In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and religion, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior

mohandasgandhi:

bbthity:

Paul K. Piffa, Daniel M. Stancatoa, Stéphane Côtéb, Rodolfo Mendoza-Dentona, Dacher Keltnera

Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.

“Ethics is subjective” anyway.

And that’s study # 5,023 with this conclusion….

underthemountainbunker:

image: bartcop.com
…
Why are Fox “News” viewers so misinformed? Is it them, or is it Fox?
So you’re a misinformed Fox “News” viewer — but why are you so misinformed? Turns out, it’s a little bit you (because you’re attracted to a source like Fox in the first place) and it’s a little bit of Fox itself — a political operation which pretends to be a news channel, purposely misleading it’s base viewers, telling you what you want to hear but not necessarily what you should know. In other words, you’re in your own little world of paranoia and incorrect beliefs because you like that world. 

The Science of Fox News: Why Its Viewers are the Most Misinformed – Authoritarian people have a stronger emotional need for an outlet like Fox, where they can find affirmation and escape factual challenges to their beliefs.
[…] When are people most likely to seek out self-affirming information? Hart found that they’re most vulnerable to selective exposure if they have defensive goals—for instance, being highly committed to a preexisting view, and especially a view that is tied to a person’s core values. Another defensive motivation identified in Hart’s study was closed-mindedness, which makes a great deal of sense. It is probably part of the definition of being closed-minded, or dogmatic, that you prefer to consume information that agrees with what you already believe.
So who’s closed-minded? Multiple studies have shown that political conservatives—e.g., Fox viewers–tend to have a higher need for closure. Indeed, this includes a group called right-wing authoritarians, who are increasingly prevalent in the Republican Party. This suggests they should also be more likely to select themselves into belief-affirming information streams, like Fox News or right-wing talk radio or the Drudge Report. Indeed, a number of research results support this idea.
[…] PIPA’s study of misinformation in the 2010 election didn’t just show that Fox News viewers were more misinformed than viewers of other channels. It also showed that watching more Fox made believing in nine separate political misperceptions morelikely. And that was a unique effect, unlike any observed with the other news channels that were studied. “With all of the other media outlets, the more exposed you were, the less likely you were to have misinformation,” explains PIPA’s director, political psychologist Steven Kull. “While with Fox, the more exposure you had, in most cases, the more misinformation you had. And that is really, in a way, the most powerful factor, because it strongly suggests they were actually getting the information from Fox.”
Indeed, this effect was even present in non-Republicans–another indicator that Fox is probably its cause. As Kull explains, “even if you’re a liberal Democrat, you are affected by the station.” If you watched Fox, you were more likely to believe the nine falsehoods, regardless of your political party affiliation.
[…] the Fox “effect” probably occurs both because the station churns out falsehoods that conservatives readily accept—falsehoods that may even seem convincing to some liberals on occasion—but also because conservatives are overwhelmingly inclined to choose to watch Fox to begin with.
At the same time, it’s important to note that they’re also disinclined to watch anything else… Continue reading…

It’s like a perpetual feedback loop of happy, Orwellian horseshit: Fox is anything but ‘fair and balanced,’ but as long as they tell you that’s what they are, you get to pretend that’s a valid description of your chosen news source.
If you’re happy knowing that about yourself, great. Just don’t be surprised or offended when your friends and loved ones won’t discuss issues with you anymore, or when they make the circling motion with their finger on the side of their head. As Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story.

underthemountainbunker:

image: bartcop.com

Why are Fox “News” viewers so misinformed? Is it them, or is it Fox?

So you’re a misinformed Fox “News” viewer — but why are you so misinformed? Turns out, it’s a little bit you (because you’re attracted to a source like Fox in the first place) and it’s a little bit of Fox itself — a political operation which pretends to be a news channel, purposely misleading it’s base viewers, telling you what you want to hear but not necessarily what you should know. In other words, you’re in your own little world of paranoia and incorrect beliefs because you like that world. 

The Science of Fox News: Why Its Viewers are the Most Misinformed – Authoritarian people have a stronger emotional need for an outlet like Fox, where they can find affirmation and escape factual challenges to their beliefs.

[…] When are people most likely to seek out self-affirming information? Hart found that they’re most vulnerable to selective exposure if they have defensive goals—for instance, being highly committed to a preexisting view, and especially a view that is tied to a person’s core values. Another defensive motivation identified in Hart’s study was closed-mindedness, which makes a great deal of sense. It is probably part of the definition of being closed-minded, or dogmatic, that you prefer to consume information that agrees with what you already believe.

So who’s closed-minded? Multiple studies have shown that political conservatives—e.g., Fox viewers–tend to have a higher need for closure. Indeed, this includes a group called right-wing authoritarians, who are increasingly prevalent in the Republican Party. This suggests they should also be more likely to select themselves into belief-affirming information streams, like Fox News or right-wing talk radio or the Drudge Report. Indeed, a number of research results support this idea.

