Monday, September 09, 2013

Imposing Our Values Upon God and Science

  photo Ross_zps2f2f4acb.jpg
Lee D. Ross, Stanford Psychology Dept.

Two studies seem to suggest that Christians project their own social values onto God. Nicholas Epley fins that:

People often reason egocentrically about others’ beliefs, using
their own beliefs as an inductive guide. Correlational, experimen-
tal, and neuroimaging evidence suggests that people may be even
more egocentric when reasoning about a religious agent’s beliefs
(e.g., God). In both nationally representative and more local sam-
ples, people’s own beliefs on important social and ethical issues
beliefs than with estimates of other people’s beliefs (Studies 1–4).
Manipulating people’s beliefs similarly influenced estimates of
God’s beliefs but did not as consistently influence estimates of
other people’s beliefs (Studies 5 and 6). A final neuroimaging study
demonstrated a clear convergence in neural activity when reason-
ing about one’s own beliefs and God’s beliefs, but clear diver-
gences when reasoning about another person’s beliefs (Study 7).
In particular, reasoning about God’s beliefs activated areas asso-
ciated with self-referential thinking more so than did reasoning
about another person’s beliefs. Believers commonly use inferences
about God’s beliefs as a moral compass, but that compass appears
especially dependent on one’s own existing beliefs.[1]
 The other is by Lee D. Ross

The present study explores the dramatic projection of one’s own views onto those of Jesus among conservative and liberal American Christians. In a large-scale survey, the relevant views that each group attributed to a contemporary Jesus differed almost as much as their own views. Despite such dissonance-reducing projection, however, conservatives acknowledged the relevant discrepancy with regard to “fellowship” issues (e.g., taxation to reduce economic inequality and treatment of immigrants) and liberals acknowledged the relevant discrepancy with regard to “morality” issues (e.g., abortion and gay marriage). However, conservatives also claimed that a contemporary Jesus would be even more conservative than themselves on the former issues whereas liberals claimed that Jesus would be even more liberal than themselves on the latter issues. Further reducing potential dissonance, liberal and conservative Christians differed markedly in the types of issues they claimed to be more central to their faith. A concluding discussion considers the relationship between individual motivational processes and more social processes that may underlie the present findings, as well as implications for contemporary social and political conflict. [2]

This has led some atheists on message boards to advance these studies as proof of the illogical nature of Christianity. It reinforces the atheist's idea that if God did exist it would be impossible to understand what he wants. "So why should atheists (or anyone, for that matter) take theists seriously when theists talk about what God is like, what God wants, what God commands, etc., if theist's are just unconsciously using God as a sound-board for their own positions?."[3]

These studies are put over as a disproof of the veracity of Christian thought, but in reality they are nothing of the kind. They are actually making good points (not that I have evaluated their validity of studies). These are not points that undo the validity of Christian, far from they are points I've thought about deeply since the Reagan era. I think these are things God wants us to think about. We should understand that we have a tendency to project our social projects and our prejudices and our cultural constructs on to God. We should ask "how can we know the difference?" The problem is the atheists make assumptions about the ultimate inability to know God, from a position of unbelief. Thus they blind to the prospect that we can know God. We can understand the distinction between our own ideas and what God wants. We can know God and we can Know what God wants. Before going into that I want to make another argument: it doesn't invalidate Christianity in any way becuase it's certainly not unique to Christianity. It's very much in line with the sort of thing that marks humans as human. In every walk of life, in all politics, atheist are exception, it's an occupational hazard of being human.

The second researcher sited above, Lee Ross,  has another study that was conviently over looked. That study says that Objectivity is not a human characteristic and we all project our things onto others no matter who we are or what our world view.

