Saturday, January 1, 2011

What have scientists learned about religion in 2010?

Tom Rees at Epiphenom has put together a brief review of the results of scientific papers published on religion this year.  Here's an excerpt:
We learned some more about what religion can do for you. Religious people are less likely to smoke, but more likely to be overweight. Religion can also make you more attractive. Religious people have worse verbal skills and are worse at science (incidentally, Republicans are also unscientific). However it's the study of literature, not science, that really seems to turn people off religion.
 Religious prejudice seems to tap into the same neural circuits that drive racism. Religious fundamentalism can lead to right-wing authoritarianism and racism, as well as increased support for the death penalty. Religious priming can increase support for punishing wrongdoers. . . Religious people see the world differently to the non-religious. For example, Protestants are more likely to confuse thoughts with actions.And being raised a Calvinist Protestant may make you less likely to see the big picture.  Belief in the paranormal and fatalism both seem to be linked to fundamental errors in understanding the world around us.

1 comment:

  1. I have an applicant-evaluation contract for an adult religious training program that comes up for several months every two years. I've been doing these evals since 1990. During the first 8 years I did them annually. In total, I've evaluated in the neighborhood of 800 applicants for the program.

    During the first few years I was taken aback by the rate and severity of the obesity I encountered among the applicants. Rates are much higher than what I encounter in other parts of my practice with a population that isn't religious. I was surprised not only by the rate of obesity (off the top of my head about 80%), but by the severity; the rate of morbid obesity is staggering in this population.

    The applicants are evenly divided by gender and the rate of obesity might be a little higher among women, but among both the males and females the rate is much higher than what I see in the rest of my practice.

    During the first ten years, a moonlighting friend who is V.A. neuropsychologist helped me out. Sometime during the first year, she asked me if my examinees seemed to have high rates of obesity. We had an interesting discussion about it. I'm sure she remembers this because the subject came up a few times in subsequent years. I'll have to tell her about the research. She's been busy trying to keep up with the TBIs from Iraq, so she hasn't seen any of my people in close to a decade.

    I also discussed it with a few nun psychologists who have helped me out since. They've noticed the trend, as well. The nuns are an interesting group because they show exceptional longevity and good health.