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Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:11 PM

 

Atheists use science like believers use faith in times of stress, says study

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/06/08/atheists-use-science-like-believers-use-faith-in-times-of-stress-says-study/

A new study suggests that science performs the same function in some people’s lives as faith does in the lives of religious believers. According to Science magazine, individuals placed under stress turned to science as a means of coping with feelings of stress and anxiety in a study which was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Scientists in the study questioned members of competitive rowing teams and recruited 100 of them, mostly in their 20s, who said that they lacked strong religious beliefs. The rowers were divided into two groups, one set of whom were about to race in a regatta, and a second group facing a much less stressful competition.

Group members were then asked whether they agree or disagree with statements like, “We can only rationally believe in what is scientifically provable,” and “All the tasks human beings face are soluble by science,” and “The scientific method is the only reliable path to knowledge.”

Athletes who were preparing to compete were, predictably, under more stress than athletes who were under less pressure. In addition, they were statistically more likely to express a strong belief in scientific principles, 15 percent more than their less stressed counterparts.

..

Scientific thinking and religious thinking derive from very different bases, said the study’s authors. Science is based in “analytical thinking, rational inquiry and an objective weighing of evidence.” Religious thought is “founded on intuition, inner experience, and a valuing of historical revelation.” Both, however, help people make sense of the world around them and gives them a sense of belonging.

“In stressful situations people are likely to turn to whatever worldviews and beliefs are most meaningful to them,” study co-author and Yale University psychologist Anna-Kaisa Newheiser told Science.

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Reply Atheists use science like believers use faith in times of stress, says study (Original post)
Phillip McCleod Jun 2013 OP
ret5hd Jun 2013 #1
Iggo Jun 2013 #2
cleanhippie Jun 2013 #4
Dawson Leery Jun 2013 #6
Phillip McCleod Jun 2013 #19
mike_c Jun 2013 #3
Phillip McCleod Jun 2013 #15
skepticscott Jun 2013 #5
Jim__ Jun 2013 #7
skepticscott Jun 2013 #9
Jim__ Jun 2013 #10
skepticscott Jun 2013 #11
dimbear Jun 2013 #8
goldent Jun 2013 #12
Phillip McCleod Jun 2013 #13
goldent Jun 2013 #14
Phillip McCleod Jun 2013 #16
goldent Jun 2013 #17
Phillip McCleod Jun 2013 #18
edhopper Jun 2013 #20
Phillip McCleod Jun 2013 #21
edhopper Jun 2013 #22
trotsky Jun 2013 #23
edhopper Jun 2013 #24
Jim__ Jun 2013 #25
skepticscott Jun 2013 #28
Jim__ Jun 2013 #29
skepticscott Jun 2013 #37
edhopper Jun 2013 #30
Jim__ Jun 2013 #33
edhopper Jun 2013 #34
Jim__ Jun 2013 #35
edhopper Jun 2013 #36
Brainstormy Jun 2013 #26
Phillip McCleod Jun 2013 #32
gcomeau Jun 2013 #27
cbayer Jun 2013 #31

Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:25 PM

1. well, at least science is real.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:44 PM

2. And they're STILL not the same thing.

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Response to Iggo (Reply #2)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 02:04 PM

4. +1

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Response to Iggo (Reply #2)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 02:16 PM

6. +1

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Response to Iggo (Reply #2)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 09:09 PM

19. not even close to similar.

 

in this experimental model, it looks as if they were not interested in that question.. see last paragraph in the article.. as to *what did nonbelievers turn in times of stress?*

by asking an open-ended question, then polling for 'science' with two different groups, they got a differential measurement of statistical significance.. about the way *people react*. it doesn't answer any deep philosophical questions about the nature of religion vs. what science is, but rather clarifies where nonbelievers turn in times of stress.

what i got from the study was.. *NOT god*..

..thereby entirely undermining the 'no atheists in foxholes' argument, and a couple crap pseudo-psych studies that support it.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 12:46 PM

3. more of the usual bs trying to equate "science" with "religious faith in science."

Science is evidence based. One does not have "faith in science"-- instead, we evaluate the evidence presented in favor of this or that explanation and either accept it or reject it based upon the evidence. I'd argue that's something very different from accepting arguments on faith, without tangible evidence of any kind.

If the authors of the original study argue that the degree to which people seek evidence-based solutions to problems is correlated with stress, that would not be surprising at all. Rational people need real solutions to their problems, not superstition.

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Response to mike_c (Reply #3)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:45 PM

15. see i rather took the opposite from it..

