William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Scientists Pretend They Can Answer Why Some Are More Religious

The old man on the left is intuitive, while the priest on the right is reflective. It's Science!

The old man on the left is intuitive, while the priest on the right is reflective. It’s Science!

One thing that nearly always accompanies scientism is historical cluelessness. When somebody adopts the Way Of Science, they fall spell to the idea that only that which is most recent counts, because that which is most recent is where progress happens. History, then, is of no real interest, except to show the past is the place we have—at last!—escaped from.

Hence scidolatry, the worship of science. Hence scientism, the name of the religion, is yet another form of progressivism. Which should come as no surprise, really.

This coupling of scientism with immediacy is what partly explains Time‘s latest headline, and the motivation of those who did the work that inspired it. Here it is: “Here’s Why Some People Are More Religious Than Others.

Throughout all of human history, before scientism came along, nobody would have thought to make such an asinine statement—or conduct such a foolish study (described below). And that’s because the word religious didn’t mean what it means now, in the face of scientism. Religious was always used in a context where the hearer knew of what specific religion was meant. For instance, in the Catholic Church we still speak of “women religious”, meaning sisters and the like. The question “What makes her religious?” has an answer, all right, but a mundane one.

Religious in scientism (which permeates our culture) now means somebody who is spiritual, but in a way that is unfriendly to Science. People are allowed, even encouraged, to be spiritual, of course, which is different, because spiritualness (and not spirituality) acknowledges the True Boss, which is Science.

Before getting to the article, here’s what Time said:

It may have little to do with education; psychologists now believe that religiosity is linked to whether you solve problems intuitively or deliberatively.

When it comes to predicting the kind of people most likely to be religious, brainiac scientists used to be everyone’s last guess. The more educated a person was, the thinking went, the more likely they were to question the supernatural.

But the supposed divide between science and religion—in which religion was seen as the less-educated person’s “science” of choice—has ironically been subject to little scientific debate, until recently.

Several years before Pope Francis became pope of the Catholic Church in 2013, psychologists began to debunk the idea that being more educated meant a person was less likely to be religious…

How far back do History go? Several years afore 2013.

First, did you catch the jibe, encased in scare-quotes, about religion being a person’s science of choice? This tells us were dealing with scidolators.

Second, notice that these priests of scientism called psychologists treat those holding beliefs about the supernatural (supernaturalists) as in need of scientific explanation, because in scientism all is Science. It is axiomatic in scientism that the material is all there is, thus the supernatural cannot exist. And any evidence which shows that it does, in the forms of miracles, revelations, the presence of religious, and so on, must therefore be aberrations of one kind or another, usually mental. Scidolators are committed to this belief—committed, get it? get it?

Very well, a supernaturalist must be suffering from a misperception or a physical or psychological malady. Misperceptions are mostly out as an explanation for why people converted to or why they live out a religion, except in circumstances like this), so scidolators usually turn to malady.

Now we’ve seen fMRIs and the like used to explain supposed physical differences in brains of supernaturalists and scientismists (folks who accept scientism who might not also be scidolators), and indeed this is a growing industry of medicalizing belief. But these efforts are vastly outnumbered by psychological investigations, at the least because these are cheaper and easier than medical tests.

Science demands numbers, and psychologist oblige by creating questionnaires with answers to which numbers are assigned, and then they pretend these numbers accurately gauge hideously complex human emotions, like whether people are “people are either deliberative or intuitive”. Such bizarre actions can only be explained by scientism.

Anyway, that’s what we find in the peer-reviewed paper “Divine Intuition: Cognitive Style Influences Belief in God” by Amitai Shenhav, David G. Rand, and Joshua D. Greene. From the Abstract (here and below I strip out the references):

Some have argued that belief in God is intuitive, a natural (by-)product of the human mind given its cognitive structure and social context. If this is true, the extent to which one believes in God may be influenced by one’s more general tendency to rely on intuition versus reflection. Three studies support this hypothesis…

Byproduct. The supernatural is not considered seriously, because if it were, then there would be no need to make up questions about “intuition versus reflection”. But make them up they did. In one of their efforts, the authors admitted participants “completed a three-item Cognitive Reflection Test, which we used to assess cognitive style.”

That’s right: three simple questions were all that was needed to plumb the depths of “intuition and reflection.” Other questions were assigned numbers which explained, to a level sufficiently convincing to our authors, about the participants’ “belief in God”. How simple Science is!

You know what followed. Lots of wee p-values and heavy theorizing and no notions about such trivial matters of cause or its direction, and no awareness that the burden put on a few bare questions was too much for them to bear.

