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Fear of Death Makes People Into Believers (of Science)

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the Tesla,-hallowed-be-your-name dept.

Science 434

sciencehabit writes "Nothing, some say, turns an atheist into a believer like the fear of death. 'There are no atheists in foxholes,' the saying goes. But a new study suggests that people in stressful situations don't always turn to a higher power. Sometimes, they turn to science. Both athletes preparing for a big race and students asked to write about their own death showed a 15% stronger belief in science than those under less stressful situations (abstract). 'In stressful situations people are likely to turn to whatever worldviews and beliefs are most meaningful to them,' says study co-author, Anna-Kaisa Newheiser, a psychologist at Yale University. And many people find the scientific worldview more compatible with their own."

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fp (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941529)

hehehe

Questions: (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941537)

What part of the atom does the fundamental unit of consciousness emerge? What does the universe do that allows me to temporarily develop self awareness? Will someone eventually create an experiment confirming the existence of consciousness, perhaps as some yet to be discovered "substance" to be manipulated or recreated? Will "purpose" then still continue to be a mysteryto be argued fruitlessly by assholes?

Re:Questions: (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941873)

The latter does not exist.

Everything.

No.

Yes, it would.

Science works (5, Interesting)

MrEricSir (398214) | about a year ago | (#43941555)

There's nothing to "believe" in when it comes to science (it works either way) but if the fear of death makes people interested, that's great.

After all, science has brought us not only longer lives, but more fulfilling, healthier lives with less suffering. If you're worried about death it's just sensible to turn to science.

Re:Science works (-1, Flamebait)

timmyf2371 (586051) | about a year ago | (#43941675)

I don't think that's strictly true.

To believe in science (and to disbelieve in religion), one needs to believe that the elements needed to create the big bang came into existence of their own accord and that the laws of physics decided to invent themselves.

Science is great up to a point; it can tell us what happened and how it happened. But when you go back far enough, it does requires the belief that everything which set off the chain of events somehow came into being without an intelligent creator.

Re:Science works (3, Insightful)

Daetrin (576516) | about a year ago | (#43941711)

That's not true either. I could honestly believe there was an intelligent being who created our current universe and simultaneously believe in the process of science. Believing in one does not generally require disbelieving in the other. There are some specific religions that are antithetical to science in their details, but that is a different issue.

Re:Science works (2, Insightful)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#43941717)

To believe in science (and to disbelieve in religion),

Despite the common misconception, these are not mutually exclusive beliefs.

Science is great up to a point; it can tell us what happened and how it happened.

Science can tells us how it might have happened, but cannot tell us for a fact that it did happen that way.

Re:Science works (1)

Sique (173459) | about a year ago | (#43942121)

Science can tells us how it might have happened, but cannot tell us for a fact that it did happen that way.

Religion claiming it could doesn't make it so. But as Charles S. Peirce already observed, nothing can tell us for a fact it happened that way.

Re:Science works (-1)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#43942155)

Religion claiming it could doesn't make it so.

If you read what I wrote carefully, you'll see that I was talking about the inability of science to do something, not religion's ability to do things.

But as Charles S. Peirce already observed, nothing can tell us for a fact it happened that way.

Which is why the belief that the universe started with a big bang, for example, is faith-based.

Re:Science works (3, Interesting)

snakeplissken (559127) | about a year ago | (#43942237)

Which is why the belief that the universe started with a big bang, for example, is faith-based.

only in the same sense that the belief that the universe existed before last tuesday is faith based :)

snake

Re:Science works (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43941779)

I don't think that's strictly true.

To believe in science (and to disbelieve in religion), one needs to believe that the elements needed to create the big bang came into existence of their own accord and that the laws of physics decided to invent themselves.

Science is great up to a point; it can tell us what happened and how it happened. But when you go back far enough, it does requires the belief that everything which set off the chain of events somehow came into being without an intelligent creator.

Why should I have any more trouble believing in an uncaused universe than in an uncaused divinity?

Actually, the atheist assumes less, because s/he merely assumes the universe. The theist has to assume a god that can speak the universe into being. (Plus heaven, hell, souls, etc.)

Ockham says, cut out the middle man.

Re:Science works (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | about a year ago | (#43941883)

But when you go back far enough, it does requires the belief that everything which set off the chain of events somehow came into being without an intelligent creator.

Preconceived notions about how the universe came into being have nothing to do with science. Furthermore, you don't need to know all the details about how things came into being to practice science.

Re:Science works (3, Insightful)

bentcd (690786) | about a year ago | (#43941925)

To believe in science (and to disbelieve in religion),

Science isn't something you believe in, it's something you use. If I use a hammer to nail a picture up on the wall, does this mean I believe in hammer or does it just mean I used a hammer to achieve some desired result?

A scientific result is something you may choose to believe or not believe, depending on the level of confidence you have in the team behind it and the rigour of their methods. To believe in a scientific result on the other hand sounds to me more of a fanatical position than a rational one.

Re:Science works (1)

FrangoAssado (561740) | about a year ago | (#43942017)

To believe in science (and to disbelieve in religion), one needs to believe that the elements needed to create the big bang came into existence of their own accord and that the laws of physics decided to invent themselves.

Actually, to "believe" in science, the only thing that's strictly required is that you believe that the universe is knowable. Even the ways you use to know more stuff (the "scientific method") are not "a priori", that is, if you can think of a better way to discover stuff about the universe, then it will become part of the scientific method.

Science doesn't a priori reject the possibility of a creator (God), just as it doesn't a priori require that the universe came into existence of its own accord. The Big Bang theory is just the best answer we have so far when asking questions about the start of the universe. Science doesn't give definitive answers, since it's always possible that you'll find out later that you didn't know everything there was to know about something.

Re:Science works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942103)

To believe in science (and to disbelieve in religion), one needs to believe that the elements needed to create the big bang came into existence of their own accord and that the laws of physics decided to invent themselves.

