Thursday, December 18, 2008

God or science? A belief in one weakens positive feelings for the other

I am an atheist but I think that there is better evidence for the existence of God than there is for the existence of global warming or the life-prologing power of eating vegetables so I think I would mess up the experiment below. It may be generally true that there is some opposition between science and religion but there are plenty of scientists with religious beliefs and, particularly among conservatives, plenty of unbelievers who respect both science and religion. I myself have more respect for Christianity than I do for climate science, food science or psychological science. I blog on the first two and I spent 20 years in the thick of the latter

A person's 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. What's 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 person's religious background or views, says University of Illinois psychology professor Jesse Preston, who led the research.

The study 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 can't 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 didn't 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 didn't 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 isn't 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. It's never going to be settled."


Blind man's guide dog barred from restaurant in Britain for offending Muslims

A blind man has been turned away from a fashionable Indian restaurant because his guide dog offended Muslim staff

Alun Elder-Brown, a recruitment executive, said he was left feeling "like a piece of dirt" after being barred from bringing the animal into Kirthon Restaurant in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, on religious grounds. The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association said the decision was illegal under the Disability Discrimination Act and Mr Elder-Brown, 51, is now considering suing the establishment in The Pantiles. It follows a series of successful prosecutions of Muslim taxi drivers who refused to carry guide dogs in their cars because they considered them unclean on religious grounds.

Mr Elder-Brown was taking his girlfriend out to celebrate her birthday with her five year-old daughter last week when he was told he would have to leave his dog, Finn, tied up outside. He showed a card issued by the Institute of Environmental Health Officers certifying he and his dog were allowed into any premises but an argument ensued and the owners threatened to call the police if he did not leave. "It was humiliating and degrading, especially as there were a lot of people around me," he said. "I was made to feel like a piece of dirt. They told me I couldn't come in because it was against their religious beliefs to have a dog in the restaurant. "They then said I could leave Finn tied up outside. I stayed calm but when they threatened to call police I left." He added: "It was horrible. It put a dampener on the whole celebration."

Under the Disability Discrimination Act it is illegal to refuse to serve a disabled person of give them a diminished level of service because of their disability. Chris Dyson of Guide Dogs for the Blind said: "We are extremely concerned and disappointed that Alun was refused access to this restaurant. "We very much hope that this restaurant will reconsider its decision and get in touch with the charity so that we can give them a better understanding of their requirements under the law and explain the important role that the guide dog plays for Alun."

The restaurant's owner, Amenur Abdussamad, was not immediately available for comment. But Shamin Ahmed, a partner in the restaurant, said that he had written to Guide Dogs for the Blind to apologise for the incident. He said that although the owners of the venue are Muslim, he insisted religion was not a factor in the decision to refuse Mr Elder-Brown. "We were worried about the hygiene, that is what happened, it was a mistake," he said. "I have had a letter from Guide Dogs for the Blind, I have sent a reply apologising about that.... we found out afterwards that guide dogs are allowed, I didn't know that."


Again: Britain's politicized police useless at normal law enforcement

Killing of Good Samaritan 'could have been avoided' after police blunder

A teenager who kicked a Good Samaritan to death had carried out a similar brutal street attack two months earlier but police failed to deal with the initial crime properly, a court has heard. Joseph Thomas, 18, was convicted of killing Nick Baty, 48, in a shopping centre car park by kicking and stamping on him in an unprovoked attack. Print worker Mr Baty, a trained first-aider, had stepped in to help a boy who had collapsed after drinking but was then attacked by Thomas. The father-of-one went into a coma after the attack in January and died a month later when his life support machine was turned off.

Two months before killing Mr Baty, Thomas had attacked Mark Bridgeman, 20, near the same car park in Brackla, Bridgend, Wales. Mr Bridgeman was left with fractures to both sides of his jaw and had to have three metal plates and 12 screws inserted. But two police officers, a sergeant and a Pc, failed to investigate properly. The attack on Mr Bridgeman was not even recorded by the Pc until March, two months after the fatal assault on Mr Baty. The conduct of the police officers was investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and both have been given official warnings.

