People who have undergone analytical thinking are more likely to have decreased religious belief, researchers from the University of British Columbia reported in the journal Science. The authors added that even among devout believers, after a period of analytical thinking religious belief appeared to go down.
It seems that everybody is affected by thinking analytically, the authors explained; i.e. believers and skeptics alike are both impacted - their religious belief appears to become less so after a period of analytical thinking.
Lead author Will Gervais, a PhD student, said:
"Our goal was to explore the fundamental question of why people believe in a God to different degrees.
A combination of complex factors influence matters of personal spirituality, and these new findings suggest that the cognitive system related to analytic thoughts is one factor that can influence disbelief."
In order to get participants into an analytic thinking mode, the researchers got them to solve problems, complete questionnaires in difficult-to-read fonts, and do mathematical puzzles.
When the participants were engaged in analytical tasks, their religious beliefs appeared to decrease, compared to those doing non-analytical tasks. In other words, those in an analytical frame of mind were less likely to have heightened religious beliefs than the other participants.
Gervais says that their findings are based on the psychology model that has been around for a long time, of two different, but related systems in which humans process information:
An intuitive system - mental shortcuts are used. This system yields rapid and efficient responses
An analytical system - the approached results in more reasoned and deliberate responses
Study co-author, Prof. Ara Norenzayan:
"Our study builds on previous research that links religious beliefs to 'intuitive' thinking. Our findings suggest that activating the 'analytic' cognitive system in the brain can undermine the 'intuitive' support for religious belief, at least temporarily."
The study included 650 American and Canadian individuals. Gervais explained that further studies will determine whether raised religious disbelief is long- or short-term. Researchers would also like to find out how their findings might relate to non-Western cultures.
Most people worldwide believe in a God, Norenzayan explained. However, there are hundreds of millions of agnostics and atheists. Religious faith is shaped by cultural and psychological factors that vary across time and situations.
Written by Christian Nordqvist
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Methodology in study
posted by syan on 19 May 2012 at 3:08 pm
Oh please, his objections don't anywhere cite the study's methodology and mostly amount to judging ideas by who believes them - Asimov vs. Newton. It's also a fallacy to imply that any study that gets press coverage is inherently more flawed than one sitting in obscure journals, read only by the experts.
posted by Michael Ridenhour on 29 Apr 2012 at 1:54 pm
What a great analysis of a typically flawed psychology opinion. As a scientist myself, I can easily spot the bias and poor design he deflates. The article he dismantles is typical of pop psychology. Real science seldom appears in the popular press. It is usually arcane and poorly understood by the public because it relies on carefully crafted, repeatable experimentation whose conclusions are validated across many trials.. Kudos to Dr. Kallmeyer.
posted by Raymond Obomsawin on 28 Apr 2012 at 11:38 am
Arguably the greatest scientific mind of the last three centuries was Sir Isaac Newton (physicist, mathematician, astronomer). He had an estimated IQ of 190 (Einstein's IQ was 160). When a number of Europe’s most prominent mathematicians were challenged to solve an extremely intractable problem, and all had failed to do so over a six month period, Newton was subsequently handed the same problem at lunch-time, and successfully solved it the same day.
Newton affirmed that "...The main business of natural philosophy is to argue from phenomena without feigning hypotheses, and to deduce causes from effects, till we come to the very first Cause… Whence is it that nature does nothing in vain; and whence arises all that order and beauty which we see in the world?… Was the eye contrived without skill in optics, and the ear without knowledge of sounds?... In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God's existence. It is the perfection of God's works that they are all done with the greatest simplicity. He is the God of order and not of confusion.”
The real reason why so many today have a "disbelief" in an intelligent universal Creator is that as people (whether highly educated or not) we believe what we want to believe, even if our belief is totally irrational. For after all, a belief in the Creator requires submission to His governing physical, social and moral laws, and an inescapable recognition of a future judgment in which every human being will be called into account for the life he/she lived here upon this earth.
Re: Analytical Thinking Undermines Faith In God, Even Among Devout People
posted by Steve Kellmeyer on 28 Apr 2012 at 10:25 am
Sadly, the study doesn't prove what the scientists claim it proves.
While it does seem to show that people capable of solving math problems are less inclined to religious belief, it doesn't show that the ability to solve math problems (or engage in other analytic thinking) causes this decrease in religious belief. That is, the study doesn't prove causation, just correlation.
Which is not a real surprise. I distinctly remember following this exact line of reasoning while I was in honors math and science classes in Catholic high school. In all the histories I read describing the lives and accomplishments of all the scientists I studied, none of these histories mentioned religious belief at all. All the really brilliant people I knew about were atheists. The only time religious belief was mentioned was when someone actively rejected it.
Thus, I knew Isaac Asimov, one of the most brilliant science writers of the 20th century, was an avowed atheist, but did not know that Isaac Newton, the most brilliant scientist of the last 400 years, was an avowed believer who wrote more theology then he did science.
I knew Fred Hoyle, the astrophysicist who came up with the incorrect Steady State theory, was an atheist, but did not know the George Lemaitre, the astrophysicist who came up with the correct Big Bang theory, was a priest.
No one told me that at least two Popes were each among the leading scientists of their day, nor that one of these, Pope John XXI, was an authority on both medicine and logic. His classic work on logic, Summulae Logicales, was the standard textbook on the subject for over 300 years. He died while working in his private scientific laboratory.
For my entire childhood and most of my adult life, I was completely unaware of how Catholic theology formed the empirical sciences.
So, let us assume that the students being tested lived in a culture very much like the one I grew up in just thirty years ago, a culture which constantly told them that thinking, rational people did not believe in God.
When such students are presented with priming concepts oriented towards rational thought, that would simultaneously prime them to think of what they associate with rational thought - disbelief in God. If they were doing that, you would get exactly the results this study shows.
In short, all this study shows is that schools are successfully linking the idea that rationalism is opposed to religion. It doesn't show that rationalism actually undermines religion.
Now, here's the interesting part.
For some reason, according to both the LA Times and Science magazine, the scientific authors of the study insist on the irrational non sequitor that logic is the cause of disbelief, rather than noting the much more logical conclusion that one is simply correlated with the other. The editors of one of the leading journals in the nation, Science, published this study, complete with its irrational non sequitor.
I wonder why that is?
Perhaps scientific studies into religion causes irrational thought among the scientists who attempt to implement those studies?
My question answered? Re: Analytical Thinking Undermines Faith In God, Even Among Devout People
posted by Luba Makowsky on 27 Apr 2012 at 9:39 am
I found this article extremely interesting. I have always had many questions of religion and the existance of God. I had a father who was a fanatical Penticostal Minister, who was a dead beat dad and a horrible person. But he ministered to millions of people all over the world about love and God, yet not caring for his own family.
This is the reason I always thought I had these mixed feelings, but as I read this article, now I may have found another reason, my analytical thinking.
'Analytical Thinking Undermines Faith In God, Even Among Devout People'
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Psychology is the science of the mind and behavior. The word "psychology" comes from the Greek word psyche meaning "breath, spirit, soul", and the Greek word logia meaning the study of something.