New study: belief in free will linked to ability to behave morally and to help others

J. Warner Wallace: God's Crime Scene
J. Warner Wallace: God’s Crime Scene

So, Monday night I finally finished “reading” God’s Crime Scene, the new book by J. Warner Wallace. I was listening to the audio book, because it is hard to speed along with the top down and read at the same time. For now, here’s my one line review: this is a book for people who like evidence – he has collected a ton of evidence on everything people should be puzzling about, and sometimes on surprising topics. Anyway, I wanted to post something about some studies he mentioned in Chapter 6, on free will. This is one of the places where he found evidence in a surprising area.

Wallace says that free will makes more sense if theism is true, because we have non-material souls that interact with our bodies, but are not causally determined by them. On atheism, only matter exists, and you can’t get free will (or consciousness) from matter. So atheists like Sam Harris and Alex Rosenberg, for example, deny free will, because they are materialists and atheists.

Anyway, here’s what he writes on p. 256:

In 2008, researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of British Columbia conducted experiments highlighting the relationship between a belief in determinism and immoral behavior. They found students who were exposed to deterministic literature prior to taking a test were more likely to cheat on the test than students who were not exposed to literature advocating determinism. The researchers concluded those who deny free will are more inclined to believe their efforts to act morally are futile and are, therefore, less likely to do so.

In addition, a study conducted by researchers from Florida State University and the University of Kentucky found participants who were exposed to deterministic literature were more likely to act aggressively and less likely to be helpful toward others.” Even determinist Michael Gazzaniga conceded: “It seems that not only do we believe we control our actions, but it is good for everyone to believe it.”” The existence of free will is a common characteristic of our experience, and when we deny we have this sort of free agency, there are detrimental consequences.

I decided to look up these studies.

Here’s the abstract for first study: (2008)

Does moral behavior draw on a belief in free will? Two experiments examined whether inducing participants to believe that human behavior is predetermined would encourage cheating. In Experiment 1, participants read either text that encouraged a belief in determinism (i.e., that portrayed behavior as the consequence of environmental and genetic factors) or neutral text. Exposure to the deterministic message increased cheating on a task in which participants could passively allow a flawed computer program to reveal answers to mathematical problems that they had been instructed to solve themselves. Moreover, increased cheating behavior was mediated by decreased belief in free will. In Experiment 2, participants who read deterministic statements cheated by overpaying themselves for performance on a cognitive task; participants who read statements endorsing free will did not. These findings suggest that the debate over free will has societal, as well as scientific and theoretical, implications.

And the abstract for the second study: (2009)

Laypersons’ belief in free will may foster a sense of thoughtful reflection and willingness to exert energy, thereby promoting helpfulness and reducing aggression, and so disbelief in free will may make behavior more reliant on selfish, automatic impulses and therefore less socially desirable. Three studies tested the hypothesis that disbelief in free will would be linked with decreased helping and increased aggression. In Experiment 1, induced disbelief in free will reduced willingness to help others. Experiment 2 showed that chronic disbelief in free will was associated with reduced helping behavior. In Experiment 3, participants induced disbelief in free will caused participants to act more aggressively than others. Although the findings do not speak to the existence of free will, the current results suggest that disbelief in free will reduces helping and increases aggression.

So what to make of this?

If you’re an atheist, then your worldview is telling you that what you are doing now is the result of genetic programming and sensory inputs. You’re not conscious. You can’t reason. You make no free choices, including moral choices. Naturally, someone who believes this is going to struggle with prescriptive morality, including self-sacrificial care and concern for others. Their worldview undermines the rationality of the moral point of view. You might find atheists acting morally for their own purposes, but their worldview doesn’t rationally ground it. This is a big problem for people who can see objective morality woven into the universe – and themselves – because they have the awareness of objective right and wrong.

I think what atheists like to say is “I can be moral, too”. That’s not interesting. What is interesting is whether it is rational for you to be moral when things start to get a bit uncomfortable. When I look at the adultery of Dawkins, the polyamory of Carrier, the divorces of Shermer and Atkins, etc. I am not seeing anything that really wows me. They all deny free will of course, and think that trying to resist temptation is a waste of time. What difference would it make if they did, anyway – there’s no afterlife on atheism.

Wallace explains how the awareness of free will and moral choices caused him to turn away from atheism, in this blog post.

