Harvard researcher tries to prove belief in God is a ‘gut feeling’

By September 29, 2011

USA (MNN) — A recent study labels faith in God as little more than a "gut feeling."

The Journal of Experimental Psychology published a study last week that was conducted by a Harvard University researcher and his partners. The study seeks to equate intuitive thought with belief in God.

"Some say we believe in God because our intuitions about how and why things happen lead us to see a divine purpose behind ordinary events that don't have obvious human causes," researcher Amitai Shenhav told LiveScience.com. "This led us to ask whether the strength of an individual's beliefs is influenced by how much they trust their natural intuitions versus stopping to reflect on those first instincts."

The study focused on things like trick math questions, claiming that those who didn't think the problem through and chose the most obvious answers were intuitive thinkers, and those who thought about it and came to the correct conclusion were reasonable thinkers. Each subject was also asked if they believed in God or not. The study shows that more of the 882 tested who got the intuitive, wrong answer to the problem believed in God.

The research claims that there is therefore a correlation between intuition and belief in God.

Evangelist Sammy Tippit mostly disagrees.

"Engineers typically think in more reasoning type fashion, but in schools for engineering, I've found that people are more open to the Gospel than perhaps, in some ways, in the creative arts," says Tippit, who notes that some of the best Christian minds he knows are scientists and mathematicians who certainly fit the bill of a rational thinker.

Tippit says it's more likely for the results of the study to be showing differences in education than anything else.

It's very likely that this study started and ended with a bias. "There is this bias where you're starting at a point where there is no God. And so you want to prove a bias about that particular, foundational principle that you have," says Tippit. "I think that there is a growing amount of research that is being done like that in our culture."

Despite the initial offense any believer might take at this research, Tippit says it really indicates something exciting. "I think it's an indication that there is a conversation that is going on in every level."

This kind of study may even open doors for Truth. "We ought not to be afraid of this kind of thing," says Tippit. "We ought to be able to sit down and, in a reasonable manner, talk with people and discuss with them, and let this be an opportunity for sharing the Gospel."


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