Anyone engaged in education long enough will eventually encounter cheating in one form or another. Social psychologists have suggested that whether one believes in God or not has little bearing on moral behavior. A recent report in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion demonstrates that belief in God does not effect cheating by undergraduates. Among those that believe in God, however, those that believe in an angry, punishing God cheat less than those who believe in a loving, forgiving God. An explanation of the study may be found at Medicalexpress.com.
Someone's watching you
Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” it seems, is the bane of cheaters. The Great Awakening chased along the heels of a wrathful deity baying “believe or else!” Those believing in a nicer God are more apt to take liberties. The interesting corollary of this finding is that it does not divide believers along denominational lines but rather along personal outlooks on God’s kindliness. Nobel pagans and fearful believers share a strong moral center.
An informative follow-up would be a study to determine how many believe in a loving versus a wrathful God. From such data we might be able to extrapolate who is more likely to cheat on taxes, spouses, or any other big-ticket items in the economy of our society. Given the number of high profile spouse-cheatings among televangelists and Christian politicians, one thing seems clear: belief in a friendly God willing to look the other way is in no danger of extinction any time soon. Oh, and please keep your eyes on your own paper.
Posted in Current Events, Deities, Higher Education, Popular Culture, Posts
Tagged cheating, ethics, Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards, morality, psychology, televangelists
Science, religion, humanity. People are a conundrum. Medical professionals have the unenviable task of sorting out what is wrong with this jumble of organic biological systems and also attempting to address the uniquely human aspect of their subjects. As far as life forms go, although we may not be on top of the evolutionary ladder, we are suitably, impressively complex. We haven’t yet sorted out how mental states figure into physical processes: a number of cases of “faith healing” seem to have been verified, but the mechanism remains unknown. Praying has been demonstrated to improve some physical conditions with the believer saying God is doing the work and the skeptic suggesting it is the healing aspect of our own minds. How do you treat a creature that may not even agree with you on the ground-rules?
A story in yesterday’s New Jersey Star-Ledger revealed that New Jersey hospitals are experimenting with human subjects. The subjects, however, are doctors, not patients. In an effort to bring science and the humanities together, several hospitals are sponsoring reading groups for doctors. Like a garden-variety Oprah reading club, the physicians read a novel and discuss the human elements with each other. The theory is that it may help them understand the softer side of the science – how to touch the human reality of a field of study that has become very scientific. Specialists in the sciences and humanities have grown apart.
The humanities have long been assigned to the “less necessary” side of both university programs and the job market. Ironically, among those who are most famous in our pragmatic, make-a-buck world are musicians, actors, film-makers, best-selling novelists – in short, masters of one of the humanities. A darker side exists here as well; even celebrated humanities specialists can turn on one another. Contradictions and conflicts are part of human nature. Religion, one of the humanities, is a stellar example of the heights and depths of human behavior. As physicians attempt to discover what really makes us tick, reading novels is a good place to start. Attending religious services may be a bit more chancy, but like any human endeavor, one might get lucky and make a truly groundbreaking discovery. Did Rasputin write any novels?
Playing doctor, once upon a time.
Posted in Books, Current Events, Higher Education, Popular Culture, Posts, Science
Tagged education, faith healing, humanities, medicine, New Jersey Star-Ledger, Rasputin, religion and science
Shortly before Easter in the district of Yopougon in the Ivory Coast, a large group of Christians saw the Virgin Mary against the sun. UFO enthusiasts saw an alien in the same event. Several eyewitnesses ended up blind after staring into the sun. The video of this purported miracle is available on YouTube,
but even watching the “miracle” on a dim computer monitor hurt my eyes. If you want to see Mary, I suggest a good pair of Ray-Bans. The alleged vision occurs a couple of minutes into the video – let the audience reaction be your guide if you decide to watch. All that I saw was what may be categorized as an optical illusion or pareidolia, although it does look a bit like a walking person. Objective information on this miracle is decidedly lacking on the web.
