Field of Science

Two surveys and one apology

First, an apology for the lack of posts recently! To make up for it, my column (Is loss of faith a two-generation process?) in the June issue of Free Inquiry has just been posted online (look under 'Op-Ed'). I'll be writing regular columns for them - and in fact it's writing the next one that's eaten into my blog-writing time!

By way of diversion until the next 'proper' post, a couple of interesting surveys have just dropped into my inbox.

The first was sent to me by Garret O'Connell of SINAPSE, a consortium of Scottish brain imaging groups. They're hosting a series of talks on the potential impact of brain imaging on society -  its increasing use in the courts, as a lie-detector and in marketing research.

To guide new policies and avoid media distortion over the use of brain imaging, they are seeking people to express their opinions and concerns about these issues in a short survey. There are two surveys: one aimed at the public and the other is aimed at neuroscientists. The results of the debate/survey will be presented to Parliament and could help shape future policy change on the use of brain imaging and scientific communication with the media. This one could really make a difference!

The second survey is from Fred Britton, who's working with Allen Cheyne, at the University of Waterloo in Canada to investigate the attitudes, values, and experiences of atheists/agnostics, sceptics, and humanists (see their website). They have a pilot survey for you to take, and they're actively seeking your help to design Phase 2 of the survey. So go take it, and let them know what you think!

Creative Commons License This article by Tom Rees was first published on Epiphenom. It is licensed under Creative Commons.


  1. Thanks for the update! I look forward to your next post.
    I enjoyed the surveys and would love it if you'd keep us updated about any results from them!

  2. I was rather taken aback by the question about how willing I would be to support a war to defend my belief system. This was hard to answer because all the situations that I could envision where a war COULD defend my belief system were also situations where our entire society was under attack.

  3. Piss poor survey for someone who claims to be a social scientist. What in the hell does ethnicity mean (or matter?) Does he want us to respond on the basis of our religion (or lack), language, ancestry, physical characteristics, or what? Ethnicity is a complex concept and means different things in different cultures.

    There were so many questions on the first page that I wanted to leave blank because they had no relevance to me, that I gave up in frustration. The "associations to religion" questions (family and friends) on the first page had no "none of the above" response available. How does one respond to those questions when your parents were not at all religious (but "god-believers") who made their children go to church alone? How do my kids, who had a Catholic, church-attending mother, and an atheist father, answer it?

    Terribly narrow and short-sighted survey that will limit any relevance it has to the real world.


  4. I think ethnicity is usually understood as a surrogate for what in in common language is called 'race'. But that's still a tricky on because terms like 'African-American' and 'Hispanic', which are common in North America, have little meaning in places like Europe. On the other hand, some way of capturing ethnicity is essential. Allowing people just to enter whatever terms they use to describe themselves has some merit.

  5. regarding the relation of religion to acceptance vs ostracism, and your closing musing about how this plays out in a post-religious society: it would be interesting to think of what professed shared values might be expected to generate a similar effect.
    Some ideas that come to mind are: ecology, anti-war, sports (world cup). But these do not really provide a similar sense of belonging, rather embracing their opposite causes a measure of ostracism.
    Any other ideas?

  6. Alcests, you mean this post on ostracism? I think football is the closest secular equivalent - because anybody can be a football fan, so long as they are prepared to make the sacrifices required to commit to the group. Perhaps that helps to explain why it is so popular.


Markup Key:
- <b>bold</b> = bold
- <i>italic</i> = italic
- <a href="">FoS</a> = FoS