Dualism is Unhealthy

No, seriously. (LINK)

“The fact that the simple priming procedures used in the studies had an immediate impact on health-related attitudes and behavior suggests that these procedures may eventually have profound implications for real-life problems. Interventions that reduce dualistic beliefs through priming could be one way to help promote healthier — or less self-damaging — behaviors in at-risk populations.”

About Matt DeStefano

Matt is pursuing his PhD in Philosophy at the University of Arizona.

  • George

    I love it when science confirms what I already suspected.

    And my body loves it too.

  • ctcss

    I hate to say it, but it just sounds like the authors were just talking to people who didn’t really think very deeply about things. As a believer, I was taught that thoughts and actions very much matter. Thus, it would not make much sense for a believer to say “I’m never going to pass through this town (or country), or see this person (or group) ever again in my life, so it doesn’t matter at all how I treat them.”

    It very much does matter, because whatever thoughts one harbors become part of one’s life. If I decide that being rude or unkind to anyone is acceptable behavior, I now have to deal with the fact that I am treasuring that kind of thinking and thus, am also treasuring the action that may stem from such thinking. However, if I refuse to value or entertain that kind of thinking, I am much less likely to commit the actions that stem from it, and would be much more likely to correct any inadvertent errors of that sort in my life.

    Likewise, if I consider that my thoughts affect both my physical life and other people’s physical lives, I am not likely to take a “Who cares, I won’t be around here or around them long, so why not do anything I feel like to myself or others” kind of attitude. If I am supposed to be loving and compassionate, then that motivating thought needs to apply across the board.

    “Love thy neighbor as thyself” would seem to preclude unkind thoughts and actions towards all. So dualistic or not, people should be concerned about the thoughts that they harbor.

    • http://secularoutpost.infidels.org/ Matt DeStefano

      Hi ctcss,

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I’m not sure that I’m understanding what part of the study you are objecting to. Are you saying that most people realize the effects of their beliefs in every-day life? Perhaps dualists actually *are* aware of the impact of their dualism?

      If so, I wonder how you would explain the results. While you say “it sounds like the authors were just talking to people who didn’t think deeply about things”, the results actually come from five related studies. It seems a bit suspect to discount a whole range of studies (or the population that participated in the studies) on the basis that it doesn’t fit with our own anecdotal experiences.

      • ctcss

        Thank you for your thoughtful response as well. Just to make things clear, I am not disputing what the authors of the study encountered. However, I am questioning whether dualism, per se, was the cause of it, or whether it was, instead, caused by less than thorough thinking about the dualistic beliefs embraced by the people being studied. That’s why I was bringing up the points that I did. I, as a Christian, should hypothetically share the same dualistic theology as some people in the study, but based on what I know of Jesus’ teachings, I am not inclined to think that the theology that Jesus taught is the cause of this problem.

        So, without having access to the actual study being cited, it sounds like the people who were selected as belonging to whatever dualist-believing groups the researchers chose to examine may also not have been thinking all that deeply about those beliefs. (Sadly, the lack of deep thinking on the part of people who have religious beliefs may be far too common. Then, it often seems that humans in general may not approach other serious topics all that deeply either, as in “Sarah Palin is a credible candidate for VP and I will certainly vote for her”.)

        I believe that the points that I brought up were valid observations regarding what it was that Jesus taught. So, if Christianity is considered to have a dualistic flavor to it, I find it hard to reconcile the studies’ conclusions regarding dualism, at least as far as Jesus’ teachings are concerned. But I could easily see people saying “I am of the X, Y, or Z group” and not actually understanding what it is that X, Y, or Z is all about. Thus, I am curious as to what it was that the chosen participants understood about their particular beliefs, just how deeply they had thought about them, how they resolved apparent conflicts contained within those beliefs, what they considered to be bedrock principles of their beliefs vs what might have been figurative teaching illustrations about the beliefs, how they would approach any particular set of tricky life situations using their beliefs as a guideline, etc.

        Basically, the studies may have a valid point to make, but they may be drawing an erroneous conclusion regarding the inherent dangers of dualism. The danger may actually lie with the various participants’ shallow thinking about their dualism-containing beliefs, rather than with dualism itself.

  • http://twitter.com/NewPilgrimProds Sarah Barker

    The science supports what one would presume is a no-brainer. If the body is inherently some arbitrary “lump of clay” that will return to dust upon death, and the mind will “return” home upon death, there is no impetus to care for the body or to explore what ancient Eastern traditions have known for some time – that the body and mind are intrinsically linked, and that one can master the mental experience if one can learn how to regulate one’s own “body”. Thus, the powers of meditation! Thanks for the great re-link, here!


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