I never pretend to have the answers on unexplained phenomena. I find human arrogance amazingly resilient despite all that we still don’t comprehend. In the midst of all that might exist out there in the 99.99 percent of the universe we haven’t explored, I remain skeptical that we know all there is to know. One thing is certain, however; if something unknown appears in the skies some will call it Mary, others Jesus, and yet others an angel. (Conspiracy theorists claim it is Project Bluebeam.) Religious belief and paranormal belief are close cousins. Both involve explaining something that science cannot yet comprehend. If the figure were moving any faster, I might be inclined to accept that it is Carl Lewis.
In an unrelated story, it seems that the Allen Telescope Array of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), Frank Drake and Paul Allen’s baby (anticipated by Carl Sagan), is being shut down. Earth-based governments are reassessing spending priorities and finding a cosmic big sibling who might help us out of our mess down here has become a luxury we can’t afford. ET may phone from home, but on this end the receiver will be off the hook.
Religions tend to bolster the self-importance of human beings. While I believe we are ethically and morally bound to help one another, I find it difficult to believe, when looking at the way governors are operating today (Christie one of Time’s 100 most important people? Christie eleison!) that Homo sapiens are anywhere near the top of the cosmic intelligence scale. I just hope that if it is Mary in the sky with sequins that she remembered to bring her SPF 2012 sunscreen along.
Posted in Astronomy, Current Events, Holidays, Just for Fun, Popular Culture, Posts, Science
Tagged Allen Telescope Array, ET, Frank Drake, Ivory Coast, pareidolia, Paul Allen, Project Bluebeam, SETI, UFOs, Virgin Mary, Yopougon
To pass yet another rainy Saturday, and to celebrate Earth Day, my family went to watch Disney’s African Cats yesterday. An avowed nature-film junkie as a child, I watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on a weekly basis and have supplemented that fare with nature films throughout my life, when possible. It disheartened me a little to learn that some of the adventures were spliced together from different filmings, but I always believed every word avuncular Marlin Perkins said. After all, the show ran on Sunday nights, and who’d dare lie on a Sunday? Noting the humor even as a child when Marlin Perkins would stand back as Jim Fowler wrestled the anaconda or outran the crocodile, I could not get enough of authentic nature footage. As a child, wildlife sightings were limited to squirrels and rabbits, a number of birds that looked disconcertingly similar, and many, many bugs. Once a king snake slithered down an alley down the street, and we felt like Marlin Perkins, keeping our safe distance.
A trend in recent years has been to anthropomorphize animal films to engage children’s interests. So it was with African Cats. Each lion and cheetah family was described in human terms with human motivations, longings, and emotions. It is clear from watching many, many episodes of Zoboomafoo with my daughter (we even saw the Kratt Brothers live at a New Jersey Greenfest a couple years back) that animals genuinely do experience emotions. Anthropomorphizing them, however, has always disturbed me. I’ve been a vegetarian for well over a decade now, believing that animals have the same right not to be eaten that I fervently hope they respect in me. But placing them in the same level of consciousness as humans increases the suffering in our world a little too much. Both lions and cheetahs die in this G-rated movie. That is the unfeeling course of nature. Suffering comes at the level among humans of being aware of this misfortune, and taking it to heart. Theodicy is among the most intractable of theological problems.
Today as millions of Christians celebrate resurrection, my thoughts are with the animals. African Cats shows incredible footage of millions of wildebeest migrating, but packages them as mere prey for the hungry lions. What of the inner life of the wildebeest? In our society where the few lions demand the best while countless prey animals go about their daily grind, eking out a living from an unfeeling earth, the subtle message was almost overwhelming. Yes, the vast wildebeest herd can spare a member or two to predation. What if that member is you or me? It is the trick of numbers and the curse of consciousness. I respect and admire our animal co-inhabitants of our planet, but without the myth of resurrection isn’t giving them consciousness just a little bit too cruel?
James Temple's cheetah from Flickr, via WikiCommons
Posted in Animals, Cats, Consciousness, Holidays, Movies, Popular Culture, Posts
Tagged African Cats, Disney, Earth Day, Jim Fowler, Kratt Brothers, Marlin Perkins, Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom, theodicy, wildebeest, Zoboomafoo