Science, God, and the cosmos: Science both erodes (via logic) and promotes (via awe) belief in God

Kathryn Johnson, Jordan W. Moon, Morris A. Okun, Matthew J. Scott, Holly O'Rourke, Joshua N. Hook, Adam Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Science and analytical thinking have been linked with atheism. We propose dual pathways whereby scientific engagement may have paradoxical effects on belief in God. Logical aspects of science, associated with analytical thinking, are associated with unbelief. However, people can also be awed by scientific information, and awe is associated with feelings of self-transcendence and belief in a mystical God. An exploratory study (supplemental material; N = 322) and Study 1 (N = 490) demonstrated that people interested in science often hold abstract (but not personal) representations of God. This effect was mediated by a predisposition to feel awe. In Studies 2 and 3 (combined N = 570), people experimentally exposed to awe-inspiring scientific content were more likely than control participants to endorse abstract God representations. These findings suggest that scientific engagement does not always erode belief in God. Instead, science-inspired awe can increase representations of God as a mystical cosmic force or as being beyond imagination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103826
JournalJournal of Experimental Social Psychology
Volume84
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

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god
science
Imagination
atheism
Emotions
transcendence
Thinking

Keywords

  • Analytical thinking
  • Awe
  • God representations
  • Interest in science
  • Religious beliefs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

Science, God, and the cosmos : Science both erodes (via logic) and promotes (via awe) belief in God. / Johnson, Kathryn; Moon, Jordan W.; Okun, Morris A.; Scott, Matthew J.; O'Rourke, Holly; Hook, Joshua N.; Cohen, Adam.

In: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Vol. 84, 103826, 01.09.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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