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Religious people are worse at math, researchers claim

Technically Incorrect: Researchers in Finland suggest that religious belief is connected with a lesser grasp of reality, which includes all sorts of scientific skills.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Is faith really linked to being not very good at math?

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It's my observation that Prius drivers enjoy excesses of sanctimony, people who wear Camper shoes are deeply committed to combating climate change, and those who like pickled dates tend to have unhappy love lives.

I'm not, of course, a scientist.

It's remarkable, however, what conclusions some of that scientific research appears to reach.

I'm currently moved by a study from the University of Helsinki. As the British Psychological Research Society's Research Digest reports, the Finns asked 258 respondents to offer up their beliefs.

Specifically, the participants were asked about their beliefs in paranormal phenomena, as well as whether they thought "there exists an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God."

The researchers wanted to measure something they call "physical capability." This embraces, among other things, an assessment of scientific knowledge, as well as of the ability to solve problems that require a grasp of math and physics.

They concluded that those who are religious are less aware of the physical world than those who aren't. There's even some similarity, claim the scientists, between religious belief and autism because they both blur the mental and the physical.

Religious people, say the academics, are more likely to agree with such statements as "Stones sense the cold."

Who even asks such questions? Well, for one, researchers in Helsinki.

The study's authors, Marjaana Lindeman and Annika Svedholm-Häkkinen, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

However, a quote they offered to the Independent might make one or two believers blanch, kvetch or stretch their minds to embrace another life.

They said: "The more the participants believed in religious or other paranormal phenomena, the lower their intuitive physics skills, mechanical and mental rotation abilities, school grades in mathematics and physics, and knowledge about physical and biological phenomena were."

I'm not sure anyone understands the world very much at all. Humans are primitive beings with ideas far beyond their actual realities.

I struggle, indeed, with the notion that religious belief might be any sort of predictor of, say, math skills.

I add to that struggle the words of Joseph H. Taylor Jr., Nobel Prize winner in Physics in 1993: "A scientific discovery is also a religious discovery. There is no conflict between science and religion. Our knowledge of God is made larger with every discovery we make about the world."

In addition, humans are, after all, hypocrites. My observation is that those who are religious are no more nor less hypocritical than those who claim that God doesn't exist.

We all delude ourselves by compartmentalizing. We all have some talent at telling others what (we think) they want to hear.

Please see if you can tell the difference between the level of nonsense spouted by a supposedly religious politician and one who claims no faith.

We construct our realities as we go along. We make constant alterations to those constructions. Very rarely are we one thing or another.

Our gray areas define us.

I have great faith in this, believe me.