[…] PIPA’s study of misinformation in the 2010 election didn’t just show that Fox News viewers were more misinformed than viewers of other channels. It also showed that watching more Fox made believing in nine separate political misperceptions morelikely. And that was a unique effect, unlike any observed with the other news channels that were studied. “With all of the other media outlets, the more exposed you were, the less likely you were to have misinformation,” explains PIPA’s director, political psychologist Steven Kull. “While with Fox, the more exposure you had, in most cases, the more misinformation you had. And that is really, in a way, the most powerful factor, because it strongly suggests they were actually getting the information from Fox.”

Indeed, this effect was even present in non-Republicans–another indicator that Fox is probably its cause. As Kull explains, “even if you’re a liberal Democrat, you are affected by the station.” If you watched Fox, you were more likely to believe the nine falsehoods, regardless of your political party affiliation.

[…] the Fox “effect” probably occurs both because the station churns out falsehoods that conservatives readily accept—falsehoods that may even seem convincing to some liberals on occasion—but also because conservatives are overwhelmingly inclined to choose to watch Fox to begin with.

At the same time, it’s important to note that they’re also disinclined to watch anything else… Continue reading…

It’s like a perpetual feedback loop of happy, Orwellian horseshit: Fox is anything but ‘fair and balanced,’ but as long as they tell you that’s what they are, you get to pretend that’s a valid description of your chosen news source.

If you’re happy knowing that about yourself, great. Just don’t be surprised or offended when your friends and loved ones won’t discuss issues with you anymore, or when they make the circling motion with their finger on the side of their head. As Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story.

The four different Gods that Americans worship:

A Baylor Study revealed that Americans have “two clear and distinct dimensions” in their beliefs about God:

Degree of God’s engagement: The extent to which God is directly and intimately involved in the life of each believer and in the lives of other humans.

Degree of God’s wrath: The extent by which God is angered by our sin and will punish us for our transgressions.

Since each of these dimensions can have a high or low value, the study talks in terms of Americans recognizing the existence of one out of four possible Gods:

Type A: Authoritarian God: (High engagement; high anger; believed in by 31.4% of the population.) God is viewed as being highly involved in each believer’s life. God guides believers to make proper decisions; God is responsible for major world events - tsunamis, etc; God is furious at human sinfulness and punishes sinners. Southerners; evangelicals; women; African Americans; persons with lower educational attainment and lower income, those who pray often and attend church frequently, and those who view God as a “he” tend to believe in this God more than the average American.

Type B: Benevolent God: (High engagement; low anger; believed in by 23% of the population.) As for Type A, God is active in everyone’s lives. But he is slow to anger and punish. Rather, he influences people positively. Mid-westerners, women, persons with lower educational attainment, lower income, who pray often and attend church frequently are more likely to believe in this God.

Type C: Critical God: (Low engagement; high anger; believed in by 16% of the population.) God does not interact much with the world. He is angered at sin but generally withholds punishment to be meted out in the afterlife. Easterners, men, persons with higher educational attainment, and persons with higher income are more likely than average to believe in this God.

Type D: Distant God: (Low engagement; low anger; believed in by 24.4% of the population.) This is similar to the God of the Deists: he is viewed as a cosmic force who created the universe and its natural laws. He is not involved much with the world and does not judge humans. West coasters, Roman Catholics, mainline Protestants, Jews, men, persons with higher educational attainment, and persons with higher income are more likely than average to believe in this God.

The remaining 5.2% of the population not included above are strong Atheists who reject the existence of God.

The study analyzed the effects of gender, race, age, education, income, region, church attendance, frequency of prayer, religious tradition, and interpretation of the Bible. They found some groups in which the majority believed in the Type A authoritarian God:

68.0% of Black Protestants,

60.8% of biblical literalists,

56.1% of those who believe that God is a “He”,

52.8% of African Americans,

54.8% of those who pray several times a day,

52.3% of evangelical Protestants, and

50.9% of those who attend church weekly,

There were no groups of adults in which a majority believed in one of the other three types of Gods.

Conclusions:

One might reach some shocking conclusions from the Baylor Religion Study:

Americans believe in four very different, incompatible conceptions of God.

Assuming that only one God actually exists, then

At least three of the God types listed above are false.

Most American adults believe in a type of God who is non-existent.

The vast majority of American adults base their belief in one of these four Gods — directly or indirectly — on the contents of the Hebrew Scriptures and Christian Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament and New Testament). Thus, it appears that either:

The Bible is ambiguous when it describes the nature of God.

Faith groups have been doing a poor job at education.

Prayer is obviously ineffective in assessing the nature of God. If it did work, then essentially all believers in God would quickly gravitate away from at least three of the four Gods to a more accurate viewpoint. This conclusion is in harmony with the results of a pilot study among this website’s visitors. That study showed that believers cannot assess the will of God through prayer.

