by Paul Ratner
Priests attend a special mass
Pope John Paul II in St Peter's Square
April 3, 2005, in Vatican City.
by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
People who believe in God or the supernatural don't quite
understand the physical world, claims a new study from researchers
at the University of Helsinki.
The Finnish scientists also concluded that not only did they not
understand nature and the biological world clearly, religious people
tended to anthropomorphize, ascribing human qualities like feelings
to inanimate objects such as rocks, wind and the like.
They would agree with
statements like "stones sense the cold".
"The more the
participants believed in religious or other paranormal
phenomena, the lower their intuitive physics skills, mechanical
and mental rotation abilities, school grades in mathematics and
physics, and knowledge about physical and biological phenomena
were… and the more they regarded inanimate targets as mental
phenomena," wrote the study's co-authors Marjaana Lindeman and
By "mental", they meant
having human-like thoughts and spirit.
Not having a solid understanding of the world around them resulted
in the people believing in demons and the supernatural, in a kind of
confusion seen in "ancient people and small children".
The scientists also compared traits of religious belief with traits
of autism, as both have difficulties differentiating between the
mental and the physical.
The study (Does
Poor Understanding of Physical World Predict Religious and
published in Applied Cognitive Psychology, involved 258
Finnish people, who completed a series of questionnaires and online
tests, answering whether they agreed with such statements as,
an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God,"
if they believed in such things as telepathy or being able to
predict the future.
researchers found that women were more likely to believe in God
and the paranormal. They also based their actions more on instinct
than analytical thinking.
scientists see the significance of their work in pointing out that:
"Intuition-based, unfounded theories in astronomy, evolution,
matter, mechanics, and other domains persist several decades
beyond the acquisition of a mutually exclusive scientific
theory, and they affect individuals' ability to act as informed
citizens to make reasoned judgments in a world that is
increasingly governed by technology and scientific knowledge."
also concluded that religious people were, in general, less
analytical and might have lower IQs, but also tended to be happier
and more generous than non-believers.
Atheists, for their
were compared to psychopaths in a
undoubtedly religious people's worst and most vocal critics, but for
a fresh take, Rob Bell argues that believers shouldn't be too
riled up, but rather appreciative - because atheism actually