Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Thoughts of God produce slackers?

There is a new study published on Oct. 24 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that suggests human persons that have thoughts of God produce slackers. Life Science magazine picked up on the study and published this story. Here is a portion of it:

In the new study, the researchers primed more than 350 engineering students with the idea of God or faith, for example, by having participants write a sentence using a list of words with spiritual connotations. Students then completed skill tests in which they had to make as many words as possible from a group of letters. When prompted with religious imagery or language beforehand, the students came up with fewer words, regardless of their spiritual background, than those who hadn't been primed with such imagery.

The researchers think the lack of effort in the "religious-primed" group could be dictated by a belief that fate is in God's hands. If the students believe that God controls their destiny, trying to be better isn't going to help them actually be better, resulting in less effort. This entire thought process seems to be unconscious, but just the presence of these God-conjuring words or images could alter behavior.

A second study tempted participants with cookies after they had read one of two passages one about God and the other on a non-religious topic. Participants who read the God passage not only reported a greater willingness to resist temptation, but also were less likely to help themselves to the cookies.

This effect, however, was found only among participants who had previously said they believe an omniscient entity watches over them and notices when they misbehave, though the strength of their devotion to that God didn't come into play in any of the experiments, the researchers found.

The researchers say like the "Santa Claus" effect, people "behave" because God knows when they've been bad or good. Being reminded of the presence of an all-knowing God helps people resist temptations, for fear they will be "caught" by God and punished, the researchers speculate. [1]

A sober analysis of such a study shows that at least more research needs to be done.

First, engineers have complex issues to deal with and thoughts of God seem to be a minute factor when influencing productivity. A.M Jarkas writes in the Canadian Journal Of Civil Engineering that “Several factors affect labour productivity, but buildability is one of the most important. [2]” Some engineers do seem to pull not from just objective measuring tools as Song and AbouRizk suggest in the Journal Of Construction Engineering & Management saying, “A survey conducted by Motwani et al. _1995_showed that more than 20% of contractors rely on ‘estimators’ ‘gut feelings’ and opinions for the majority of their estimates.” [3] In the end though, I think Jarkas has a point that productivity within engineering is complex and more than one study has has to show that thoughts of God plays as big a factor as this recent study cited in Life Science is making it out to be. Granted, these students are not in engineering yet, but these students will be out of school hopefully most entering the workforce. When they do, if there is a moderate to major inclination towards slacking in ones performance as a person due to thoughts of God that will some raise eyebrows in the engineering community. Time is money in our results driven society(Western culture mainly) which is confirmed by our own experience.

Second, in the general population it seems that there has not been much studying in this area. David G. Benner and Peter C. Hill write in the Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling suggesting that:

“Research on the sources of self-efficacy has not considered the effect of religious experience. Depending on one’s approach to religion as well as particular religious beliefs or doctrine, religious experience may either enhance (e.g., the sense of being personally empowered by the Holy Spirit) or hinder (e.g., an exclusive emphasis on the incompleteness and fallenness of human nature) self-efficacy beliefs. [4]” Self-efficacy means: how effective we are. [5]

Third, slackers may contribute to society after all as in Plos Biology author R Meadows writes, “We all have different strengths and a slacker in one context may be a contributing member of society in another. [6]” So if individuals whom are perceived as slackers may not be slacking at all!

In the end, this recent study hardly makes a solid case that thought of God produce slackers. At least, more research needs to be done to corroborate these claims. I, therefore, will continue to have such thoughts of the Almighty, who sent his. Son whom we may have an opportunity to not just have thoughts about him, but a relationship if we believe in what He did on the third day.
Son that we may have a opportunity to not just have thoughts about him, but a relationship if we believe in what He did on the third day.

[1] http://www.livescience.com/16784-thoughts-god-motivation-temptation.html

[2] Jarkas, A. M. (2010). Buildability factors affecting formwork labour productivity of building floors. Canadian Journal Of Civil Engineering, 37(10), 1383-1394.