Yet the authors were still full of vinegar and said their work “showed that intuitive thinking predicts belief in God.” Why intuition? Because of “reasons related to more general features of human cognition that give rise to tendencies toward dualism, anthropomorphism, and promiscuous teleology.”

Promiscuous teleology! Somebody’s got a sense of humor. The authors have this: “From a dual-process perspective, these processes are hypothesized to produce automatic judgments that can be overridden through the engagement of controlled or reflective processes, with reflective processes enabling or supporting judgments based on less intuitive explanations.”

Those poor intuitive bastards. But at least the authors admit, “it does not follow that reliance on intuition is always irrational or unjustified.” But the implication is that it is in this case.

The last mark—always a true sign—of scientism is the unwarranted boasting of the powers of Science. That present here? You decide. Here’s how the paper wraps up.

[T]he present results are noteworthy because they help explain a profoundly important and elusive social phenomenon in terms of more basic cognitive tendencies, ones with observable effects across a wide range of psychological domains. How people think—or fail to think—about the prices of bats and balls is reflected in their thinking, and ultimately their convictions, about the metaphysical order of the universe.

17 Comments

  1. What is baffling is the presumed disconnect between “science” (studying, learning, and striving for the truth) and “religion” (studying, learning, and striving for the truth). That said, the material life may seem to be less burdensome for the adherent of Scientism, because there is no expectation that one contribute to the collection plate or engage in acts of mercy.

  2. That “Some Are More Religious” is trivially evident; it’s even in the title of Matt’s piece. So there must be causes of this phenomenon. As Matt has taught us, it’s illogical to attribute this to “random chance,” because such a thing doesn’t exist.

    So, while I can understand a fisking of a particular study on the topic, I don’t understand why Matt doesn’t also say out loud that there must be causes for the fact that “Some Are More Religious”, and that it is legitimate to wonder why. Including using numbers and models. And science.

    And if how people answer three particular questions is in fact predictive, then that’s actually a good thing, right?

    I remember hearing a story about how the Air Force once extensively studied how airmen would react to cold climate versus hot climate assignments, and discovering after it all that simply asking “Do you like hot weather, or cold?” would do fine.

    This piece strikes me as a little too off the top of the head.

  3. The old man on the left is intuitive, while the priest on the right is reflective. It’s Science!

    Yeah, but the kids are focused on the goal — dessert! That takes neither intuition nor reflection, just experience. Which may be the critical factor in religiosity (such an ugly-sounding word).

  4. My Goodness…reading the blog vs the actual article & one might conclude the blog was referring to something else entirely.

    The study found that people who tend to think more intuitively [than deliberately] tend to have a stronger belief in God (‘belief in God’ is how they defined “religious”).

    Having a more intuitive approach to critical thinking correlated with stronger belief in God than education. Prior to these studies (two are noted in the actual article), the anecdotal evidence suggested that people who were more educated tended to be more inclined to be atheist.

    So there’s the finding — a more deliberative form of critical thinking correlates more to a person’s likelihood of being an atheist than if they are highly educated.

    (and note the qualifier/disclaimer in the article where the crudeness of the correlation is acknowledged: “Measuring religiosity, however, can be problematic. Both Rand’s and Pennycook’s experiments relied on simple yes or no answers to the question “Are you religious?”—making it nearly impossible for agnostics or culturally religious people to accurately answer that question. And it’s still unclear what makes a person more intuitive or deliberative.”)

    Wow.

    It takes a lot of work to pull “scientism” out of a study that acknowledges a crude correlation, and, acknowledges the crudity of the support for the acknowledged crude correlation.

    Many reader of this blog work in industry and have heard of, and/or taken, the Myers Briggs diagnostic, which crudely measures one’s thinking & communication styles — its been found useful enough in an organization where people with different styles mingle as knowing how one’s personal style differs from another’s helps both adjust their communication styles to communicate more effectively. Millions have taken this. Intuitive vs. structured (“deliberative”) thinking is well-enough understood, and measured, to be usefully applied.

  5. Briggs

    September 24, 2015 at 9:49 am

    Ken,

    I input your recent comment to a computer program which classifies personalities based on word frequency and selection and that sort of thing. The science said you were most likely “a crypto-Mormon intuitive comic book lover (P<0.0001)”.

    It’s Science!

  6. Why does anyone with a skerrick of sense bother with this rubbish.

  7. Scare quotes are interesting–another of the projection behaviours you see in the left. They are fully aware that Christians call global warming a religion, so if they hurry up and get the soon-to-be-defunct Times to run this article, they can inject religion as someone’s science into some unthinking people’s heads and maybe it will stick.

    Anthropomorphism? I have had more arguments over global warming believers and doubters concerning this behaviour. Seriously? The Humane Society is full of non-religious rich folks who can’t tell a dog from baby. This then follows that global warming believers are ultra-religious and should not be considered scientists?