You can "believe in science" without believing anything about the big bang or the other nonsense you said. Everywhere around you are sophisticated products that were created on the basis of science - or, to be more precise, on the basis of science after it turned from theory to prototype to engineering and product design.

Re:Science works (3, Insightful)

The1stImmortal (1990110) | about a year ago | (#43942275)

I don't think that's strictly true.

To believe in science (and to disbelieve in religion), one needs to believe that the elements needed to create the big bang came into existence of their own accord and that the laws of physics decided to invent themselves.

Science is great up to a point; it can tell us what happened and how it happened. But when you go back far enough, it does requires the belief that everything which set off the chain of events somehow came into being without an intelligent creator.

I don't believe in scientific results. I believe in science as a process (in the same way that I can say I believe in Democracy as a process [for better or for worse!])

I would hope many scientists would hold a similar view, but I cannot speak for them.

In terms of cosmology - science attempts to unravel the chain of causality that resulted in the world we see today. To do this, it is assumed the universe works today much like it always has (and tries to determine the edge conditions that define that). It is also assumed that there is a point beyond which causality can no longer be followed (or that it loops back on itself or whatever. That there is a beginning, anyway - that' it's not just "turtles all the way down"). Now admittedly they're big assumptions but they seem to hold up so far, and without those assumtions the questions become meaningless in the first place.

So what happens then is that you work backwards, until a point is found for which there are multiple possible explanations. Then evidence is gathered based on experimentation and observation about which of the options seems most likely. As part of this process new options might get introduced.

What you end up with is the most likely set of explanations for the way the universe came to be the way it is, based on what we know today and what we can observe today.

It's not a presented as fact, but rather what is termed a "theory" for science, based on probability. Note that in this case the word "Theory" avoids presenting something as absolute fact whilst providing the implication of a comprehensive and somewhat tested framework, and still leaving the door open for testing and even disproving. It doesn't mean "Guess".

As for "believing" that " the elements needed to create the big bang came into existence of their own accord and that the laws of physics decided to invent themselves." - this isn't a belief per se, but part of the assumption that the chain of causality ends somewhere. If something "caused" the big bang (er - other than the big bang itself), then by definition the big bang wasn't the start of the universe, but we have to go back further. So if you assume it started somewhere then you have to assume that "before" that was unknowable, as it cannot be traced back.

In this regard - if there was a "creator" - it is/was either one that can interact with/affect the observable universe or not. If it is, then we can push the start of the universe back to be the "start" of the creator. But if not then the issue is meaningless from a scientific standpoint.

Re:Science works (1)

mk2mark (1144731) | about a year ago | (#43941681)

That's not true. I choose to believe what a scientist or a doctor tells me. The choice is important, as history teaches. It means more rigour in science, healthy skepticism and less people burning on stakes.

Re:Science works (0)

PRMan (959735) | about a year ago | (#43941803)

And my mom chose to believe what she felt God was telling her instead of what the doctor was telling her. In numerous cases, her intuition was right and he was wrong. And he was considered the world's foremost expert on her condition. She lived longer than all his other patients, double over the next highest person. And he changed his treatment methods after her success even though it didn't make logical sense, because it had the best results. (Incidentally, that's HOW he became the world's foremost expert on her condition.)

Re:Science works (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941963)

When god was talking to her why didn't he let her know about those woman how were prisoner for years?

Re:Science works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942051)

Engrish prease!

Re:Science works (2)

The1stImmortal (1990110) | about a year ago | (#43942023)

Doctors are human and there are still big holes in our knowledge of disease and of human biology, so yeah it's entirely possible that a given doctor's advice may not be the best way to actually go for a given persons' case/illness. Doctors give advice based on the best knowledge available at the time (to them. No one person can know all of modern medicine and still have time to consult!).
Changing techniques based on empirical evidence is very scientific.
I'd imagine that doctor was/is very interested in the mechanisms of how the alternate approach worked and investigated it (or wrote up the case to allow others to investigate)
So you've actually given a brilliant example of why science works.

And glad to hear she lasted longer than usual and sorry to hear that ended btw

Re:Science works (2)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about a year ago | (#43942127)

And he was considered the world's foremost expert on her condition. She lived longer than all his other patients, double over the next highest person. And he changed his treatment methods after her success even though it didn't make logical sense, because it had the best results. (Incidentally, that's HOW he became the world's foremost expert on her condition.)

So, which is it - was the the world's foremost expert before or after? Methinks some shit you said may be made up.

Re:Science works (5, Insightful)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#43942179)

And my mom chose to believe what she felt God was telling her instead of what the doctor was telling her.

Thousands of other people die doing exactly the same. Were they not good enough to be saved? Sometimes people get lucky, and for some reason some people just can't accept this and have to invent some driving force behind the supposed miracle to literally sing their praises to, and mumble at in a cold building once a week.

In numerous cases, her intuition was right and he was wrong.

Sorry, but when it comes to medical treatments, your mom does not count as "numerous cases." She is one case of many, and quite likely an outlier. How many other people have disregarded their doctor's advice, used their own intuition, and subsequently died horrible painful deaths? You wouldn't be here telling us the story if that had happened (as it sadly has to so many people).

Statistically speaking, you're an idiot if you play the lottery. Any mathematician will tell you not to do it. Yet somewhere out there, at least one person usually wins, and for that one person, it's a wonderful bit of luck that wouldn't have happened if they'd listen to the statisticians. But it's random chance.

Here's another one. If a thousand people around the world toss a coin ten times, statistically speaking it's likely that one of them will get ten heads. If that person came here and wrote a post like yours, proclaiming it a miracle and praise be to the FSM, can you see why we'd be right to dismiss it? If so, why shouldn't we dismiss your anecdote as evidence of nothing but random chance?

And he changed his treatment methods after her success even though it didn't make logical sense, because it had the best results.

