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.
- - Top Documentary Films Comments
Documentary about ongoing events in Uganda, where many question whether the growing influence of American religious groups has led to a movement to make homosexuality a crime punishable by death.
Lyneka Little - ABC News Comments
Beginning Aug.30, the online auction site will ban the sale of curses, spells, hexes, magic, prayers, blessing services, magic potions, and healing sessions, which upsets some users.
Bettye Miller - UCR Today Comments
The John Templeton Foundation grant to UC Riverside philosopher John Fischer will fund research on aspects of immortality, including near-death experiences and the impact of belief in an afterlife on human behavior
Leigh Phillips - Scientific American Comments
Less than two weeks after the state's senate passed a bill banning state agencies from reporting that sea-level rise is accelerating, research has shown that the coast between North Carolina and Massachusetts is experiencing the fastest sea-level rise in the world.
Caspar Melville - New Humanist 26 Comments
Our friend and colleague Sanal Edamaruku, the President of the Indian Rationalist Association, is facing arrest for exposing a fraudulent ‘miracle’ in a Catholic Church
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Pulling bad science apart is the best teaching gimmick I know for explaining how good science works
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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