Genuine Morality?

Jonathan Morgan

Begging handsWhat makes a good deed good?  Is it the motivation? If you help someone out just because your religion tells you to, does that taint your good act?  The social psychologist Will Gervais has a new article out that attempts to address these questions by testing people’s perceptions of good deeds.  What he found is baffling, and deeply revealing of our cultural bias.

In the experiment, Gervais is asking whether it makes a difference if someone does a good deed for religious reasons as opposed to other reasons.  Through an online survey site, like this one, Gervais gave people a set of stories about a protagonist, Brad.  Some participants read a scenario where Brad does a good deed for religious motivations (e.g. Brad gave $500 to charity after reading a tragic news story and thinking about his religious beliefs). A different set of people got stories where Brad gives $500 after reading the same tragic story and simply thinking about it.  And a final set read stories where Brad thought about his secular beliefs before donating.

After reading the vignettes, all participants are asked to rank the morality of Brad’s actions and to what degree he deserves praise.  Religiously motivated benevolence was perceived as less moral than both the neutral “just thinking about it,” and the secular motivation.  In other words, these judgments weren’t simply based on whether Brad acted in accordance with a belief system that encouraged altruism.  Instead there seemed to be something particular about religious motivations that make them seem less moral.

Subsequent experiments honed in on this difference and found that it was based on intentionality and responsibility.  By intentionality, Gervais is talking about whether people do a good deed for the deed itself or whether the action is a side effect of some other goal.  If the man paused to think about his religious beliefs, then his benevolence was viewed as a side effect.  If the guy thought about his secular worldview, then his good deed was viewed as an intentional goal, not a side effect.

Gervais measured responsibility by asking, “To what degree was Brad personally responsible for his actions?”  At first this seems like a silly question, but when Brad thought about his religious beliefs before acting, he was seen as less responsible for his actions.  As Gervais summarized, “religiously motivated actors are seen as less responsible for their good deed than are actors performing the identical good deeds for other reasons.”  In the final analysis, Gervais found that these perceptions of losing responsibility were the primary reason people also found religious motivations to reduce the morality of good deeds.

I don’t disagree with Gervais’ methods, analysis, or findings– it’s a pretty straightforward experiment and I can’t argue with the data.  But I’m baffled by people’s judgment!

First off, why would thinking about your religious beliefs make you less responsible for your actions? And why are secular beliefs given a special status such that you can be motivated by them without losing responsibility for your actions?

My sense is that we are all embedded in worldviews that guide a lot of our actions.  The food you eat, the clothes you wear to work, how you get to work, who you say hello to, and what you talk about (and with whom) – all of these things are primarily guided by our culture.  And thank goodness!  If we had to consciously think about everything we do, it’d be exhausting – we need communities and systems of belief that take care of some of those decisions.  Even more strongly – we don’t just need these systems, we’re always part of them.  Does that make us less responsible for these actions?

Of course not.

This negative association between responsibility and reliance on communities is built on the myth of a perfectly rational actor.  We want the purely objective person who isn’t swayed in their judgments by cultural norms or the expectations of others.* This person, the myth goes, would be truly free and responsible for their actions.  But don’t others always influence our actions?  Tying responsibility to an absence of influence seems absurd to me, if not downright dangerous.

Yet this seems to be the myth behind the second connection that Gervais uncovered: if religiously motivated people aren’t responsible for their actions, then they’re less moral.  What?!

Why should being part of a community that encourages you to do good things make your actions less moral than someone who decides on their own to do a good deed?  I’ll admit that being part of such a community makes it easier to act altruistically.  If I don’t want to give to charity, but I know my friends are giving and expect me to as well, then I’ll probably suck it up and give.  Is that still moral?

Apparently many people would say no.  Or at least call it less moral than if I decided to give because of my objective commitment to some secular standard.  But to me, that rational sort of commitment seems way more fragile than the felt obligations to a community.  On our own, we can rationalize our way out of doing pretty much anything that we don’t want to do.  But, if we’re bound to a community, then we’ll probably do those things even if we don’t want to.  I don’t know if that makes someone less moral, but I do know that it often makes for better neighbors.

 

*And for good reason– sometimes those culture norms can be pretty nasty.