If that's really true, I don't want him having anything to do with the treatment of me or my family members.

(Incidentally, that's HOW he became the world's foremost expert on her condition.)

Incidentally, that's why we have bullshit like homeopathy. It "worked" once or twice, by coincidence, and people seized on it with both hands and won't be disabused of the ridiculous notion despite all the subsequent scientifically gained evidence that it's rubbish.

Re:Science works (2)

CayceeDee (1883844) | about a year ago | (#43942379)

She lived longer than all his other patients, double over the next highest person.

Ummm. The fact that she lived longer than other patients just means that she lived longer than other patients. I am sure that some patients lived a lot less than other patients. It had nothing to do with god. It had to do with the fact that people react to diseases and treatments differently. Some people live longer than some people who live longer than some people.

Re:Science works (0, Offtopic)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#43941701)

Science doesn't always work; since it is a product of the human mind it can be wrong, and it is also not comprehensive but limited.

People have died and been maimed because of science that was incorrect or incomplete. Castle Bravo was to be a 4 to 6 megaton weapon test that hurt no one.

Funny thing happened, we learned that day that the "inert" lithium 7 in the 6/7 mix could absorb a neutron, and then besides releasing that neutron again also alpha decay into tritium which is of course a lovely thermonuclear fuel. Moreover those released neutrons bombarded the uranium tamper of the bomb and caused extra fission. oops. the yield was 15 megatons, people were killed and others maimed for life by radiation.

Re:Science works (1)

The1stImmortal (1990110) | about a year ago | (#43942053)

One could argue however that thanks to nuclear weapons research (including this example) - we've not had a major worldwide conflict in nearly 70 years, after having two in 30 years. We also understand a lot more about fundamental physics thanks to the side benefits of weapons research and that helps medicine, the energy industry, and may help the space industry down the track...

Bad stuff happens. We move on and in some way usually learn from it. That's life

Re:Science works (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43942003)

If you want to phrase it differently not using the word "believe": you need to trust that the scientific community is generally following a reliable method for gaining and improving knowledge.

I don't think it's equivalent to religious faith, but I also don't think it's quite true that no degree of belief is necessary, because it is simply not possible for you, personally, to verify every bit of information you rely on when making use of scientific conclusions. Therefore you need to be able to trust that the results of a certain system of knowledge-acquisition are reasonably accurate, despite not being able to personally verify them.

Re:Science works (1)

stms (1132653) | about a year ago | (#43942307)

There's an element of faith to science. It's not quite the same as religion but it's still there. Vsauce did a great video on "how do you know" just this week check it out [youtube.com] .

Re:Science works (1)

artor3 (1344997) | about a year ago | (#43942335)

Singularity, anyone? Some people absolutely treat science like a religion, complete with its own Rapture, in order to cope with fear of death.

Re:Science works (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942429)

Science and belief in God may not be incompatible. However, science and, belief in, say, the Christian God is incompatible. Religious beliefs sometimes require belief in things that are obviously cannot be correct. This is against the spirit of science, in which everything is evidence based. Religious people lot of time believe in things that are evidently wrong.

Bible: word of God (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941583)

The Bible is the proven word of God. You really don't need any more proof than that. If you read it, I mean REALLY read it and understand it, you will achieve enlightenment and everything will suddenly make sense. The world, your place in it, even tragedies like the OK tornadoes are simply tests of our faith. If we persevere and live life according to the Scripture, we will all be reunited in Heaven and rule the earth at the right hand of God.

Re:Bible: word of God (4, Insightful)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43941655)

and everything will suddenly make sense

That sounds like the experience of a recently inflicted paranoid schizophrenic.

Re:Bible: word of God (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43941895)

and everything will suddenly make sense

That sounds like the experience of a recently inflicted paranoid schizophrenic.

Huh? I thought it was just a bog-standard troll.

Re:Bible: word of God (0)

aristotle-dude (626586) | about a year ago | (#43941975)

and everything will suddenly make sense

That sounds like the experience of a recently inflicted paranoid schizophrenic.

No, it is more like listening to someone talking on the phone and only hearing one side of the conversation. Time and time I again, I have seen people like you parrot select quotes from the bible and taking them completely out of context. If you read them within the context, they make more sense even to someone like you but if you don't understand or know the author, it can be difficult seeing how everything fits together. You are missing the back story because you don't know god.

Once you accept god as your savior, you start to see the connections between the old and new testament. You cannot see that the old testament is talking about what will happen in the new testament and the new testament is talking about what has been fulfilled from the old testament.

One guy in the old testament who really "got it" was King David. He could see what was to come. He foresaw how man and god would be united once again in the spirit.

Re:Bible: word of God (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942137)

Or, to quote the holy bible: "I am your anus, to bring vengeance and peace and all that shit upon you, etc."

Re:Bible: word of God (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43942175)

I have seen people like you parrot select quotes from the bible and taking them completely out of context.

I don't select them to take them completely out of context - I select them because they are hilariously funny! Research in psychology shows that humor is important for a person's well-being, so I guess that cracking oneself up is one of the ways in which the Bible can vastly improve a person's life.

If you read them within the context, they make more sense even to someone like you

That is extremely unlikely. For example, it eludes me how "context" could give any more sense to the claim that a transcendental being that supposedly created a universe with five hundred billion galaxies, each with more than a hundren million stars on average, takes great interest in whether or not a bronze age tribe of Semitic goat herders eats lobsters.

Once you accept god as your savior, you start to see the connections between the old and new testament.

A person with even an average sense for logical reasoning would rather have it the other way round: after demonstrating (perhaps through the logic of a convicing text that could be (but isn't) a part of the Bible) why particular claims to the supernatural should be preferred to alternative hypotheses and the null hypothesis, it is reasonable to accept the postulated savior. I don't see how doing it the other way round could possibly lead to a non-circular chain of reasoning.

