Fraud may be rampant in science

Nicholas C. DiDonato

Medical fraud

Everyone loves cutting-edge science. The latest breakthroughs and insights into the physical world drive further innovation and fuel scientific enterprise. But what if they’re wrong? What if the scientists behind the latest and greatest breakthrough purposefully altered data only so that they could become the latest and greatest? Medical experts Ferric Fanga, (University of Washington School of Medicine), R. Steenc (Medical Communications Consultants), and Arturo Casadevall (Albert Einstein College of Medicine) discovered that 67.4% of biomedical and life-science journal retractions were due to misconduct – that is, deliberate number-fudging.

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Supernatural agents influence our social strategies

Ian Cooley

We’ve all had the experience of being spooked at some point in our lives. Maybe you were home at night when suddenly the power went out. In the dark, you became aware of something across the room, but you assured yourself that it was nothing. A moment later, however, there was no denying that the drapes were definitely moving. Of course, it was just a drafty window, but your lungs felt like they had just finished a marathon. This experience may have been the result of your mind’s predisposal toward perceiving other conscious entities in your environment; a recent research article suggests that we’re naturally inclined to attribute supernatural beings who have information about our private social knowledge.

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Forgiveness may affect longevity, health

David Rohr

From the mythical fountain of youth to modern cryogenics, the desire to extend our lives runs deep in the human psyche. Peruse any magazine stand and you’re likely to find a dozen ways to maximize your stay on planet Earth. Some are obvious: eat healthy, exercise, and don’t abuse yourself with drugs and alcohol. Other solutions are a bit more surprising: drink green tea, eat dark chocolate, and own a pet or two. Even more counterintuitive (and perhaps less self-congratulatory) than enjoying chocolate, a recent study suggests that longevity is also linked to your readiness to forgive those who harm you.

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Religious conservatism may be driven by the disgust response

Connor Wood

In today’s culture wars, religion plays a major role. And in the United States, it often seems to fall on the conservative side of the spectrum. For example, you hardly ever see rowdy hordes of secularists protesting against immigrants or gays, do you? Decades of research has confirmed that religion is correlated with mistrust of outsiders, sexual minorities, and other common targets of prejudice. But why? A new research paper has a fascinating, if unsettling, answer: conservative religiosity is partly an expression of our bodies’ need to protect against disease and germs – and throughout history, nothing has been a bigger source of new diseases than outsiders.

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Are autistics less religious? Yes.

Connor Wood

Autism

Religion is often characterized as a human universal – researchers claim that nearly every society  boasts some form of religious belief. But it’s also no secret that individual people often vary dramatically in their levels of religious belief. You might be a Bible-believing Christian, while your neighbor – who speaks the same language, eats at the same pizzeria, and enjoys the same movies – is a dyed-in-the-wool atheist. So where do these religious differences come from? A new research paper claims that the answer might lie in people’s ability – or lack thereof – to imagine the mental states of others.

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Creation and science: An interview with Karl Giberson

Connor Wood

Recently on this blog, I reviewed physicist Karl Giberson’s new book, Seven Glorious Days: A Scientist Retells the Genesis Creation StoryThe book, featured this month in the Patheos Book Club, is an exercise in creative storytelling, but with a purpose: Giberson hopes to recast the traditional Judeo-Christian creation narrative in the context of modern cosmological and evolutionary theories. The resulting entwining of science and faith tries to make a scientific account of the origins and trajectory of the universe more palatable to young, religiously involved readers – many of whom may be apprehensive of losing their faith as they learn more about science. I definitely support the aims of Giberson’s project, but we found some  areas of disagreement. Below is an interview I conducted with Giberson as a follow-up to my review of his book.

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Patheos Book Discussion: Seven Glorious Days

Seven Glorious Days

Connor Wood

This post is part of a reflection series on the new book Seven Glorious Days, by Karl W. Giberson, at the Patheos Book Club.

In a famous essay entitled “The Effectiveness of Symbols,” the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss quietly made a claim that ought to be central to every thinking person’s understanding of religion. The claim was this: religious experience – in this case, an encounter with a South American shaman – fundamentally forces the experiencer into a confrontation with the parts of life that don’t work. Suffering, absurdity, a bloody breach birth: without the help of the spirits, we turn our heads away from these little catastrophes, and the result is that they proliferate around us like weeds. It takes the gods to jerk our heads back towards the troubles at hand, to confront them directly.

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Not conservatives, but religious people, more charitable

Nicholas C. DiDonato

Donation

Despite the stereotype that conservatives couldn’t care less about the poor, research in the last decade indicates that they actually donate more to charities than political liberals (in America at least). This result has led some scholars to believe that political conservatism correlates with generosity. However, as sociologists Brandon Vaidyanathan, Christian Smith (both University of Notre Dame), and Jonathan Hill (Calvin College) argue, once religion factors into the equation, religion completely accounts for the political difference. That is, religiosity, not political conservatism, correlates with generosity.

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Dalai Lama: We need ethics beyond religion

Ian Cooley

Global ethics

We’ve all experienced that haunting sensation of dismay in the middle of the grocery store. Do you reach for the bottle of mustard now, or is that elderly woman near enough to notice that the bottle is not…gasp…organic!? Perplexed by a seemingly intractable moral dilemma, to whom do you turn? The philosophers are no help, of course (remember, we’re seeking clarity); the scientists, too cold and mechanical. Before reaching for the trusty assurances of your religion in such matters, however, a recent proposal made by the Dalai Lama may give you reason to reconsider.

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Where does religious doubt come from? The forebrain

Doubt

Connor Wood

You wake up one morning to a phone call. On the other end, a friend’s voice excitedly tells you that he knows where to find a leprechaun’s pot of gold in a nearby park. Do you want to come help him dig for it? If you are a normal person, you will roll your eyes, hang up, and (hopefully) go back to sleep. But according to new research from the University of Iowa, if you have damage to a specific area of your neocortex related to doubt and skepticism, you might jump up and start looking around for your shovel. And guess what – if so, you’re also more likely to be a religious fundamentalist.

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