He writes:

As an atheist, I chose to cling to naturalism, in spite of the fact that I lived each day as though I was capable of using my mind to make moral choices based on more than my own opinion. In addition, I sought meaning and purpose beyond my own hedonistic preferences, as though meaning was to be discovered, rather than created. I called myself a naturalist while embracing three characteristics of reality that simply cannot be explained by naturalism. As a Christian, I’m now able to acknowledge the “grounding” for these features of reality. My philosophical worldview is consistent with my practical experience of the world.

I think atheists who want to be honest about their own experience of first-person consciousness, free will, moral realism, etc. will do well to just accept that theism rationally grounds all of these things, and so you should accept theism. Theism is real. If you like morality, and want to be a virtuous person, then you should accept theism.

Are same-sex unions the same as heterosexual married unions?

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

Note: I am re-posting this post because my friend Papa Giorgio informs me that the post is referenced in a new book on homosexuality and culture, authored by Dr. Michael Brown. Papa Giorgio says it’s a good book so far, so I’m going to get it. In the meantime, here’s the post Dr. Brown linked to.

I’ve written before about the differences between same-sex unions and opposite sex married couples.

Here’s a post from Canon and Culture on the same topic by social scientist Glenn Stanton.

He finds two differences.

First, instability:

[T]he research is strong and numerous enough that a recent and very provocative Atlantic cover story on what straights could learn from gay marriage couldn’t ignore it. Liza Mundy, the article’s author, doesn’t appear to have a conservative bone in her body, yet she is fair and straight-up honest with the research on the nature of committed same-sex relationships.

[…]Mundy explains that studies have found “higher dissolution rates among same-sex couples” in Scandinavia – one of the world’s most gay-friendly cultures — than married heterosexual couples. This study, published in Demography, found that even though same-sex couples enter their legal unions at older ages — a marker related to greater relational stability – male same-sex marriages break up at twice the rate of heterosexual marriages.  And the break-up rate for lesbians? A stunning 77% higher  than the same-sex male unions! When controlling for possible confounding factors, the “risk of divorce for female partnerships actually is more than twice than that for male unions.”

[…]A study of two generations of British couples (one born 1958, the other 1970) in same-sex cohabiting, opposite-sex cohabiting and opposite-sex marriage relationships found the same-sex relationships dramatically more likely to break up than the opposite-sex cohabiting and married relationships.

According to that British study, only 25% of same-sex co-habitating couples are intact after  8 years. The stability number for married couples after 8 years is 82%. That’s a big difference.

But there’s more:

Other studies – conducted by celebrated lesbian scholars – find notable instability in lesbian homes, even those with children. The current National Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study (NLLFS) found “a significant difference” in family dissolution rates when comparing lesbian with mother/father headed families, 56% and 36% respectively. (p. 1201)

Another research study by two celebrated gay-friendly scholars, highlights a major comparative study between hetero and lesbian homes where, in the 5-year period of the study, 6 of the 14 lesbian mother-headed homes had broken up compared to only 5 of the 38 mom/dad headed homes. (p. 11) These scholars creatively explains that this stability imbalance is likely due to the “high standards lesbians bring to their intimate unions…” (p.12)

Ever heard of lesbian bed death?

And Mundy points something else predictable in lesbian relationships. In fact, its consistency has earned it a name in the LGBT community: lesbian bed death. Seriously.  This is the truth that sexual interest and frequency in many long-term lesbian relationships tends to decline considerably and even die over the years.

Usually, in relationships, men tend to be the ones who want more frequent sex. What happens when you have no aggressors and two gatekeepers? Lesbian bed death.

Next up, something common in male homosexual relationships: infidelity.

Stanton writes:

A noted 2010 study on non-monogamy in long-term gay relationships by two gay-affirming scholars — the Couples Study — observes in their report’s first sentence: “…non-monogamous relationships are very common in the gay community…” Their data showed that of the non-monogamous, long-term couples in their study, 42 percent made an arrangement for outside-sexual relationships within the first three months of the relationship’s beginning and by the end of the first year, that number increased to 49 percent. At the seventh anniversary mark, an additional 24 percent of gay couples adopted such agreements. So such agreements are increasingly made as these relationships grow longer.

