Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Wow! A piece of psychological research that favours Christians!

In the report below, it was found that Calvinist Christians were more perceptive. But I doubt the speculative explanation of that given below. So let me meander towards what I think is a more likely explanation. I had a Calvinist upbringing myself, though not a strict one.

I suspect that the real explanation has something to do with the type of people who are capable of being Calvinists. There are a lot of restrictions inculcated (on gambling, alcohol etc.) in that and in other strict Protestant religions. But I took to it like a duck to water. I became a VERY strict Protestant in my teens. I suspect that I am a born Calvinist, even though I am an atheist these days. I still occasionally pop in to a service at my old church -- which was originally "Wee Free", a very strict sect (No dancing, no "graven images" etc.).

So I am inclined to think that you are to a considerable extent BORN a Calvinist (or some similar strict Protestant religion). Calvinists and other strict Protestants are perfectly at home with Matthew 7:14. Note that the word there is "strait", not "straight". Maybe I am still a dour old Calvinist at heart, though I do have rather a weakness for Mr. John Walker of Scotland these days. But I still don't gamble! Bottom line so far: It is a lot more demanding to be any sort of strict Protestant than to be an atheist and perhaps that shows up in a general mental superiority among strict Protestants. Heh!

In case my reasoning above seems obscure, let me offer an Irish contribution to the discussion: In Ireland they always ask (if they don't know you) whether you are a Protestant or a Catholic. And if you say that you are an atheist, they ask you: "But are you a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?" Which is a PERFECTLY reasonable enquiry. It is an enquiry about one's origins and background. I am a Protestant atheist, and delighted to be one.

The idea that there could be a genetic difference underlying religious differences will of course seem preposterous to many but, as revelations about genetic influence pile up in both the medical genetics and behaviour genetics literature, the more one tends to throw up one's hands and exclaim: "EVERYTHING is genetic"!. Read here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here just for starters. And note that among the research revelations is a strong genetic influence on political orientation. And there is in fact specific confirmation of a genetic influence on religion.

And if one looks at the distribution of religions in Europe, the Catholic/Protestant divide is still very largely a North/South one -- with the native populations of the most Northerly (Scandinavian) countries being something like 98% Protestant (though mainly nominally so these days). And there are also clear North/South racial differences. Inhabitants of Naples and inhabitants of Oslo tend to look and behave very differently. Clearly, genetics is not the whole of it but I am still inclined to the generalization that Protestantism is a form of Christianity that the Northern Europeans evolved to suit their own natural inclinations. Luther survived where Savonarola did not because Luther's surrounding population were immediately sympathetic to his views -- and that included his King (Frederick the wise of Saxony) -- who zealously protected Luther from all those who wished him ill. And in another largely Saxon country (England) the Lollards long preceded Henry VIII.

I write at great length about apparent Teutonic (Northern) psychological differences here
It might be cliched to say that religious people see the world differently, but new research finds that Dutch Calvinists notice embedded visual patterns quicker than their atheist compatriots.

Culture has long been known to distort visual perception, says Bernhard Hommel, a psychologist at Leiden University in the Netherlands who led the new study. For example, one previous experiment found that Asians tend to dart their eyes around a photograph, while North Americans fix on specific people. To see if religious differences might skew perception, Hommel's team tested 40 Dutch atheist and Calvinist university students, who, religion aside, had similar cultural backgrounds.

On a computer screen, Hommel's team showed participants a large triangle or square made of either smaller triangles or squares. The volunteers had to focus on either the big object or its component shapes, and indicate whether they were square or triangular. Both groups recognised the large shapes more quickly than small, embedded ones, but the Calvinists picked out the smaller shapes 30 milliseconds faster than atheists, on average - a small, but significant, difference.

This could reflect a greater focus on self than external distractions for Calvinists, says Hommel. He suggests it may even be a cognitive consequence of their religion and speculates that Calvinists might be more inward looking than atheists because they have lived their whole lives with an emphasis on minding their own business.

In the future, Hommel plans to give the same test to Catholics, as well as Muslims and Jews, but he must first figure out how to eliminate other cultural differences that could mask any insights. "It doesn't make any sense to compare Iranian Muslims with Dutch atheists," he says.

"This is a thought-provoking study," says Ara Norenzayan, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia. "Their finding is consistent with the literature on cross-cultural cognition - that cultural traditions involving independent view of the self, such as Calvinism, encourage a more feature-based processing style."