Re:Bible: word of God (1)

dicobalt (1536225) | about a year ago | (#43941917)

I just want to rule over someone. Can I do that if I join your gang?

Re:Bible: word of God (4, Interesting)

The1stImmortal (1990110) | about a year ago | (#43942421)

I'm feeding a troll I'm sure - but I'm in a weird mood. So stuff it.

I love the circular reasoning in "The bible is the proven word of God. You really don't need any more proof than that." - so it's proven by the fact that it is proven. Hm. Rightio then.

Then there's a no-true-scotsman fallacy of if you've read it and don't believe it, then you've not really read it. Hm. Rightio then.

I'd love to understand why Bible believers think that, for non-believers, the Bible in particular is special?
Seriously - for someone who already doesn't believe in god(s), what would make them believe the Bible over the Torah, the Qur'an, the I Ching, the Guru Granth Sahib, the Principia Discordia or "There and Back Again" as a text of divine inspiration?

Finally - I have read the Bible several times. Fascinating read really (till you get to all the post-gospel stuff near the end to the new testament - I really don't care about early christians' "How are you doing over there then?" letters for example...)
But enlightenment did not come. Instead, the more I read the Bible the more I find it's just a curious collection of old folk tales and legends (old testament) combined with a dogma assembled by committee (new testament).
And Christians rarely live their lives strictly according to scripture btw. The average christian violates an awful lot of it whilst handwaving huge chunks as being "irrelevant" in the modern church (!). Which is fine if you accept that you're not living strictly according to the book. But don't pretend you are.

Finally - frankly, if it were written today the Bible would have a very rough time with censors. It's seriously lurid in parts. Incest, rape, slavery (both labour-based and sexual), extremely graphic violence, inciting racial hatreds... Much of which is presented as a good thing! It would probably be banned these days. I certainly will consider carefully when my son will be ready to understand the adult themes in the Bible for sure. I don't want to give him nightmares.

GW (3, Funny)

riverat1 (1048260) | about a year ago | (#43941589)

Hmm... I guess that means we just haven't been alarmist enough about global warming to bring the deniers over to the science side yet.

Re:GW (0)

PRMan (959735) | about a year ago | (#43941851)

What does "deniers" mean? Hasn't the pro side already "denied" global warming enough to rename it "climate change"? And people just deny that burning fossil fuels is the major contributor to this change (because it's been seen historically unrelated to the industrial age) and that the earth can't recover (since it has recovered from worse historically). Nobody denies that the readings are actually changing.

flying and turbulence (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941595)

I do this when I fly. I hate turbulence. As a professional scientist, when the plane starts bouncing, I think of 777 stress tests--how wings are flexed 30 feet at the end before they break, and how turbulence is jiggling us up and down on the 10ft level, when we're going forward hundreds of feet every second. There's a 747 cross-section/cutout in the British Transportation Museum that shows no metal stress after 30 years of service. Thinking of hard core science and its successes almost always calms me down.

Re:flying and turbulence (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43941807)

I hate turbulence too. But I remind myself of how many flights leave my airport every day and reach their destination safely.

Re:flying and turbulence (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year ago | (#43942373)

I find that weird. People seem to be often fond of adrenaline sports, and many adrenaline sports are more risky than flying in a turbulence. Why not simply lay back and enjoy it?

Re:flying and turbulence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942401)

I do.

It would be interesting, if tricky... (3)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43941619)

I'd be interested to see(though am at a loss for how one could...ethically...arrange such a test) whether you see the same thing in mortality-salience scenarios where it is explicitly clear that science won't help here, or whether that leads to a sharp jump in enthusiasm for something else.

Given the sheer scale of applied science's obvious successes(and, where applicable, the equally dramatic and unmistakable nature of its fuckups) it isn't a huge surprise that people would find some degree of belief in it almost inevitable. To do otherwise would be like trying to make it through a dinner party with the Hellenic pantheon without recourse to polytheism.

However, there are plenty of things that(while fundamentally amenable to scientific investigation) the answers available so far are incomplete and/or very bad news. I'm inclined to wonder if, in the face of this sort of 'failure' by science, people would skew in some other direction. Anecdotally, the steady trickle of terminal cancer cases and other incurables to the wacky and sometimes gruesome world of alt-med suggests yes; but anecdotes are more emotionally compelling than actually informative.

Re:It would be interesting, if tricky... (1)

sconeu (64226) | about a year ago | (#43941715)

I'd be interested to see(though am at a loss for how one could...ethically...arrange such a test) whether you see the same thing in mortality-salience scenarios where it is explicitly clear that science won't help here

You might be able to do so ethically with terminally ill patients.

Re:It would be interesting, if tricky... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942099)

We are already doing this test. Haven't you noticed that the older people get and the closer to death, the more likely they are to turn to God?

Belief in science? (5, Insightful)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#43941623)

WTF? The base of science is doubting everything - if you can't falsify a hypothesis, that hypothesis is outside the area of science.

Is this some insidious way to push towards the position that science and religion are both a matter of belief?

Re:Belief in science? (1)

ari_j (90255) | about a year ago | (#43941677)

Maybe the underlying point is that people, on average, rush to believe in something that they don't understand when they are under stress. For people who have rejected religious belief but do not understand science, it is natural that they would rush to "believe" in science. This is a well-understood phenomenon [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Belief in science? (4, Informative)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#43941685)

WTF? The base of science is doubting everything

Not doubting everything; there are a few assumptions held --- though they may seem so "obvious" that you don't even realize making them. For example, the assumption that the universe is somewhat "repeatable" and amenable to mathematical and logical description: if an experiment about one thing in one circumstance can't tell you anything about other things in other circumstances, then science is entirely useless.

Re:Belief in science? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#43941913)

WTF? The base of science is doubting everything

For example, the assumption that the universe is somewhat "repeatable" and amenable to mathematical and logical description: if an experiment about one thing in one circumstance can't tell you anything about other things in other circumstances, then science is entirely useless.