 

..speaking as a godless heathen with high moral standards too..

to me the more annoying canard is trying to equate mundane "belief" with "religious belief".. it's the wobbly *stool* some believers like to stand on when preaching that atheism is "just another religion". the same wobbly *shit* that spawned, 'thars [sic] no athiest [sic] in foxholes!' canard.

i can accept, however, that not every nonbeliever is a scientist, and that science takes training.. the method takes practice to apply it well. it's interesting to me that, if this study is correct, then even though not every atheist is a scientist, atheists in general *tend* to look for a rational approach to problem-solving under stress.

iow, they don't crack and start begging jeebus for forgiveness.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 02:14 PM

5. Poorly worded questions

 

And questionable statistical significance. If 10% of one group agreed with those statement, 15% more than that is 11.5%. Out of 100 people, how meaningful is that?

In general, way too many uncontrolled factors to take this seriously, especially when it has the whiff of being agenda driven, as does the headline of the article (nowhere does the actual article state that the subjects were atheists).

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #5)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 03:56 PM

7. How significant is it? Well, the test with the rowers had p = 0.006.

That's significant at the 99% level.

From the paper:

...

As intended, rowers about to compete were experiencing more stress (M = 4.04, SD = 1.36) than rowers at a training session (M = 3.02, SD = 1.76), t(98)= 3.26, p = .002, d= 0.66. Attesting to the secular nature of the sample, participants reported a very low degree of religious commitment (M= 1.86, SD= 1.69); religiosity did not differ between conditions, p= .225. As expected, belief in science was negatively correlated with religiosity, r(98)=−.29, p= .004.

Of primary interest, and as predicted, rowers in the high-stress condition reported greater belief in science (M = 4.03, SD = 0.87) than rowers in the low-stress condition (M= 3.54, SD= 0.86), t(98)=2.82, p= .006, d= 0.57. Thus, the novel measure of belief in science differentiated between individuals facing different levels of stress. The greater belief in science observed in the high-stress condition is consistent with the notion that belief in science may help secular individuals to cope with stress.

We acknowledge that alternative explanations for increased belief in science in the high-stress condition are also possible. For example, rowers about to compete (vs. rowers in training) may have been more motivated to consider their scientific-based training regimen or equipment. However, we also note that training regimes and equipment may, in fact, be more salient during training sessions (which usually revolve around such regimens and equipment).

more ...

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #7)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 05:15 PM

9. If all else was done properly

 

that's not bad. Of course, the incessant use of the phrase "belief in science" and the confusion of the type of "faith" people have in science with religious "faith" render their understanding of the entire subject questionable. They also seem to have seen no need to control for training in or knowledge about science and scientific principles, or to word questions in such a way that people with greater familiarity with science would not be more likely to strongly disagree.

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #9)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 07:17 PM

10. They weren't testing for scientific knowledge.

The test was how stress affected people's belief in science, specifically people with low religiosity. The questions showed a significant effect, not likely caused by coincidence. That implies that questions arguably demonstrated the effects of stress on such belief.

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #10)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:07 PM

11. I wasn't talking about scientific knowledge, as in facts

 

I was talking about familiarity with science and the manner of thinking that goes with it. The vast majority of the population doesn't have it, and the interpretation of their responses to the statements posed depends heavily on that. What would people who haven't read Sagan make of "candle in the dark", as opposed to those who have?

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 04:13 PM

8. Just before the battle, mother, I am writing home to you. If I survive I will

sacrifice a lamb to the third law of thermodynamics.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:10 PM

12. It would be interesting to have a variety of stressful situations

Something along the lines of having to mediate a bitter domestic dispute, or try to talk someone who is threatening suicide. It might be hard getting this kind of experiment approved, but the idea is to have situations that aren't as much mechanical as a regatta (not that it is all mechanical)

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Response to goldent (Reply #12)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:35 PM

13. yes unfortunately those wouldn't be controlled experiments.

 

even though the stress would be more 'real'.. there's this little thing called 'professional ethics' which prohibits psychologists from subjecting participants to any 'real' psychological stress.

an experiment involving a domestic dispute goes too far. doesn't mean we can't glean statistically data from real-life instances of such things, but it would be patently unethical to design an experiment that exposed participants to the 'real' thing. unfortunately, that kind of data is not experimental. it's not gathered under controlled conditions. any number of hidden variables come into play.

c.f. the stanford prison experiment
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_prison_experiment

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Reply #13)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:43 PM

14. yeah I don't think my examples would get approved

but the idea would be to have a variety of equally stressful situations, that have varying degrees of "scientific" solutions.

