Physicist Slams Pseudoscience Showing Atheist Kids More Altruistic than Believers

A faithful prays in front of Carondelet presidential palace in Quito, where Pope Francis is expected to make a courtesy visit to Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, on July 6, 2015. Pope Francis celebrated an open-air mass with than 600,000 people under scorching heat in Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, calling for …
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A physicist who spent the better part of his career designing rockets is blasting the pseudoscience behind a recent study that purportedly showed that atheist children are more altruistic and generous than religious children.

The study was trumpeted in the liberal media as a slam against religion, though many of those reporting on the study failed to mention that the so-called “religious” children were mostly Muslims and that the study contradicted a number of other more comprehensive studies linking altruism to religious practice.

Writing in the American Thinker, Dr. Thomas Trinko picked apart the recent research, bashing its sloppy methodology and the clear biases of the members of the team conducting the study.

Trinko compared the study to other discredited research where science has been used as a “propaganda machine for liberal causes,” such as the nuclear winter theory that was proposed during the Reagan years and the more recent climate change fiasco, which Trinko called “snake oil.”

Methodologically, Trinko asks why a group of neuroscientists were conducting a sociological study, which falls completely outside their realm of expertise. “That’s like a structural engineer writing a biology paper,” Trinko noted. This line of query also led Trinko to ask whether the study was peer reviewed, and by whom, since it was published in a journal called Current Biology, which is not a sociology journal.

The most damning error in the study, Trinko contends, is that it is based on the use of “the dictator game” for its measure of altruism. The game allots a person a resource, such as cash, and then that player decides how much he wants to give to another, anonymous, person.

Trinko notes that the children knew this was a game, and this the results show more about the children’s ludic tendencies than about their real concern for others. Many people, Trinko notes, are cutthroat in competitive game-playing, while being incredibly generous and unselfish in real-life situations.

Trinko concludes that the authors of the study clearly “had an ideological axe to grind,” and cites the unscientific conclusions they draw from their research. The authors claim that their results “call into question whether religion is vital for moral development, supporting the idea that the secularization of moral discourse will not reduce human kindness—in fact, it will do just the opposite,” something that is not even hinted at in the data obtained from their research.

The authors of the study never address the question of why religious adults have been shown in massive studies to be more altruistic in giving both time and resources to charity, when religious children would supposedly be the opposite. Trinko asks: “if religious kids are selfish but religious adults aren’t, while non-religious kids aren’t selfish and non-religious adults are, how can we conclude that secularization is okay?”

“The author’s ignorance, or deliberate avoidance of, that conundrum is indicative of both poor research and conclusions that were based on the author’s desires not unbiased research,” Trinko said.