December 3, 2014

national study of religion and human originsNational Study of Religion & Human Origins
According to a new report by Calvin College assistant professor Jonathan Hill, many Americans do not think it’s that important to have the “correct beliefs” on the origins of human life. His research was funded by the BioLogos Foundation, a pro-evolution, Christian organization founded by National Institutes of Health director Francis Collins. “It’s important to know that a large portion of the population is unsure about their beliefs, and there is a large portion of the population that doesn’t care,” Hill said in an interview. (Emma Green, The Atlantic)

What Your Social Media Language Reveals About Your Personality
The words you use in your Facebook posts reveal much about your personality, according to psychologists Gregory Park and colleagues in a new study just published. Based on a study of 71,000 Facebook users who reported their personality using an app, Park et al. found some quite unexpected words to be associated with given personality traits. (Neuroskeptic, Discover)

Mindfulness Class
Mindfulness, yoga, and meditation have gained popularity among Americans in recent decades, buoyed by studies showing their benefits to emotional, mental, and physical health. The centuries-old practices have roots in Buddhism and Hinduism, but Western culture has secularized them to focus on physical postures, breathing, and relaxation techniques. Such practices are now offered by corporations like Google, Target, and General Mills to their employees. Prison inmates, hospital patients, and the U.S. Marines are using them to combat stress and illness, increase focus and well-being. And now schools all over the country are introducing the practices. (Gosia Wozniacka, Associated Press)

Q&A
Philip Kitcher
Part One

On his disagreements with “New Atheism,” how secular humanism is similar to religion and how it is different, and what Humanists can learn from religion.
Part Two
Kitcher explores how to disentangle ethics from religion, the connection between values and community, and why doubt is just the beginning of Humanism.
(Chris Stedman, Faitheist, Religion News Service)

AUDIO
Study Shows Riding The Quiet Car Is Crushing Your Spirit

An experiment in Chicago randomly assigned train and bus riders to either talk to the stranger next to them or commute quietly. The result? Even for introverts, silence leaves you sadder. (Morning Edition, NPR)


December 2, 2014

these charts finally explain where science denial comes from/Dan KahanThese Charts Finally Explain Where Science Denial Comes From
Chris Mooney: In the past week, a debate has been building surrounding this provocative paper, which concludes that religious belief, rather than political ideology, better explains why some people resist the science on issues like climate change, evolution, and stem cell research. “Partisan identification is not generally predictive of attitudes toward contested scientific issues,” the paper asserts. Is that really right? I have to say, I’m pretty skeptical. (The Washington Post)

Religion, Robots, and the Uncanny Valley
Religious fundamentalism seems to have some influence on believers’ attitudes toward humanoid robots, according to research by Karl MacDorman, an associate professor of human-computer interaction at Indiana University in Indianapolis, and Steven Entezari, a Ph.D. student at Indiana University. MacDorman and Entezari’s study of almost 500 college students found that religious fundamentalists tend to view human-like robots as being more creepy overall. (Jeremy Hsu, Lovesick Cyborg, Discover)

Reducing Implicit Racial Bias
The key, according to Central Michigan University psychologists Adam Lueke and Bryan Gibson, is mindfulness. In the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, they report that a 10-minute introduction to mindfulness meditation led to “a decrease in implicit age and race bias.” Even when it comes to the emotionally charged issue of race, it seems that slowing down long enough to notice our thoughts and feelings disrupts our tendency to unthinkingly accept reflexively triggered biases. (Tom Jacobs, Pacific Standard)

Loneliness
In the latest study, loneliness expert John Cacioppo reviewed a wealth of research conducted over the last several years that collectively provides a new perspective on the condition. Most importantly, the research shows that the lonely brain is structurally and biochemically different than the non-lonely brain, and these underlying differences are not merely symptoms, but the cause of additional problems. (David DiSalvo, Forbes)

Why Our Memory Fails Us
Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons: When we recall our own memories, we are not extracting a perfect record of our experiences and playing it back verbatim. Most people believe that memory works this way, but it doesn’t. Instead, we are effectively whispering a message from our past to our present, reconstructing it on the fly each time. We get a lot of details right, but when our memories change, we only “hear” the most recent version of the message, and we may assume that what we believe now is what we always believed. Studies find that even our “flashbulb memories” of emotionally charged events can be distorted and inaccurate, but we cling to them with the greatest of confidence. (The New York Times)


