April 20, 2012

“Belief About God Across Time and Countries”
Belief in God is highest among older people and increases with age, perhaps due to the growing realization that death is coming closer, University of Chicago researchers said. Summarizing data from surveys performed in 1991, 1998, and 2008 in 30 countries from Chile to Japan, the university’s National Opinion Research Center found that, on average, 43 percent of those aged 68 and older were certain that God exists. By comparison, an average of 23 percent of people aged 27 and younger were firm believers in God, according to the report. (Reuters)

More on Religion Among Millennials
A growing tide of young Americans is drifting away from the religions of their childhood—and most of them are ending up in no religion at all. One in four young adults choose “unaffiliated” when asked about their religion, according to a new report from the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs. But most within this unaffiliated group—55 percent—identified with a religious group when they were younger. (Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service)

Spirituality Appears to Be Associated With Many Parts of the Brain
A University of Missouri researcher has found that contrary to previous theory, there is no one “God spot” in the human brain. Rather, within the mass of gray and white matter are multiple places responsible for our spirituality. (Mará Rose Williams, The Kansas City Star)

Are There Potential Benefits of Thinking About Death?
An awareness of mortality can improve physical health and help us reprioritize our goals and values, according to the latest analysis of recent scientific studies. Even nonconscious thinking about death—such as walking by a cemetery—could prompt positive changes and promote helping others, say psychologists. (The Telegraph)

Training Army Drill Sergeants to Be Resilient
The U.S. military is now implementing a resilience-building program, designed by a team of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, intended to make soldiers as rugged in mind as they are in body. This effort—one of the largest psychological interventions ever attempted—holds lessons for anyone who wants to strengthen their mental muscles. Drill sergeants were chosen to receive the training because they’re in a position to teach the service members under their command, promoting a trickle down of psychological resilience. (Annie Murphy Paul, Brilliant: The Science of Smart, TIME)

For decades it seemed that only a handful of molecules could store genetic information and pass it on. But now synthetic biologists have discovered that six others can pull off the same trick, and there may be many more to find. (Michael Marshall, New Scientist)

Letting Go of Regrets
Brain scans now reveal that living a life without regrets may be one key to aging well. As painful as regret can be, scientists think it can help us make better choices in the future when we are young. However, as second chances decrease as we get older, the benefits of mulling over what might have been also decline with age. (Charles Choi, LiveScience)

Calling Best Friends
A woman’s No. 1 contact during her 20s is most often a male, but by age 45, she’ll most likely be calling another woman—probably her daughter—more than anyone else, a new study finds. Men show a much more consistent pattern, with a tendency to be linked to a female “best friend” their entire lives, researchers report in the journal Nature Scientific Reports. The researchers suspect these patterns reflect women’s strategic social ties, which seem to be focused on their mate during the reproductive years and then shift to children later in life. (Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience)

Bill to Repeal the Louisiana Science Education Act Fails
More than 70 Nobel Prize-winning scientists urged the repeal of the law that was passed in 2008. But the repeal was opposed by the governor and Christian conservatives who argue the law was designed to promote critical thinking. The Senate Education Committee voted 2–1 against the repeal sought by Senator Karen Carter Peterson. Several members of the committee weren’t present when the vote was taken. (Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press)

Jonathan Gottschall

Jonathan Gottschall explores the nature of human affinity for narrative and reflects on the future of story in the age of the Internet, video games, films, and ever-evolving media that may threaten to undermine—or at least, to change in unpredictable ways—the traditional bounds of our storytelling past. (Maria Konnikova, Literally Psyched, Scientific American)

The Revisionaries

A documentary premiering at this weekend’s Tribeca Film Festival portrays the debate over the role of religion on the Texas State Board of Education. The Revisionaries focuses on the influence of former Texas SBOE chair Don McLeroy and Houstonian Cynthia Dunbar, both conservative Christians who believe in young-earth creationism. (Kate Shellnutt, Believe It or Not, Houston Chronicle)

Category: Field Notes


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