The Atlantic piece is notes this as well; explaining that after the AIDS crisis, “gay male couples are more monogamous than they used to be, but not nearly to the same degree as other kinds of couples.” One study Mundy cites asked those in various relationships whether they had any agreed-upon rules permitting extra-curricular activities. The differences were astonishing. Only 4% of male/female couples had them compared to 40% of gay men in legally recognized unions and 49% in long-term cohabiting unions.

Another widely respected investigation, found that only a third of gay couples had monogamous agreements and truly honored them with no outside sex. In fact, it found that in the openly nonmonogamous gay relationships, the frequency of extra-dyadic sex from its start ranged from 2 to a whopping 2,500 separate incidents. The median was a remarkable 41.5 extracurricular incidents since the relationship’s beginning. Frequency in the last year was startling was well, ranging from 0 to 350 occurrences of outside sex, with a median of 8 incidences in the last twelve months. Even those who pledged true monogamy, the range was from 1 to 63 “slip-ups” with a median of 5. Five “slip-ups” are not slip-ups. The corresponding numbers for men in heterosexual marriages are microscopic in comparison.

So what does all this mean?

It means that if you are interested in a definition of marriage that involves stability and marital fidelity, then you shouldn’t be in favor of legalizing gay marriage. When you open up the term marriage to include relationships that seem to be very unstable and/or very unfaithful, you change the definition of marriage. Marriage means life-long married love. If we just turn around and call any association of adults “marriage”, then we are losing the distinctiveness of marriage in the process. Think about it. We did the same thing in the previous redefinition of marriage (no-fault divorce) which attacked the permanence of marriage. Marriage has a specific meaning and we should not be redefining it every few years for the benefit of selfish adults.

How well are Democrat Party economic policies working out in Venezuela?

I think that when we discuss economics, we should try to identify where specific policies have been tried and then we should observe the consequences to the people who tried them. Often, in college and university classrooms, one view of economics is sold to students by professors as the “nice” view. The professors, many of whom have never worked in the private sector in their entire lives, tell the students that socialism is the “nice” point of view, and anyone who disagrees is “mean”. Is that the right approach to teaching young people what to believe about economics?

Are Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez very different?
Are Barack Obama and Hugo Chavez very different?

Let’s take a look at this article from Yahoo News about socialist dictator Hugo Chavez’s country of Venezuela, a country much admired by people on the socialist left.

It says:

All the lady wanted was some chicken. But in shortage-plagued Venezuela, she waited in line five hours, only to go home empty-handed.

“I got here at 5:30 am and came away with nothing! It is just not fair that you have to work so hard — and then put up with these lines,” said an exasperated Lileana Diaz, a 49-year-old receptionist at a hospital emergency room.
Venezuelans have been enduring shortages of the most basic goods, such as toilet paper, for more than a year.

In Caracas, a cottage industry has emerged with people who will wait in line for you — at a price.

But things are even worse outside the capital.

The problems are staggering here in Valencia, an industrial city west of the capital of this oil-rich country.

Valencia has big factories that produce food and other essentials. Still, the list of goods in short supply is long.

It includes coffee, cooking oil, cornmeal, soap, detergent, you name it.

Chicken is one of the most coveted.

Frustrated shoppers like Diaz are legion.

One tells the story of people who climbed over a fence to get a good place in line outside a store, prompting police to intervene and stop scuffles that broke out.

Another lady shopper shows off a nasty bruise on her right leg, thanks to a fight she got into as she tried to buy disposable diapers.

In recent weeks, the lines of people waiting hopefully outside supermarkets and stores have grown longer in cities away from the coast, such as Maracaibo, Puerto Ordaz and Cumana.

Venezuelan media have reported situations of nerves running very, very high and shoppers coming close to looting.

At times it has gotten that bad, in fact. In late January, one person died and dozens were arrested in the chaos of a looting outbreak at stores in the town of San Felix in the southern state of Bolivar.

[…]In another supermarket in Valencia, a line 50 meters (yards) long snakes away from the entrance.

“We call these ‘holding out hope lines,’ because once you get inside, there is nothing on the shelves,” said Oscar Oroste, a 53-year-old chef.

Oroste said that until recently, people would wait in line knowing what was available to buy. “Now, people are in line but do not even know what they will be sold.”

Venezuelans go from supermarket to supermarket, and store to store, clamoring for basic necessities which have prices regulated by the leftist government.

