Thursday, April 14, 2011

RD Extra: Religion and the Roots of Morality

This RD Extra features a lecture by Luke Galen entitled The Roots of Morality: Does Religion Play a Role or is the Tail Wagging the Dog? Grand Rapids Community College hosted and sponsored the event as part of the 2010-2011 Psychology Department Speakers Series. A pdf file of Luke's lecture slides can be downloaded here.

Description:
In this presentation, Dr. Galen, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology at Grand Valley State University, will consider the root of morality and pro-social behavior. Are we kind and considerate of others because religion creates a set of rules and "commandments" or are these behaviors a natural result of our evolutionary need to live in community? Dr. Galen will also cover related topics such as why humans construct religions and how religion can create prejudicial beliefs and behaviors.

To download this or any previous Reasonable Doubts episode click here. Find the episode you want and right click the "play now" link and select "save target as..."

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

The PDF link http://www.doubtcast.org/podcast/docs/galen_roots_of_morality.pdf is giving a 404 Not Found error currently.

Jeremy said...

Wrote a new link, but it should be working now.

Anonymous said...

Is there supposed to be a video of this lecture too?

Rachel said...

Can there be show notes with links and DOIs to some of the studies cited in this lecture? That I am a student member of the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition in Pittsburgh and would love to use some of this in my course work.

Jeremy said...

Instead of show notes we have provided Luke's PowerPoint for the presentation. He doesn't have full citation but does have the authors names and year of publication. The only study that wasn't cited in Luke's PowerPoint was the t-shirt study, which hasn't been published yet.

Babsie said...

Towards the end of the (very interesting) talk, Luke mentions a Ted.com talk but I did not catch by whom - it involved mri's of people brains, and changing their minds ... can you help me? Thanks

Anonymous said...

The Ted talk mentioned is by Rebecca Saxe.

Rob said...

Great presentation, but Galen loses me on where (when?) exactly morals are defined. Of 30-some slides, only the last five focus on possible answers. The rest emphasize the hypocrisy inherent in religious folk. Most Christians will admit everyone sins and falls short of the moral standards they try to follow. That doesn’t mean their goals do not influence greater society.

Think highway traffic. Speed limits are the authority, but routinely ignored. Does that invalidate them, or undermine their stated purpose? When one measures traffic, is the rate of speed due to the speed limits or the individual actions of drivers based on their learned norms? (A habitual speeder is often someone who’s never been in a wreck).

As an aside, Galen’s presentation would be just as applicable to the world of politics, which is a twin to religion (ie. both revolve around power and subordination with a theme of morality). To paraphrase the Anthony quote, “I distrust those people who know so well what the government wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”

Thanks for promoting the presentation.

Anonymous said...

In an early episode I think Dave mentioned Luke was 20 years older so whenever I heard the podcast I put an older, grayer head on Galen. But check it out, he's a strapping young lad! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7EUIGpKhmY

Anonymous said...

[Off Topic]

Hey does any fan of Reasonable Doubts podcast recall which episode (somewhere in the last 10 episodes or so) in which on of the hosts did a quite funny impersonation of Werner Herzog. I was hoping to listen to it again but was unable to locate it. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

Jeremy said...

I can't what episode that was on either. But if you listen after the end credits on episodes 76 & 77 (I think) you'll catch "the Werner Herzog Moment of Despair" which contain actual quotes from the man which are far more funny than even the most over-the-top imitations.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jeremy, I check those out. Thanks for the great work; I have learned much from The Reasonable Doubts podcasts.

Anonymous said...

I am just going to allow this to degenerate right now - I agree with Anyonymous above re Luke's looks. I thought from the sometimes disparaging banter that goes on that Galen was a goblin headed potato man - but this is clearly not the case! Either way, it is good to put a face to the voice.

llewelly said...

On the topsy-turvy through-the-looking glass version of Reasonable Doubts, William Lane Craig defends genocide. Greta Christina uses this as a starting point for an essay about a core failing of religion-based morality. I think this deserves a mention, and perhaps some extended discussion on the show.

Charles said...

I know how switches work. I don't know that tossing a fat man off a bridge is going to work. The scenario is ludicrous. And yet they keep on using it.

Anonymous said...

Charles. there are other similar scenarios used that evoke similar results to switch vs. fat man. like a lifeboat one. If you read recent summaries of Greene's or Haidt's work or Marc Hauser's "moral minds" they cover this.

Charles said...

The "Transplant" scenario is another one that gets it wrong. If doctors began to harvest the organs of healthy people the hospital system would break down! The question rewards short-term thinking. A rationalist would never do this.

Nonny said...

Excuse the hasty writing. I've been meaning to put this down, but I realized I'd never get around to it unless I did it right now. While mildly inebriated. I have been enjoying your podcast for the last few months, because I consider you guys to be more thoughtful and less self-righteous than other atheist podcasts I have stumbled across.
But I'm not sure how I feel about this presentation. I admit that if you simply read a psychology research paper to me through my headphones, I would probably get bored. So perhaps these issues were addressed within the methodology of the papers cited, but let me tell you how it sounded.
First of all, did you really have any basis for the claim that that the reason Christians ask you if you need help more than once is that they were only asking to make themselves look good? That seems like a cheap potshot to me. Perhaps they just thought the person refused their help to be polite, or because the person didn't know what they needed. I mean, if I see someone who is in obvious distress but they claim not to need help, I have to make a choice whether to walk on, continue to ask, or just start doing what they think they need. No matter what choice I make, I will probably feel like I did the wrong thing. And if I feel that I helped, I might feel good about myself. Since I'm not religious I guess you won't judge me on that point.
Secondly, I wasn't terribly impressed with the study where religious vs atheist people were scored on their choice to help an "outgroup" stranger, and the examples you gave were foreigners and gay people. Not all religious people are anti-gay, but to my knowledge all (or all commonly used) arguments against gay people are religious. So gay people might be an appropriate outgroup for (some) religious people, but atheists probably won't consider gay people an outgroup, at least not in the same way. Thus, you're fundamentalists' response to an outgroup to atheists' response to... what? I would be far more impressed if you compared fundamentalists' response to a drag queen crying by the side of the road to atheists' response to Fred Phelps crying by the side of the road.

Anonymous said...

This is Luke. I didn't have time to go into detail during the talk, but this issue of the reason for helping as a function of religiosity and helping members of outgroups has been addressed in a series of studies by C. Daniel Batson. As for the motivation, traditionally religious types were shown by Batson to help in a such a way that the victim/ helpee's refusal was disregarded in constrast with less religious individuals who tended to base help on the victim's stated needs. As Darley and Batson stated in this "good samaritan" paper, the fact that the highly religious believed they knew better than the victim ("he is just being polite") in itself says something about their rationale for offering help. Also some experiments show that the more traditionally religious are more concerned about the appearance of helpfulness rather than actually being called upon to help. As to outgroup helping, one of Bastson's studies showed that the more religious helped a gay person less compared to a straight person regardless of whether such help would promote homosexuality in any way. However, less traditionally/ more nonreligious individuals did not decrease helping for an ANTI gay person. There are other studies, notably my "jesus fish" study showing that atheists are less discriminatory towards religious people than is the reverse. On questionnaire studies, the type of values that religious people endorse tend to be benevolence towards ingroup members like fellow religious or family members, whereas less religious people tend to endorse more universal and ecumenical benevolence. Finally, in my talk i mentioned Haidt's work on conservatives (who tend to be more religious) who tend to take shared group membership more into account with moral decisions (i.e., whether it benefits MY group) whereas liberals value fairness and do not prioritize their own group. It is for these reasons that i felt confident in making the statements in the talk.