Thomas, of Brackla, was cleared of murdering Mr Baty but convicted of manslaughter at Cardiff Crown Court. He was sentenced to eight years for manslaughter and another two years for the earlier assault. Prosecutor Roger Thomas QC said: "This was a vicious attack. Mr Baty was only concerned about the welfare of the teenager unconscious on the floor. "Mr Baty moved towards the unconscious teenager when, suddenly and without warning, Thomas ran at him from behind shouting `Leave him alone'. "He grabbed him by the shoulder and threw him to ground. Mr Baty's head struck the ground with a thud but Thomas didn't leave him, he attacked him as he lay defenceless on the ground." The court heard Thomas left Mr Baty lying in a pool of blood and bragged to a friend about what he had done.

His friend called 999 and police found Mr Baty lying next to the unconscious teenager he had tried to help. The court heard that, in the earlier attack, Mr Bridgeman had simply been "in the wrong place at the wrong time". Mr Thomas said: "Mr Bridgeman was the victim of an unprovoked, unnecessary and quite vicious attack by Thomas. He was repeatedly punched and kicked to the face and hit while still on the ground. "Unfortunately, the police investigation did not proceed in the manner it should have."

John Charles Rees QC, defending, said: "It may be the offence of manslaughter may not have been committed if Thomas had been arrested when he should have been for the first attack." Judge John Curran said: "This offence was committed for no better reason than you were drunk. "The first matter was not properly investigated by the police for reasons I find inexplicable. This has caused grief and devastation to the victim of a violent crime."

Mr Baty's father John Baty, 80, said: "His absence has deeply affected us. The feeling of grief is immense."

IPCC Commissioner for Wales Tom Davies said: "The public expect the police to take proper action when reporting crimes and especially when it is in connection with a serious assault. "The officer and his supervising sergeant have been both been issued with written warnings for their failures." [Big deal!] The South Wales Police professional standards department found "no positive enquiries were actioned or completed by the two officers".


Australia: A HUGE double standard over paedophilia

Only the common herd can be paedophiles, apparently

Spot the difference. One man takes photographs of children aged from two to 12, paddling clothed in a pond at Darling Harbour. The other man takes pictures of a 12-year-old, posed with breasts bared. The first man is Jason Donald Cotter, a homeless bartender who on Monday was ordered to stand trial in Sydney next year for child pornography. The second is Bill Henson, who, far from being charged, was this year defended by the leaders of our arts caste as one of our greatest artists.

Yes, you spotted it. The crucial difference wasn't that Cotter took photographs without the parents' permission. He isn't charged with failing to get consent, but with having a pornographic image of a child. Just to be precise, Inspector Brenton Lee said the only images Cotter had were those of the children at Darling Harbour: "That's the evidence, taking pictures of children in partial undress." That, the police allege, is child porn. But a picture taken of a child stripped and flaunted is not - and it seems the difference is that Henson is an artist. So insisted 54 leaders of the arts industry - all among the 1000 of our "best and brightest" chosen for Kevin Rudd's ideas summit - in a petition they signed in Henson's defence, when police checked his latest exhibition.

Henson was cleared, of course. You see, in our curious world some of those with the greatest power to set an example and make our culture are excused the moral standards set for even a homeless barman.

Consider an even more startling example - the defence of the pedophilia of artist Donald Friend. Documentary maker Kerry Negara has just shot A Loving Friend, a film of the artist's life, and discovered Friend had spent much time in Bali, where he had sex with boys as young as nine. But it wasn't just the pedophilia that disturbed her, or Friend's claims in his diaries that the boys had seduced him. As she said: "I've been speaking to some of our most influential people in the world of art in Australia, who deny that he caused any harm. So basically what they're trying to say is that Donald was a nice pedophile . . ."

True. Here's the National Library's Paul Hetherington, who edited three volumes of Friend's diaries, when asked on the ABC about Friend's pedophilia: "I don't know that we can go today into the complexity of the relationships between Friend and the young men . . ."

Here, from Negara's film, is Barry Pearce, head curator of Australian art at the Art Gallery of NSW: "I don't think there's a hard line dividing the black from the white on the subject of pedophilia. There's a penumbra . . . and I think that Donald was definitely on the light side of penumbra . . . I would be shocked if anyone brought that term (pedophile) to Donald."

Here's Lou Klepac, former deputy director at the Art Gallery of Western Australia and a Friend biographer: "I don't consider Donald's sexual interests to be highly immoral . . . Donald's like was to be homosexual and he liked young men." So I'd advise any other homeless sod caught with dodgy pictures, or worse, to now plead: "I'm an artist, your honour." If he's lucky, he'll get off with a grant.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


No comments: