Hi all, just wanted to run with a dissertation idea and see where it takes me. Any advice would be great.

i don't know if you are aware of the recent furore in Northern Ireland concerning Creationism and the Ulster Museum. The Culture Minister, Nelson McCauseland, wrote to the Museum and basically demanded that ID and YEC were included along with the evolution exhibits. Long story short - I began to wonder why he believed these ideas, given that they are illogical and unreasonable. From this I decided on my dissertation idea but I don't know if it will pass ethics, as the subject matter could be percieved as controversial.

I propose that, in line with Piaget's Stage Theory, that those who accept ID and/or YEC have not reached the Formal Operational Stage. i will draw participants from the general student body. To begin, a questionnaire relating to religious/spiritual beliefs will be given. This will hopefully identify two groups for study and comparison, those who have these beliefs and those who don't.

Once I have my sample groups I will give tests of abstract reasoning/logic. My hypothesis will state that there will be a difference between the groups and that those who do not believe will have a better ability in the tests presented.

Note that at no stage am I asserting that there is a difference in IQ between the samples, merely a difference in the way the sample groups process information.

so to some questions:

1: will ethics shoot me down?
2: is the study worth conducting?
3: do you think my hypothesis will hold up?
4: I have searched, but can find no previous research relating to this hypothesis so if anyone knows of any please let me know.

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I don't know about anything specific to your question, but there are some links here which might help (or at least some references which you might find useful):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religiosity_and_intelligence
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_of_hierarchical_complexity
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=creationism-feels-...

However, given that religious beliefs can co-exist with logical thought processes, I don't think your hypothesis will hold up. Generally logical arguments for religion are valid, they're just not sound because their assumptions aren't true (or are indeterminate).

Still, I think it would be interesting nonetheless to study the differences (or lack thereof) in abstract reasoning/logic between believers and non-believers. I wouldn't be surprised if there's already some research out there.

Ethically it's fine as long as no-one comes to harm or has their rights violated - tonnes of research is controversial and that's ok.
As far as 2: and 3: go then yes. A gap in emotional development could easily be a cause of people clinging to placebo beliefs. I think Freud made some remark about God being the perfect parent we never knew in real life but longed for, the ultimate Grown Up who could put everything right.
Its not that I want to say that religion per se is wrong (though it is) just that belief in creationism may be due to believers being unable to grasp the abstract concepts in most modern science fields, whereas 'God did it' requires no critical thought. I have research on my home pc (that i will post later) that suggests that 40 - 60% of US citizens have not reached the formal operational stage. This correlates (I know,I know Pysch 101 - correlation does not imply causation X-P) with research that found that 40-60% of US citizens believe in either ID and/or YEC. I just wonder if this could be a factor in the large acceptance numbers.

If I do support my hypothesis it could mean that IDers cannot debate the issues at all, as they are incapable of understanding the evidence and arguement, due to their information processing abilities.
Being a freshman in this subject (literally; freshman, Anthropology/Archeology), if I recall from our cursory glance at Piaget's stage theory, you might be able to make an argument that in certain aspects the individual has grown normally and in others, been held or held themselves back.

Putting it another way: "While the individual appears normally developed in most other areas, functioning well in education, work, social skills, etc, when it comes to religious belief over science, the individual appears stuck on the line between preoperational and concrete stages. Able in other areas of his/her life to apply abstract and rational thinking, but stubbornly unwilling to apply it when it comes to his/her own faith system."

Which then might lead into social psychological causes for why one would choose (consciously or unconsciously) to remain stuck in this child-like state.
We raised our kids with the idea that our job -- from day 1 -- was to prepare them to leave. So, education, work, social skills, etc., are all geared to preparing the child to live on their own without their parent(s) around all the time. Religion, however, is one area in which the 'parent' never leaves (or the child never leaves the parent.) The God-blankie is always around when the world becomes scary.
Religion, however, is one area in which the 'parent' never leaves (or the child never leaves the parent.) The God-blankie is always around when the world becomes scary.

"God: A security blankie for adults."
Good news, I've been given the go-ahead to design my study, though to quote my professor "we will probably both be burned at the stake". I will hopefully be able to set it up as a web-based experiment. If I do I will post the link on the nexus.
Cool!

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