The mountains don’t care

But sometimes they do

Jonathan Morgan

Moraine lakeIf you’re ever out in the Rockies, you’ll come across signs warning you about the dangers of the mountains.  These signs don’t beat around the bush– they directly let you know that “Mountains don’t care.”  And it’s true.  The weather doesn’t care that you forgot your raincoat.  Lightening isn’t going to discriminate between you and that boulder.  Heck, even that boulder doesn’t care enough to not twist your ankle or roll over your arm if you misjudge its balance.  The mountains don’t care.

But they’re also full of beauty.  And if you’re thirsty, those mountains are full of water– though you may want to bring iodine or a pump to kill off the germs.  If you’re hungry, they’re full of food– as long as you know what’s poisonous and what’s not.  And if you’re tired, you can find shelter among their slopes.  It won’t be as comfortable as a La-Z-Boy recliner, but it’ll keep the sun off your head and some of the rain off your back.  Before I run the risk of getting too poetic and sappy– my point is simply that the mountains also do care.

This is a microcosm for so many situations in our lives.  Sometimes life sucks: illness strikes at random; accidents happen; loved ones pass away; jobs are lost; opportunities disappear; war breaks out; injustice strikes at the core of your community.  But at the very same time, dear friends have new children; new relationships blossom; we receive random kindness; projects come to completion; strangers stand together for a common cause; or there’s just a really beautiful sunset.  We’re caught within the whole ambiguous mess.  The world doesn’t care.  The world cares.

Considering that this is a blog on a website that studies religion…well, you probably see where I’m going.  But I’m not trying to make any theological statement about the divine, and whether it cares or not.  Instead I’m struck by the capacity of religions, at their best, to hold these contradicting truths together.

The Hebrew Bible (or what Christians call the Old Testament) is full of laments about the staggering injustices of the world.  Yet it’s also full of amazing hymns of praise and awe.  These two voices are potently distilled in the Book of Job, a story about a devout and holy man, Job, who suffers every imaginable woe: his family dies, his fortune is lost, friends abandon him, and he even gets skin boils.  When he brings his anger before YHWH about this injustice, YHWH responds with an epic speech about the foundations of the earth and huge fish, which humbles, but also reassures, Job.

In the Bhagavad Gita, a famous Hindu scripture, the prince Arjuna is directly brought into the brutality of the world through his duty to fight and kill his relatives.  Yet, he’s simultaneously reassured by Krishna that it’s all okay– nothing is permanent in this world, everyone dies, but it’s not the true self that dies.  The true self, Atman, will never die.

In Buddhism, suffering is front and center as the First Noble Truth. Samsara – the cycle of birth, life, and death – is notoriously full of suffering.  Nirvana, as the liberation or salvation from this suffering, may seem like a handy solution to the problem. But Nagarjuna, one of the great Buddhist philosophers, taught that Samsara is Nirvana.  That’s confusing, and radical, and gets right to the heart of this tension.

Religious stories and teachings have a remarkable ability to face the ambiguity of existence.  The mountains care and they don’t care.  Life is suffering, and it’s also sublime. Great literature and artwork often face the same paradox of living.  But religion differs by also providing rituals and communities to help engage with that ambiguity– which is helpful, because the ambiguity isn’t going away.

Having the capacity to hold both truths at once is a deeply important virtue.  Without this virtue we risk falling to either side.  If the mountains simply don’t care, then despair’s the right response.  Or if they really do care, then we’re lead into some fantastical mania in which life is always on our side and even mountains will bend to serve us.  I suppose you could also just rule out both options and decide that the universe is just purely indifferent– but that position doesn’t seem to equip people to live very well.

I’m not dwelling on this capacity to hold ambiguity in order to simply applaud religion.  Instead, I want to highlight what’s lost if you treat religion as if it’s built out of propositional truths.

By “propositional truths” I’m talking about the sort of statements that are either true or false.  Water is made of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.  The core of the sun is nearly 16 million degrees Celsius.  The Hudson Valley was largely formed during the Taconic and Acadian orogenies.  These are propositional statements, and while a philosopher of science might debate with me, such statements are primarily true or false.

But how about the statement: Samsara is Nirvana?  It simply doesn’t make sense if you take it as a propositional truth.*  Something else is going on.  In the Book of Job, YHWH cares and doesn’t care about Job’s suffering.  If you demand that these are propositional truths, then they both can’t be true.