Quite a strong position. Here's some food [wikipedia.org] for thought:

G[eneral]R[elativity] predicts that gravitational waves travel at the speed of light. Many alternatives to GR say that gravitational waves travel faster than light. If true, this could result in failure of causality.

Re:Belief in science? (1)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#43941987)

Note that I didn't specifically say "causality," only "repeatability." Causality is a particular method for embedding repeatability and logical order in the universe, that so far seems to hold up awfully well. Scientifically contemplating the potential for non-causal structures doesn't mean discarding the notion that, whatever these post-GR theories are, they still produce testable/repeatable behavior in the universe.

Re:Belief in science? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#43942133)

Agreed. +1 insightful for detecting/setting into evidence the relevant difference. Thanks.

Re:Belief in science? (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43941689)

WTF? The base of science is doubting everything - if you can't falsify a hypothesis, that hypothesis is outside the area of science.

Is this some insidious way to push towards the position that science and religion are both a matter of belief?

'Science' as a method and body of accrued knowledge isn't a matter of belief(which is why it has a long history of getting shit done while lesser epistemology waves its hands at uncertainty or contentedly chews its own cud); but an individual's relation to that body of knowledge is, necessarily, largely a belief test:

Even a practicing scientist will have personally tested only a tiny area of the world, and read in any detail only a slightly larger one(at which point they are already trusting their colleagues to, on average, have neither fucked up nor falsified their figures). Outside that, they pretty much depend on others to do the work and hand them the results.

This is not to say that all flavors of belief are identical: believing in some result because you've been told that it was obtained by scientific means is a different thing than believing in some result because you've been told that a magical pixie delivered it directly in a vision; but nobody has even close to enough time to actually do empiricism on more than a tiny sliver of the world. At best, we can do our best to seek out information that is highly likely to be the result of other people doing empiricism, properly, and accept that until further notice.

Re:Belief in science? (1)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#43941811)

'Science' as a method and body of accrued knowledge isn't a matter of belief(which is why it has a long history of getting shit done while lesser epistemology waves its hands at uncertainty or contentedly chews its own cud);

The scientific method and accrued body of evidence do rely on some belief that the universe is reasonably repeatable/predictable; that it's worth some effort to, e.g., measure the orbits of planets and come up with mathematical laws describing them, because the planets won't suddenly switch from elliptical to square orbits, then turn into dancing giraffes, just to spite you. This belief continues to be born out by an ever-widening body of evidence, but technically it's still just a belief (with an impressive track record).

Re:Belief in science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941757)

Unless you are talking evolution in which case... it must be the 'Truth', can't be falsified. Find remains of hut in a region previously believed to never have been inhabited and they use it as proof that there must have been a previous inhabitant that they didn't know about... find a new species and they jump though hoops trying to explain how some complex series of completely random mutations lead to its existence. I suspect the odds of many early structures occurring naturally is a lot more likely than the odds of our being created purely by random mutations ( and the related 'natural selection' ), but rather than even considering any design and creator, they mock those that don't believe in our existence being pure chance.

Re:Belief in science? (1, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43942013)

If I insisted that there were three invisible planets orbiting the sun between Jupiter and Saturn, most people would think I was a crackpot.

If I insisted that there was an invisible being that spoke the whole universe into being, plus a lot of other invisible stuff like Heaven and souls, most people would think I knew what I was talking about.

Go figure...

Re:Belief in science? (1)

femtobyte (710429) | about a year ago | (#43942065)

People would ask how you could tell, but no-one else could, that the planets were there. The "Invisible Guy" hypothesis is supported by testimony from a large number of people, who consider themselves to have personally seen/felt/experienced/trusted Invisible Guy's actions. You may not believe a single word of that testimony --- and consider it a massive collective delusion --- but that does offer an explanation of why one stance (supported by testimony from a single person) is considered "crackpot," while another (supported by testimony from billions) is sometimes considered credible (especially by others who claim similar personal testimony).

Re:Belief in science? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941771)

Some people like to pretend that the 'faith' one must have in order to function well in the real world is just as bad as the faith one must have in order to believe in superstitious nonsense. And by "some people," I was referring to imbeciles. So don't be too surprised if you encounter such people in this very article.

Re:Belief in science? (1)

Aguazul2 (2591049) | about a year ago | (#43941877)

Unless you are willing to re-do all the important scientific experiments ever done yourself, then you have to trust that other people did them correctly and reported them correctly, and also if their reasoning is beyond you, that their reasoning was valid. So from a personal perspective, it requires trust and belief in the work of others. Actually, it is this same trust and belief which means that average scientists generally won't discover new things in unexpected places (unless by accident), because scientists throughout the ages have assumed that certain areas of science were 'explained' and didn't re-examine their assumptions (and how would they know which ones to re-examine, anyway?). That's why it often takes a maverick or genius or other unreasonable person to make a breakthrough. If there was no belief involved in science, then everybody would spend all day repeating known experiments to validate all the elements of science to themselves, but we know in practice that doesn't happen -- people build on the work of others without rigorously re-testing everything from first principles. However, if you consider all scientists as a kind of Borg mind, then there is no belief involved, because the Borg mind has proved everything to itself to its satisfaction. Perhaps you are talking about this level of abstraction.

Re:Belief in science? (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about a year ago | (#43942201)

Unless you are willing to re-do all the important scientific experiments ever done yourself, then you have to trust that other people did them correctly and reported them correctly, and also if their reasoning is beyond you, that their reasoning was valid. So from a personal perspective, it requires trust and belief in the work of others.

It requires trust, it does not require belief - there are two different things.

