Study: Religious beliefs linked to poor understanding of physical world

I suppose you can file this under “things we already knew but now we have actual data that supports it.” A study published in Applied Cognitive Psychology found a link between religious beliefs and a poor understanding of the physical world around us.

This is consistent with what we would expect to see. In the past, when a phenomenon that couldn’t explained using known science at the time was observed, it was called a “miracle” or an “act of god.” As our knowledge of natural phenomenon grew, fewer and fewer things were attributed to the acts of a god, as we now had explanations for things that previously seemed to be supernatural.

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As Neil deGrasse Tyson eloquently explained back in 2011:

Does it mean, if you don’t understand something, and the community of physicists don’t understand it, that means God did it? Is that how you want to play this game? Because if it is, here’s a list of things in the past that the physicists at the time didn’t understand [and now we do understand] […]. If that’s how you want to invoke your evidence for God, then God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time moves on – so just be ready for that to happen, if that’s how you want to come at the problem.

And this study is right in line with that mindset. As the authors explained:

The results showed that supernatural beliefs correlated with all variables that were included, namely, with low systemizing, poor intuitive physics skills, poor mechanical ability, poor mental rotation, low school grades in mathematics and physics, poor common knowledge about physical and biological phenomena, intuitive and analytical thinking styles, and in particular, with assigning mentality to non‐mental phenomena. Regression analyses indicated that the strongest predictors of the beliefs were overall physical capability (a factor representing most physical skills, interests, and knowledge) and intuitive thinking style.

So, in other news: Water is wet. The sky is blue. The Earth is an oblate spheroid. The pope helps priests rape children. And the less you understand about the natural world, the more likely you are to believe in a god.

h/t Progressive Secular Humanist Examiner

Written by Dan Broadbent

Science Enthusiast. Atheist. Lover of cats.

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