Friday, October 21, 2005

"Why do we believe in God?"

Thomas Bouchard, professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota, recognized that these twins [separated at birth and adopted by different families], if compared with each other as they grew up, would provide an important way of measuring genetic and environmental influences....

In one study, Bouchard concentrated on72 sets of twins who had reached adulthood. He first established which of the twins (35 sets in all) were genuinely identical by genetic testing.

These were then invited to complete personality tests.

Such questionnaires, which are widely used by psychologists, pose questions in the form of statements, to which the respondents have to rate their level of agreement on a scale of one to eight. The following is a small sample of the many statements relating to religion:

· I enjoy reading about my religion.
· My religion is important to me because it answers many questions about the meaning of life....

When Bouchard and his team compared the answers to these and other personality questions, they found strong statistical evidence that identical and non-identical twins tended to answer differently. If one identical twin showed evidence of religious thinking or behaviour, it was much more likely that his or her twin would answer similarly.

Non-identical twins, as might be expected (they are, after all, related), showed some similarities of thinking, but not nearly to the same degree. Crucially, the degree of religiosity was not strongly related to the environment in which the twin was brought up. Even if one identical twin had been brought up in an atheist family and the other in a religious Catholic household, they would still tend to show the same kind of religious feelings, or lack of them.

More @
The Guardian

'Genetic and environmental influences on human psychological differences'


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