E.g. - you won't believe in your government, but you may trust it if the rules of the game are lowering the probability for it to cheat, without repeating the whole exercise of government yourself

Re:Belief in science? (-1, Troll)

PRMan (959735) | about a year ago | (#43941879)

Science IS a matter of belief, or at least what passes for science today. There is little proof that the dinosaurs died 65 (66?) million years ago, but it's been repeated enough that it's popular now (even won a popularity contest to "become" the truth). The amount of evidence is appallingly low for something so commonly held. And look at the Oort Cloud, which has no evidence at all. People believe in it because comets would otherwise make the Solar System too young for evolutionary processes, not because of the evidence for it.

Re:Belief in science? (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43942035)

There is little proof that the dinosaurs died 65 (66?) million years ago

No proof, but piles of evidence.

Let us know if you find a more reliable path to reality than evidence.

Re:Belief in science? (1)

Daetrin (576516) | about a year ago | (#43941891)

People can believe in anything, whether it's true or not. I believe if i drop something it will fall. I believe if i go to the local store i will be able to trade money for goods. I believe that the scientific method when followed with rigor produces reasonably accurate and occasionally very useful results.

Some people may believe in science on more of a "faith" basis, not understanding the process but accepting it based on results. Some people believe in religion because of faith. Some people believe in religion because of things they perceive as being caused by supernatural powers (things which scientists would generally credit to selection bias and other fallacies.) Some people believe in superstitions, and sometimes those people are otherwise effectively non-religious.

And some people believe that the moon is larger than the sun or other entirely incorrect facts, not because of any issue of faith, but because they're just uninformed.

Terror Managment Theory (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941635)

Textbook terror management theory results. It's a fairly interesting umbrella theory that has been found to encompass a good deal of human behavior. I don't know if there has been any empirical done through primates though.

http://www.tmt.missouri.edu/

social evolution (1)

wjcofkc (964165) | about a year ago | (#43941637)

Slowly but surely we slump along towards real progress with the human condition...

Although as a skeptic I do not take leaps of faith, and would like to see more than one study done. This is not an announcement of a fact, it is an announcement of the findings of a study.

"science"==religion (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941651)

"Science" (not science) is the new religion.

All you need to do is SAY something is science and people will blindly follow.

Re:"science"==religion (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#43941745)

"Science" (not science) is the new religion.

All you need to do is SAY something is science and people will blindly follow.

Ok. Send me money and you'll be happy. It's science.

Re:"science"==religion (1)

Dionysus (12737) | about a year ago | (#43941761)

That's OK, because American "Christians" have been pushing the idea that Christianity is not a religion (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5PH09hgb7DQ) for some strange reason

Re:"science"==religion (1)

PRMan (959735) | about a year ago | (#43941897)

They want to separate going through the motions from actually having a relationship with God where you talk to him. But it's overused to death and frankly gets annoying.

Atheism isn't for sissies (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941653)

I usually phrase it more diplomatically, but often people assume atheism is some sort of conscious cop-out to avoid all the hard morality that supposedly stems from religion. If the opening for discussion presents itself, I always soft-sell atheism on a negative note. Atheism offers shit for consolation on the issue of death. Friends, loved ones, family, parents, children, all of them are just gonna die and turn to dirt. That is a real shit sandwich atheism gives you right there, and there's a lot more where that came from. In this way I can steer the conversation in the direction of "People aren't atheists because they prefer not having to deal with religion, but just because they think it's the truth."

Frankly if I thought the idea of a sky-fairy running a magical kingdom keeping us all immortal forever was even remotely plausible, I'd convert yesterday. But, frankly, it ISN'T even remotely plausible, which is why I'm an atheist. Clearly some of the people in this article made the jump. Good for them. They get some consolation in their time of grief. Being right is overrated.

Re:Atheism isn't for sissies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942151)

Frankly if I thought the idea of a sky-fairy running a magical kingdom keeping us all immortal forever was even remotely plausible, I'd convert yesterday. But, frankly, it ISN'T even remotely plausible, which is why I'm an atheist. Clearly some of the people in this article made the jump. Good for them. They get some consolation in their time of grief. Being right is overrated.

Why is it not plausible? The universe is essentially infinite, or at least who the hell knows what is outside of our observable universe, we simply can't comprehend the concepts involved. Quantum mechanics offers up many things we can not explain. Including the possibility of multiple universes where we're all gods that can shoot lightening out of our fingers.

The only reason you think it's not plausible is because you're arrogant and think you know everything when in fact you know very little.

No atheists in foxholes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941669)

So, if the entire world embraced atheism, there would be no war? Sounds like match point to me.

So basically... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941719)

This article is about turning "science" into some new religion by trying to invoke the same thought processes that go into a religious belief but direct them at what we are calling "science" now.

The interesting thing about humans is the almost inherent need to fulfill the purpose of religion. Atheists love to pretend that they have "evolved" beyond this need and are some sort of superior form of life, but left to their own devices they go out and invent their own religions after not all that much time. They just don't admit that they are religions because they don't have the same trappings as the old religions and because they invoke sciency-sounding mantras to replace the old prayers.

"Scientific Worldview" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941731)

What on earth is the "scientific worldview"? The best I can come up with is that the world is as we observe it to be. This is not fixed in stone though, as we are constantly able to observe more and our conclusions change.

Thus, I'm not sure I understand how there can be a scientific worldview in the same sense as a worldview derived from religious dogma.

Re:"Scientific Worldview" (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43941849)

If I said it, I would mean "a world view based on evidence", as opposed to tradition, arbitrary assumptions, etc.

foxholes (5, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | about a year ago | (#43941741)

There are no atheists in foxholes,' the saying goes.

And it's a fucking stupid thing to say: The mere fact that they're in a foxhole shows that they're putting their faith in boring old non-supernatural dirt to save them, not in their god(s).

Re:foxholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942097)

It's also a fucking stupid thing to say that every theist believes that they have a predestined time to go and that they have no choice in the matter.
 
But you know... atheists understand everything the theists think and feel. Or so they try to shove their ideas on the matter down our throats.
 
