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Monthly Archives: May 2019

Immutable morality: Even God could not change some moral facts

Abstract

The idea that morality depends on God is a widely held belief. This belief entails that the moral “facts” could be otherwise because, in principle, God could change them. Yet, some moral propositions seem so obviously true (e.g., the immorality of killing someone just for pleasure) that it is hard to imagine how they could be otherwise. In two experiments, we investigated people’s intuitions about the immutability of moral facts. Participants judged whether it was even possible, or possible for God, to change moral, logical, and physical facts. In both experiments, people judged that altering some moral facts was impossible—not even God could turn morally wrong acts into morally right acts. Strikingly, people thought that God could make physically impossible and logically impossible events occur. These results demonstrate the strength of people’s metaethical commitments and shed light on the nature of morality and its centrality to thinking and reasoning.

Immutable morality: Even God could not change some moral facts

Euthyphro would be relieved.

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Posted by on May 30, 2019 in religion

 

Extreme male brain theory of autism confirmed in large new study – and no, it doesn’t mean autistic people lack empathy or are more ‘male’

https://theconversation.com/extreme-male-brain-theory-of-autism-confirmed-in-large-new-study-and-no-it-doesnt-mean-autistic-people-lack-empathy-or-are-more-male-106800

Two long-standing psychological theories – the empathising-systemising theory of sex differences and the extreme male brain theory of autism – have been confirmed by our new study, the largest of its kind to date. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, used data on almost 700,000 people in the UK to test the theories.

The first theory, known as the empathising-systemising theory of typical sex differences, posits that, on average, females will score higher on tests of empathy than males, and that, on average, males will score higher on tests of systemising than females.

Empathy is the drive to recognise another person’s state of mind and to respond to another person’s state of mind with an appropriate emotion. Systemising is the drive to analyse or build a system where a system is defined as anything that follows rules or patterns.

The second theory, known as the extreme male brain theory of autism, extends the empathising-systemising theory. It posits that autistic people will, on average, show a shift towards “masculinised” scores on measures of empathy and systemising. In other words, they will score below average on empathy tests, but score at least average, or even above average, on systemising tests.

The data on the almost 700,000 people in our study (including over 36,000 autistic people) came from an online survey carried out for the Channel 4 documentary, Are you autistic?Our analysis of this data robustly confirmed the predictions of these two theories

[…]

Beware of misinterpretations

The first misinterpretation is that the results mean that autistic people lack empathy, but this isn’t the case. Empathy has two major parts: cognitive empathy (being able to recognise what someone else is thinking or feeling) and affective empathy (having an appropriate emotional response to what someone else is thinking or feeling).

The evidence suggests that it is only the first aspect of empathy – also known as “theory of mind” – that autistic people on average struggle with. As a result, autistic people are not uncaring or cruel but are simply confused by other people. They don’t tend to hurt others, rather they avoid others.

They may miss the cues in someone’s facial expression or vocal intonation about how that person is feeling. Or they may have trouble putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, to imagine their thoughts. But when they are told that someone else is suffering, it upsets them and they are moved to want to help that person.

So autistic people do not lack empathy.

The second misinterpretation is that autistic people are hyper-male. Again, this is not the case. While our latest study shows that autistic people, on average, have a shift towards a masculinised profile of scores on empathy and systemising tests, they are not extreme males in terms of other typical sex differences. For example, they are not extremely aggressive, but tend to be gentle individuals.

So autistic people are not hyper-male in general.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2019 in cognitive science

 

Epistemic spillovers: Learning others’ political views reduces the ability to assess and use their expertise in nonpolitical domains

Abstract

On political questions, many people prefer to consult and learn from those whose political views are similar to their own, thus creating a risk of echo chambers or information cocoons. We test whether the tendency to prefer knowledge from the politically like-minded generalizes to domains that have nothing to do with politics, even when evidence indicates that politically like-minded people are less skilled in those domains than people with dissimilar political views. Participants had multiple opportunities to learn about others’ (1) political opinions and (2) ability to categorize geometric shapes. They then decided to whom to turn for advice when solving an incentivized shape categorization task. We find that participants falsely concluded that politically like-minded others were better at categorizing shapes and thus chose to hear from them. Participants were also more influenced by politically like-minded others, even when they had good reason not to be. These results replicate in two independent samples. The findings demonstrate that knowing about others’ political views interferes with the ability to learn about their competency in unrelated tasks, leading to suboptimal information-seeking decisions and errors in judgement. Our findings have implications for political polarization and social learning in the midst of political divisions.

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2019 in cognitive science

 

What Scientific Term Or Concept Ought To Be More Widely Known?

Coalitional Instincts

Every human—not excepting scientists—bears the whole stamp of the human condition. This includes evolved neural programs specialized for navigating the world of coalitions—teams, not groups. (Although the concept of coalitional instincts has emerged over recent decades, there is no mutually-agreed-upon term for this concept yet.) These programs enable us and induce us to form, maintain, join, support, recognize, defend, defect from, factionalize, exploit, resist, subordinate, distrust, dislike, oppose, and attack coalitions. Coalitions are sets of individuals interpreted by their members and/or by others as sharing a common abstract identity (including propensities to act as a unit, to defend joint interests, and to have shared mental states and other properties of a single human agent, such as status and prerogatives).

[…]

Coalition-mindedness makes everyone, including scientists, far stupider in coalitional collectivities than as individuals.

[…]

Moreover, to earn membership in a group you must send signals that clearly indicate that you differentially support it, compared to rival groups. Hence, optimal weighting of beliefs and communications in the individual mind will make it feel good to think and express content conforming to and flattering to one’s group’s shared beliefs and to attack and misrepresent rival groups. The more biased away from neutral truth, the better the communication functions to affirm coalitional identity, generating polarization in excess of actual policy disagreements. Communications of practical and functional truths are generally useless as differential signals, because any honest person might say them regardless of coalitional loyalty. In contrast, unusual, exaggerated beliefs—such as supernatural beliefs (e.g., god is three persons but also one person), alarmism, conspiracies, or hyperbolic comparisons—are unlikely to be said except as expressive of identity, because there is no external reality to motivate nonmembers to speak absurdities. (my emphasis)

Read more at Edge.org

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2019 in cognitive science

 

Is Nothing Sacred? Religion, Sex, and Reproductive Strategies

Abstract

Religion has often been conceptualized as a collection of beliefs, practices, and proscriptions that lift people’s thoughts and behaviors out of the metaphorical gutter of sex and selfishness toward lives full of meaning, contemplation, and community service. But religious beliefs and behaviors may serve selfish, sexual motivations in ways that are not always obvious or consciously intended. We review two lines of research illustrating nonobvious links between the mundane and the religious. First, contrary to long-held assumptions that religious upbringing causes sexually restrictive attitudes and behaviors, several large data sets now suggest a reverse causal arrow—people’s preferred mating strategies determining their attraction toward, or repulsion from, religion. Second, other recent findings suggest that distrust of nonreligious individuals is almost completely erased by knowledge that they are following a restricted monogamous lifestyle. Thus, reproductive strategies often underlie apparently sacred concerns. We close with a consideration of ways in which reproductive interests might underlie a broad range of benefits associated with religious affiliation.

Jordan W. Moon, Jaimie Arona Krems, Adam B. Cohen, Douglas T. Kenrick, 2019

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2019 in religion

 
 
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