    I’m curious where humans became primed for theology (which has been around far, far longer than science)? Evolution did a poor job of removing the trait, assuming it’s a “wrong” trait. Perhaps revisiting evolution is in order.

    Looking at Ken’s comment, I am very confused by all of this. It seems that the more intuitive (as in actors, pollticians, etc) are the biggest followers of mainstream science exactly because they are intuitive and do no engage in much thought. They run on emotion. This is why Lewendosky and Cook are constantly trying to convince people that emotionally, one must follow authority without question. It’s why all the marketing research for global warming and everything else politics or markets want to sell. Deliberate thought is absolutely discouraged by science. Actual use of it would wipe out markets and cause extreme losses to political causes. No one really wants a thinking public.

    I would note for Ken that use of such management techniques is ill-advised in the labor fields of oil, gas, mining, etc. There have been some serious negative outcomes to this procedure. Management and workers are two different species in these industries.

  8. Maybe you noted in your SCG posts (I, 57, 8) that: “But what is highest in our knowledge is, not reason, but intellect, which is the origin of reason. ” Pieper paraphrases this as “reason is the failure of intuition”. “intellect” (above) meaning intuition; reason meaning the deliberative.

  9. You have me laughing so much with your sense of humor. Keep up the good work. You make learning a pleasure! THANK YOU
    Dave G

  10. Re(garding):

    Several years before Pope Francis became pope of the Catholic Church in 2013, psychologists began to debunk the idea that being more educated meant a person was less likely to be religious… wha-a-a-a?

    Is Pope Francis some sort of nexus point in science and religion?

    Is Francis the first scientific pope?
    or is he the first educated pope?
    or is he the first progressive pope?
    … scidolator?

    I don’t get why the distinction was made?

  11. JohnK, one answer to why some people are more religious than others is that they receive “sanctifying grace”.

  12. The biases of the author are pretty blatant.

    “When it comes to predicting the kind of people most likely to be religious, brainiac scientists used to be everyone’s last guess. The more educated a person was, the thinking went, the more likely they were to question the supernatural.”

    And to think, there was a time that God was assumed to be supremely rational, and scientific inquiry was spiritual.

  13. Ken: “Many reader of this blog work in industry and have heard of, and/or taken, the Myers Briggs diagnostic, which crudely measures one’s thinking & communication styles — its been found useful enough in an organization where people with different styles mingle as knowing how one’s personal style differs from another’s helps both adjust their communication styles to communicate more effectively. Millions have taken this. Intuitive vs. structured (“deliberative”) thinking is well-enough understood, and measured, to be usefully applied.”

    Ok, Ken, but the MB Type Indicator has been shown to be total nonsense.

    People taking the test at different times change their “MB type score” like the skin of a snake.

    “Despite the test’s widespread use in the workforce, it has little traction in the academic world. Critics point to a study that found that 50% of people who took the test a second time received a different result just five weeks later, suggesting the questions can be heavily influenced by your temperament at the time of testing (Stromberg, 2015)”

    What possible use would such a test be? To show what your mood was when you took it?

    A great story that illustrates the scam:

    http://www.uncleguidosfacts.com/2012/12/myers-briggs-is-pure-nonsense.html

  14. This very silly paper (or the very silly media interpretation of it) is merely using euphemisms for stupid (‘intuitive’) and smart (‘deliberate’). Clearly, based on the examples offered, intuitive/stupid people would not do well on IQ tests. So this boils down to religious people = stupid. One wonders how Isaac Newton managed what he managed intellectually, given his theological convictions. Must have been luck. 😉

  15. Bob Kurland @ Thanks for saying it. So far as Christians are concerned, the explanation is grace. If we follow Calvin, this grace is “freely” given, meaning given for no reason whatsoever. From which it follows that there is in a religious person no property (apart from faith) that science could possibly identify. Faith (not “religiousness”) is caused by God, not by some prior disposition in the faithful. On this account, differences in the cognitive style of faithful and faithless are an effects of grace-cum-faith, not a cause.

  16. And religious people don’t pretend to know why people are gay.

  17. An example of this line of research:

    In one intervention, when people are shown a visual image that suggests critical thinking (for example, Rodin’s sculpture “The Thinker,” seated head-in-hand, pondering) just before taking a test of analytic reasoning, their performance on the test increases measurably. Subconscious suggestion about thinking apparently gets the cognitive juices flowing and suppresses intuitive processes. The researchers confirmed this effect but also found that the self-reported religious disbelief also increased compared with subjects shown a different image before being tested that did not suggest critical thinking.

    I doubt if this had much to do with deep-seated faith.

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