But some buy just to resell at a handsome profit, and economists say that is another source of the shortages.

Egne Casano, a 28-year-old homemaker, said things are a bit better in Caracas. “I went there not long ago and saw that there is a better supply,” she said.

[…]In the long lines, people digest their woes with a mix of humor, resignation and anger.

At another supermarket in Valencia, a whopping 600 people stood in line under a blazing sun to buy powdered milk.

Graciela Duran, a retiree, got a kilo of it after waiting for four hours.

“I was lucky today, Sometimes I come and there is nothing,” she said.

“Waiting in huge lines is what we do all day, every day,” said Duran, shielding herself from the sun with an umbrella.

A dozen police were stationed at the entrance of the store and around the parking lot through which the queue moved.

A truck drove by and the driver shouted out sarcastically: “Homeland, homeland, beloved homeland.”

That comes from a song that late president Hugo Chavez used to sing and is heard often on government-run media and at official events.

If you’re interested in real statistics on Venezuela, I recommend this recent article from The Economist, which is as far left as Venezuela is, and endorsed Barack Obama.

In socialism, the main purpose of policies is to make the leftist leaders at the top receive applause. They say things that will get them applause from the people. The policies are not intended to lift people out of poverty, otherwise Zimbabwe, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, etc. would all be rich and prosperous. The policies are intended to make the leaders feel good about themselves. “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor”. “If you like your health plan, you can keep your health plan”. It’s not true, it’s just meant to make economically-illiterate people applaud.

So why do we keep voting for socialism, when we know it doesn’t work?

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Bible study: It’s loving to warn someone who is about to make a mistake

Bible study that hits the spot
Bible study that hits the spot

A lesson in spiritual leadership, from the excellent Dr. Michael Brown, writing for Townhall.com. (H/T Think Apologetics)

He writes:

[L]ove that does not warn is not love at all.

The parent who doesn’t warn a chain-smoking child about the dangers of nicotine is not a loving parent.

The doctor who doesn’t warn a morbidly obese patient about the dangers of overeating is not a loving doctor.

The preacher who doesn’t warn his straying flock about the dangers of spiritual compromise is not a loving pastor.

Love warns, and it warns loudly and clearly – but that does not mean harshly or with an angry, self-righteous spirit.

Love warns with tears.

Love warns with brokenness.

Love warns with longsuffering.

Love warns.

That’s why Jesus wept in public as He warned Jerusalem about the terrible judgment that was at the door (Luke 19:41-45).

That’s why Jeremiah wept in secret when the nation refused to hear his warnings of impending disaster (Jeremiah 13:17).

That’s why Paul said to the elders of Ephesus, “I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears” (Acts 20:29-31).

When is the last time we warned someone with tears? When is the last time we cared enough to weep for them in private?

May God break our hearts with the things that break His heart. May the Lord shatter our indifference.

In the words of the Book of Proverbs, “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. . . . Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue” (Proverbs 27:5-6; 28:23).

We are not called to tickle people’s ears and make them feel good. We are called to speak the truth in love, to have hearts of compassion and backbones of steel, to emulate the true prophets not the false prophets, to do the right thing rather than the convenient thing.

Oh that God would deliver us from a crippling, compromising, man-pleasing mentality!

In your life or ministry, do you really want to be surrounded by a bunch of Yes-men who tell you what you want to hear rather than what you need to hear? Do you really want to work with a bunch of carnal prophets who say, “All is well, all is well,” when nothing is well? (See Jeremiah 6:14.) Then do the same for others and save them from disaster and self-destruction by warning them when they are on the wrong path.

Paul’s final exhortation to Timothy rings as true today – if not even more true – than the day it was written: “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

Lots of good, challenging Bible verses there. It shows that telling people “watch out” is a real thing.  First point I want to make is that you should use data when you warn people, if you can. Notice that in Dr. Brown’s list, he talked about smoking and obesity, which doctors universally frown on. He wants to tell people the consequences for their health if they choose to smoke or be obese. A lot of moral issues are like that, where you want to tell someone the consequences, which they are often ignorant of – especially when they are young and foolish. So do use studies and papers to show the consequences.

