The Pre/Trans fallacy

Here's an interesting article by Ed Halliwell about the failure of many people (scientific researchers not least among them) to distinguish between pre-rational forms of religion and the more sophisticated "trans-rational" varieties, what Ken Wilber calls the "pre/trans fallacy."

It describes a recent study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found "that religious people with cancer are three times more likely to receive aggressive life-prolonging medical treatment than non-believers."

The method used to determine who was "religious" are rather curious:
In this case, the study identified the pious by getting them to agree with a variety of statements, such as whether they "focused on religion to stop worrying about their problems" or that religion "was the most important thing that kept them going."
Another study, one which found that "religious people experience less anxiety when they make a mistake," used statements like, "My religion is better than others," and "I would support a war if my religion supported it." Halliwell suggests that these beliefs "are likely to be held by those in the pre-rational phase of belief, for whom faith may be an ideological crutch that shields them from uncertainty and autonomous decision-making."

His conclusion is spot-on:
These studies probably tell us more about how scientists perceive religion than about "the religious" who, even within the same tradition, often have attitudes and experiences as different from one another as from the most hardcore atheist. If these studies were conducted in a way that reflected this, my bet is they would produce very different results... More importantly, it would do much to educate scientific materialists that not all religious experience is as unsophisticated as they would have us believe.
Read the entire article here.



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