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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pseudo-neuroscience: If you believe in God, it is just because you think you ARE God?

See the abstract for "Believers' estimates of God's beliefs are more egocentric than estimates of other people's beliefs" by Nicholas Epleya,1, Benjamin A. Conversea, Alexa Delboscb, George A. Monteleonec and John T. Cacioppoc:

Abstract

People often reason egocentrically about others' beliefs, using their own beliefs as an inductive guide. Correlational, experimental, and neuroimaging evidence suggests that people may be even more egocentric when reasoning about a religious agent's beliefs (e.g., God). In both nationally representative and more local samples, people's own beliefs on important social and ethical issues were consistently correlated more strongly with estimates of God's beliefs than with estimates of other people's beliefs (Studies 1–4). Manipulating people's beliefs similarly influenced estimates of God's beliefs but did not as consistently influence estimates of other people's beliefs (Studies 5 and 6). A final neuroimaging study demonstrated a clear convergence in neural activity when reasoning about one's own beliefs and God's beliefs, but clear divergences when reasoning about another person's beliefs (Study 7). In particular, reasoning about God's beliefs activated areas associated with self-referential thinking more so than did reasoning about another person's beliefs. Believers commonly use inferences about God's beliefs as a moral compass, but that compass appears especially dependent on one's own existing beliefs.
Well, obviously, people who believe in God would want to take God's side in ethical issues, right? Who wants to be merely on the neighbours' side (obsessed with property values) or on Satan's side ... (evil for the fun of it?).

The authors of this study, having begun by assuming that God does not exist, attempt to reason about why people conform their beliefs to what they think God wants, based purely on private preferences. That goes against everything I know about religious people.

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