Home » Medicine, News, Religion » Michael Shermer: “New research on self-control explains the link between religion and health”

Michael Shermer: “New research on self-control explains the link between religion and health”

In “Sacred Salubriousness: Why Religious Belief Is Not the Only Path to a Healthier Life” (Scientific American, December 19, 2011) , Michael Shermer explains, “New research on self-control explains the link between religion and health”:

Ever since 2000, when psychologist Michael E. McCullough, now at the University of Miami, and his colleagues published a meta-analysis of more than three dozen studies showing a strong correlation between religiosity and lower mortality, skeptics have been challenged by believers to explain why—as if to say, “See, there is a God, and this is the payoff for believing.”

Didn’t notice that. The story we heard was that the link between spirituality and health was largely ignored, until it was finally forced on the attention of the medical profession:

Edward B. Larson (1947–2002), an epidemiologist and psychiatrist, noticed a curious fact some years ago:

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) used many case examples that characterized religious patients as “psychotic, delusional, incoherent, illogical, and hallucinating,” suggesting a general psychopathology that misrepresented clinical experience.

He observed that “the same scientists who were trained to accept or reject a hypothesis based on hard data seem to rely solely on their own opinions and biases when assessing the effect of religion on health.”

He did a great deal to change that. Meanwhile, Shermer:

This McCullough and his then Miami colleague Brian Willoughby did in a 2009 paper that reported the results of a meta-analysis of hundreds of studies revealing that religious people are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, such as visiting dentists and wearing seat belts, and are less likely to smoke, drink, take recreational drugs and engage in risky sex. Why? Religion provides a tight social network that reinforces positive behaviors and punishes negative habits and leads to greater self-regulation for goal achievement and self-control over negative temptations.

Sorry, wait a minute: People decide whether or not they wish to accept the guidance and restrictions. The question is not whether making a bunch of health rules would help but how we can get actual, willing cooperation.

Shermer believes that a secular supportive network can accomplish the same thing, advising

… surround yourself with a supportive social network that reinforces your efforts. Such sacred salubriousness is the province of everyone—believers and nonbelievers—who will themselves to loftier purposes.

The reason Shermer’s approach won’t usually work is that the people who need the help don’t even want to “will themselves to loftier purposes.” That’s just the problem.

Once you ask, what causes people to will themselves to loftier purposes?, you realize that willpower alone will not generally do it. The person needs to believe that there is a loftier purpose, a greater reality, and want to be a part of it. In other words, to want spirituality.

See also: The Spiritual Brain.

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12 Responses to Michael Shermer: “New research on self-control explains the link between religion and health”

  1. But William Provine insists that there is no ‘free will’, or purpose, in the Darwinian worldview. So how does Shermer propose to get someone to ‘will themselves to loftier purposes’ if there is no such thing in his worldview in the first place???

    A Darwinian Worldview
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQiJr32N4lA

    Or is this just another pesky detail that atheists ‘purposely’ overlook when they feel like it???

  2. This is exactly right. For a time the secular crowd dismissed the correlations between religion and improved health, holding back the progression of the science of healing etc to protect their own ideological craving. However evidence for these correlations is now overwhelming, and dismissing them at this point would be outright malpractice. Therefore the next best thing for their ideological preservation is to cultivate *alternative* pathways to better health. So no longer are they denying or dismissing the correlations between religious practice and health, they are simply trying to sell another product, one that is compatible with their worldview first premise.

  3. Yeah, beautiful study. Ruffled quite a few feathers!

  4. The best part of the whole thing is watching the US media use Joe Nickell, the former stage magician and English folklore PHD to be their go-to science guy. Nickell shamelessly touts the discredited and severely refuted paint theory and no one says a word. Next time I debate, I’m using Sigfried and Roy for my classical mechanics assumptions, and I’m going to have them cite Ptolemaic geocentrism as a basis.

  5. LOL :) , Yeah, That will do the trick! :) LOL ,,, of related interest, I spliced a few more pieces into that old video I had pulled together:

    General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy, and The Shroud Of Turin – video (notes in description)
    http://vimeo.com/34084462

  6. You superficial guys! The reproductive advantage of religious people is obviously a mechanism of darwinian NS, operating on the darwinian RV that generated the strange religious gene (something so bizarre that no intelligent engineer could ever have devised it, as Petrushka will promptly say).

