When science replaces religion: Science as a secular authority bolsters moral sensitivity
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CitationYılmaz, O., & Bahçekapılı, H. G. (2015). When science replaces religion: Science as a secular authority bolsters moral sensitivity. PLoS ONE, 10(9), 1-8. https://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0137499
Scientific and religious thinking compete with each other on several levels. For example, activating one generally weakens the other. Since priming religion is known to increase moral behaviour and moral sensitivity, priming science might be expected to have the opposite effect. However, it was recently demonstrated that, on the contrary, science priming increases moral sensitivity as well. The present set of studies sought to replicate this effect and test two explanations for it. Study 1 used a sentence unscrambling task for implicitly priming the concept of science but failed to replicate its effect on moral sensitivity, presumably due to a ceiling effect. Study 2 replicated the effect with a new measure of moral sensitivity. Study 3 tested whether science-related words create this effect by activating the idea of secular authority or by activating analytic thinking. It was demonstrated that words related to secular authority, but not words related to analytic thinking, produced a similar increase in moral sensitivity. Religiosity level of the participants did not influence this basic finding. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that science as a secular institution has overtaken some of the functions of religion in modern societies.