Just another reason that fence sitters hate atheists just as much as theists. Neither one can keep their fucking mouths shut if God is mentioned, both of them will bore you to tears with their thoughts on the matter and both of them will hate you if you don't share their point of view.
 
Meh.

Re:foxholes (4, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | about a year ago | (#43942381)

I always thought that was a stupid analogy anyway. There are also no unsoiled underpants in foxholes. But very few people think that means we should all go around shitting our pants on a regular basis.

Living by what your brain spews out under severe overstress doesn't make much sense. It's like using results from your computer that it calculated while you were zapping the motherboard with a Tesla coil.

Re:foxholes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942435)

You want to know who you won't find in a foxhole? A chaplain.

Think only when needed? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941783)

When forced, people think. Thats what this study shows. I find it disappointing that apparently lots of people don't have a working understanding of the world until they are required to have one by a situation.

This isn't a "turn to science", or "turn to religion" kind of thing. This is a "have a view about reality" kind of thing. Lots of people simply don't bother to maintain a self consistent view of reality, so they have to create on when needed, via science, religion, of what ever other excuse is convenient at the time. This has the benefit that they can make a different reality every time they need one.

Ever notice how many people claim to hold a view point that, when taken to its logical extremes makes no sense, and if confronted, suddenly they have different views? Thats how they do it. They exploit peoples tolerance of others views to have multiple conflicting views as convenient for them. They randomly force it on others (including their children) too.

People are very good at this. The people who weren't got killed off (or at least had extra problems) as various religions moves through their areas. Not only are the religions self inconsistent, but the many religions are also inconsistent with each-other, and actual reality. Interacting with people in these situations requires being able to understand their views. Yep, evolutionary selection for being able to harbor multiple conflicting view points.

So now we are left with this problem: a bunch of lazy people invent inconsistent realities on demand to answer all kinds of moral or otherwise challenging questions. This is really bad. People don't take time to think: you must put in a lot of work to build a self consistent model of reality on which to base your opinions. "Turning" to something when under pressure is a clear sign you don't have anything solid worked out.

So do you really want to first introspect your world view during a challenging time, or do you want to be ready, with a clear understanding when the challenge comes? Don't be one of those assholes who picks up religion so they can have easy answers for their kids: that is child abuse as far as I'm concerned, and it has long term downsides. Don't panic and turn to science or God because you might die. That is pathetic. If you are going to view the world a particular way, don't do it because of one pressing issue.

Re:Think only when needed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942041)

don't do it because of one pressing issue.

Whatever the latest crisis is, is all the space most of us have in our brains.

Who fears death? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941815)

You know, I always wondered when I watched one of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies why they had Davy Jones (the wet one, not the Monkey) ask, "Do you fear death?". I mean, why the heck would I fear death? That just isn't something I would worry about. Now, I greatly fear suffering, paralysis, and things like that. Enough that I don't want to engage in dangerous things like base jumping. Not because I fear ceasing to exist. Because I fear I would still exist, but be paralyzed or in great pain for the rest of my life.

Death? Nothing to fear there.

Another false dichotomy (3, Insightful)

roca (43122) | about a year ago | (#43941821)

The abstract and the commentary imply the canard that faith in science and faith in religion must be at odds. This isn't the case in theory or practice. There is no philosophical incompatibility in believing that science and God both work, or even that God works through science. And in practice, most religious believers exhibit plenty of faith that science works and are comfortable with it.

Re:Another false dichotomy (1)

Khomar (529552) | about a year ago | (#43942277)

Absolutely. Actually, I believe that science works through God in that it is God who established and maintains the physical laws that we see. After all, where did they come from, and what keeps them running? So my faith in science is rooted in my faith in God and His faithfulness to keep the natural world around me running just like He did yesterday and the day before, etc. Science is therefore the study of God's faithfulness. He is so reliable that we can create formulas based upon it.

Re:Another false dichotomy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942391)

True. The only thing you lose is "miracles" - resurrections, staffs into snakes, that sort of thing. If you take the Bible to be a record of the stories a people told about themselves, then there is no real contradiction. If you take the Bible to be Revealed Text, then you've got a real problem with a scientific approach, and should probably abandon it.

Re:Another false dichotomy (1)

Jorgensen (313325) | about a year ago | (#43942419)

He is so reliable that we can create formulas based upon it

The formulas do not demonstrate the presense of any deities. They show the relationship between cause and effect; not a sign of a divine intelligence, love, hate, desire to be worshipped or any other attributes generally associated with deities. Basing a belief in a deity upon the laws of the universe as we understand them is non-sensical. So you need some other basis for bringing a deity into the picture.

If you argue that a deity created the universe to perfectly fit human believers then you fall foul of the Anthropic principle [wikipedia.org] . Even more so if any the multiverse theories are true.

Re:Another false dichotomy (1)

loneDreamer (1502073) | about a year ago | (#43942361)

It depends. Theism in general is not incompatible, but plenty of particulars from this religion or the other are not compatible with scientific knowledge and/or logic. So they are not complete opposites, but they are not orthogonal either. Hence much of the confusion.

And if science can't help... (1)

Chewbacon (797801) | about a year ago | (#43941857)

Then they'll go with a higher power. Seen it happen a lot in my job. They go with whatever is working best for them.

I've said it before (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941869)

And I'll point it out again. Watch how any believer reacts to the death of another believer. Do you see how happy they are that their loved one gets to enjoy heaven? Do they just shrug it off with a "No big deal, I'll be seeing them again soon."? Of course not. Show a believer a little death and watch all their beliefs fly out the window. They'll cry and mourn because they know their faith is false. If there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no believers at funerals.

Re:I've said it before (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#43942247)

What, you've never been sad to see a friend leave, even though you know you're going to see them again at an indefinite future time?

They'll cry and mourn because they know their faith is false.

You're assuming humans are purely rational - worse, you're assuming they're purely rational when it comes to handling emotions. They're not.