    I wonder why here in ID we waste our time defending ID and/or religious positions… We are bound to win by darwinian mechanism, and that should be enough :)

  7. some notes:

    Shroud Of Turin Is Authentic, Italian Study Suggests – December 2011
    Excerpt: Last year scientists were able to replicate marks on the cloth using highly advanced ultraviolet techniques that weren’t available 2,000 years ago — nor during the medieval times, for that matter.,,, Since the shroud and “all its facets” still cannot be replicated using today’s top-notch technology, researchers suggest it is impossible that the original image could have been created in either period.
    http://www.thegopnet.com/shrou.....ests-87037

    Scientific hypotheses on the origin of the body image of the Shroud – May 2010
    Excerpt: for example, if we consider the density of radiation that we used to color a single square centimeter of linen, to reproduce the entire image of the Shroud with a single flash of light would require fourteen thousand lasers firing simultaneously each on a different area of linen. In other words, it would take a laser light source the size of an entire building.
    http://www.30giorni.it/articoli_id_22597_l3.htm

    Also of note as to providing a viable ‘mechanism’ for the apparent ‘burst of light’ emanating from the body of Christ:

    Cellular Communication through Light
    Excerpt: Information transfer is a life principle. On a cellular level we generally assume that molecules are carriers of information, yet there is evidence for non-molecular information transfer due to endogenous coherent light. This light is ultra-weak, is emitted by many organisms, including humans and is conventionally described as biophoton emission.
    http://www.plosone.org/article.....ne.0005086

    Are humans really beings of light?
    Excerpt: “We now know, today, that man is essentially a being of light.”,,, “There are about 100,000 chemical reactions happening in every cell each second. The chemical reaction can only happen if the molecule which is reacting is excited by a photon… Once the photon has excited a reaction it returns to the field and is available for more reactions… We are swimming in an ocean of light.”
    http://viewzone2.com/dna.html

    Coast to Coast – Vicki’s Near Death Experience (Blind From Birth) part 1 of 3
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e65KhcCS5-Y

    Quote from preceding video: ‘I was in a body and the only way that I can describe it was a body of energy, or of light. And this body had a form. It had a head. It had arms and it had legs. And it was like it was made out of light. And ‘it’ was everything that was me. All of my memories, my consciousness, everything.’ -
    Vicky Noratuk

    As noted previously, even with the advantage of all our advanced space-age technology at their fingertips, all scientists can guess is that it was some type of electro-magnetic radiation (light) which is not natural to this world. Kevin Moran, a scientist working on the mysterious ’3D’ nature of the Shroud image, states the ‘supernatural’ explanation this way:

    “It is not a continuum or spherical-front radiation that made the image, as visible or UV light. It is not the X-ray radiation that obeys the one over R squared law that we are so accustomed to in medicine. It is more unique. It is suggested that the image was formed when a high-energy particle struck the fiber and released radiation within the fiber at a speed greater that the local speed of light. Since the fiber acts as a light pipe, this energy moved out through the fiber until it encountered an optical discontinuity, then it slowed to the local speed of light and dispersed. The fact that the pixels don’t fluoresce suggests that the conversion to their now brittle dehydrated state occurred instantly and completely so no partial products remain to be activated by the ultraviolet light. This suggests a quantum event where a finite amount of energy transferred abruptly. The fact that there are images front and back suggests the radiating particles were released along the gravity vector. The radiation pressure may also help explain why the blood was “lifted cleanly” from the body as it transformed to a resurrected state.”
    http://www.shroudstory.com/natural.htm

  8. Bornagain777, I was waiting for someone to post that latest study on the shroud. Its hillarious that atheists, when confronted with all the scientific data pertaining to the shroud’s authentic are still using the davinci conspiracy and the loony Walter mccrone paint theory when they have been debunked a long time ago.

    They claim to worship science but when the scientific data goes against their worldview, they abandon not only science, but reason and logic as well. So much for the vaunted intellect of the pseudo rational atheist lol.

