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Science linked to morality

Published: Thursday, Oct. 10 2013 7:10 p.m. MDT

A new study found that faith in the scientific process could lead to better decisions about helping one's fellow man.

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A new study found that faith in the scientific process could lead to better decisions about helping one's fellow man.

Psychologists Christine Ma-Kellams of Harvard University and Jim Blascovich of the University of California, Santa Barbara researched the correlation between a strong belief in science and moral behavior.

The study suggests merely thinking about science can send people to a moral high ground. Their findings were based on four different experiments, which began with 10 sets of words, which were meant to be unscrambled to form proper sentences. Half had science-oriented terms like “logical,” “hypothesis,” laboratory” and “scientists.”

“We contend there is a lay image or notion of ‘science’ that is associated with concepts of rationality, impartiality, fairness, technological progress,” they write. “The notion of science contains in it the broader moral vision of a society in which rationality is used for the mutual benefit of all,” Ma-Kellams said.

In one section of the study, participants were asked the likelihood of their joining a community-minded activity such as giving blood or donating to charity. Those who had been exposed to the science words were more willing to join in on the service.

Scientific American says that generally those who have high expectations and good faith in the scientific process tend to be more liberal, while conservative-minded people are increasingly distrusting of science. The study did not note the political affiliation of its participants. However, the study's findings were that religiosity had no affect on the relationship between science and morality.

"Many like to think of science as a neutral, purely objective force," Ma-Kellams told the Huffington Post. "But in reality, the things what we study and investigate and think about influence our very conceptions of right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable, without us necessarily realizing it."

email: ataylor@deseretnews.com

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