Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


36th Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2010

Event Details

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Symposium #299
Living in a Natural World With Supernatural Assumptions: Religious Influence on Scientific Domains
Sunday, May 30, 2010
4:30 PM–5:50 PM
Bonham C (Grand Hyatt)
Area: TPC/CSE; Domain: Theory
Chair: Patrick M. Ghezzi (University of Nevada)
Discussant: Patrick M. Ghezzi (University of Nevada)
Abstract: All theists share to varying degrees the same general assumption that the natural world is, or has been, influenced by the supernatural. Within the world’s major Western religions this belief has set a context where actions are controlled by rules that specify outcomes that impact events outside of the natural world. Unfortunately, the basis for these beliefs runs contrary to scientific assumptions and has therefore resulted in conflicts between scientific and religious perspectives. To address this issue, Stephen Jay Gould (1999) developed a position known as the non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA) principle. This principle contends that science is concerned with understanding what the universe is made of and why it works as it does, whereas, religion is concerned with questions of ultimate meaning and value. While this solution may have placated some advocates on both sides of the science and religion debate, there are important problems with Gould’s proposal that should be acknowledged. Primarily, by leaving issues of morality and value in the hands of theists, scientists are allowing incoherent sets of assumptions to influence the natural world.
Religious and Scientific Values: Utilizing Discoveries From the Natural World as a Guide for Action
ERICK M. DUBUQUE (University of Nevada, Reno), Linda J. Parrott Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno), Josh Pritchard (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: When scientists examine the perils of certain religious behavior, a common reaction is that religion is the cornerstone of values and moral behavior. Science, on the other hand, is tasked with the discovery of how behavior works, but not what should be done with it. That job is often seen as the purview of religion or some equally non-scientific enterprise. For instance, Stephen Jay Gould indicated that “The net of science covers the empirical universe: what is it made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory). The net of religion extends over questions of moral meaning and value” Even those that decry the role of religion in the development of morality such as secular humanists believe that science should only discover, rather than develop morality. While they affirm that morality without religion is indeed possible, they claim that moral behavior springs from a universal set of “common moral decencies.” We reject these propositions that without religion, humankind would be adrift in a sea of vanishing morals, or that morality is an absolute and discuss an alternative – the idea that scientists are in fact in the best position to determine and develop morals and values, especially behavior scientists.
An Irreverent Examination of Religion’s Imposition on the Science of Behavior
JOSH PRITCHARD (University of Nevada, Reno), Linda J. Parrott Hayes (University of Nevada, Reno), Erick M. Dubuque (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: Religion as a subject matter of science has proven difficult, often because those interested do not agree upon a definition. Further, some historians of religion have described its inception as occurring during the Hellenic ages while others contend that religion began after this in the Near East (Judaism and Hinduism). The history and timeline are important and have an impact on a current scientific approach. As J.R. Kantor indicates, the cultural matrix in which the historian resides can intrude upon his or her subject matter. The history of religion is important to understand not only as a valid subject matter in its own right, but also as a means to understand the imposition on the things and events studied by a behavioral scientist. While much of the subject matter of the history of religion is examined from an anthropologic perspective, Kantor provides a naturalistic psychological framework from which a logician could examine this history. Other behavior scientists have examined religion from the perspective of its impact on values and morality, development of superstitious behavior, and a behavior analysis of spirituality. This paper will discuss these perspectives and provide a direction for future examinations.
Behaviorists Are Atheists
LINDA J. PARROTT HAYES (University of Nevada, Reno), Erick M. Dubuque (University of Nevada, Reno), Josh Pritchard (University of Nevada, Reno)
Abstract: From a naturalistic perspective, a psychological event is an instance of responding on the part of a whole organism with respect to stimulation on the part of an environing thing set in a matrix of many other factors. Believing in God is an event of this sort and it is prevalent in the culture at large. Believing acts of this sort are incompatible with the system of believing acts proscribed by the philosophy of behaviorism, however. This is to say, behaviorists are atheists. To dispute this claim reveals an incomplete understanding of behaviorism. In defense, God-fearing behaviorists have asserted the legitimacy of operating intellectually upon a foundation of incoherent premises. This assertion reveals an incomplete understanding of science. The aim of this presentation is to defend these claims and to consider their implications for the dissemination of behavior science.



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