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Researchers find how engagement with science can promote unbelief or beliefs about God

Most of the Americans think that religion and science are not compatible however a recent study suggests that proper scientific engagement can help in promoting belief in God. A team of researchers from the Psychology Department of Arizona State University have found that scientific information can actually invoke a feeling of awe leading to belief in abstract views of God. The work has been published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Kathryn Johnson, an associate research professor at ASU and also the lead author on the paper said that there are several ways of thinking about God. Some people view God in DNA, some view it in the grandeur of the universe and some think of God as described by the Bible. Scientists wanted to find out if scientific engagements created an impact on the beliefs of God’s existence. 

Jordan Moon, a coauthor on the paper and a psychology graduate student of ASU said that although science is viewed in terms of experiments and data, it might mean more to some people. Researchers studied two kinds of scientific engagement, logical thinking and experiencing a feeling of awe to find how people connected with science and what kind of impact it made on their faith in God. 

Participants were first surveyed about their interest in science, commitment to logical thinking and how often they felt awe. Commitment to logic was matched with unbelief. Participants who reported commitment to logic along with experience of awe or an overwhelming wonder leading to open-mindedness were more likely to believe in God. People reported their description of God as an abstract God who is mystical or limitless. This contradicts what is generally found in houses of worship. 

Johnson said that when people experience a feeling of awe upon knowing the vastness of the universe or complexity of life, they think in more spiritual terms. This feeling leads to more ways of conceptualizing God.

In another experiment, the participants engaged with science through videos. Hearing to a lecture on quantum physics led to agnosticism or unbelief whereas a music video on the duality of matter made people experience a feeling of awe. People experiencing along such lines reported a belief in abstract God. 

Adam Cohen, a psychology professor and also the paper’s senior author said that many people think that science and religion cannot exist together. They often think about both science and religion in a very simplistic manner. Both of the fields, science and religion are big enough to accommodate each other. This work could expand the views of both science and religion. 

Journal Reference: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

Macro Wasp Nature

Studies find out wasps to be the first insect to employ logical deduction

It has been always considered that only those animals who have a complex nervous system can perform logical reasoning. However, researchers have found out that wasps can use logical deduction in their lives which makes them the first kind of invertebrates to do so. The study was published in the Royal Society Biology Letters journal.

The nature of reasoning is known as transitive inference and is performed by human beings easily. An example of it is to ascertain that A is greater than C if A is greater than B and B is greater than C.

Elizabeth Tibbetts, University of Michigan and the team of researchers took 40 paper wasps and placed them in a rectangular jar. Five colours corresponding to letters from A to E were used at different ends.

In the combinations, the colour which matched with the greater letter in the alphabet was assigned to give the wasps a shock if they stood on it.

In the beginning, the wasps were tested with the letters next to each other i.e A and B, B and C, C and D, D and E.

After a total of 10 trials were done, they were tested against the combinations B and D, A and E. So here they would have to use some logic to pass the test.

In total, around 65 percent of wasps were able to choose the correct option which is B over D. A quite similar amount also chose A over E, however, it had a lesser significance since in any combination A would never give shocks while E would always provide shocks.

Scientists think this quality may be present in the wasps due to the social structures in which they operate. Tibbetts commented that the wasps spend a lot of time in fights regarding the dominant rank and for that transitive inference is highly needed.

A similar test was performed with the honeybees but they failed to display such thinking processes. It may be due to the reason that honeybees do not have such hierarchies.

Tibbetts pointed out that even though the final conclusion of the logic is the same in wasps as it is in human beings, but the way the logic works might turn out to be different. It is true that for such conclusions, we humans use logic but as it is tested more in different animals, it is quite difficult to assume that they also use the same mechanisms as humans.

The learning in insects is relatively quick but they only manage to reach a modest level of performance.