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Science

Just Thinking About Science Triggers Moral Behavior 347

Posted by Soulskill
from the when-tempted-to-rob-a-bank,-ponder-orbital-mechanics dept.
ananyo writes "The association between science and morality is so ingrained that merely thinking about it can trigger more moral behavior, according to a study by researchers at the University of California Santa Barbara. The researchers hypothesized that there is a deep-seated perception of science as a moral pursuit — its emphasis on truth-seeking, impartiality and rationality privileges collective well-being above all else. The researchers conducted four separate studies to test this. In the first, participants read a vignette of a date-rape and were asked to rate the 'wrongness' of the offense before answering a questionnaire measuring their belief in science. Those reporting greater belief in science condemned the act more harshly. In the other three, participants primed with science-related words were more altruistic."
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Just Thinking About Science Triggers Moral Behavior

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  • I hypothesize.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jmc23 (2353706) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:20PM (#44688771) Journal
    that these researchers falsified this study to detract attention from all their previously falsified studies.
    • Plus this study doesn't explain evil mad scientists! What about those who use science to achieve world domination?

  • John Nash, and his Game Theory.

  • by mveloso (325617) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:27PM (#44688853)

    Note: Psychological studies performed on US undergraduates generally don't apply to humans in general.

    http://lesswrong.com/lw/17x/beware_of_weird_psychological_samples/ [lesswrong.com]

    Remembering the people who were Psych majors in school, I'd say that they probably were the least representative sample of humanity possible.

  • by Drethon (1445051) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:27PM (#44688857)
    Usually when I think of science I think of blowing stuff up...
  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:30PM (#44688903)

    Simply using scientific language isn't exactly science. It could rather be going after specificity. If you prime me with a bunch of IF/THEN TRUE/FALSE terms and then ask if something is wrong I'm going to be more inclined to give a more literal and less nuanced opinion.

    For example, is it wrong to feed the bears? Of course it is... its against the rules, encourages the bears to see humans as a food source, and makes them less inclined to gather food from the wild. So... its wrong. But at the same time its not especially immoral.

    If you prime me with true false information I'll just say its wrong. But if you expand the point there might be more going on there.

    I don't think science has anything especially to do with morality. It does have a great deal to do with truth seeking but its truth seeking for its own sake and not some higher calling. That is not to say scientist are not moral people or that they're not helping humanity. Merely that there is no causal link between morality and science.

    • A fed bear is a dead bear!
    • by Hatta (162192)

      For example, is it wrong to feed the bears? Of course it is... its against the rules, encourages the bears to see humans as a food source, and makes them less inclined to gather food from the wild. So... its wrong. But at the same time its not especially immoral.

      What exactly do you mean? You just described all the reasons why it is immoral to feed wild bears, and then said it wasn't immoral. What's your argument that it's not immoral?

      • Its a matter of perspective.

        Are pets wrong? Is it wrong to be nice to an animal? Bears are fairly intelligent so you could form all sorts of relationships with them.

        Take the difference between a circus and a zoo.

        The animals that perform tricks in zoos are generally held by many to be exploited animals that are abused for the amusement of an audience. While the "residents" of the zoo are considered humanely and well taken care of... but what does any of that really mean?

        Again, it can get very complicated dep

  • The pursuit about understanding can only go one way.

    Science is about truth.

    Faith can be about anything. Its make believe after all.
    • by Jmc23 (2353706)
      Except that science isn't about truth, it's about adequate descriptions to allow for control. The descriptions, while useful, are still make believe.

      Faith is actually about truth. Whether you choose to believe that 'truth' is another story.

  • by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @01:40PM (#44688983)

    The relationship between religiosity and intelligence is also intriguing and not too dissimilar in its foundations.

    Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religiosity_and_intelligence [wikipedia.org]

    No low IQ people are atheists. :D

    I guess that phenomenon is related to the current study on morals and beliefs in science.

    • by Nadaka (224565)

      There is a correlation between atheism and intelligence. But there are still plenty of idiotic atheists out there.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    scientists have above average morals.

    In other news, 90% of all people say they are above average drivers.

    • Actually, the fundamental reason these scientists conducted this study was to figure out why women wouldn't sleep with them.

    • In other news, 90% of all people say they are above average drivers.

      99% of all people have above the average number of eyes and fingers.
      Not all distributions are gaussian.

  • my thoughts certainly aren't moral ;-)

  • Scientists want to believe they are more moral, liberals want to believe they are more intelligent, etc etc etc and people exist to tell them what they want to hear. This is not news.

  • Seems right. After all, I know that thinking about religion makes me want to do evil and go out and kill people.
  • The association between religion and the belief that âoe I am pure and you are going to hellâ is so ingrained that merely thinking about it can trigger more immoral behavior, according to a study by researchers at the University of Kansas. The researchers hypothesized that there is a deep-seated perception that my religion makes me better then you â" its emphasis on myth-seeking, self-importance and irrationality privileges above all else. The researchers conducted four separate studies to te

  • Reeeeeeealy? Weapons research? (physical, chemical, biological, your choice) Profitizing common herbs into expensive medicines? Researching social engineering? Moral? You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • The study was published in March and was discussed here in March, with 315 comments: http://science.slashdot.org/story/13/03/30/1857216/does-scientific-literacy-make-people-more-ethical [slashdot.org]
  • An ideology / process by definition does not morals, aka amoral. Only scientists are moral.