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Response to goldent (Reply #14)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:47 PM

16. no doubt these experiments (there were two)..

 

..will be repeated in attempts to falsify the results. this is new info.. i wouldn't call it 'knowledge' yet.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Reply #16)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:50 PM

17. I'm not sure if they would want to falsify the results

vs confirm them. But it would be interesting to include more examples to help understand all of the relevant parameters.

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Response to goldent (Reply #17)

Mon Jun 10, 2013, 08:55 PM

18. they would *attempt* to falsify the results..

 

..because that's teh scientific method. whatever the confirmation bias of the researchers, if they can't show that the first study is (very narrowly) wrong, then they just added to the weight of evidence in it's favor.

it's called the principle of falsifiability. here ya go..
http://dictionary-psychology.com/index.php?a=term&d=Dictionary+of+psychology&t=Falsifiability

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 08:24 AM

20. Why this study is bullshit.

A good percentage of believers turn to God and prayer in times of stress. I don't know how many, but I imagine a well designed survey could give us a good idea. Now we are talking about people deciding to pray when they have stress, not being asked a question about their beliefs.
This study did not determine what these rowers actually think about when in stress, they gauged their response to a question they were asked. Who knows what the non-believers were doing, the study certainly didn't ask. Were they meditating, training, thinking about Kate Upton? The study is badly designed and doesn't show us that non-believers turn to science at all.

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Response to edhopper (Reply #20)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 11:53 AM

21. i disagree. it's a normal experimental model.

 

..they didn't want to know what the rowers thought while rowing but the stress here was the anticipation of performance.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Reply #21)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 02:03 PM

22. But their conclusion

was that non believers turn to science as believers turn to faith.
There was nothing in the experiment that showed that. Only that non believers agree more with rational thought when stressed.
That is very different.
Their conclusion is no where in evidence from their study.

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Response to edhopper (Reply #22)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 02:21 PM

23. Smells like Templeton. n/t

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Response to trotsky (Reply #23)

Tue Jun 11, 2013, 03:54 PM

24. I think it's a valid point of inquiry.

It's just that this study doesn't show what they were trying to determine.

I am not sure when I am under stress if I turn to reason or emotion to alleviate the anxiety.

This study doesn't answer that question.

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Response to edhopper (Reply #20)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 10:38 AM

25. Why do you think the rowers in the high-stress group expressed a significantly stronger belief ...

... in science than the rowers in the low-stress group? Why do you think that the designers of the experiment were able to predict this result?

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #25)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 11:52 AM

28. In order to even attempt to answer that question

 

it's necessary to define concretely what "belief in science" even means. Can you do that? And can you explain why whatever it is would simply go up and down like a roller coaster from one moment to the next in the same person?

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Response to skepticscott (Reply #28)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 12:15 PM

29. The study is explicit as to the criteria they base the claim on.

In the case of the rowers, it's more strongly agreeing with the 10 statements about belief in science that the participants were presented. From the paper:

Science provides us with a better understanding of the universe than does religion.
“In a demon-haunted world, science is a candle in the dark.” (Carl Sagan)
We can only rationally believe in what is scientifically provable.
Science tells us everything there is to know about what reality consists of.
All the tasks human beings face are soluble by science.
The scientific method is the only reliable path to knowledge.
The only real kind of knowledge we can have is scientific knowledge.
Science is the most valuable part of human culture.
Science is the most efficient means of attaining truth.
Scientists and science should be given more respect in modern society.


The basis for the conclusions of the paper is that these beliefs do not go up and down like a roller coaster from one moment to the next in the same person. You do understand that? Right?

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #29)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 09:17 PM

37. Uh, no it isn't

 

The conclusion of the paper is exactly that people show stronger "belief in science" when they're under stress and that it decreases when stress decreases. Cripes, what did you think...that they're claiming that all of their subjects would have had the exact same responses no matter what their stress level was? What would have been the point?

And yes, their criteria were clear...but that wasn't my question, now was it? I asked what the concrete definition of "belief in science" was. They way they attempted to define it was not remotely in line with how they tried to test it and what they concluded:

Whereas most individuals accept science as a reliable source of knowledge about the world, only some perceive science as a superior, even exclusive, guide to reality, and as possessing a unique and central value (Haught, 2005; Sorell, 1991). We refer to such attitudes as belief in science.

By their own words "belief in science" is something that only some people have, while others don't, not something that everyone has to different degrees. They assume that "scientism" exists and refer to it as "dogmatic faith in scientific methods and results". So how, again, does "dogmatic faith" in something change with the wind, depending on your stress level?

