Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Science vs religion: the effect of education

Wed Jun 01, 2011 9:02 am by Aught3

A new sociological study of UCLA undergraduate students has been getting some play in the sceptical blogosphere. Since it relates to some previous blog posts I have written on the LoR I thought I would go through it. Basically, a UCLA organisation called the Spirituality in Higher Education Project (SHEP)1 surveyed the religious opinions of the first-year population on campus. They then followed up with another survey of juniors to identify opinions influenced by several years of higher eduction. The study in question (Scheitle, 2011) focuses on the students’ perception of the relationship between religion and science.

Students could choose between four options to describe their view on this relationship.

  1. Conflict – I consider myself on the side of religion
  2. Conflict – I consider myself on the side of science
  3. Independence – they refer to different aspects of reality
  4. Collaboration – each can be used to help support the other

Categories three and four were lumped together into a ‘non-conflict’ answer.

Of this sample 83% of the students were religious. Unsurprisingly then, this means that 86% of the respondents went with non-conflict (69%) or sided with religion (17%). That leaves 17% non-religious students, 14% of whom sided exclusively with science. Given the large proportion of Christians in the US and that most are not of the fundamental variety, meaning they will have their science and eat it too, this seems a fairly straight-forward result.

Interestingly by their junior year, 73% of those who had originally sided with religion had come to adopt a non-conflict or pro-science position. This shift perhaps reflects the secularising effect of education. However, 47% of those who had originally picked science had also shifted their position. Not as large of a percentage of those who changed from a pro-religion stand-point but a substantial proportion of students. Even when the researcher looked into the data for only science students, the moderating effect of education was still present. Apparently, learning more about science decreased the view that science and religion were in conflict.

What I would have liked to be able to look at is the detailed data for both the independence and collaboration viewpoints instead of having them lumped together in a single category. If it’s correct that more education promotes a more secular viewpoint I would expect to see the ‘independence’ category increase. Whereas if education was actually supporting religion, I would expect to see a growth in the number of students picking ‘collaboration’. With the data in their current form, it’s impossible to make such judgements.


  1. SHEP is funded by the Templeton foundation; any true sceptics will now hum the Jaws theme.

Scheitle, C. P. (2011) U.S. College Students’ Perception of Religion and Science: Conflict, Collaboration, or Independence? A Research Note. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 50(1), 175-186.

NASA Reveals Discovery of Arsenic-Using Life

Thu Dec 02, 2010 9:47 pm by AndroidAR

NASA has announced the discovery of microbes that can replace phosphorus with arsenic, which is toxic to all other known life forms. It can substitute arsenic for phosphorus in the (normally phosphoric) backbone of its DNA and RNA, in its cell membrane, and even in its ATP (adenosine triphosphate), which is a central energy-carrying molecule in all cells.

NASA’s release:

So, how do you think this will affect the search for life elsewhere? It might not be life on Titan (as some speculated the news release might be about), but it’s still pretty cool.

Forum topic for convenience:

Experiment time again

Sun Sep 26, 2010 4:22 pm by rabbitpirate

Yes, it is time for another ill-conceived and most likely fundamentally flawed online experiment to test something that in all likelihood no one else is remotely interested in other than me and which is presented with all the get up and go of a dead camel stung by a poisonous grave scorpion. Oh the fun. This time around we will be testing the pseudoscientific claim that by recording what we say and playing those messages backwards we can tell if someone is lying or not.


This strange claim is put forward by David Oates who runs an organisation called Reverse Speech Technologies. Reverse Speech is the idea that when we talk normally our subconscious minds encode messages into the words we choose that can only be identified by recording what we say and playing it backwards. These backwards messages are said to contain the true meaning of what we said as well as always speak the truth. Amongst the various uses for Reverse Speech Oates claims that Reverse Speech can be used to detect lies. Well them sound like fighting words to me and so I have put together a very simple experiment to test that claim. And that’s where you guys come in.


In order to test this claim I have put together a video, well technically two videos but who’s counting, that contains five statements, four of which are factual and one of which is a complete fabrication. After each statement is played you will hear it again only this time in reverse. If the claims of David Oates are accurate then you should be able to hear in the reverse versions of the five statements clues as to whether they are truthful or not. Once you have decided which of the five statements you believe is the false one then all you need to do is vote for that statement in the poll that you can access from a link in the information box below the second part of the video. Unlike my pervious experiment the results of how people have voted and the details of which statement is in fact the false one will be accessable immediately so you don’t have to sit around for ages waiting for me to make another video explaining how everything went.


Ok so it is not as sexy as testing psychic powers or debunking homeopathy, however as far as I can tell this is the very first time this specific pseudoscientific claim has been tested which means you will be a part of something no one has ever done before. To get involved, and I hope you will, go watch this video and simply follow the instructions you will find there. Sorry my video presentation is somewhat less than dynamic, that is really something I have to work on.


Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Sun Aug 08, 2010 1:09 pm by TheYoungAndRestless

I’m having a peculiar thought this morning.

After a few exchanges on message boards, I’ve been directed to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy more than once in the last few days. And, today, glancing through it, I’m left with a rather odd feeling. It’s not entirely one of having found a child with his hand in the cookie jar, but more the feeling that there some of the cookies are missing.

I direct the curious reader to a few articles and I will ask a few questions. Mind you, I cannot suggest anything more than to wonder if there isn’t anything more going on here.


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