But if you listen to most contemporary debates about religion, they take it for granted that religion is built of propositions.  Creationists exemplify this tragedy by saying the book of Genesis is full of literal truths.  But even debates about the existence of God seem to depend on the assumption that this propositional quality of religion is its most important aspect.

If you force religious thought into that propositional framework, then it loses its capacity to handle the ambiguity of existence.  Instead it’s forced to pick sides.  This is tragic because it’s so rare to find symbols, stories, communities, and practices that bring us directly into that tension between the world’s indifference and concern.

If religion is primarily about truth-statements, then this tension is flattened into an irresolvable dilemma.  How can you choose only one side?  And, even more tragically, we lose the practices and thoughts that help carry us through the inevitable ambiguity of living.  The mountains don’t care and they care.

Either way, I’m going hiking.

*If you think it does make sense, you should check out some of Nagarjuna’s other writings (especially Mulamadhyamakakarika) where he uses four-way negations (which if you want to sound fancy is called a tetralemma) to undermine any tendency to think you have figured him out!

 

New Horizons in Religion and Health

Jonathan Morgan

Chiragh Dheli, New DelhiBeginning a blog-post with the words “cultural consonance” isn’t exactly click-bait.    But if you’re at all interested in the relationship between religion and health, then pay attention to this phrase.

In a variety of ways, religion and spirituality seem to be pretty good for your health.  Researchers explore this relationship in a variety of different ways. Actually, let me rephrase that, because “a variety” sounds too simplistic – what I really mean is that there are thousands and thousands of these studies out there.  Just check out this database!

Sorting through them all is a herculean task.  Sometimes they’re looking at mental health outcomes, where the intuitive connection is probably the strongest.  Other times they’re suggesting that spirituality helps people recover from surgery more quickly.  The various connections are substantiated well enough that the U.S. Army feels comfortable incorporating “spiritual fitness” as part of their Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program.

But, of course, these findings aren’t clean cut.  Researchers go back and forth about why this relationship might exist.  Is it the social support of a religious community or the comfort of religious beliefs?  Is there some underlying trait that supports both religiosity and health?  Or is it the coping strategies that come along with religious practices?  Like I said, sorting through all this is incredibly difficult.  And it’s made all the more difficult because of the relatively modest effects of the relationship. (For the statistically literate: if your research explains 20% of the variance, you’re ecstatic).

That brings us to cultural consonance.

The cognitive anthropologist, Craig Dressler, developed this concept as a fancy way to talk about how closely someone fits their community’s ideal.  For example, if you’re a hipster and you’ve got a cool beard, your dad’s old flannel, a sweet fixie, you only drink single origin coffee, or PBR, and you play in an experimental synth-pop band that you only nonchalantly care about (sorry guys, I had to pick someone to caricature), then you have pretty high levels of cultural consonance.  Not all cultural norms are so clearly articulated, but the idea is that we all have some sense of our community’s ideal behaviors and beliefs.

Dressler used this idea in his research to get at the psychological stress of falling outside of that norm.  (Just remember how stressful middle-school was!) And while we all may intuitively agree that it’s incredibly difficult when you don’t fit in, it’s notoriously challenging to model that relationship.  But cultural consonance provides a way to do just that, and Dressler has used the model to study how “social incongruence” can impact blood pressure, BMI, and various factors of psychological health.

The challenge of this tool is finding which cultural model is the most relevant to individuals.  For example, Dressler’s work in urban Brazil found that people’s consonance with a cultural model of the ideal family life was the best predictor of major depression.  But other times, perceived skin color, or national identity, or what food you eat provided the cultural standard by which people judged themselves.  And across the board, how closely people come to the standard also predicts many of their health outcomes.  You probably see where this is going.

The medical anthropologist, Francois Dengah, has been using cultural consonance as a tool to measure well-being among Brazilian Pentecostals, and his results are incredibly promising.  Remember above when I said researchers get excited about explaining 20% of the variance in their outcomes?  Dengah’s model is explaining 51% of the variance in psychological well-being!  That’s a level of explanation that you almost never find in the social sciences.

Dengah’s argument is complex, but it hinges on the ability to parse out the interlocking cultural models within which people live.  Among the community he’s studying, Brazilian Pentecostals, adherence to the ideal religious lifestyle seems to override all other cultural models.  For example, imagine you’re a member of the church but have a hard time experiencing the Holy Spirit, or haven’t converted your family (both part of the ideal model).  If this is the case, then even if you conform to the broader society’s ideals of success, like making lots of money, you’re still likely to experience some serious psychological stress.

