Saturday, 16 January 2010

A brief history of 2009 - New research into belief and non-belief by Tom Rees

Humnaists4Science committee member Dr Tom Rees Epiphenom blog has been very active during 2009. Here are some of his highlights....

Happy (Gregorian) New Year everyone! Let's kick off with a traditional round-up - 2009 was a great year for new research into belief and non-belief, and here's some of the highlights!
The highlight for me was my own paper. This added to the growing body of evidence that social conditions - particularly ones that increase feelings of insecurity - are a major reason why people turn to religion. A paper from Greg Paul also showed a link between religion and societal ill health. The Global Peace Index for 2009 was published, and the countries with the most atheists also scored the best.
Brain scans. Neuroimaging studies are starting to get under the skin of religious beliefs, and several this year showed the religious beliefs seem to tap into the neural pathways used for everyday life. For example, one showed that praying to God is much the same as interacting with another human.
We also learned that God wants the same thing as you happen to want, and also that people seem to create god in their own image. Sam Harris and colleagues showed that religious brains work in a pretty similar way to non-religious brains.
What are the effects of religion? Well, research this year showed that religion acts like an antidepressant, reducing anxiety over mistakes. We got some insights into the link between religion and homophobia, and found that religious prompts make people more obedient.

More highlights from 2009

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