    Science doesn't ask "Can we build nukes?" nor "Should we build nukes?" only _scientists_.

    • grammar fix: ... does not have morals ...

    • by c0d3g33k (102699)

      You're right of course, but your argument isn't particularly insightful, IMHO, because the distinction between people and things are understood by most people. That's why when people want to specifically refer to the ideology/process you label as just "Science" they use the name "Scientific Method". The term "Science" has different meanings, granted, but loosely seems to be shorthand for "scientific research done by scientists" (individually, in aggregate or all scientific activity as a whole). As such,

  • The problem today is that scientists can't do anything without acceptance from the moral masses. Want to cure cancer, you can, just don't you dare have a cage full of diseased mice in your lab because that is wrong. Want to cure genetic diseases, you can, just don't you dare try to use stem cells because some people consider that abortion. Want to solve world hunger, you can, just don't you dare splice a tomato gene with an eggplant. Want to prove the world is round, you can, just be respectful of those

    • The problem today is that scientists can't do anything without acceptance from the moral masses. Want to cure cancer, you can, just don't you dare have a cage full of diseased mice in your lab because that is wrong. Want to cure genetic diseases, you can, just don't you dare try to use stem cells because some people consider that abortion. Want to solve world hunger, you can, just don't you dare splice a tomato gene with an eggplant. Want to prove the world is round, you can, just be respectful of those that believe in 2000 years of lies and intolerance to truth.

      I agree there are obvious scientific research that is immoral and unacceptable, but the problem now is that if this study is a truthful indication of the state of scientific research today, then science will fail, and with it, our civilization will collapse.

      It is a common theory that the Roman Empire fell is because in essence stupid people out grew the ability for the intellects to solve their problems or improve social conditions. I'm afraid the trend is repeating. FUD is the new God.

      There has been a push during the last 50 years to de-emphasize the study of philosophy when pursuing degrees in college and universities. Many have put forth that the lack of basic understanding that comes from studying the great philosophers is what leads to the issues you point out for both scientists and the public. In short, what you are really asking is at what point is too much too much? Where does the line get drawn between moral and immoral? Science cannot answer that question, but philosophy can.

  • belief in science (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kruach aum (1934852) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @03:03PM (#44689931)
    The beauty of science is that you don't have to believe in it, in the sense of 'to believe' meaning 'to accept on someone else's authority.' I point this out because I have a feeling I would be ranked extremely highly on this 'belief in science' scale while I consider myself to not believe in science at all; the authority of science derives from empirical testing and reason, not belief.
    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885) on Tuesday August 27, 2013 @03:21PM (#44690139)

      The beauty of science is that you don't have to believe in it, in the sense of 'to believe' meaning 'to accept on someone else's authority.' I point this out because I have a feeling I would be ranked extremely highly on this 'belief in science' scale while I consider myself to not believe in science at all; the authority of science derives from empirical testing and reason, not belief.

      The beauty of science is that unless you have conducted the research yourself or performed the proofs yourself, you in fact are accepting things on someone else's authority. In philosophical parlance this is known as accepting the testimony of others. It holds true whether one relies on the testimony of learned scientists or religious leaders. In both cases, a belief system is created, codified, passed down and accepted by others.

      Unless one does the empirical testing for themself, they do not have first had knowledge of the phenomenon being tested but rely on the testimony of others. How do we know the earth revolves around the sun? Most of us have not down the equations or performed the experiments to prove it, we have excepted the testimony of others. Granted if enough experts testify to the same thing it adds credence to their testimony, but still, we are accepting something as true as an act of faith that the others are correct.

      As such, while science does involve empirical testing, its authority relies very much on the testimony of those who conduct that testing, in otherwords, belief. In the end, almost everything we "know" we don't actually know, but instead we believe - including where the authority of science comes from.

      Disclaimer: I am not saying scientific belief is the same as religious belief nor am I raising religious inquiry upto the level of scientific inquiry, so please do not go there.

    • by JakeBurn (2731457)

      Except that only works in theory and for very few people at that. For the vast majority of people, their faith in their fellow man leads to a 'belief' in things that are called science but far from it. Loving science is what has turned me into a very harsh critic of many so-called sciences. The more I read about carbon dating, and how little science is actually involved, the more I realized that most people who hate religion have just as much faith in their false beliefs.
      " the authority of science derives f

  • So what they are saying is that society has so emphasized science that its pursuit has taken on the trappings of an ideology.

  • The first gaping hole I see in the study is that the scientist did not also have a group of participants who fill out questionnaires and do word scrambles and whatnot using non-scientific words and concepts, and see if that also makes a difference in how the groups respond to the date-rape case.

    So they've only found evidence for half of their claim. They present no evidence that thinking about science, specifically, affects the subjects' morality more or less than does thinking about anything else.

    The more

  • It doesn't say science depends on morality or that science is inherently moral, immoral or amoral. It says that when people think 'scientifically' they tend to consider moral issues more often or in greater depth. That may because those understanding the scientific principles are also aware of the lack of inherent 'morality' in them. So they are motivated to think beyond the pure science.

  • Here's the first 2 lines of the conclusion synopsis: These studies demonstrated the morally normative effects of lay notions of science. Thinking about science leads individuals to endorse more stringent moral norms and exhibit more morally normative behavior.

    "lay notions of science" = shit people think might be scientific - for some people this includes homeopathy. For nearly everyone it includes some totally bogus nonsense.

    "exhibit more morally normative behavior" = behave more in accordance with mainstr

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