PS Atheist here.

WTF is "belief in science"? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941903)

So there is this process we use to help make predictions. Its called "science". It helps us form predictions that correlate with reality. Some people "believe" in it, I just use it. When I need to hammer in a nail, I use a tool: a hammer. When I need to make a prediction which I would like to correlate with reality, I use a tool: science.

Science is a tool: it helps you do specific kinds of things. It is useful.

This reminds me of my "creationism is useless" argument. Evolution helps you make predictions which correlate with reality. Its part of the science tool, and its very useful. Creationism does not help you make predictions that correlate with reality. Thus, its not useful in the scientific respect. Even if its true, its not science, so it should be taught in the department that covers that kind of thing (history) it you teach it at all. On the other side, evolution, even if incorrect, is useful science, and thus belongs in science classes.

We didn't stop teaching Newtonian mechanics because relative proved it wrong. They still make useful predictions that correlate with reality. Its still science, and we should still teach it, even-though we know its wrong.

Why does no one make that point? Maybe because they don't know what science is? (It would really suck to not to have science in my toolbox!)

Re:WTF is "belief in science"? (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year ago | (#43942267)

(It would really suck to not to have science in my toolbox!)

I leant my science to my brother when he needed to fix his supercollider. Jerk still hasn't given it back.

Evolution anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43941919)

After having been indoctrinated with the theory of evolution all throughout school, what do you expect!

Science vs religion: Prepare for boredom!! (4, Insightful)

drrilll (2593537) | about a year ago | (#43942033)

Seriously. I believe I have heard every single argument from either side about a thousand times, and that was just this morning. Agree to disagree already. Maybe find another hobby that isn't a complete waste of time. If I did happen to have an interest in someone's belief one way or the other, I would ask about it.

Re:Science vs religion: Prepare for boredom!! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942195)

Yep, leave the atheists out of this.

Now, as an anti-theist, I'll be the one to take issue with the religious folks: Just because a "religion" is a cult with public/government recognition does not make it not a cult. Religions are exploiting and corrupting the population. The prevent people from thinking for themselves. If you can't justify your morals without an arbitrary moral authority you only believe is right because you already believe it is right, you have a problem. If you also then spread this to other people, like your children, you are exploiting them. If you vote based on your religion/cult, you are hurting the country, and the world. If you fight for it, you are killing people, isn't that bad (or maybe its not, but at least think about it please).

I don't care if your religions are right or not, I care that they are making the world a worse place for the people I care about. Stop justifying actions via positive feedback belief loops. Its destructive.

If everyone got an unbiased opportunity to join or not, it would be better, but they don't. Its exploitation and entrapment. They are cults.

If you have a religion, you are a victim of the religion/cult. Because of this, you get some sympathy from me. I try to avoid targeting the victims, but still, if you are also in a moderately free country with access to education and still in a religion, you are a also a coward for not facing reality. If you help spread your religion, you are a plague. It may not be your fault, but its a problem for us all.

Wait... what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942153)

Someone writing a paper about death or an athlete preparing for a big race are on par with a guy in an active combat zone?
 
Am I missing something here? Or is this article trying to claim that given time to prepare that people suddenly become atheists because they embrace common sense science? And it's not that I'm honestly confused but I am baffled by how people think that the average Joe swings heavily to one side of the debate or the other.

Silly study is silly (1)

TangledTubes (2945183) | about a year ago | (#43942185)

- Sample population is "students and staff at a large university". Always the gold standard for representing everyone.
- Sample size for first experiment and the "significant" increase is 15%. The measurement method is a survey, of course. Confidence values? P-values? What are those?
- Study ignores an obvious bias in their selected group - they picked rowers preparing for a race! There's a lot of science involved (both fluid and human-physiological) in rowing efficiently. Of course they're biased towards science while prepping for a race.
- Second group "ponders death" by writing an essay. Unless a bad grade on the essay results in immediate execution (professor's fantasy), I don't think this counts as facing death.

Conclusion: Ironically, study glorifying science as a belief does a really poor job of controlling their variables scientifically or analyzing their data scientifically. Maybe it's not ironic since I kind of expect a study with a hypothesis this ridiculous to be done badly.

In seriousness: D'uh. "Believing" in science gets easier as the stacks of knowledge grow faster than our ability to consume it (and our lifespans aren't getting THAT much longer). When it's getting harder and harder to comprehend all of the new advances at once, "sufficiently advanced technology becomes indistinguishable from magic". Of course science as a belief is possible. Just look at Portal :D

Well DUH... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942311)

Of course it turns them into atheists...

What kind of rational person, with a human-centered concept of morality, wants to live their life with the feeling that they are going to be eternally accountable for everything that they do or even think?

It's far more comforting to live in blissful ignorance of anything that might lie in the hereafter than it is to be prepared for eternal accountability therein that we are ill equipped to explain or even comprehend.

God is real (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43942357)

Posting ac because I don't want to deal with the replies, just gonna put my experience out there, deride at your leisure.

God exists. You, me, us, all life, this planet/ galaxy/ universe (plus) is not an accidental smashup of mud and ice. A mix of Intelligent design and evolution, done by a 'master designer' who works in 'God time', not just billions of years.

Proof may not come in this life, though it might for certain individuals. God likes to be 'looked for'. (S)He is like a Dean of the highest college of learning, and we are here to learn, mostly how to love one another as God does us. And rarely see the Dean of a college, too busy handling the big stuff and lets underlings mostly run the show. But once in a while the Dean may show some special interest in a promising pupil who needs extra guidance, or can be 'used' by God to further the plan. Pay attention to any special dreams you have, that's one form of communication God and the spirits use to help us.

This life is like Kindergarden. If you live your life without hurting others, share your blocks, play nice with each other, you get to graduate to the '1st grade', whatever that is. There is a life after our mortal life here, live your life accordingly.

Peace. :)

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