Thin and Thinner: Hypothesis-driven Research and the Study of Humans

in Numen
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.

Help

 

Have Institutional Access?

Login with your institution. Any other coaching guidance?

Connect

Abstract

Some say that researchers who study humans are locked in to frameworks of epistemic assumptions from which there can be no escape. We explain, on the contrary, how researchers who disagree may nevertheless reconcile their differences. Freedom from the epistemic dungeon is made possible by practices that convert beliefs into testable hypotheses, which are then tested. Such practices are the engines of scientific progress. To clarify misunderstandings about practices of hypothesis testing, we discuss Bayes’ rule, a mathematically perfect algebra for belief revision. To illustrate both the benefits and inevitable limitations of scientific research on religion, we work through the details of a recent national questionnaire study that revealed five different types of supernatural believers.

Sections
References
  • BoellstorffTom “Three Comments on Anthropology and Science.” American Anthropologist 2011 113 4 541 544

  • BoyerPascal The Naturalness of Religious Ideas: A Cognitive Theory of Religion 1994 Berkeley University of California

  • BoyerPascelBergstromBrian “Evolutionary Perspectives on Religion.” Annual Review of Anthropology 2008 37 111 130

  • BoyerPascelRambleCharles “Cognitive Templates for Religious Concepts: Cross-Cultural Evidence for Recall of Counter-Intuitive Representations.” Cognitive Science 2001 25 4 535 564

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BulbuliaJoseph “Are There Any Religions?” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 2005 17 2 71 100

  • BulbuliaJosephGeertzArmin W.AtkinsonQuentin D. RichersonPeterChristiansenMorten “The Cultural Evolution of Religion.” Cultural Evolution 2013 vol. 12 Cambridge, Mass. MIT Press 381 404 Strüngmann Forum Report

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ChoFranciscaSquierRichard K. “ ‘He Blinded Me with Science’: Science Chauvinism in the Study of Religion.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 2008 76 2 420 448

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ChomskyNoam New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind 2000 Cambridge Cambridge University Press

  • DurkheimÉmile The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life 1915 New York George Allen and Unwin

  • GeertzArmin W.MarkússonGuðmundur I. “Religion is Natural, Atheism is Not: On Why Everybody Is Both Right and Wrong.” Religion 2010 40 3 152 165

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • GeertzClifford The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays 1973 New York Basic Books

  • HenrichJoseph “The Evolution of Costly Displays, Cooperation, and Religion: Credibility Enhancing Displays and Their Implications for Cultural Evolution.” Evolution and Human Behavior 2009 30 4 244 260

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • HoverdWilliam J. “No Longer a Christian Country? Religious Demographic Change in New Zealand 1966–2006.” New Zealand Sociology 2008 23 1 41 65

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • HoverdWilliam J.SibleyChris G. “Religious and Denominational Diversity in New Zealand 2009.” New Zealand Sociology 2010 25 2 59 87

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • JamesWilliam The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature 1902 Seattle, Wash. Amazon Digital Services

  • LambekMichael “Recognizing Religion: Disciplinary Traditions, Epistemology, and History.” Numen 2013 61 2–3 000 000

  • LancasterJane B.HamesRaymond “Statement on the Publication of Alice Dreger’s Investigation, Darkness’s Descent on the American Anthropological Association: A Cautionary Tale.” Human Nature 2011 22 3 223 224

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LauwereynsJan The Anatomy of Bias: How Neural Circuits Weigh the Options 2010 Cambridge, Mass. MIT Press

  • NorrisPippaInglehartRonald Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide 2004 New York Cambridge University Press

  • SloneD. Jason Theological Incorrectness: Why Religious People Believe What They Shouldn’t 2004 Oxford Oxford University Press

  • UrryJames “The Ethnographicisation of Anglo-American Anthropology: Causes and Consequences.” Sites: A Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies 2008 3 2 3 38

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WilsonMarc StewartBulbuliaJosephSibleyChris G. “Differences and Similarities in Religious and Paranormal Beliefs: A Typology of Distinct Faith Signatures.” Religion Brain & Behavior Forthcoming 2014 1 23

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
Figures
  • View in gallery
    Shows Bayes’ rule wherein the probability of the hypothesis given the evidence is equal to the probability of the evidence given the hypothesis times the prior probability of the hypothesis divided by the background probability of the evidence.
  • View in gallery
    Graphs of the latent classes revealed by our analysis of New Zealand supernatural believing types, showing “faith signatures.” These are “religious exclusives,” “New Age spiritualists,” “undifferentiated believers,” “moderate agnostics,” and “skeptics.” The supernatural scales assessed beliefs in (a) aliens; (b) precognition; (c) Psi phenomena; (d) spiritualism; (e) superstition; ( f ) traditional religion; and (g) witchcraft.
Index Card
Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 49 44 2
Full Text Views 148 148 0
PDF Downloads 7 7 0
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0