5.84)
* atheists (6.13)
* people who harbour doubts but still believe (6.29)
* deists (6.82)
* agnostics (7.05)
(W S Bainbridge, ‘Atheism’, Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Religion, pp.321-2)

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Why people leave religion

Some very useful demographic data, including self-expressed reasons for leaving religion.

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TMS reducing religious belief and patriotism

Here’s an interesting experiment: transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) reducing positive religious beliefs (e.g., a benevolent deity), negative religious beliefs (e.g., a devil), and the offensiveness of criticism of the homeland, while slightly reducing the agreeability of praise of the homeland. (‘Neuromodulation of group prejudice and religious belief’, Colin Holbrook et al. – ignore their percentages because they’re rubbish: the reductions are actually 18%, 14%, 14%, and 6% respectively, and the overall reduction of nationalist response is 9%).

The researchers describe it all as ideological threat management, but they fail to account for the difference between pre-existing religious views and instantaneous nationalistic responses, as well as for the simple fact that the views suppressed by the TMS are largely hopeful and ameliorative.

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