How can we corral data to reveal the big picture?
By BEN GOLDACRE - GUARDIAN
Added: Sat, 21 May 2011 09:38:39 UTC
Here's no surprise: beliefs that we imagine to be rational are bound up in all kinds of other stuff. Political stances, for example, correlate with various personality features. One major review in 2003 looked at 38 different studies, containing data on 20,000 participants, and found that overall, political conservatism was associated with things such as death anxiety, fear of threat and loss, intolerance of uncertainty, a lack of openness to experience, and a need for order, structure and closure.
Beliefs can also be modified by their immediate context. One study from 2004, for example, found that when you make people think about death ("please briefly describe the emotions that the thought of your own death arouses in you") they are more likely to endorse an essay discussing how brilliant George Bush was in his response to 9/11.
A new study looks at intelligent design, the more superficially palatable form of creationism, promoted by some religious groups, which claims that life is too complex to have arisen through evolution and natural selection. Intelligent design implies a reassuring universe, with a supernatural creator, and it turns out that if you make people think about death, they're less likely to approve of a Richard Dawkins essay, and more likely to rate intelligent design highly.
Kyle Hill - JREF Comments
If we want people to understand the full range of skepticism we have to also stress the affirmatives. We need to live up to the charge of promoting science and critical thinking
Jon White - New Scientist Comments
Indian rationalist Sanal Edamaruku faces a Catholic backlash after insisting that the "holy" water dripping from a statue of Christ came from a leaky drain
Matthew Hutson - Wired Comments
"If there's no obvious responsible party, we find a scapegoat. And what happens if no acceptable scapegoats are in sight? We credit a supernatural one."
Jonah Lehrer - The New Yorker 106 Comments
While philosophers, economists, and social scientists had assumed for centuries that human beings are rational agents—reason was our Promethean gift—Kahneman, the late Amos Tversky, and others demonstrated that we’re not nearly as rational as we like to believe.
Chris Michaud - Reuters 91 Comments
Nearly 15 percent of people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime and 10 percent think the Mayan calendar could signify it will happen in 2012.
Daisy Grewal - Scientific American 41 Comments
How Critical Thinkers Lose Their Faith in God
MORE BY BEN GOLDACRE
Ben Goldacre - guaridan.co.uk 10 Comments
Pulling bad science apart is the best teaching gimmick I know for explaining how good science works
Ben Goldacre - guardian.co.uk 33 Comments
If you have a serious new claim to make, it should go through scientific publication and peer review before you present it to the media