In other words, the Pentecostal community is able to alter the perceived value of other cultural models.  In this case, conforming to those things “of the world” becomes radically less important to people who have bought in to the Pentecostal community’s ideal.*  And these differences in what people value impact their health.

This is a much more dynamic model than simply measuring church attendance or how many times someone prays.  Instead, it looks at these behaviors in light of the religious ecosystem that gives them meaning.  It also captures how religion can dramatically shift the way we orient ourselves towards broader cultural models: the influence of the ideal American dream loses its appeal if you join an ascetic community that encourages vows of poverty.

If we take all of this seriously, then perhaps the well-being that aligns with religiosity doesn’t come from any particular belief or any particular practice.  This research suggests that the reason religious people may be happier and healthier than the non-religious is because they fit into their cultures better than their secular counterparts.  If Dengah’s research is any indication, then how well we fit into our communities may be one of the best predictors of our health.  Furthermore, there may be particular communities that are able to overturn larger cultural ideals in favor of their own.

This isn’t a full-blown conclusion; research examining cultural consonance within religious groups is still in its infancy.  But, this tentative consequence would also explain why the positive relationship between religion and health unravels within European samples – being Pentecostal in Scandinavia would probably bring a fair amount of stress into your life!

Cultural consonance is the first tool I’ve found that provides a way to integrate beliefs and behaviors within their unique context and then compare all of this to health outcomes.  And if we have any hope of understanding the connection between religion and health, we need such a tool that is able to handle this much complexity in one fell swoop.

 

*It’s worth noting that there is no single Pentecostal ideal.  Some communites’ ideal (e.g., the prosperity gospel folks) may look very much like mainstream consumer success.

What if there were no God?

Jonathan Morgan

Chaos concept in the hand of a womanDon’t worry, this isn’t a post about why God doesn’t exist– frankly, those arguments are pretty boring.  Instead, this is a thought experiment. The results will say more about you than about the existence, or non-existence, of God.

However you conceive of God – whether as a creative impersonal force or as a loving being with goals and actions, or even as the abstract ground of being – imagine that God doesn’t exist.  What does the world look like without God?  How would your life change?

Often it’s difficult to say how God functions in your life, but by imagining the negative –by picturing the absence of God – those functions emerge more clearly.  A duo of psychologists asked a group of American Christians this very question, and the results were striking.

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Does religion influence how you see the world?

Jonathan Morgan

I’m not talking about whether you see the world as a good place full of meaning and purpose.  I’m talking about the details of your perception – what do you notice and what do you miss?  Researchers in psychology have argued for quite a while that culture can impact what you see in the world.  For example, check out the figure below.  Which line is longer?

 

Muller-Lyer Illusion

 

 

Did you say the top one?  Or were you trying to be sneaky and choose the bottom one?  Turns out, they’re the same size.  But the really interesting part of this illusion is that Europeans and Americans are more susceptible to it than people from other cultures.  Think about how strange that is.  There are various arguments about why this might be the case, but I’m not going to get into those here.  The important point is that culture can influence how we see the world.

So if we really want to know why people perceive the lines differently, then we should, in part, be looking at cultural groups (and probably looking at a more local level than nationality).  More recent research has argued that religion might be one of the important cultural influences on how we see the world.

взгляд вселеннойThe primary researchers working on this problem are cognitive psychologists from the Netherlands: Bernhard Hommel and Lorenza Colzato.  In a series of papers, they have argued that different religious practices and communities can lead to strong differences in thought and perception.

This comes out the most clearly in their study comparing perception across religious and non-religious groups in the Netherlands, Italy, and Israel.  For this study, they didn’t use the Muller-Lyer illusion, but instead used a test of how attuned people are to specific details of a picture.  It’s like a test of whether you’re more likely to see the forest or the trees.

Participants are presented with a large rectangle or square made up of smaller rectangles or squares.  This means you could have four different combinations: a big rectangle made of little squares, a big square made of little rectangles, a big square made of little squares, and a big rectangle made of little squares.  I know, that’s a little confusing.  But remember – it’s a test of whether you see details or the larger picture.  One of these four options appears on the screen, along with a cue to describe either the small shapes or the larger shape.  For example, up comes a big rectangle made of little squares and you’re asked: what shape are the little ones?