  9. Yes wallstreeter, you really have to see such willful insanity to believe it. I would have never imagined that supposedly rational, intelligent, men could act as such,,, And all for what??? A very real chance to be separated from God for all eternity??? NO THANKS!!! That is the real mystery for me!!!,,, Oh well,,, Here are a few more notes that go well with the recent ‘laser’ experiments of the Shroud:

    Scientific hypotheses on the origin of the body image of the Shroud – 2010
    Excerpt: for example, if we consider the density of radiation that we used to color a single square centimeter of linen, to reproduce the entire image of the Shroud with a single flash of light would require fourteen thousand lasers firing simultaneously each on a different area of linen. In other words, it would take a laser light source the size of an entire building.
    http://www.30giorni.it/articoli_id_22597_l3.htm

    Biophotons – The Light In Our Cells – Marco Bischof – March 2005
    Excerpt page 2: The Coherence of Biophotons: ,,, Biophotons consist of light with a high degree of order, in other words, biological laser light. Such light is very quiet and shows an extremely stable intensity, without the fluctuations normally observed in light. Because of their stable field strength, its waves can superimpose, and by virtue of this, interference effects become possible that do not occur in ordinary light. Because of the high degree of order, the biological laser light is able to generate and keep order and to transmit information in the organism.
    http://www.international-light.....hotons.pdf

    The Real Bioinformatics Revolution – Proteins and Nucleic Acids ‘Singing’ to One Another?
    Excerpt: the molecules send out specific frequencies of electromagnetic waves which not only enable them to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ each other, as both photon and phonon modes exist for electromagnetic waves, but also to influence each other at a distance and become ineluctably drawn to each other if vibrating out of phase (in a complementary way).,,, More than 1,000 proteins from over 30 functional groups have been analysed. Remarkably, the results showed that proteins with the same biological function share a single frequency peak while there is no significant peak in common for proteins with different functions; furthermore the characteristic peak frequency differs for different biological functions.,,, The same results were obtained when regulatory DNA sequences were analysed.
    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/TheRea.....lution.php

    Verse and music:

    John 20:3-8
    So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.

    Vicki Yohe — Mercy Seat
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXRuK_SJmv0

  10. Ba77, wow 14 thousand lasers!!!!
    Yet the atheists say davinci could have done lol. I know, maybe davinci’s future great great great great great great great grandson took his time machine 5000 years into the past to create this image lol. Atheism= where the irrational is possible as long as they can exclude God from the picture .

    Did you ever see the video where lee strobel interviews Antony Flew, who was one of the most respectfully former atheist that I have heard about .

    After flew converted to deism and wrote the book “there is a god” he was hounded and rediculed by atheists like Dawkins and carrier saying that he lost his mind and went senile. The other thing that tripped me out was when flew was asked if he now believed in an afterlife, and flew respOnded ” I sure hope not”. You could see in flews face that he had a fear of living forever. Why? . Wish I knew. If Jesus came to earth and died for our sins, and he did all this, flew should have known that God would never let us get bored in heaven. I pray for flews soul all the time because he seemed like a very genuine and kind person.
    I really hope and pray that flew gets a second chance to see Jesus and acknowledge him as lord and savior.
    Acknowledge him

  11. From Shermer’s article:

    This McCullough and his then Miami colleague Brian Willoughby did in a 2009 paper that reported the results of a meta-analysis of hundreds of studies revealing that religious people are more likely to engage in healthy behaviors, such as visiting dentists and wearing seat belts, and are less likely to smoke, drink, take recreational drugs and engage in risky sex. Why? Religion provides a tight social network that reinforces positive behaviors and punishes negative habits and leads to greater self-regulation for goal achievement and self-control over negative temptations.

    The most interesting part to me is the sentence that follows the “Why?” I went to the original article, and he gives no justification for that conclusion; he simply states it. I strongly suspect that he came to it via the very unscientific process of making it up out of whole cloth. It was probably the most reasonable thing he could come up with that didn’t violate his materialist worldview.

    My own (admittedly unscientific) explanation would be that people with a spiritual component to their lives are more likely to be satisfied and at peace within themselves, and thus have less need for self-destructive behavior to fill a void, and at a deeper level, joy, peace, and happiness in one directly and positively affect the health of the body.

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