[3] Song, L., & AbouRizk, S. M. (2008). Measuring and Modeling Labor Productivity Using Historical Data. Journal Of Construction Engineering & Management, 134(10), 786-794. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9364(2008)134:10(786)

[4] David G. Benner and Peter C. Hill, Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling, 2nd ed., Baker reference library (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1999), 1084.

[5]Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

[6] Meadows, R. (2010). The Upside of Slackers. Plos Biology, 8(9), 1-2. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000487

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mosaic Authorship?

Mosaic authorship of the first 5 books of the Old Testament known as the Pentateuch was generally excepted before Christ and a couple centuries after for the exception of a few verses at the end of when talking about Moses death. Biblical Scholars Wood and Marshall write, “For centuries both Judaism and Christianity accepted without question the biblical tradition that Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Ben-Sira (Ecclus. 24:23), Philo (Life of Moses 3. 39), Josephus (Ant. 4.326), the Mishnah (Pirqê Abôth 1. 1), and the Talmud (Baba Bathra 14b) are unanimous in their acceptance of the Mosaic authorship.”[1]

However, in 2 Esdras 14:21-22[2] it is suggested that the scrolls that contained the Pentateuch were destroyed during the siege of Nebuchnrazzar was excepted by early Church Fathers such as Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria though they acknowledged Mosaic authorship of the original law.[3] The centuries following the Church Father scholars were continuing to call into question if Moses did pen the Pentateuch. Wood and Marshall also note that, “During the mediaeval era, Jewish and Muslim scholars began to point out supposed contradictions and anachronisms in the Pentateuch.”[4] Moreover, scholar such as Julius Wellhausen came up with documentary theories that denied Mosaic authorship all together.[5] Despite some of these objections I think Moses at least wrote most of the Pentateuch for the following reasons.

  • Paul affirms that Moses was the author of some of the law, writing in Romans (which is part of the Pauline corpus excepted by most scholars) 10:5, “For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.[6]
  • Luke affirms his authorship in gospel of Luke (16:31; 20:37; 24:26, 27, 44) and in Acts (3:22, 15:21). Luke is known for being a great historian and detailed as he interviewed many to compose his writings (Luke 1:1-4) which he connects both Acts and the gospel of Luke together (Acts 1:1).
  • The internal evidence seems to suggest Mosaic authorship((Ex 17:14; 24:4, 7; 34:27; Nm 33:1, 2; Dt 31:9, 11)
  • Jesus himself affirms Mosaic authorship of some kind. In the John 5:46-47 he says, “There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses; you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” [7] (my emphasis) Moreover, in Mark 12:26 he says, “And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?[8] (my emphasis)

Some may ask why I concentrated mainly on what the NT has to say about Mosaic authorship vs. the Old Testament. The main reason I did this was due to that the NT is our most recent documents that are canonized (for Christians anyway), Paul and Luke are known as at least decent historians (not to say the OT writers were not), and I wanted to highlight what Jesus had to say on the manner within the gospels. The NT seems to give a stamp of approval to Moses penning most of the Pentateuch which is the position early Christians took at before and right at the beginning of the Church.

[1] D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 893.

[2] 2 Esdras 14:21-22 reads as follows, “For thy law is burnt, therefore no man knoweth the things that are done of thee, or the works that shall begin. 22 But if I have found grace before thee, send the Holy Ghost into me, and I shall write all that hath been done in the world since the beginning, which were written in thy law, that men may find thy path, and that they which will live in the latter days may live.” The Cambridge Paragraph Bible: Of the Authorized English Version (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1873), cxix.

[3] D. R. W. Wood and I. Howard Marshall, New Bible Dictionary, 3rd ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 894.

[4] Ibid

[5] Allen C. Myers, The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1987), 810.

[6] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ro 10:5.

[7] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jn 5:45–47.

[8] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mk 12:26.