It sounds like a ridiculously easy test, and it is.  But if you analyze how long it takes people to respond, you get some interesting patterns.  In the Netherlands, atheists responded much faster to the larger shapes than the smaller shapes.  Dutch Calvinists, on the other hand, showed a preference for the smaller shapes. And among the Calvinists, the conservative Calvinists showed the strongest preference for detail.

That’s truly weird, cause this isn’t a conscious choice – people aren’t filtering their answers based on their ideas of who they are as religious or secular.  They’re just answering questions on this really easy test.  “Rectangle.  Rectangle.  Square.”  And the pattern that emerges shows a dramatic difference in whether people are attuned to the details of the picture or the global, holistic picture.  But it gets even weirder.

The pattern could be taken to argue that religion, specifically religious practices, train participants to pay close attention to detail.  If that’s the case, then religious people in other countries would show the same preference for detail.  Or the pattern may be explained, as Colzato and Hommel argue, since Calvinism specifically emphasizes individual responsibility and the Netherlands encourages a strict separation of private religious practices from public life.  So, is it religious practice or cultural setting that cause this difference in perception?

Colzato and Hommel’s research team addressed these questions by repeating the same experiment among Catholics in Italy and Orthodox Jews in Israel.  They argue that these religious cultures have similarly strict rules as Calvinism, but differ in their emphasis on social solidarity over personal responsibility.

And it turns out that in both Italy and Israel the trend flips.  Catholics and Orthodox Jews show a much higher preference for the larger, global, patterns than their secular counterparts.  So in the Netherlands, the religious folks showed an increased attention to detail, while in Italy and Israel, the religious participants paid more attention to the whole picture.

Of course, Calvinism, Catholicism, and Orthodox Judaism are different in many ways.  And as long as we’re thinking about confounds, the countries are pretty radically different too.  But Colzato and Hommel argue that the important difference is between an emphasis on individual responsibility in Calvinism and social solidarity in Orthodox Judaism and Catholicism.

This is part of their larger argument that an emphasis on individual responsibility or social solidarity will create nonconscious control parameters (a fancy phrase for the internalized rules telling us how to act in the world).  Religions provide a strong source for these internalized rules.  And as they guide our behavior in particular ways, the rules become reinforced.  Their findings are only correlational, so we can’t directly talking about religion causing this difference in perception.  But Colzato and Hommel argue that these implicit guidelines, given by religious communities, don’t just change how nice we are to strangers – they shape such basic things as how we see the world.  Given their evidence, they just might be right.

 

**Our sister website, ScienceOnReligion.org, has previously covered this research here and here.  Check them out for a different perspective.**

5 Ultimate Questions

Jonathan Morgan

RipHow and why is there something rather than nothing?  If that’s not an ultimate question, I don’t know what is.  It’s also the driving question of the philosopher and theologian Robert Cummings Neville’s latest, and most ambitious, opus.  This work, Ultimates, is not just ambitious in its question; it’s also incredibly ambitious in scope, as Neville looks at nearly every major religious tradition in depth.

The most surprising and refreshing part of this book is that it’s actually relevant to life.  This is incredibly rare within modern philosophy, which is all too often just weird, dense, abstract reflections on itself.  Instead, Neville dares to talk about goodness, beauty, and truth.  He dares to recognize value.  It’s crazy to have to call such a thing “daring,” but regrettably most of modern philosophy won’t touch these topics.  Best of all, Neville doesn’t just talk about how we actually live – he brings as much data to bear on the question as possible.  Like I said, it’s an ambitious book.

So of course I can’t cover the whole thing.  But here’s a snippet.  Given the way the cosmos is, Neville argues that there are “ultimate” questions that we can’t help but run up against.  They’re the problems that are inescapable – to opt out of answering them is itself an answer.  They’re also the sorts of problems that nearly all religions have built solutions to address. That’s not to say the solutions are all the same – they tend to range across the imaginable spectrum.  It’s simply to say that even radically different solutions are aimed at answering the same questions – the ultimate questions.