October 29, 2014

Pope FrancisMore on the Pope’s Statement on God and Evolution
Pope Francis said that the theories of evolution and the big bang don’t contradict church doctrine. But while some may find this news shocking, if welcome, this isn’t actually another case of Francis trying to modernize the views of his traditionally conservative institution—though many religious groups continue to attack scientific explanations of the origins of mankind, the Catholic Church has not been one of them for at least a half-century. (Miriam Krule, Slate)

“Auditory Illusions” in Prehistoric Cave Art
Depictions of interesting sounds, such as echoes and natural amplifications, appear to have made their way into everything from cave art to Stonehenge, according to new research presented at the Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America in Indianapolis. Among other things, the discovery could help to explain why so much early cave art showed human hands and images of herds of running animals. Steven Waller of Rock Art Acoustics suggests that the echoes and reverberation of things like hand clapping in a cave would have been misinterpreted as being “supernatural.” (Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News)

Religiosity, Racism, and Suicide
The study is the first to study the benefits of religiosity in an environment of perceived discrimination and depression. “Although discrimination can have adverse emotional consequences, the findings suggest that the ‘use’ of religion perhaps to connect with others or to meet some other need can be emotionally helpful among individuals who experience racism,” said Rheeda Walker. (Rick Nauert, Psych Central)

Do We Sometimes Make Better Choices When We’re Hungry?
Hunger is a “hot state” emotionally, according to Denise de Ridder and her colleagues at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. In a paper published in PLOS ONE, they argue that hot states, which are characterized by heightened arousal, make people rely on their gut feelings and therefore improve their decision-making. (Marissa Fessenden, Smithsonian.com)

EVENT
Matter and Meaning: Exploring the Religion and Science Dialogue

Elaine Howard Ecklund, director of the Religion and Public Life Program at Rice University, presented the results from a survey on the relationship between science and religion. (Sarah Frazier, The Rice Thresher)


October 28, 2014

Akhbar:Clker.comOur Magical Thinking
C. Nathan DeWall: Yes, children believe in magic because they don’t know any better. Peter Pan never grew up because he embraced magical beliefs. But such beliefs make for more than happy Halloweeners and children’s books. They give a glimpse into how the mind makes sense of the world. We can’t overcome magical thinking. It is part of our evolved psychology. Our minds may fool us into thinking we are immune to magical thoughts. But we are only fooling ourselves. That’s the neatest trick of all. (The New York Times)

Yanomamö Warriors Who Kill Together
Cultural anthropologist Shane Macfarlan discovered to his surprise that most co-unokais, or men who participated in the same killing, weren’t brothers. At best, they were cousins. But most were related by marriage: Seventy percent of married unokais had a wife directly related to one of their co-unokais. The paper, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, offers a twist on Napoleon Chagnon’s original ideas about how being a warrior boosts men’s fitness, and fits current notions that war is a mode of cooperation. (Lizzie Wade, Science)

Pope Francis on God and Evolution
He said sometimes competing beliefs in creation and evolution could co-exist. “God is not a divine being or a magician, but the Creator who brought everything to life,” the pope said. “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.” (Josephine McKenna, Religion News Service)

EXCERPT
Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation

Gabriele Oettingen: Based on two decades of research findings, replicated across a variety of research participants, contexts, and methods, you would be ill-advised to indulge in dreams about achieving your goals and then assume you’re well on a path to success. Life just doesn’t work that way. (Science of Us, New York Magazine)

MOVIES
The Theory of Everything

The movie doesn’t deserve any prizes for its drive-by muddling of Stephen Hawking’s scientific work, leaving viewers in the dark about exactly why he is so famous. Instead of showing how he undermined traditional notions of space and time, it panders to religious sensibilities about what his work does or does not say about the existence of God, which in fact is very little. To its credit, the movie does not shy away from the darker parts of Hawking’s story. It is based on the 2007 memoir Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen, by his first wife, Jane Wilde. (Dennis Overbye, The New York Times)

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