Important asymmetries between self-perception and social perception arise from the simple fact that other people’s actions, judgments, and priorities sometimes differ from one’s own. This leads people not only to make more dispositional inferences about others than about themselves (E. E. Jones & R. E. Nisbett, 1972) but also to see others as more susceptible to a host of cognitive and motivational biases. Although this blind spot regarding one’s own biases may serve familiar self-enhancement motives, it is also a
product of the phenomenological stance of naive realism.It is exacerbated, furthermore, by people’s tendency to attach greater credence to their own introspections about potential influences on judgment and behavior than they attach to similar introspections by others. The authors review evidence, new and old, of this asymmetry and its underlying causes and discuss its relation to other psychological phenomena and to interpersonal and intergroup conflict.[4]
The Ross article quotes, right after the abstract:
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye but
considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
—Matthew 7:3 (King James Version)
The atheist stock in trade is objectivity. They like to employ the fortress of facts idea that they have the big pile of facts and objective thinking and religion is just subjective nonsense with no facts behind it. In fact, humans research according to their biases and objectivity is an illusion. The same criticisms being made of Christianity can also be made of atheism or any other "ism" or any other view point. In fact while this is put over as the triumph of scinece over Christianity it's actually good example of atheists imposing their own views upon scinece. Those who evoke these first two studies without being aware of Ross's second study are merely employing the fortress of facts strategy. Rather than seeking to ask himself "are we doing this ourselves" they are content to assume it's only Christians and thus fall prey to the same idea.

The more insightful theological types are very aware of the metaphorical and analogical nature of all religious language. God is beyond our understanding. We can't discuss directly what we get from religious experience because we get it at a subliminal level. We can only relate to it and discuss it when we filter it through cultural constructs. That's what give each tradition it's won unique character.

It's not less true of secular philosophy or ethics. We are imposing culturally constructed values on scinece. The book Leviathan and the Air Pump by Shapin and Shaffer proved this is the case in the making of modern scinece. All the brave talk about "objectivity" is just so much crap. we are not objective. Look at how afraid the atheists have been to read my studies. not one study have their read. they refused to look at Hood's chapter (Put it up 147 times 2 people looked at it one of them admitted he didn't understand it and the other claimed she did but she didn't). Objectivity on the part of humans is a joke and a propaganda device. Shapin and Shaffer prove that science is based upon political space.

Ross writes:

This familiar biblical quotation describes an age-old double
standard in the way people perceive themselves versus their peers.
We suspect that people not only are subject to this double standard
but also are inclined to believe that their peers are more subject to
it than they are themselves. In the present article, we argue that
people readily detect or infer a wide variety of biases in others
while denying such biases in themselves. We place this argument
in the larger context of theory and research on the relationship
between self-perception and social perception. In particular, the
ideas we advance can be seen as an extension of Jones and
Nisbett’s (1972) conceptual analysis of divergent actor– observer
attributions, with the focus of our analysis shifting from judgments
about traits to judgments about biase. [5]
Of course we as Christians We should be not only self aware but also self critical. We should have the guts and honesty to be brutal enough with ourselves to say "is this really what god wants or is it just me?" How do we know what God wants? Of cousre there is no magic assurance that we get it right. That's the whole point of  Grace. We seek to please God in our hearts and whatever is in the gap or the short coming is covered by God's grace. There's no great mystery about how to know God's will.We have to learn the teachings of Jesus and keep to understand them in terms of general principles then apply those principles to our own context, heuristically, culturally, personally. Where that becomes hard is where it gets int the way of our personal expectations and biases. It's not prejudice that stands in the way of following God but our expectations, what we personally want the way we have it all "cracked up." That's where applying the principles becomes difficult. James 4:3 tells us: "When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures." As the quote above reveals we need to put ourselves in the other guys shoes more often.

The only real "cure" requires diligence and strength but it is to spend time in prayer. The time we spend with God, imbibing of the divine presence and learning to know what is really God from what we want is the difference between maturity and immaturity.


[1]Nicholas Epley, et al, "Believer's estimates of God's beliefs are more egocentric than estimates of other people's beliefs." PDF
accessed 9/9/13
[2]Lee D. Ross, et al, "How Christians Reconcile thier Personal Political Views and Teachings of their faith: Projection as a means of dissonance of Reduction." PDF, Department of Pschology Standford University.
accessed 9/9/13
[3] A poster on a message board. accessed 9/9/13
[4] Lee D. Ross, Thomas Gilvoich. "Objetivity is in the Eye of the Beholder: Divergent Perceptions of Bias In Self Verus Others. " PDF  accessed 9/9/13.
Thomas Gilvoich is at Cornell University.
[5] Ibid.

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