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Animals and Religion

Jonathan Morgan

Monkey yogaHow much evidence does it take to change our beliefs about the world?  Sometimes, when we don’t really care about the belief, it doesn’t take much evidence at all.  For example, say you like ducks and believe mallards are the most devoted of partners.  That’s a good belief- mallard marriages stay together about 91% of the time.  They’re more steadfast than American marriages, which along with the Nazca Boobie, split up 40% of the time.  And they’re way better than flamingoes, who break up 99% of the time.  BUT, your belief about mallards would be wrong because Albatrosses are 100% faithful.  They never break up.  In this case, unless you really, deeply believe in mallard fidelity, it probably didn’t take much to change your belief.

In other instances our beliefs are much more entrenched and therefore much harder to change.  Take, for example, our beliefs about intelligence.  You may not even think you have beliefs about intelligence, but just because they aren’t well articulated doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Think of someone you know is smart.  How do you know she’s smart?  Whatever criteria you thought of form part of your beliefs about intelligence.  How about when ants form bridges, is that a sign of intelligence or just a fluke of adaptation?  What about this wily honey badger?  The author Michael Pollan wrote a great article about the intense debates surrounding plant intelligence.

My point is that our beliefs about intelligence are like a complex net of largely unexpressed assumptions.  Evidence may change certain strands of that net, but in order to really change the belief one must look at the overall structure of that net.  You do that by asking- What do we really mean by intelligence?  That’s why it would take a large amount of evidence AND a philosophical shift to make scientists feel comfortable with a term like “plant intelligence.”

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Religion and Your Future Self

Jonathan Morgan

Woman looking to the futureConsider yourself in ten years.  What’ll you be like?  Will you be as funny, kind, or wise as you are now?  Now, as you’re thinking about yourself in 2024, consider one more thing- how connected do you feel to this version of yourself?  How real does she or he feel?

I know, it’s hard enough to imagine 2024, especially considering that in 2004 Lance Armstrong was winning his 6th Tour de France, a gallon of gas cost around $2, Colin Powell was resigning from his position as Secretary of State, and thefacebook.com was just being launched.  Who knows what 2024 will look like, but regardless of how sci-fi it might be- how strong does your connection to your future self feel?

It’s a weird question.  The obvious answer is very connected- “it’s me after all, how could I be anything but connected to myself?”  But think about how hard it is to keep new year’s resolutions or how easy it is to procrastinate.  These issues, which we all face, have lead psychologists and neuroscientists to explore the relationship between our present and future selves.  The converging opinion is that this connection is more tenuous than we initially assume.  But, it’s also widely agreed that we can do things to strengthen the connection.  And perhaps religion is one of those things.  But before speculating about how to fix the connection, it’s worth reviewing the research that says it’s in need of fixing in the first place.

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Statistics on Religion pt. V- Religion & Same-Sex Marriage

Hand holding a rising arrow, representing business growth.The religious landscape in America is changing dramatically.  I’ve written on this before, but the results remain surprising: over the past decade, the number of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated has doubled- rising from 8% in 2003 to 21% today.  Something is happening in the tides of public opinion on religion… but what is happening remains open for debate.  Why are these numbers rising so quickly?

A recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, a non-profit doing research on religion in American public life, has been tracking how opinions on same-sex marriage have impacted people’s religious affiliation.  From this survey it’d seem that same-sex marriage was a deciding factor for many people’s choice to leave their childhood religion.  But, as always, the relationship isn’t so cut and dry.

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Four ways to mess up a conversation between science and religion

Jonathan Morgan

Zen stones balance conceptSometimes I feel like the religion and science police – always patrolling for people messing up.  I don’t want to do that because, frankly, I’m all for making mistakes.  Any conversation that moves between science and religion is covering treacherous terrain.  The only way to do it is to occasionally misunderstand… and then hopefully, and respectfully, keep trying to correct those misconceptions.  So I’m really not trying to call people out just for messing up, but sometimes the mistakes are too obvious and disrespectful to not say anything – like David Barash’s recent articles on Buddhism and Biology.

Barash’s articles are an exploration of why Buddhism might be more hospitable to science than other religions.  Barash is trained as a biologist, but in these essays he reflects on (and distorts) the history of religion and science, discusses similarities between Buddhist philosophy and ideas from Biology, and then suggests a new way to understand the relationship between religion and science.  It’s a bit over-ambitious.

I’m assuming these essays are an effort to promote his recent book: Buddhist Biology: Ancient Eastern Wisdom Meets Modern Western Science.  They don’t make me want to buy his book (and the patronizing title doesn’t help either), but they do give us some great examples of what NOT to do if you’re going to work with religion and science.

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