I don’t think it’s something you can do flippantly. But if you have life experience in the area that you are warning about, then it is a good idea to tell what you learned to someone who is about to make a mistake. For example, suppose you see someone about to move in with their boyfriend, and their boyfriend has no degree, delivers pizzas, has gaps in his resume, and has no savings. And he’s 30. If you moved in with a deadbeat guy and it went nowhere, then you should tell this other person what happened to you, and what you learned from it. Don’t be afraid to pull out studies about cohabitation to turn your personal experience into something more persuasive.

Even better than a bad experience is how-to knowledge. If you have tried to do something and been successful at it, then you are in a position to say what worked. Suppose you have good STEM degrees, a good long work history and lots of earned income that you’ve saved and invested. You see a guy who is about to do a degree in art history, then he wants to go on vacation for two years in Europe, before finally trying to find a full-time job. You know – based on your own success – that this is bad for his resume, bad for his career, bad for his future marriage (a lot of divorces happen because of money). Well, then say something to him. It’s better to say something and risk losing him as a friend than for him to proceed in ignorance and make a mistake. It’s better to tell the truth than to be liked for lying. That is the loving thing to do.

Finally, if you are the person who is being warned, then respect the people who try to tell you the truth. God knows, it is hard to be the person who speaks the truth in a day and age when people just want to be happy, and be surrounded with positive affirmation. What happens when you chase away the people who have the courage to tell you the truth is that you find yourself surrounded by liars. It’s never going to be the case that you know everything about everything. There will always be people who know more than you. If you keep chasing them all away for disagreeing with you, you’ll only be left with your own judgment and a crowd of people who either don’t know the truth, or won’t tell you it. Be careful how you treat the truth-tellers in your life.

Eighth Planned Parenthood video: StemExpress working with nearly 100 abortion clinics

Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood
Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood

Here’s the latest video from the Center for Medical Progress:

And the story from Anika Smith writing for The Stream:

Today the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) released video of an undercover lunch conversation with the CEO of fetal-tissue distributor StemExpress. This is the video footage that StemExpress tried to stop CMP from releasing by going to the courts in California. The temporary restraining order StemExpress filed against the Center for Medical Progress was dissolved on Friday, making this video one of the most anticipated — and possibly one of the most damaging.

The video contains several admissions by Cate Dyer, StemExpress CEO, that StemExpress gets intact fetuses from the abortion clinics they work with shipped to their laboratory. From the transcript:

Dyer: Realistically, if we were to do an agreement with you, what do we think you could get?
Buyer: Volume-wise?
Dyer: On specifically liver tissue, because that’s such an area of demand for us.
Buyer: So liver, and what about intact specimens, just—?
Dyer: Oh, yeah, I mean if you had intact cases, which we’ve done a lot, we sometimes ship those back to our lab in its entirety.
Buyer: Okay.
Dyer: So that would also be great if you guys have those.
Buyer: The entire case.
Dyer: Yeah, yeah. Because it’s just, and the procurement for us, I mean it can go really sideways, depending on the facility, and then our samples are destroyed, and we’re like, “Really?” This was all so much work, and then just to have them be destroyed is awful. I mean we have researchers wait forever, and they want certain things, you know, perfectly done, so we started bringing them back even to manage it from a procurement expert standpoint.

Another interesting admission in the video is that the baby parts have to be checked for bacteria, because some of the clinics that supply the baby parts are not sanitary. Staph infection is mentioned specifically. Dyer also mentions that Planned Parenthood is profiting from the sale of unborn baby parts.

Another article from The Stream has a breakdown of the admissions in the 8th video.

Here’s one more:

3) Cate Dyer estimates StemExpress is working with nearly 100 abortion clinics nationwide, and still can’t get enough fetal liver:

Buyer: What would make your lab happy? What would make your lab happy?
SE: Another fifty livers a week.
Buyer: Ok, so you can handle that?
SE: Yea. Just so you guys know, on the collection side for us, we’re also — as you see Megan out there in the clinic, we’re working with almost triple digit number clinics. So, it’s a lot on volume a little more than what we do. It’s a lot. So, I don’t think you’ll hit a capacity with us anytime in the next ten years. I think you’ll feel solid with that standpoint. So, I think, with that you’ll feel like doing an agreement with us. It will be consistent growth and our growth has been consistent, and it’s going to continue to grow from that standpoint.

Nearly 100 abortion clinics – this is not an isolated problem, it’s systemic. We need a massive federal investigation to find out what is really going on.

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