Study: Marijuana Not Linked With Long Term Cognitive Impairment | TIME

The idea that “marijuana makes you dumb” has long been embodied in the stereotype of the slow, stupid stoner, seen in numerous Hollywood movies and TV comedies and going unquestioned by much of American culture. But a new study says no: the researchers followed nearly 2,000 young Australian adults for eight years and found that marijuana has little long-term effect on learning and memory— and any cognitive damage that does occur as a result of cannabis use is reversible. +

Latest White House Drug Strategy Report Affirms Our Government Has Virtually No Interest In Actually Studying Marijuana | NORML

July 12th, 2011 - The White House yesterday, with little fanfare, issued its annual (and long overdue) 2011 National Drug Control Strategy report.

As usual, the White House’s official justification for the ongoing multigenerational drug war was light on facts and heavy on rhetoric, particularly as it pertained to the federal government’s fixation with criminalizing cannabis. + 

Correlation Between Racism and Religiosity

So it was with great interest I came across a recent study, called “Why Don’t We Practice What We Preach? A Meta-Analytic Review of Religious Racism”, that examined racism and religiosity in America. This was a meta-study, which in fact took in data from 55 separate studies, which in turn collected information from 20,000+ mostly white, mostly Christian Americans.

Ghosts ‘All in the Mind’

Ghosts are the mind’s way of interpreting how the body reacts to certain surroundings, say UK psychologists.

A chill in the air, low-light conditions and even magnetic fields may trigger feelings that “a presence” is in a room - but that is all they are, feelings.

This explanation of ghosts is the result of a large study in which researchers led hundreds of volunteers around two of the UK’s supposedly most haunted locations - Hampton Court Palace, England, and the South Bridge Vaults in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Dr Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, and his colleagues say their work has thrown up some interesting data to suggest why so many people can be spooked in the same building but provides no evidence that ghosts are real.

Clustered experiences

In Hampton Court - alleged to contain the ghost of the executed Catherine Howard, 5th wife of Henry VIII - the volunteers were asked to face their fear. They had to record any unusual experiences, such as hearing footsteps, feeling cold or a presence in the room, as well as marking the location and intensity of the experience on a floor plan. Before this, candidates were also asked to reveal any prior knowledge of hauntings at the site. The researchers then examined the distribution of unusual experiences.

In a “normal” setting, you would expect the ghostly encounters to be evenly spaced, but in classic haunting, they would be clustered around certain places. The results were striking: participants did record a higher number of unusual experiences in the most classically haunted places of Hampton Court, areas such as the Georgian rooms and the Haunted Gallery.

Sensitive people

Making detailed measurements at each place, such as temperature, light intensity and room space, Dr Wiseman thinks that people are responding unconsciously to environmental cues and the general “spookiness” of their surroundings. He cites examples of mediums successfully indicating haunted areas of buildings with no prior knowledge of them.

Spiritualists interpret this as evidence that the ghosts are there, but another explanation is that the mediums are simply more sensitive to the environmental cues that result in haunted feelings - not sensitivity to the ghosts themselves.

Read More

Ghosts ‘All in the Mind’

Ghosts are the mind’s way of interpreting how the body reacts to certain surroundings, say UK psychologists.

A chill in the air, low-light conditions and even magnetic fields may trigger feelings that “a presence” is in a room - but that is all they are, feelings.

This explanation of ghosts is the result of a large study in which researchers led hundreds of volunteers around two of the UK’s supposedly most haunted locations - Hampton Court Palace, England, and the South Bridge Vaults in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Dr Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, and his colleagues say their work has thrown up some interesting data to suggest why so many people can be spooked in the same building but provides no evidence that ghosts are real.

Clustered experiences

In Hampton Court - alleged to contain the ghost of the executed Catherine Howard, 5th wife of Henry VIII - the volunteers were asked to face their fear. They had to record any unusual experiences, such as hearing footsteps, feeling cold or a presence in the room, as well as marking the location and intensity of the experience on a floor plan. Before this, candidates were also asked to reveal any prior knowledge of hauntings at the site. The researchers then examined the distribution of unusual experiences.

In a “normal” setting, you would expect the ghostly encounters to be evenly spaced, but in classic haunting, they would be clustered around certain places. The results were striking: participants did record a higher number of unusual experiences in the most classically haunted places of Hampton Court, areas such as the Georgian rooms and the Haunted Gallery.

Sensitive people

Making detailed measurements at each place, such as temperature, light intensity and room space, Dr Wiseman thinks that people are responding unconsciously to environmental cues and the general “spookiness” of their surroundings. He cites examples of mediums successfully indicating haunted areas of buildings with no prior knowledge of them.

Spiritualists interpret this as evidence that the ghosts are there, but another explanation is that the mediums are simply more sensitive to the environmental cues that result in haunted feelings - not sensitivity to the ghosts themselves.

Read More