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.
- - BBC News Comments
A new poll suggests that atheism is on the rise in the US, while those who consider themselves religious has dropped. What's the cause? Two writers debate.
- - human rights first Comments
Blasphemy Laws Exposed: The Consequences of Criminalizing “Defamation of Religions”
Ed Kilgore - Political Animal Comments
update - too crazy even for the evangelical right
Barton’s Fall From Grace
David Barton says his documents prove that the Founding Fathers were deeply religious men who built America on Christian ideas - but do his sources check out?
Cory Doctorow - BoingBoing Comments
Pussy Riot member Yekaterina Samutsevich has given a tremendous closing statement, which is a masterful summary of Russian oligarchy
Graham Veale - Saints & Sceptics? Comments
Refuting Richard: Dawkins Doesn’t “Get” God
- - BBC News Comments
The government has launched an action plan to tackle child abuse linked to witchcraft or religion in England.
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
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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