Scientists have revealed one of the reasons why some folks are less religious than others: They think more analytically, rather than going with their gut. And thinking analytically can cause religious belief to wane — for skeptics and true believers alike.
Read the whole article at Thinking can undermine religious faith, study finds.
Here, as I understand it, is how the evaluated religiosity:
After answering three of these questions, the students were asked to rate a series of statements on belief, including, “In my life I feel the presence of the Divine,” and “I just don’t understand religion.” Students who answered the three questions correctly — and presumably did a better job of engaging their analytical skills — were more likely to score lower on the belief scales.
In the final experiment, students in the control group read text in a clear, legible font, while those in the other group were forced to squint at a font that was hard to read, a chore that has been shown to trigger analytic thinking. Sure enough, those who read the less legible font rated their belief in supernatural agents at 10.40 on a 3-to-21 scale, compared with 12.16 for those who read the clear font.
I’m not sure I get how that’s supposed to accurately measure religiosity. Are they saying that students who were “primed” with the less legible font, or the analysis-related words (in another experiment), were more likely to say “no” to the question “In my life I feel the presence of the Divine.”? (And, speaking of thinking analytically, how should I punctuate the end of that sentence?)
This confuses me, and I do recognize the irony in an All Up In Your FACE Religious Type like myself saying “math is hard! how experiment work?” I guess I can’t conceive of my answer to that question changing based on doing a crossword or a similarly analytical exercise. It seems like it would be more beneficial to give analytical tasks to two different populations who had the same IQ but were very divided in terms of religiosity – like, some monks and some atheists, or something, and see who does better. But then, of course, you’d have the issue of people saying “this whackadoodle cult over here doesn’t share my thought patterns just because we’re both very religious,” etc.
I don’t know – what do you think about this study, commenters? I’m not so much interested in the obvious disproving of the results (HEY! HERE’S A LIST OF CATHOLIC SMART PEOPLE!”) because, really, if a person is so ignorant as to argue there aren’t super-brains over on the Churchy side of the room, then I am not interested in talking to said person about this topic. But I would like to tease out whether this is even a good measure of what they’re trying to…measure.