The researcher, Christine Ma-Kellams, relied on four studies with sample-sizes ranging from 32-48 volunteers. Three of those studies were limited to students from the University of Californis, Santa Barbara, and the other study involved people from the greater Santa Barbara county. The average ages for all of the studies fell between 18 and 20 years old.
Scientific American commented (via Salon):
"Across all these different measures, the researchers found consistent results. Simply being primed with science-related thoughts increased a) adherence to moral norms, b) real-life future altruistic intentions, and c) altruistic behavior towards an anonymous other. The conceptual association between science and morality appears strong.
Though this finding replicates across different measures and methods, there’s one variable that might limit the generalizability of the effect
. There is some evidence suggesting that attitudes towards science vary across political parties with conservatives having become decreasingly trustworthy of science over the past several decades. Though the researchers did include measures of religiosity in their studies, which did not affect the relationship between science and morality, ideally they would have also controlled for political affiliation. It’s not a stretch to imagine that undergraduate students at the University of Santa Barbara disproportionately represent liberals. If so, the relationship between science and morality found here might be stronger in
The research report, Does “Science” Make You Moral? The Effects of Priming Science on Moral Judgments and Behavior, can be found here:http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0057989
From: Kansas City Skeptic <[address removed]>
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Subject: [skeptics-137] Science Vs Religion: Which Makes You Moral?