Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Today's Headline: Truth Takes Effort

I was a bit worried this morning. I thought for a minute that according to the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, I shouldn't exist.

The article that reports this is titled "Science and God: An automatic opposition between ultimate explanations." Allow me to quote the abstract: "Science and religion have come into conflict repeatedly throughout history, and one simple reason for this is the two offer competing explanations for many of the same phenomena. We present evidence that the conflict between these two concepts can occur automatically, such that increasing the perceived value of one decreases the automatic evaluation of the other. ... Religion and science both have the potential to be ultimate explanations, and these findings suggest that this competition for explanatory space can create an automatic opposition in evaluations."

This study looked at how people evaluate explanations. If the scientific explanation was described with confidence, the subjects' confidence that God did it dropped. If the scientific explanation was described as poor, shot through with holes, and contradictory, the subjects' confidence that God did it raised. In short, He must increase, it must decrease ... or one cannot serve two masters, both God and Athena.

Well, not always. It just takes a bit of work, and I can indeed exist (whew). From the conclusions: "This is not to suggest that science and religion must always conflict, nor that one system of belief must necessarily be chosen over the other. But it may be that such reconciliations are only possible following mental effort exerted to overcome this initial opposition."

I'm fine with that, although that angle is not really reported when the study is described. This is mostly a "whatcha-gonna-do?" study that confirms what all of us already know: it takes effort to think about God and science (or to read one of my way-too-long posts on it!).

So maybe the God-science conflict can be associated with natural, carnal man? Something that the world conforms us to. Something that the spirit helps us to remodel when it transforms us.

Why is it surprising to anyone that finding the truth requires effort?

From what I can tell, this study did not ask its subjects to participate in evaluating the scientific data; it merely used science as an authority and told the people whether it was "good science" or "bad science." But science is not accepting authority (and neither really is listening to God, at least it's not listening to a researcher's authority!). Science, and listening to God, is a complex, iterative, and participatory process. And yes, it's hard. But the miracle is it's not too hard, not when we live and work together, listen to each other and listen to God, things start to come into focus.

"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."

This is one of the reasons why life is worthwhile.

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