And as stated, these questions are a really shitty way to measure even realistic attitudes towards science. A lot of people who understand science well would answer "hell, no!" or "What the fuck?" to some of them. Just about all of them are flawed for their purpose.

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #25)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 01:58 PM

30. I am not saying the study doesn't say that

And I assume you mean statistically significant.

I am saying it in no way tells us this.

“In stressful situations people are likely to turn to whatever worldviews and beliefs are most meaningful to them,” study co-author and Yale University psychologist Anna-Kaisa Newheiser told Science."

The study does not show that they turn to one thing or another, it just shows a 15% increase in agreeing with those statements. As i said, we do not know from this study what the non believers actually turned to when stressed.

Their conclusion is bullshit.

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Response to edhopper (Reply #30)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 02:58 PM

33. I asked why you think that is? And why were the testers able to predict that?

And, this is what the study concluded about the rowers:

Of primary interest, and as predicted, rowers in the high-stress condition reported greater belief in science (M = 4.03, SD = 0.87) than rowers in the low-stress condition (M= 3.54, SD= 0.86), t(98)=2.82, p= .006, d= 0.57. Thus, the novel measure of belief in science differentiated between individuals facing different levels of stress. The greater belief in science observed in the high-stress condition is consistent with the notion that belief in science may help secular individuals to cope with stress.

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #33)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 03:26 PM

34. I don't know

I would suggest further study. Do people in high stress situation think more or less? Were they agreeing more because they were preoccupied by the stress, or because those answers helped with the stress?
The study does not say anything about that, even though the authors want it to.
BTW: Designing a study to get the answer you want is not the mark of good science.

What do you think about this?

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Response to edhopper (Reply #34)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 03:52 PM

35. "... belief in the value of science ... can offer reassurance to secular individuals ..."

From the paper:

We hypothesized that belief in the value of science as an institution and in its superiority as a source of knowledge can offer reassurance to secular individuals in threatening contexts. We therefore expected that situations that increase stress and existential anxiety — two constructs associated with a range of physiological, affective, and cognitive responses to threat (Greenberg, Solomon, & Pyszczynski, 1997; Kudielka & Wiedemann, 2001) — would increase belief in science. To test these predictions, we developed a scale measuring belief in science and conducted two experiments in which we manipulated levels of stress or existential anxiety. Given that belief in the primacy of science is in tension with supernatural explanations, we also anticipated that belief in science would be negatively associated with religiosity.


From the previous post:

BTW: Designing a study to get the answer you want is not the mark of good science.


Being able to predict the results of a test shows that the experimenters have an understanding of the process.

Do you think that the tests at LHC that turned up the Higgs Boson were bad science because the experimenters predicted that they would find it?

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Response to Jim__ (Reply #35)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 04:51 PM

36. Social scienes are different

and i don't think this was as double blind as could be. And as I said, I find their conclusions flawed.

Perhaps you could be clearer at what you are getting at.

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Response to edhopper (Reply #20)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 10:58 AM

26. It IS definitely bullshit

On so many levels. For one thing, the "stress" of a rowing competition is completely unlike the stress of say, facing death for a condition for which science currently offers no cure or other hopeless situations in which many even non believers might turn to God and religion. And praying to a supernatural being is completely unlike thinking about science. The study did nothing but gauge how different groups feel about science, or religion. It's yet another attempt to illustrate that atheism or agnosticism is a form of faith. Which is bullshit.

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Response to Brainstormy (Reply #26)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 02:42 PM

32. it's not any such attempt to show that atheism is a form of faith.

 

it does show that non-believers have a *tendency*.. this is *psychology*, hellO.. to turn to belief that scientific thinking can help them. this is not religious belief, but mundane and rational beliefs.. like that my car won't blow up.

if you can't see the distinction, then i don't know what to say.

i am by any measurement a 'strong' atheist.. some would say 'anti-theist' around here, though i don't like the term.. and i get what this study shows, even if you don't.

Raw Story 'got it' too.. and they're about as Big-Red-A and /r/atheism-friendly an alt news source as exists.

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 10:59 AM

27. You mean...

 

...in times of stress atheists fall back on reality?

Gosh...

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Response to Phillip McCleod (Original post)

Wed Jun 12, 2013, 02:08 PM

31. It's like the way I compulsively do Sudoku puzzles when stressed.

There is only one right answer and knowing that helps me focus.

The studies aren't terribly convincing, but I've seen similar data in the past.

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