Once again I find conservative fundraising to be moronic. I clicked on the link to subscribe to National Review and what did I get? "Page not found"! I donate to a lot of conservative causes and I would say that about half of my attempts to donate fail to go through for one reason or another. Why are the advocates of capitalism such inefficient capitalists?

Stop the Presses! AP's Important Story: Obama Had Corned Beef Sandwich for Lunch: "Ya gotta hand it to them. The Associated Press knows how to cut out all the extraneous background noise and get right to the important issues of the day. Barack Obama will surely be in the center of the vortex of some of the most important decisions in the world during the next four years and even his preparations for taking office are vitally important as a marker to what he might do in office. There are wars and rumors of wars, disasters and relief efforts and historic decisions will soon be made. But no decision is so important, as the AP dutifully tells us, than the one of what the president elect had for lunch. The shocking, heartwarming and resolute decision the leader of the free world. no the leader of all mankind. made for his lunch was apparently a corned beef sandwich."

Obama and Government Job Creation: "Media sources seemed to be thrilled that Obama is promising to save or create millions of new jobs. The only problem is they seem to purposefully fail to mention that these will primarily be government jobs. The AP is typical of the style of reporting: "On Saturday, Obama announced his plan to save or create 2.5 million jobs by investing billions of dollars to rebuild roads and bridges, modernize schools and develop alternative energy sources and efficient cars. "These aren't just steps to pull ourselves out of this immediate crisis. These are the long-term investments in our economic future that have been ignored for far too long," Obama said in the weekly Democratic radio address. A video was available on Obama's transition Web site." Nowhere in the 14 paragraph article, is it mentioned that the jobs Obama plans to create are entirely in the public sector. But it's not limited to the AP. The Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, and NY Times described Obama's plan similarly to the AP, without mentioning that these were public sector, or government jobs."

Obama not strictly a socialist: "Accusing Obama of socialism is unwise for three reasons: 1) It's not true, and 2) it makes the accuser sound like an idiot, and 3) it distracts from Obama's true inclinations, which are worrisome enough... His biggest shortcoming is a common one in his party: the assumption that every problem can be solved by government intervention, and that if a little intervention is good, more is better.... This belt-and-suspenders approach reflects a familiar liberal vice: the insatiable urge to meddle. It's like the team owner offering the coach a generous new contract if he wins the championship -- and then dictating the starting lineup and the play selection for the entire season. It presumes that the government knows in advance the right mix of changes to achieve cleaner energy use at the lowest cost, which neither it nor Stephen Hawking nor anyone else does... Obama exhibits blithe confidence in the government's power to take economic problems and make them better. He will fare better if he keeps in mind its unbounded capacity to make things worse. For that you don't need socialism."

Hard Times For Lefty Peaceniks: "Mr Obama has moved quickly in the last 48 hours to get his cabinet team in place, unveiling a raft of heavyweight appointments, in addition to Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State. But his preference for General James Jones, a former Nato commander who backed John McCain, as his National Security Adviser and Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a supporter of the war, to run the Homeland Security department has dismayed many of his earliest supporters. The likelihood that Mr Obama will retain George W Bush's Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, has reinforced the notion that he will not aggressively pursue the radical withdrawal of all combat troops from Iraq over the next 16 months and engagement with rogue states that he has pledged. Chris Bowers of the influential OpenLeft.com blog complained: "That is, over all, a centre-right foreign policy team. I feel incredibly frustrated. Progressives are being entirely left out of Obama's major appointments so far.""

An unexpected change: "We should all let President-elect Obama have some honeymoon time, but that said, so far the sudden cessation in 'hope and change' that became part of the American mindset for two years is surreal, and one of the most remarkable developments in recent American political history. Obama's Clintonite appointments, his reliance on those well-known DC fixtures credentialed by Ivy League Law Schools, and his apparent backtracking on radical tax hikes on the "wealthy", instantaneous shut-down of Gitmo, prompt withdrawal from Iraq, and repeal of anti-terror legislation seem to have delighted conservatives, relieved that the Daily Kos and Huffington Post are not calling the shots."

Florida towing company owners charged with hundreds of felonies: "Towing company workers regularly took down the tow-away signs in a Boynton Beach parking lot to lure unsuspecting parkers, and then replaced the signs after they removed the cars, police said Friday. After a months-long investigation, police on Friday arrested the company owners, Debra Corti, 48, her son Leonard Corti, 30, and her daughter Jessica Corti, 26, on more than 500 charges, including 390 felonies..."

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have a somewhat different theory on this interesting matter: