Study: Atheists are only as trustworthy as rapists

Well, this is disconcerting:

Religious believers distrust atheists more than members of other religious groups, gays and feminists, according to a new study by University of B.C. researchers.

The only group the study’s participants distrusted as much as atheists was rapists, said doctoral student Will Gervais, lead author of the study published online in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

That prejudice had a significant impact on what kinds of jobs people said they would hire atheists to do.

“People are willing to hire an atheist for a job that is perceived as low-trust, for instance as a waitress,” said Gervais. “But when hiring for a high-trust job like daycare worker, they were like, nope, not going to hire an atheist for that job.”

Of course, this is pretty much a one-way street. Atheists, not having in-group thinking ingrained in them since birth (or at least having been able to shed much of that type of bad thinking), don’t particularly judge others based on religious beliefs. It just isn’t a great judge of individual character. (Group character, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.)

I think my favorite part of this is how believers give away their dumb reason in this study:

Gervais was surprised that people harbour such strong feelings about a group that is hard to see or identify. He opines that religious believers are just more comfortable with other people who believe a deity with the power to reward and punish is watching them.

“If you believe your behaviour is being watched [by God] you are going to be on your best behaviour,” said Gervais. “But that wouldn’t apply for an atheist. That would allow people to use religious belief as a signal for how trustworthy a person is.”

This issue has been brought up again and again in moral discussions. Atheists will rightfully acknowledge that morality is a subjective concept unique to humans (at least on a deep level) whereas theists will incorrectly claim there needs to be an all-knowing, all-powerful lawgiver in order for morality to even exist (which, incidentally, is known as begging the question). They will say, “If there is no God, then there is nothing that makes murder wrong”, to which the atheist replies, “So if there is no God, you would do exactly whatever you please with no remorse? What a monster.” It’s like a little kid with no control over himself. He’ll behave when mom is around, but the moment she leaves the room, he’s into everything. It’s preposterous.

Now excuse me while I go praise Stalin and murder puppies.

Exciting expectations: NASA finds planet in habitable zone

The Universe is enormous. Just enormous. It isn’t possible to truly grasp the scope of space out in…space. There are literally more stars – far more stars, in fact – in the Universe than there are grains of sands on all the beaches and in all the oceans of Earth. It’s really mind-boggling. But that mind-bogglitude (yeah, “bogglitude”) does lead to a few things that are comprehensible and expected. Enter NASA’s recent discovery:

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft has confirmed the discovery of its first alien world in its host star’s habitable zone — that just-right range of distances that could allow liquid water to exist — and found more than 1,000 new explanet candidates, researchers announced today (Dec. 5)…

The potentially habitable alien world, a first for Kepler, orbits a star very much like our own sun. The discovery brings scientists one step closer to finding a planet like our own — one which could conceivably harbor life, scientists said.

“We’re getting closer and closer to discovering the so-called ‘Goldilocks planet,'” Pete Worden, director of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif., said during a press conference today.

This is certainly exciting, but it is also practically expected. With the billions and billions of galaxies out there, along with the trillions and trillions of stars and planets, there is bound to be more than a few balls of rock that are very, very similar to Earth. Moreover, not only is our galaxy quite common, but so is our solar system. We have an average star with an average array of planets. There isn’t anything special or privileged about our location. To believe otherwise is to be deluded or desperate or tremendously small-minded. We’re going to see many more Earth-like planets in the coming years.

I expect the future findings of NASA to be very exciting indeed.